Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Jackson - Dickinson Duel Of 1806

Andrew Jackson
  The Jackson and Dickinson duel of 1806 was the result of bickering over a horse racing bet. The whole story is kind of complicated to me but in essence a friend of Andrew Jackson did not like how Captain Joseph Ervin had reneged on a bet with Jackson. The friend of Jackson made disparaging remarks about Ervin and his son-in-law Charles Dickinson was infuriated. Dickinson and Jackson's friend started quarreling over the matter. Jackson eventually became involved in the argument which escalated over a period of days. During this time Dickinson called Jackson a "coward and equivicator". He also called Jackson's wife Rachel a bigamist. Jackson was very sensitive to any criticism of  Rachel. She had married Jackson supposedly not realizing that she was still legally married to her first husband. She thought that a divorce had been granted but Rachel's husband had only applied for a divorce to the North Carolina legislature. Dickinson apologized for this remark and Jackson accepted his apology but there were still hard feelings. Then things escalated to the point that a statement appeared in the Nashville Review in May 1806 by Dickinson calling Jackson a "worthless scoundrel,---poltroon and a coward". This was the last straw. Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel. According to dueling rules of the time Dickerson chose pistols as weapons. This was because he was an expert shot.

  Dickinson had recently moved to the Nashville area from Maryland and like Jackson owned a local plantation. Jackson realized that he was no match for Dickinson. His plan was to allow Dickinson to fire first. If Jackson was still on his feet he would take deliberate aim and try to kill Dickinson. He later said that "I should have hit him if he had shot me through the brain". They met on the morning of May 30, 1806 near Adairville Kentucky, just across the Tennessee state line since dueling was illegal in Tennessee. Each man had their seconds. Dickinson fired first as planned striking Jackson square in the chest. The bullet broke two ribs and lodged within an inch or two of Jackson's heart. Jackson had purposely worn loose clothing to hopefully slow the bullet down and was standing sideways to make a smaller target. Dickinson was stunned because he had seen the bullet hit Jackson square in the heart and Jackson was still on his feet. Dickinson had stepped back from the line and Jackson's second pointed his gun at Dickinson and ordered him back to the line. Jackson clutched his chest trying to keep pressure on the wound to slow the bleeding. He aimed at Dickinson and pulled the trigger. The gun misfired. Under dueling etiquette Jackson should have harmlessly pointed the gun in the air and fired. However he coolly aimed at Dickinson and pulled the trigger. This time the gun discharged and the bullet hit Dickinson in the stomach, mortally wounding him. Dickinson bled to death a few hours later. Jackson's reputation suffered as a result of killing Dickinson. The public saw him as cold bloodedly killing Dickinson. Jackson survived his wound but it would cause him much pain and sickness for the rest of his life. However the duel did not prevent Jackson from winning the presidency in 1828. Dickinson was buried on his property in Nashville but at some point was disinterred and in 2010 his grave was discovered in Nashville's old City Cemetery.
Rachel Jackson

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