New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Thursday, December 14, 2017
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1806 Andrew Jackson Duel

Andrew Jackson, because of his brilliant military tactics at the famous Battle of New Orleans, is called the savior of the city.

Nine years before the famous encounter, Jackson fought another battle. This one was a one-on-one battle – a pistol duel defending his wife Rachel’s good name. Charles Dickenson, a man of great distinction, slandered Rachel’s good name in public. He also had the reputation of being one of the best pistol shots in the entire country.

This fact did not deter Jackson one iota. Upon learning of what Dickenson had said, he, with great conviction, demanded that Dickenson make a public apology. If he did not, he would have to meet Jackson on the field of honor. Dickenson gladly accepted Jackson’s challenge.

Dickenson was somewhat perplexed when he learned Jackson selected pistols as his choice of weapons for the duel. The day prior to the event, Dickenson demonstrated his skill with a pistol by firing four rapid shots at a distance of 24 feet. All four shots landed in a space the size of a silver dollar.

When the two men met on the morning of May 30, 1806, Jackson seemed perfectly calm and confident. The arrangements agreed on by the seconds were that pistols were to be held pointed downward until the signal to fire was given. At that point, each man was to fire at his pleasure.

As soon as the signal was given, Dickenson slowly raised his pistol, took careful aim and fired. Jackson’s second noticed a puff of dust flew from the breast of Jackson’s coat. As he gritted his teeth, he raised his left arm and pressed it tightly across his chest. The general stood firm, as if he were anchored to the ground.

Dickenson cried out in astonishment, “Great God, have I missed him?” Jackson took careful aim and fired. Dickenson staggered and fell to the ground, mortally wounded. When Jackson’s second came closer to the general, he saw that Jackson had been struck in the chest. The bullet had broken two ribs and had gone completely through his body. His shoes were both filled with blood.

Jackson told his second, “I was determined to kill him. Had the bullet gone through my heart, I was still confident I would live long enough to fire and kill him.”

Years after the encounter, an authority on dueling who witnessed the event claimed something seemed peculiar when the two men arrived at the scene. Jackson was dressed in a loose-fitting gown or coat so that his antagonist could not really tell the exact location of his body within his coat.

Dickenson aimed right, and if Jackson’s body had been where Dickenson supposed it was, the bullet certainly would have passed through Jackson’s heart. Andrew Jackson outsmarted his adversary. He did the same thing at the Battle of New Orleans when he faced another enemy that had twice as many in its ranks and much more firepower.

Source: Buddy Stall at http://clarionherald.org/20010104/stall.htm