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Hardened to Hickory


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Turnbow's fascinating book recounts one of the lesser known, but more revelatory events in the life of this controversial figure.

American history is replete with controversial figures, perhaps none more so than Andrew Jackson who became the seventh President of the United States. Jackson seems to have had several things in common with the current controversial resident of the White House. Like President Trump, he was an outsider. He never claimed to be a politician. He made controversial pronouncements. He was neither trusted nor respected by the Washington elite. He was not afraid of going his own way, and even his marriage was controversial.

As a young boy during the American Revolution Jackson’s face was scarred by a British officer for refusing to shine the man’s boots. It was merely the first incident that revealed his stubbornness and determination. As one acquaintance, who often wrestled him as a youth, recalled, “I could throw him three out of four times… but he would never stay throwed.”

Tony Turnbow’s book relates one of the watershed events in Jackson’s life; one that probably did as much to shape him as the incident above.

At the onset of the War of 1812, not only the British but also the Spanish and Native Americans were testing the mettle of the nascent republic.

With a miniscule standing army, the United States relied heavily upon  militia for its defense. As war with Britain loomed, the government ordered a volunteer army from Tennessee to travel nearly 500 miles down the Natchez Trace to defend New Orleans. This was several years before the famous battle. Governor Blount of Tennessee gave Jackson the rank of Major General and command of the 2000 or so troops. 

Enter his nemesis, General James Wilkinson. Wilkinson was a much better politician than soldier, while Jackson was just the opposite. Wilkinson was career army with all the perks and connections one would expect of that station.

He was also a spy for the Spanish government.

The two men’s paths crossed several times, each fraught with controversy. The final confrontation came when Wilkinson used his influence to have Jackson relieved of command after Jackson had marched his volunteer army to Natchez, MS in the middle of a harsh winter. The order potentially left the army without leadership 450 miles from home.  

With his beloved volunteers stranded minus provisions, and disease raging through the ranks, Jackson had to make a decision whether to do what was right or what was legal. This ordeal, according to Turnbow, was one of the things that earned him the nickname “Old Hickory.”

Hardened to Hickory is a fascinating read about this little-known event in US history. It is well-researched with almost 1500 citations. Turnbow’s prose is engaging and suspenseful. This work deserves a place beside those of John Meacham and David McCullough as one of the great narratives in the American saga.

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I am a writer and educator publishing fiction, essays, reviews and poetry. I write reviews for Wendy Welch's little bookstore at Big Stone gap blog. I am a writing teacher and workshop facilitator, and have published fiction, essays, reviews, poems and photographs.


About the author

Tony L. Turnbow has studied the history of the historic wilderness road, the Natchez Trace, for more than 35 years. A lawyer, Mr. Turnbow wrote the non-fiction Hardened to Hickory: The Missing Chapter in Andrew Jackson's Life in 2018. He is writing a new young adult historical fiction series. view profile

Published on September 27, 2018

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150000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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