Monday, May 29, 2006

Jackson and Dickinson

Most people probably won't care about this, but I thought it was pretty interesting...

Tennessee State Archaeologist Nick Fielder is using ground-penetrating radar on a quiet dead-end street in Nashville in an attempt to discover the final resting place of Charles Dickinson, the man Andrew Jackson, our nation's seventh president, killed in a duel in 1806. Last Tuesday, Fielder found a likely spot: 216 Carden Ave., surgeon Daniel Jurusz's front yard.
"The first day here one of the neighbors came over and said 'You know, you have a body in your front yard,' and then told us the story," Daniel Jurusz said.
The Jackson-Dickinson feud started over a horserace. Jackson's horse Truxton was set to race Ploughboy, owned by Colonel Joseph Ervin, Dickinson's father-in-law. At the last minute, Ervin pulled his horse from the race. There were disagreements over the forfeiture fee. The feud escalated. Thomas Swann, an enemy of Jackson's, fanned the flames. Apparently, the final straw was some unflattering remarks Dickinson made about Jackson's wife. Rachel Jackson had been married previously to Lewis Robards. There was some dispute about whether Rachel was legally divorced from Robards before marrying Jackson, and this was the subject of much gossip and innuendo.

Since dueling was illegal in Tennessee, Jackson and Dickinson traveled across the state line into Kentucky to conduct the formal exchange of gunfire. Dickinson was an expert marksman; Jackson was not. Rather than try to outdraw Dickinson, Jackson decided to let Dickinson take the first shot, then take deliberate aim. Jackson's slight frame probably saved his life. He was six foot tall and never weighed over 145 pounds. Marquis James explains in The Life of Andrew Jackson...
A fleck of dust rose from Jackson's coat and his left hand clutched his chest. For an instant he thought himself dying, but, fighting for self-command, slowly he raised his pistol.
Dickinson recoiled a step horror-stricken. "My God! Have I missed him?"
Overton [Jackson's second] presented his pistol. "Back to the mark, sir!"
Dickinson folded his arms. Jackson's spare frame straightened. He aimed... and fired. Dickinson swayed to the ground... [and later died].
[Jackson, too, was wounded, to the point where his left boot had filled with blood.]
Jackson's surgeon found that Dickinson's aim had been perfectly true, but he had judged the position of Jackson's heart by the set of his coat, and Jackson wore his coats loosely on account of the excessive slenderness of his figure.
Dickinson's shot broke two of Jackson's ribs and lodged too close to his heart for removal. He carried the bullet in him for the remainder of his life. Jackson's shot hit Dickinson in the stomach; he bled to death within 14 hours. Although Jackson's conduct was acceptable according to the "rules of engagement," many of his detractors insisted that it was cold-blooded murder.

Some contend that Dickinson's body was returned to Maryland, the state of his ancestory, by a faithful slave, but others say that he was buried at Ervin's estate on the outskirts of Nashville. The Nashville claim seems to be more reasonable...
The spot has been well documented in Nashville over the years. It appears on an official 1876 Davidson County property map and was referenced in several deeds as the tract changed hands and became a residential lot.

Fletch Coke, a historic preservation leader in Nashville who has tracked evidence of the grave for seven years and urged Fielder to conduct Tuesday's search, doubts the Maryland claim. So does Marsha Mullin, chief curator for The Hermitage, Jackson's Davidson County home that is now a popular historic site.

"Considering it took 30 days then to make a trip like that, he would not have traveled well, I think," Mullin said.
In 1967, the Ervin mansion was demolished and subdivisions sprang up on the land.


At 12:23 PM, Anonymous R. Largaespada said...

I am studying and researching this duel and have articles from newspapers concerning the finding of Dickinson's burial site back at his home in Maryland. Supposedly he was put in a lead casket filled with whiskey or some kind of alchol for the trip. His personal "body servant" is credited for taking him back to maryland. There is a marker there. Whther it is true or not I am not sure, but I also have and old newspaper article in which a later owner of this property came upon the slave of Dickinson praying and weeping at the site of burial.


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