Manus Hand

Visiting Andrew Jackson's Grave

Here I am at The Hermitage, President Jackson's estate just outside Nashville, Tennessee, where Jackson and his wife rest in the small family cemetery just outside the main house. The day was August 11, 1994, and it was a hot one. Of all the Presidential sites I've visited, I would have to say that The Hermitage is the most commercial. The place has adapted to the countless thousands of visitors who annually tour the property. Nashville draws people in to see the Grand Old Opry and other similarly themed sights, and tourists often fill some of their vacation time with a visit to The Hermitage. As a result, a modern visitor's center has been built some distance from the mansion, where tours begin and end. Self-paced tours, using personal tape recorders, are the mode by which most people visit the home and its grounds.

As I said, the day (at least for a mountain-bred man like me) was very hot and humid, and my wife and I, pushing a stroller before us with some difficulty, made our way from the mass of people at the tour center across the great lawn to the mansion and to the mass of people milling around there.

The President is buried in the family cemetery beyond the flower garden to the side of the house. Buried on the same grounds are a number of the slaves who were close to the family. I found it very touching and interesting to read the cracking, tipping, and rotting stones of these forgotten men and women.

The President and his wife Rachel are interred beneath the cupola in the center of the cemetery. The President's wife predeceased him, and in fact died before seeing her husband become the nation's chief executive. Rachel Jackson was perhaps the most reviled of presidential wives, with Jackson's enemies (and he had a lot of them) accusing the couple of adultery (there being some question as to the legality of the divorce she acquired with her first husband). Andrew Jackson loved his wife with a passion that drove him often to violence in her defense, and when she died, he had the stone laid on her grave chiseled with a very long poem extolling her nobility and virtue, and his love for her.

In contrast, the President's stone beside Rachel's simply states his identity. To see the pair of stones so similar and yet so differently adorned is an interesting, off-balance juxtaposition and one that says much about the President himself.

My children, of course, were more interested in the lizard that we spotted scurrying along the ground and then climbing a tree in the cemetery. I ended up with nearly as much videotape of this lizard as of the President's gravesite!

Jackson's home seems to me the prototypical antebellum estate -- more so than even the estates of other southern Presidents. It is interesting that someone who I consider a "revolutionary" President (one of the few who dramatically changed the nation and by whose administrations I personally divide the history of the nation) seems to me to have lived the lifestyle that has aged least gracefully.

...White House Biography of President Jackson...
...Hal Morris's Hotlinked Biography of President Jackson...