You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

South Carolina Backcountry Women of the American Revolution

Andrew Jackson

Elizabeth Hutchison Jackson

Like many South Carolina women of her time, Elizabeth Hutchison Jackson, mother of President Andrew Jackson, lived a life of adventure and promise marred by war, hardships, and tragedy. And like a quintessential backcountry woman, she met the challenges head on.  Her contemporaries knew her as a woman of great courage, high purpose, and enormous inner strength. Her actions showed her to be strong-willed, pious, hard working, determined, resourceful, resilient, and compassionate.
Susannah Smartt, an acquaintance of Elizabeth’s, described her as a "fresh-looking, fair-haired, very conversive old Irish lady, at dreadful enmity with the Indians!"
Some said she looked very much like Andrew who was described as six feet tall, weighing 145 pounds, with bushy blond hair, a pronounced jaw, and fiery blue eyes.
Born c. 1740 in Carrickfergus, Ireland, Elizabeth was the daughter of Francis Cyrus Hobart Hutchison and Margret Lisle of Royston, Yorkshire England.  In c. 1761, she married Andrew Jackson, the son of a prosperous linen weaver. Both were of lowland Scottish Presbyterian families who had settled in Ulster in the seventeenth century. During the first four years of their marriage, they lived in the County Antrim hamlet of Bondybefore, a mile from the town of Carrickfergus on the shores of Belfast Lough.
Elizabeth Jackson was an accomplished flax weaver.
Lured by the promise of new lands in the American colonies and escape from religious persecution and tariffs from the ruling Aglicans, they emigrated to America in 1765 with their two sons, Hugh, age two, and Robert, age six months.  Details about where they arrived are disputed. They either docked in Philadelphia, PA, or Charleston (Charles Town), SC, but soon moved to the Waxhaws on the South Carolina/North Carolina border in a small settlement comprised of a Presbyterian church, a general store, and a few houses.
They acquired two-hundred acres of land at Twelve Mile Creek, a tributary of the Catawba River, southeast of what is today the city of Charlotte. Their neighbors were family connections, branches of the Hutchison family, as well as former neighbors from Ulster.
Times were difficult as Andrew senior had little means of feeding his family, though he did build a log cabin and produced enough crops to see them through the first two years. And then the first in a series of tragedies struck.
In February 1767, Elizabeth, only a few weeks away from the birth of their third child, suffered the unexpected death of her twenty-nine year old husband.
On the day of interment, a rare snow storm hit the area, and adding indignity to grief, the pall bearers were said to be so drunk that it wasn’t until the funeral procession arrived at the burial site that they discovered the casket had fallen off somewhere en route. They had to retrace their steps through the snow to find the body.
Bereaved, Elizabeth sought refuge nearby with her sister, Jane Hutchison Crawford, and her prosperous husband, James. On March 15, 1767, she gave birth to Andrew, naming him in honor of her deceased husband. 
Controversy has thrived about Andrew’s actual birthplace with some arguing he was born at the Crawfords in South Carolina, and some insisting he was born at the home of relatives in North Carolina.
While campaigning the first time (unsuccessfully) for the presidency, when asked about his birthplace by James H. Witherspoon of Lancaster District, SC, Andrew responded, "I was born in South Carolina, as I have been told at the plantation whereon James Crawford lived about one mile from the Carolina road of the Waxhaw Creek, left that state in 1784…." 
In the role of poor relation, Elizabeth cared for her invalid sister and worked as a housekeeper for the Crawfords for a decade. She was said to be a very cordial, industrious woman who could spin flax beautifully, “the best and finest ever seen.”  She taught her boys to read and write and, on long winter nights, shared rousing stories of Ireland, its battle for freedom, and of their grandfather Hugh’s exploits in battle and of the oppression by the nobility of the laboring poor. Through these tales, she inspired in her sons a sense of courage, pride, and independence.
It was Elizabeth’s hope that Andrew would enter the ministry, but early on he proved to be a hot-tempered young man. Impatient and rebellious, he enjoyed a more rough-and-tumble life, fighting, and out-swearing everyone around him. Burdened by her household responsibilities, Elizabeth tried to guide her young son, but without the influence of a father, Andrew was difficult to handle.
Elizabeth was thirty-six years old when the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, but years would pass before the war reached South Carolina.
Elizabeth anxiously watched as her oldest son, Hugh, joined the patriot regiment commanded by Colonel William R. Davie. Much to her sorrow, she received news that Hugh died from heat exhaustion at the Battle of Stono Ferry near Charleston, SC, in June 1779.
Soon after the British captured Charleston in 1780, British soldiers and Tories started looting the countryside. Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s men razed much of the Waxhaws settlement, surprising a force of several hundred American patriots, killing more than a hundred of them, massacring the wounded, and mutilating the bodies.  About 150 of the wounded made their way to the Waxhaw Presbyterian church where residents, including Elizabeth, tended their wounds.
When Andrew was thirteen, much to Elizabeth’s dismay, he and his brother, Robert, who was fifteen, left to join the American troops. They worked on the staff of Colonel Davie, running errands and delivering messages, until the summer of 1780 when General Charles Cornwallis, the British southern commander, won the battle of Camden, SC, and turned his troops toward the Waxhaws. After a small skirmish, Andrew and Robert hid from the British dragoons in the house of a relative, Thomas Crawford, but were discovered.
In response to one of the officers who ordered Andrew to clean the mud from his boot, the young boy responded, “Sir, I am a prisoner of war and claim to be treated as such." For that, the soldier drew his sword and slashed Andrew across his head and his hand. Robert refused also, and the soldier slammed his head with a sword causing him to stagger across the room.
The brothers were taken to Camden along with twenty other prisoners and were placed in a prison camp with two hundred fifty other men. Both contracted smallpox.
Elizabeth, hearing of their plight, arranged for an exchange of prisoners--thirteen redcoats for seven patriots, including her sons.
Charleston Harbor where British Prison ships were anchored.
The forty-mile trek from Camden to Waxhaw was arduous, with Elizabeth and a severely wounded Robert riding horses and Andrew walking beside them. Despite all of Elizabeth’s efforts, Robert died two days after returning home. It took Andrew weeks to regain his health, and as soon as her son was able to leave his bed, Elizabeth received word that two cousins had been imprisoned in British ship in the Charleston harbor.
As soon as she could gather supplies, she left for Charleston. Some accounts say she walked the one hundred seventy miles, but in later letters, Andrew says she rode horseback.  The conditions on the ship were horrible: overcrowding, poor nourishment, virulent diseases, and no medicines.  Elizabeth, true to her stalwart, compassionate character, worked so hard she succumbed to cholera. She was taken to the home of a Mrs. Barton in the suburbs of Charleston where she was taken care of until she died.
On November 2, 1781, Elizabeth was laid to rest wearing a dress of Mrs. Barton’s, and in a casket constructed by Mr. Barton, in a simple unmarked grave about one mile from what was then called Governor’s Gate, near the forks of Meeting and Kingstree Roads. The exact site of her grave is unknown.
Andrew learned about his mother’s death when he received a small parcel of her belongings sent by relatives. The war had claimed the last member of his immediate family.
In the same letter to James Witherspoon written on August 11, 1824, in which Andrew addressed his birthplace, he wrote the following, "I knew she died near Charleston, having visited that City with several matrons to afford relief to our prisoners with the British - not her son as you suppose, for at that time my two Elder brothers were no more; but two of her Nephews, William and Joseph Crawford Sons of James Crawford then deceased. I well recollect one of the matrons that went with her was Mrs. Boyd. Is it possible Mrs. Barton can inform me where she was buried that I can find her grave? This to me would be great satisfaction, that I might collect her bones and inter them with that of my father and brothers."
But Elizabeth’s legacy to her son was far greater than the meager personal effects she left behind. Before leaving for Charleston, she had given her fourteen year old son, Andrew, the following parting gift:
Andrew, if I should not see you again, I wish you to remember and treasure up some things I have already said to you. In this world you will have to make your own way. To do that you must have friends. You can make friends by being honest and you can keep them by being steadfast. You must keep in mind that friends worth having will, in the long run, expect as much from you as they give to you. 
To forget an obligation or be ungrateful for a kindness is a base crime, not merely a fault or a sin, but an actual crime. Men guilty of it sooner or later must suffer the penalty. In personal conduct be always polite but never obsequious. None will respect you more than you respect yourself. Avoid quarrels as long as you can without yielding to imposition. But sustain your manhood always. 
Never bring a suit in law for assault and battery or for defamation. The law affords no remedy for such outrages that can satisfy the feelings of a true man. Never wound the feelings of others. Never brook wanton outrage upon your own feelings. If you ever have to vindicate your feelings or defend your honor, do it calmly. If angry at first, wait till your wrath cools before you proceed.
Andrew Jackson never fulfilled his wish to find the bones of his mother and place them beside his father and brother’s graves. Through the efforts of Mrs. Fred C. Lawrence, regent of the Catawba Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, in 1949 a marker was placed to Mrs. Jackson in the OldWaxhaw PresbyterianCemetery.

General Andrew Jackson, on the occasion of his birthday March 15, 1815, in New Orleans, shared his mother’s advice with his comrades, Major John H. Estow, Major William B. Lewis, and Captain W.O. Butler and said, “Gentlemen, I wish she could have lived to see this day. There never was a woman like her. She was gentle as a dove and brave as a lioness. Her last words have been the law of my life.”
Women Patriots of the American Revolution
Southern Women in Revolution, 1776-1800
Valley Tidings
“Set for the Defense of the Glad Tidings”
Volume VIII, October 2007, Number 10
York Observer (supplement of the Charlotte Observer)
“Nearby History”
December 10, 1989
History of American Women
Mother of an American President: Andrew Jackson
Elizabeth Hutchison Jackson by Louise Pettus
Excerpt: 'American Lion' By Jon Meacham