Sunday, December 21, 2008
by Christopher Young
I take pen in hand (well, keyboard) in order to peer into the lives of “Old Hickory’s” adopted family and trace their loyalties to the Union. General Andrew Jackson was an ardent Unionist but had several relations give their lives for the “Southern Cause.” It was Jackson who, during Thomas Jefferson’s birthday celebration on April 20, 1830, starred John C. Calhoun squarely in the eyes, and gave the resounding toast, “OUR UNION: IT MUST BE PRESERVED!” Although born in South Carolina, and a Tennessee emigrant, Jackson was willing to lay down his life and the lives of United States soldiers in order to keep the Union together. His adopted grandson (grandnephew in reality) and grandnephew gave their lives for the South at the Battle of Chickamauga.
Jackson and Rachel had no children of their own, but one cannot say they were childless. Children seemed to be scrambling all about the Hermitage and the White House during his presidential years. The couple adopted two children during their lives and acted as guardians for eight others. One of the adopted children was the son of Rachel’s brother, Severn Donelson, renamed Andrew Jackson, Jr, to honor his adopted father. The other adopted son was an orphaned Creek Indian named Lyncoya. Jackson adopted him during the Creek Indian war of 1813-14 and sent him to the Hermitage to be reared, but unfortunately, Lyncoya died in 1828, at the age of eighteen, as a result of tuberculosis. Andrew Jackson, Jr. married Sarah Yorke of Philadelphia in 1831, and they had a son, Samuel Jackson, in 1837.
The Jackson’s also added three nephews to their family in 1804. After another brother of Rachel’s died, John Samuel Donelson (1798-1817), Daniel Smith Donelson (1802-1863), and Andrew Jackson Donelson (1799-1871) came to call Andrew guardian. The best known of the three nephews was Andrew Jackson Donelson, who married Emily Tennessee Donelson and was his Uncle Andrew’s private secretary during his two terms as president. Emily Donelson acted as White House hostess for most of Jackson’s presidency, but she died of tuberculosis in 1836. One of the Children produced from this marriage was John S. Donelson.
John S. Donelson was born in the White House on May 18, 1832, and was standing at the bedside of his granduncle when the ex-president died in 1845. According to John's stepmother, Elizabeth, the dying Jackson called John to his side, "kissed him and gave him his blessing and parting admonitions [.] He told him not to weep for him[,] that he hoped to meet him in Heaven & that he must be a good boy, obey his parents, keep the Sabath[sic] holy, and not neglect his salvation." John cast his lot with the Confederacy on May 14, 1861, when he was mustered into Company E of the 154th (Senior)Tennessee Regiment as a 2nd lieutenant. His promotion to 1st lieutenant came in August 1861, and his appointment to captain occurred on June 27, 1862. Captain Donelson received a severe wound during the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro) on December 31, 1862, and was subsequently killed on September 19, 1863, at the Battle of Chickamauga while serving on Brigadier Preston Smith’s staff as Acting Assistant Adjutant-General (A.A.A.G.). His effects were placed in his brother’s care but no record of his burial was documented. According to the Compiled Service Records (CSRs), Donelson’s captaincy had not been filled by December 1863, due to “the captain-elected” having “failed to pass ex board and appointment not made.”
General Jackson’s “grandson,” Samuel, was born at the Hermitage on June 9, 1837, to Andrew Jackson, Jr. and Sarah Yorke. He enlisted and was elected as the 1st lieutenant of Company G, 44th Tennessee Infantry on December 30, 1861, and received an appointment as captain on April 24, 1862. He too was wounded at the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro). Unlike his cousin, John Donelson, Jackson’s wound was recorded. He took a shot in the hand and was sent to Marietta, Georgia, to recover. His company’s muster roll recorded him as being “present” in May and June 1863. Like his cousin, Samuel Jackson took part in his final battle on September 19, 1863, at Chickamauga. Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson described the scene in his official report on October 24, by saying, “ The Forty-fourth Tennessee Regiment had Lieut. Col. John L. McEwen, jr., commanding, a gallant and able officer, who has rendered faithful and efficient service in our army, and 5 company officers wounded, 1 (Capt. Samuel Jackson) mortally.” Johnson goes on to say that “Captain Jackson, of the Forty-fourth Tennessee Regiment, has since died of his wounds. Known to me long and familiarly in youth and manhood as Capt. Samuel Jackson has been, I feel unable to do justice to his many virtues, his pure and admirable character, or his merits as an officer and a soldier.” Jackson’s CSR records he died on October 2, 1863, from wounds received at Chickamauga, but his gravestone at the Hermitage records his death as September 29. Samuel Jackson’s name was placed on the Confederate Roll of Honor on August 10, 1864, posthumously.