Andrew Jackson, Indian fighter, with no love lost on his enemies, adopted a Creek Indian baby and raised him as his own.
Andrew Jackson: Becoming the General
At age forty, Andrew Jackson had been a major figure in Tennessee for nearly two decades. He was a planter, a lawyer, a businessman, a horse racer and breeder, a sometimes Congressman and Senator and full time land speculator.
But it was not until he became General Andrew Jackson that he found his true calling. The generalship itself was an honorary position in the Tennessee militia – but it appealed to Jackson’s powerful (and always quarrelsome) personality enough to claim it in political contest. It would also insure his mark in history.
He had a latent talent for soldiering and took both the title and the position seriously. Although unschooled in formal military tactics and strategies, he learned the basics quickly, and drilled his men regularly.
His first test in battle, which earned his eventual military reputation, was in a series of wars with the Creek Indians, during the War of 1812. The Creeks had allied themselves with the English, and proved to be vicious and tenacious fighters. They also met their match in Andrew Jackson, amateur soldier, but just as vicious and tenacious a fighter.
Lincoya: The Creek Child
The battle of Horseshoe Bend in central Alabama, was a particularly brutal engagement. Scores of Creek Indians lay dead. One of Jackson’s soldiers discovered a little boy, perhaps three-years-old, wandering around nearby, crying in search of his family – or of anyone familiar.
The soldier brought the child to General Jackson, asking what he should do with him. The militia was on the march. There was no one to care for a little baby. Jackson did not hesitate. “Bring him to Mrs. Jackson,” he instructed. It was the perfect solution.
Rachel Jackson: Adoptive Mother
Rachel Donelson and Andrew Jackson had been married for more than twenty years, but had been childless. It was a very painful omission in Rachel’s life. The Donelsons were a large family (there were ten children), with dozens of little nieces and nephews in their immediate surroundings. But none were born from her body, or from the love between the Jacksons.
A few years earlier, one of her brothers and his wife had twin sons. Theirs was a large family, and the extra mouths to feed were burdensome. The Jacksons’ offer to adopt one of the boys was gratefully accepted, particularly since the warm-hearted Rachel had enough love for an army of children.
Lincoya Becomes a Jackson
Although it may have been more like foster-parentage than formal adoption, the little Indian boy was named Lincoya, nurtured by the Jacksons and raised as their own. He was fed and clothed and educated the same as his “brother” Andrew Jackson Junior – and the other nieces, nephews and wards that the Jacksons raised in guardianship. Lincoya was also tucked in, nursed through illness and loved with the true affection of Rachel’s motherly heart.
Growing up at the Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee gave Lincoya huge advantages that he would never have enjoyed otherwise. Still, many of his Indian traits-of-genetics were obvious to his adoptive parents. By the time he reached puberty, he had become a gifted horseman, and had natural instincts for the basic survival skills of his Indian heritage, energies that may well have been admired by the rambunctious Jackson himself. But by this time, both Jacksons were past fifty and more like grandparents than parents.
Meanwhile Jackson had become “a great personage,” away from home most of the time. Perhaps the boy needed a firmer hand than was available.
Lincoya never seemed to be able to become the “young master” of the Hermitage like his foster-brother Andrew Jackson, Jr. He tried to run away several times while he was still a young boy, hoping to rejoin his Creek tribe. It does not appear that he faulted either his adoptive mother or father. In the little that is known of him, Lincoya always spoke well of the Jacksons, and admitted that he had only received kindness at their hands. Still, he had an inborn longing for his own people.
The Future of Lincoya Jackson
Andrew Jackson had genuine affection for Lincoya and planned to send him to West Point, which had opened its doors for military training at the start of the nineteenth century. He believed soldiering skills would suit the now-teen aged boy. He also believed that the discipline might be beneficial. But Lincoya did not enjoy formal education or scholarly pursuits. Or discipline. The thought of a military career was not appealing.
He respectfully told his “father” that while he was grateful for the opportunity, he wished to decline. General Jackson did not press. Instead, he suggested apprenticing him to a saddle maker, a trade that was more appealing to the young man. Interestingly enough, Andrew Jackson had also been briefly apprenticed to a saddle maker back in the Carolinas when he was still a teenager.
Those plans would never be fulfilled. Early in 1828, the year Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States, Lincoya contracted tuberculosis. With primitive medical care, the seventeen year old young man didn’t have a chance. He died only months before his adoptive father became the seventh President.
Rachel Jackson was devastated. She had raised Lincoya since he was three. More like a grandmother than mother, Rachel at sixty was in poor health herself. She died of a failing heart by the end of the year.
Andrew Jackson came to his inauguration wearing a mourning band for his beloved wife. It is also likely that he felt some fatherly grief for his adopted Indian son, Lincoya.
- Burstein, Andrew – The Passions of Andrew Jackson – Borzoi/Knopf, 2003
- Remini, Robert V. – Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Empire (1767-1821) (Vol. 1) – History Book Club Ed., 1998
- Remini, Robert V. – Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Freedom (1822-1832) (Vol. 2) – History Book Club Ed., 1998