In an earlier post, I showed you a fantastic rap video that featured, among other things, a kid dressed like Andrew Jackson claiming to have shot a guy in the testicles.
Clearly, this is something that, if true, involved both history and funny, and I've meant to explore it for quite some time, and in the process I have become better acquainted with the man who is perhaps the biggest badass ever to have served our country as chief executive.
Most of what you probably know about Jackson is pretty textbook: he's on the twenty. His nickname was "Old Hickory." He fought in more than one war. He had really funky hair. He destroyed the national bank. He was really awful to the Native Americans.
Good or bad, these things only barely hint at Jackson the Badass. It wasn't until I read a couple of accounts of his 1806 duel with Charles Dickinson (this one and this one are both especially good) that I fully appreciated his badassery.
Jackson loved duels. He participated in over a dozen of them throughout his life, but his duel with Dickinson was the only one that ended in someone actually dying. In this instance, Dickinson had insulted Jackson's wife, Rachel, because she was a divorcee (Jackson was her second husband), which understandably pissed off Mr. Jackson. (Apparently he defended his wife's honor a lot. More power to ya, Andy!) So the challenge was issued, and the men rode from Tennessee into Kentucky, where duels were still legal, to engage in their competition.
You may know this from reading up on the Hamilton-Burr duel (at least I did), but the code duello that governed dueling practices of the day basically gave the following rules:
1. The men stand 24 feet apart.
2. A signal is given.
3. Both men very quickly draw, aim, and fire. If one of them dies, the duel's over.
4. Whoever shoots first has to wait for the other guy to shoot before he can shoot again.
5. After both men shoot, if they're both still alive, they can call it a draw and go home or they can keep shooting. (Most of the time, the duelers were satisfied by having both gotten a shot out, and just by showing up, you'd proven that you were a gentleman after some fashion, so mostly I think they just shot and went home.)
Because you have to draw and shoot so quickly under these rules, it's no wonder so many people lived through them - it's pretty hard to do, especially with an early-19th-century pistol.
Rule number 4 came into play in the Hamilton duel because Hammy shot first - straight up into the air - some say intentionally, in hopes that Burr would fire into the air too. (Spoiler - he totally didn't.) In the Jackson-Dickinson duel, Jackson decided to play that rule the other way. Dickinson was a far better shot on the quick, so Jackson figured he could buy some time by letting Dickinson get a shot off first and then pausing to aim.
That's right, he let the other guy shoot directly at him. Badass!
And the other guy hit him. In the chest. Even more badass! (The bullet, inches from Jackson's heart, was too dangerously placed to be removed, so it stayed there for the rest of his life.)
And then Jackson calmly placed one hand over the wound, cocked his gun, aimed carefully at Dickinson's midsection, and fired, killing him. That's so badass it makes 50 Cent look like a basket of fluffy kittens.
(And it's more than a little bit unsporting, many people would argue.)
So is he badass? Hell to the yeah.
Is he a dirty cheater? Possibly.
Did he really shoot a guy in the jewels? Inconclusive. Some sources say "groin," others say "middle," still others only point out that he died. I'm going to guess not, though, because most accounts explicate that Dickinson was shot once and died on the spot, and getting hit in an extremity like the testicles probably wouldn't kill you instantly. The femoral artery, maybe, and the gut, possibly, but right square in the nads wouldn't necessarily have done the trick, I don't think.
I guess it's a little bit more amusing if that's what happened, but the idea of Jackson taking a bullet to the chest without flinching is funny enough on its own.
Next time, I'll tell you about his cursing parrot.