Skip to main content

Rachel & Andrew

Their love story is one of America's classics.
He was an American hero, climbing from orphaned obscurity to the Presidency.
She was a frontier aristocrat, choosing true love over society's rules.

Andrew and Rachel's early hardships and upbringing drew them to one another. Once together they built an unconquerable relationship by fulfilling each other's unmet needs and desires.

Letters exchanged between the two support the many stories of their great love and devotion.


Early Hardships

Andrew Jackson was the third son of Scotch-Irish immigrants.

He was born on March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaws, a harsh barren region along the border of North and South Carolina. His father, also Andrew Jackson, died while building a log cabin a month before Andrew's birth. His mother, Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, was a pious woman whose dream was for Andrew to become a Presbyterian minister. Many have said she and Rachel resembled one another a great deal.

Throughout his life, Andrew's hatred for the British was a driving force. This hatred formed from stories his mother told him of their family's suffering under British rule in Ireland, and escalated during his own experience during the American Revolution including losing his mother. Andrew Jackson was an orphan at thirteen.

At about the same age, Rachel Donelson, later to be known as Rachel Jackson, Andrew's wife, was traveling west on a flatboat called the "Adventure" with her father leading a crew of family and friends. They covered over a thousand miles on water to reach the last outpost on the American Frontier - Fort Nashborough - today Nashville, Tennessee.

After only a few months in Fort Nashborough, Rachel's family left for a more civilized area. Indian attacks were growing more frequent and dangerous. They settled in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, where, at seventeen, Rachel married her first husband, Lewis Robards. After a tumultuous few years, in 1788, Rachel returned alone to her mother's home, now back in Fort Nashborough. Her mother was now a widow.

Around the same time, newly certified attorney Andrew Jackson traveled more than 300-miles from Salisbury, North Carolina, to a blockhouse, recommended by friends in Fort Nashborough. The blockhouse was owned by widow Donelson, Rachel's mother.


Once Together

Now living in the same compound in Fort Nashborough, Rachel and Andrew soon met and became friends; eventually their friendship grew into one of the greatest
loves in American History.

At the time, Rachel was still married to Lewis Robards. Rachel and her first husband attempted reconciliation several times, the last ending when Robards falsely accused Rachel and Andrew of an affair. The gallant Andrew, anxious to protect Rachel from what he thought was abuse, confronted Robards about his treatment of Rachel. Since his mother's death, Andrew was notorious for his chivalry and need to rescue women in distress. After a particularly threatening confrontation with Robards, Jackson moved out. Robards soon followed, returning to Kentucky without Rachel.

After rumors that Robards was returning to claim her a second time, Rachel decided she could no longer live with her first husband, accused of unreasonable jealousy, and fled down the Mississippi to Natchez, escaping having to return to Kentucky with him. When Jackson learned of Rachel's plans to flee he expressed extreme sorrow claiming he was "the most unhappy of men, in having innocently and unintentionally been the cause of the loss of peace and happiness of Mrs. Robards, whom he believed to be a fine woman."

Jackson then announced his decision to accompany Rachel and the Starks family on their Mississippi river voyage. In his biography on Jackson, Remini comments that this is a strange move when he is accused of being the third party of this marital triangle. And also says his decision to accompany the Stark family is "either absolute folly or absolute calculation. His actions confirmed Robards' suspicions and gave Robards the evidence he needed to commence divorce proceedings." [2]

While in Natchez, Rachel learned her first husband was pursuing divorce from Andrew Jackson, who came from Nashville to deliver the news. Thinking that Robards had divorced Rachel, Jackson asked her hand in marriage. In 1791, they returned to Tennessee together as husband and wife.

Footnotes:

1. Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson, Volume One, The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998) p. 58.

2. Ibid., p. 59.


Unconquerable Relationship

Almost two years into their marriage, the young Jacksons, both now twenty-six, discovered that Rachel was still technically married to her first husband, Lewis Robards.

Divorce was still new and the procedures very different from today. Robards had only obtained permission from the General Assembly of Virginia (Kentucky was still a part of Virginia) but he still had to bring the divorce to court and go through a jury trial.

No one knows exactly why Robards waited so long to follow through with a divorce. Perhaps he hoped for a reconciliation, as unlikely as that was; perhaps he sought to share the state of Rachel's late father; perhaps it was his way of getting revenge, of punishing Jackson and Rachel for offending his honor and pride. [3] It is also possible that he didn't clearly understand the confusing laws and procedures of time either. Finally, in 1793, Robards obtained his divorce when the Kentucky courts found Rachel guilty of adultery and desertion.

For the record, Rachel and Andrew married again in Nashville. However, the confused circumstances of their courtship and marriage haunted the couple for the rest of their lives. Andrew Jackson believes the gossip and malicious rumors spread by political rivals about the couple regarding their relationship contributed to the death of his beloved wife.

Rachel Jackson died at the age of 61, only a month after Andrew Jackson won the presidency in 1828. He never married again and deeply mourned Rachel's death for the rest of his life.

Footnotes:

3. Ibid., p. 63.

Sources for this section of "Unconquerable Relationship" of Rachel & Andrew:

Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson, Volume One, The Course of American Empire, 1767-1821 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998) Chapter 5, "Marriage."

Alice Osinski, Encyclopedia of Presidents, Andrew Jackson (Chicago: Children's Press, 1987)

Herman J. Viola, World Leaders Past and Present, Jackson (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986)

Cass R. Sandak, The Jacksons, First Families (New York: Crestwood House, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992)

Katherine W. Cruze, An Amiable Woman: Rachel Jackson (Nashville: The Hermitage and the Ladies Hermitage Association, 1994)


Letters

It was said that Andrew carried the miniature portrait of Rachel during his waking hours and at night he placed the portrait on his bedside table.


To Rachel Jackson
From Andrew Jackson
Nashville January 8th. 1813

My love,

I have this evening since dark received, your affectionate letter by Dunwodie.

.he has carefully handed me your miniature—I shall wear it near my boosom, but this was useless, for without your miniature, my recollection, never fails me of your likeness.

It now one Oclock in the morning the candle nearly out, and I must to bed, May the angelic hosts that rewards & protects virtue and innocence, and preserves the good, be with you untill I return - is the sincere supplications of your affectionate Husband.

Andrew Jackson


To Andrew Jackson
From Rachel Jackson
Feby 8th [1813]

My dear Husband.

Your Letter of the 18th January from the mouth of Cumberland river Came Safe to hand, it was Every thing to me.

Do not My beloved Husband let the love of Country fame and honour make you forgit you have me Without you I would think them all empty shadows You will say this is not the Language of a patriot but it is the Language of a faithfull Wife, one I know you Esteem & Love sinceerly, but how many pangs how many heart renderings Sighs has your absence Cost me My time passes heavily not in good health but I hope to see you once more on this globe and after this frail life Ends be with you in happyer Climes wer I shall Experience no more painfull seporation and then I'll be at rest.

Farewell think on me your Dearest friend on Earth.

Rachel Jackson


To Robert Hays
From Andrew Jackson
Knoxville, November 2nd, 1797

Dr. Col

. . . I must now beg of you to try to amuse Mrs. Jackson and prevent her from fretting. the situation in which I left her (Bathed in Tears) fills me with woe. Indeed Sir, It has given me more pain than any Event of my life - but I trust she will not remain long in her doleful mood, but will again be Cheerful. Could I learn, that, that was the case I coul[d b]e Satisfied.

Your attention to her, and to my old friend Mr. Crawford, will Create a Debt of Gratitude that Shall never be forgotten by me. I will Expect to hear from you by the first post and Every post. My respects to Mrs. Hayes and believe me to be with Esteem your friend.

Sincerely

Andrew Jackson

Footnotes:

1. Harold D. Moser and Sharon Macpherson, ed., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume II, 1804-1813 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press) pp. 353-355.

2.Ibid., pp. 361-362.

3. Harold D. Moser and others, ed., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume III, 1814-1815 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press) p. 34.

4. Sam B. Smith and Harriet Chappell Owsley, ed., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume I, 1770-1803 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press) pp. 151-152.

Sources:

Sam B. Smith and Harriet Chappell Owsley, ed., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume I, 1770-1803 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press)

Harold D. Moser and Sharon Macpherson, ed., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume II, 1804-1813 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press)

Harold D. Moser and others, ed., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Volume III, 1814-1815 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press)