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Andrew Jackson Murders Charles Dickinson
March 11, 2011
by William P. Meyers

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Andrew Jackson would become a President of the United States of America and the founder of the Democratic Party. Along the way he would murder many of his fellow men and live a life of depravity unmatched, so far as we know, by any other American President.

Continued from Andrew Jackson: Cotton, Cock Fights and Aaron Burr

Andrew Jackson's horse racing victories recovered his fortunes, but led to a new round of violence. Captain Joseph Erwin and his son-in-law Charles Dickinson had to negotiate their payment to Jackson and the other backers of Truxton against Ploughboy (actually a forfeiture, as Ploughboy was old and went lame before the match). One thing led to another, and after the traditional trading of insults Andrew Jackson attacked another lawyer, Thomas Swann, with his cane. Jackson evaded duels with other challengers (Nathaniel McNairy), focusing his hatred on Charles Dickinson, who actually had done Jackson no offense.

First, Truxton was run against Ploughboy again. This time Truxton was hurt from overtraining, but cruel Jackson made him run anyway. Truxton won the race, but "The victory had been dearly bought. The bay horse limped on his injured hind leg. A front leg had gone lame." Yet to win the bet Jackson needed to win 2 of 3 heats, so he forced the horse to run yet again. Even in this situation Truxton won. Like Jackson's slaves, he must have been terrified of disappointing his master.

Charles Dickinson missed that race, having been away on business. On his return to Nashville he wrote a column for the local paper, the Review, calling Jackson "a worthless scoundrel, a poltroon and a coward." Jackson now challenged Dickinson to a duel, and Dickinson accepted.

On May 29, 1806, the two parties met by the banks of the Red River. Although Jackson had been shooting weapons since he was a child, it was generally believed that Charles was an even better shot. Jackson devised a trick for winning. He wore a loose, dark blue frock coat and trousers. He purposefully did not fire on command. Dickinson drew quickly and hit Jackson where, judging from his clothing, his heart should have been. Instead the shot had gone wide, causing a less-than-mortal wound.

Dickinson was duty bound to allow Jackson to shoot. He folded his arms and waited. Jackson aimed very carefully, and fired his shot.

It is notable that trickery was not considered honorable in gentlemen's duels. Having been wounded himself, Jackson could have satisfied his honor by wounding Dickinson in return, and gained honor by firing over his head. In fact Jackson did not even aim for the heart, but for the bowels, known to lead to a long painful death. Charles did not expire until late that night.

Dickinson lay dead. Jackson returned to his home to enjoy the bounty from the slaves and cotton his agent had recently sold in New Orleans. [James, pages 107-118]

Next: Andrew Jackson 1806-1812

Main source: The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James, Bobbs-Merrill company, 1938.

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