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Incredible Andrew Jackson Letter to His Wife Rachel, Reacting to the Burning of Washington, D.C., Believing it Will Usher in a Patriotic National Response
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“It appears, that all the Patriots, must have buried themselves on the news of the burning of the capitol, as tho our national existence or liberties depended alone on that gothic mass of costly marble…. it ought and will give impulse to the nation — and every man who has a spark of national-pride, an ounce of love of country, will step forward, and at once blow at it [at] every point, crush the enemies to our country…”

He also mentions a key battle that helped lead to his victory in the Battle of New Orleans.

ANDREW JACKSON. Autograph letter signed (“Andrew Jackson”) to Rachael Jackson, October 7, 1814. One page, silked, partial fold separations.

Inventory #26263       Price: $50,000

Jackson hints at his own successful defense against the British navy at Fort Bowyer, Alabama on September 15, 1814. He then engaged the British and Spanish at Pensacola, Florida, but abandoned those positions once he learned from the Pirate Jean Lafitte that Britain’s next target was New Orleans, where his decisive victory reclaimed America’s honor and made Jackson a national hero.

Jackson’s letters to Rachel (née Donelson) are rare. Shewas first married to Lewis Robards in Nashville. In about 1791, believing that Robards had secured a divorce, she eloped with Andrew Jackson. When it was later revealed that he had not, and that her marriage to Jackson was technically bigamy, the divorce was finalized and she and Jackson remarried in 1794. Rachel, a Presbyterian, was noted for her religious piety, making the scandal even deeper for her. Leading up to the 1828 election, she and her husband were subjected to great abuse from supporters of his opponent John Quincy Adams. Rachel died just days after his election. As it was before his 1829 inauguration, she never served as First Lady. Jackson blamed his political enemies for her death.

Transcript

Headquarters 7 M. District
Mobile Octobr 9th 1814

My love-
I have with great solicitude awaited the recpt of a letter from you or some of my friends in Nashville, for several mails, and am still without the receipt of any.- It appears, that all the Patriots, must have buried themselves on the news of the burning of the capitol, as tho our national existence or liberties depended alone on that gothic mass of costly marble —It cannot affe[ct] us, but it ought and will give impulse to the nation — and every man who has a spark of national-pride, an ounce of love of country, will step forward, and at once blow at it [and] at every point, crush the enemies to our country, wheresoever thy[y] can be reached—

I hope my letters has reached you. Advise me whether the Bills of sale for the eight negroes has got to your hands. – I have had a verry violent attack of the fever, I am recovered, for two days I have been clear of fever, and today has rode out and examined, the artillery. – My neighbors, since their severe repulse at the point appear quiett– I hope ere long to be able to arouse them a little — but I can hear nothing from the army from Tennessee.- Kiss my little Andrew for me, tell him I will send shortly for him and his mother- to stay with me. Prsent me affectionately to all my friends, Colo Hays family & Mrs Cofferrys, particularly and belive me to be your affectionate husband,

                                                            Andrew Jackson

Mrs Rachel Jackson

[With integral autograph address leaf with manuscript postal markings.] 

Historical Background
On August 24, 1814, the British defeated American forces at the Battle of Bladensburg and entered Washington, D.C. That night, British - Canadian forces set fire to multiple government buildings, including the White House and the Capitol. President James Madison, military officials, and his government evacuated the city.

British Rear Admiral George Cockburn had chosen Washington as the target of attack because of insignificant defenses and “the greater political effect likely to result.” Major General Ross was less optimistic, doubting that 4,500 men, with no cavalry and little artillery could march 50 miles inland to capture the capital. Ross was ordered to burn the entire city, but spared nearly all of the privately owned properties.

In his second paragraph, Jackson refers to Fort Bowyer, Alabama. His successful defense against a British naval squadron there on September 15, 1814 also prevented an attack on Mobile.

Within a month of this letter, Jackson engaged the British and Spanish at Pensacola, Florida. However, he abandoned that position once he learned that Britain’s next target was New Orleans.

In the North, American naval victory on Lake Champlain, in September 1814, forced the invading British forces back into Canada and led to peace negotiations. In Ghent, Belgium, the treaty was signed on December 24. However, in that age, news took weeks to travel across the ocean. Without knowing that the war had technically ended, a major attack against New Orleans, aiming to capture and separate Louisiana from the United States, had already been put in motion.

Luckily for Jackson, Pirate Jean Lafitte warned the Americans, giving him time to deepen a canal and build an eight foot earthen wall. On January 8, 1815, in two separate assaults, 7,500 British soldiers were beaten back by Jackson’s 4,500 troops, many of whom were expert marksmen from Kentucky and Tennessee. In half an hour, nearly 2,000 of the British forces were killed, wounded, or missing. Their commander General Pakenham was among the dead. In contrast, Jackson’s forces suffered only 8 killed and 13 wounded.

After Jackson's victory, the British returned to their prior plan. Naval and land forces attacked Fort Bowyer, forcing its surrender on February 12. News of the Treaty of Ghent arrived the next day, ending the war.

Not published in The Papers of Andrew Jackson.
Provenance: Christie’s, April 22, 2021, lot. 15.


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