Chronicle of a visit to The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s family residence, museum, and national historic landmark
By Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES – Alfred was probably crawling when Andrew Jackson bought 425 acres near Nashville in 1804, founding one of the largest plantations in Tennessee, which he baptized, along with his wife, Rachel Donaldson, The Hermitage. Surrounded by Canadian firs, in the quiet garden on the side of the master’s mansion, lie the three characters of our story.
He was a young ambitious lawyer, energetic and an avid reader, who had held important positions in an emerging country: House of Chambers representative, General of the Militia, then Senator, of all of Tennessee, which entered the Union in 1796, when he was just 29 years old.
A decade before setting up this farm, he bought a young black woman called Hannah with her daughter Betty, and the mother and daughter went on to cook for the future 7th US president for over half a century. Betty was very young when she married the carpenter Ned, another slave, whose relationship gave birth to Alfred.
According to the “Partus sequitur ventrem” law, the children of slave mothers were born slaves. Two books from my childhood come to mind: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; the latter still makes me want to live out my teenage dreams of living on a Mississippi island.
This uncle with many nephews and nieces regardless of blood ties, went into the next century with the precarious freedom of a newly free black man in the US. Rachel Jackson died on December 22, 1828, when her newly-elected president husband still hadn’t been sworn into office. General Andrew, hero of the famous Battle of New Orleans – January 1815 – which consolidated the independence of the young US Republic, passed away in his Tennessee mansion on June 8, 1845.
On May 5, 1863, Union troops occupied The Hermitage, when Nashville surrendered to Emancipation supporters. A soldier by the surname Taylor described the place, whose impressions are striking because of how much they match my own after having visited it: