Age of Jackson
Jackson Early Life DD Buttermilk Cabin Jackson Early Life DD Duel

Dig Deeper: Read about Jackson's duel with Charles Dickinson.

In the spring of 1806, Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson had a series of disagreements. The disagreements ended in a duel between Jackson and Dickinson in which Dickinson died.
 
One argument concerned a horse race scheduled between Jackson’s horse Truxton and a horse owned by Joseph Erwin named Ploughboy. Dickinson was married to Erwin’s daughter.
 
Ploughboy was not able to run in the race as planned. According to the pre-race agreement, Erwin was supposed to pay Andrew Jackson a forfeit fee of $800. Jackson and Erwin and Dickinson disagreed about how the forfeit money was to be paid.
 
In the midst of the trouble about the horse race, Dickinson publicly said insulting things about Jackson’s wife Rachel. Jackson found out about this. He demanded and received an apology from Dickinson. 
 
Then, Dickinson heard that Jackson was criticizing his father-in-law for not paying the forfeit on the horse race correctly. Various retorts between Jackson and Dickinson’s friends went back and forth. Finally Dickinson wrote a statement that was published in a Nashville newspaper calling Jackson a coward and other bad names.
 
Jackson had had enough of Dickinson’s public abuse. On May 23, 1806, Jackson wrote a letter challenging Dickinson to a duel. 
 
 
Jackson stated “Your conduct and expressions relative to me of late have been of such a nature and so insulting that requires, and shall have my notice.” He declared “I hope Sir your courage will be an ample security to me, that I will obtain speedily that satisfaction due me for the insults offered….” This was Jackson’s way of saying he hoped Dickinson was brave enough to fight him. Dickinson accepted the challenge.
 
Jackson had a big problem. Dickinson was widely thought to be a very fine marksman, probably the best in the state. It was likely that Jackson would not survive their duel. Jackson and his friend, Thomas Overton, decided that the best strategy was to let Dickinson fire first. They hoped that in Dickinson’s hurry to turn and fire, Jackson’s wound would not be too great. Jackson then could take his time to fire at Dickinson.
 
On the appointed morning, the two men and their seconds (friends who agreed to help with the duel) met in Kentucky for the duel (Dueling was outlawed in Tennessee). Jackson and Dickinson formally paced away from each other until they were about 20 feet apart. One of the seconds shouted “Fire!” 
 
Dickinson shot first, hitting Jackson in the chest. However, Jackson wore a coat that was too big for him. This may have upset Dickinson’s aim and the bullet missed Jackson’s heart. Then, though in great pain, Jackson carefully aimed and fired at Dickinson. The bullet hit Dickinson in the abdomen, and he eventually died from blood loss. 
 
Jackson’s wound took a long time to get better and never completely healed. His doctors were afraid to try to remove the bullet because such an operation could cause Jackson’s death. The bullet remained in his body for the rest of his life. Jackson was highly criticized for dueling and for killing Dickinson. However he never apologized for the act.



Picture Credits:
  • Photograph of a cabin in Buttermilk Springs, Kentucky. Andrew Jackson stopped at the cabin after his duel with Charles Dickinson. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
  • Drawing showing the duel between Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson. This drawing shows Jackson in the foreground waiting for Dickinson to fire his shot while several bystanders watch nearby. Daffin.org.


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