Andrew Jackson: A Biography (Great Generals Series), by Robert V. Remini
The late historian Robert Remini did a good job at writing about the history of the early American republic and in particular the career of Andrew Jackson , and this book is certainly a good one albeit a short work of only about 200 pages or so and a book with a narrow focus on the military career of Andrew Jackson. I found the work to be an interesting and worthwhile one, especially because as a historian myself I have a strong interest in the history of the 19th century and this definitely fits the bill of being a worthwhile text within that context. Any time I can find a work that provides a thoughtful examination of military history and the skills of a general that can be learned from, I am generally an appreciative reader and that is certainly the case here. Remini, moreover, manages to praise Jackson as an inspirational leader without glossing over his faults and flaws as a leader within the republican context of American military history and that is an admirable work in terms of its honesty as well even if this work has some unsettling implications.
This short work is divided into six chapters. Before these begin there is a foreword by General Wesley Clark and an introduction by the the author that places Jackson’s military service in the context of his harrowing Revolutionary War experience where he was orphaned and deeply wounded by the British. After that the author discusses Jackson’s initial rise to prominence in the political and military world of early 19th century Tennessee as an Indian fighter in that brutal combat over the expansion of settlers into native hunting grounds (1). This leads quite naturally to Jackson’s generally exemplary work as a leader in the Creek War (2), which led to the massive rise of settlement in the old southwest due to draconian peace terms. A lengthy chapter quite properly addresses Jackson’s success at the Battle of New Orleans (3), placing that battle in its proper context by showing how a defensive victory on favorable terrain was the result of a long and wide-ranging campaign. The author then spends some time examining Jackson’s controversial efforts in the First Seminal War (4) and the end of military service as he accepted the office of territorial governor of Florida (5), which is an area of his career that not many people are aware of. The author then closes with a look at Jackson’s legacy (6) as a leader who inspired his troops and focused on the placing of overwhelming force against one’s opponents to ensure victory.
Overall, this is an excellent work in that it demonstrates the importance of ambition to Jackson’s military career. Seemingly a born leader, Jackson viewed the military as a way to defend his beloved country and to rise up in the world and receive the respect and honor of others. His care for and concern for his men and his willingness to share in their sufferings led him to develop a strong concern for logistics and his autocratic and sharply honed sense of conviction in the rightness of his position made him an occasionally insubordinate officer who bristled at the occasionally incompetent and unwise demands of civilian superiors. Likewise, this book demonstrates how Jackson’s military prowess and political prowess fed into each other and how despite his very modest educational background, his intuitive understanding of the longings and desires of the American people at large gave him a lasting and successful political career that included two terms as president of the United States of America as well as a starring role in the expansion of American settlement and plantation slavery over the area of Mississippi, Alabama, parts of Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida.
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