ANDREW JACKSON (1767-1845)
Andrew Jackson achieved notoriety as the first sitting American president to become the target of an assassination attempt. However, that historic event was not Jackson’s first escape from death.
Fatherless since infancy, 13-year-old Andrew Jackson joined the Continental Army, along with his older brothers Hugh and Robert, to fight the British. Because Andrew was too young to qualify for a combat role, he served as a courier. Nonetheless, he and Robert were captured by the British and held prisoner. During this time, young Andrew reportedly refused to polish the boots of a British officer, who promptly drew his sword and slashed at Jackson, hitting him in the head and hand. Jackson carried the scars the rest of his life.
While prisoners, Andrew and Robert both contracted smallpox. They were released, but Robert died shortly thereafter. Andrew managed to survive the dual ordeal of prison and life-threatening illness. To this day, he remains the only U.S. President ever to have been a prisoner of war.
PRESIDENT JACKSON BECAME KNOWN AS A MILITARY HERO FOR THE LEADERSHIP ROLE HE PLAYED IN THE WAR OF 1812, WHICH LASTED TWO AND HALF YEARS
More than a half-century later, President Andrew Jackson traveled from the White House to the Capitol to attend a congressional funeral, on January 30, 1835. As he was leaving the House chamber afterward, a man pulled out a pistol and fired at Jackson. The pistol jammed, but the attempted shot angered the President, who took after the man with his cane. The man pulled out a second pistol and shot at Jackson again, and this pistol also jammed. Thankfully, at this point the prospective assassin was restrained and arrested. He was identified as Richard Lawrence, an unemployed painter.
Embroiled in a political battle over his refusal to back refunding of the Bank of the United States, the President believed Lawrence had been hired by his Whig opponents to kill him. Worried that he might be the next target, Vice President Martin Van Buren made a point of carrying two loaded pistols when visiting the Capitol.
President Jackson was indeed lucky to elude death twice in quick succession thanks to the misfiring pistols. The odds of that happening were 1 in 125,000. Smithsonian Institution researchers wondered what had happened, so a century after the assassination attempt occurred, they examined the two pistols. They found both guns to be in good working order, and the mystery of the malfunctions has never been solved.In the end, Andrew Jackson believed he had been spared by divine providence.
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