The Hermitage

Just ten miles east of Nashville lies the Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, the seventh US President. The property was a large working plantation. He resided there infrequently until the 1830s after his retirement from the Presidency.
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The original residence was a log cabin. Jackson commissioned the building of a more upscale home, which was built higher on the property on a site of his wife’s choosing,  over a twenty year period.
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Jackson, who liked to be known as “The General,” was an enigma. On one hand, he was a proponent of slavery, and owned over 100 slaves at his death. On the other hand,  despite naming the property, “The Hermitage,” to suggest an isolated seclusion from public life, the Jacksons welcomed all visitors to their home, often inviting them in for dinner. He liked to be known as a man of the people. At the dinner table, the General would sit in the middle of the row, rather than the head of the table, so he could be involved in all conversations. And our guide quipped that he could talk for an hour about the strategies involved in his victory at New Orleans. I’m sure the story, which was already great, aged well with time. Photos were not allowed inside the house but I was able to snap this one from the back doorstep. Quite a step up from the log cabin!!

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The General and his wife, Rachel, are buried in the gardens alongside the home. Rachel died before Jackson became President, and the General had her buried in the garden that she loved. Upon his retirement, he began a more active landscaping with trees and the dome. Upon his death eight years after retiring, he joined her. His stone simply says, “The General.”

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Another interesting enigma about the General was the life and story of Uncle Alfred Jackson. Born a slave on the property in the 1810s, Alfred became the dedicated bodyguard and manservant to the General. He moved him from bed to a rolling chair in his last years. After emancipation, Alfred stayed at the Hermitage, and became its first tour guide. He lived to be 92 or so, and according to the General’s wishes, was buried adjacent to him in the garden.

I love the Hermitage. I love the man and this period of USA history. Come early when you visit. The line to tour the home gets longer as the day matures. There are great displays and videos, and one can walk the extensive grounds which yield a glimpse of the General’s life as well as slave life on the plantation.

 

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