Friday, May 30, 2014



Adairsville, Kentucky (JFK+50) 208 years ago today, May 30, 1806, the future seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, killed Charles Dickinson* in a duel.

Bad blood between Jackson and Dickinson had begun over a controversial horse race between Joseph Erwin, Dickinson's father-in-law and Mr. Jackson.

The 39 year old former Tennessee representative and senator challenged the 26 year old lawyer because he said that Andrew Jackson's wife, Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson, was an adulteress.

There had been a misunderstanding at the time of Andrew's and Rachel's marriage.  Rachel's first husband, Lewis Robards, filed for divorce and Rachel assumed it had been granted by the court.  

When the Jacksons learned otherwise, another divorce was filed for and granted. The Jacksons then participated in a second marriage ceremony.

As a man who faced political and personal opposition, Andrew Jackson was very sensitive about his honor in general and his wife in particular.

Since dueling was illegal in the state of Tennessee in 1806, the duel was fought across the state line near Adairsville in Logan County, Kentucky.

Charles Dickinson was known as an expert shot.  He had killed 26 men in duels. Although Andrew Jackson would fight more than a hundred duels in his lifetime, Mr. Dickinson would be the only man he killed.

The two adversaries stood 24 feet apart and each held a .70 caliber dueling pistol.

Dickinson fired the first shot and although his bullet hit Andrew Jackson in the chest, he did not fall.  Apparently he didn't even show signs of injury because Charles Dickinson cried out..."My God, have I missed him?"

By the rules of dueling, Mr. Dickinson was required to stand and wait for Mr. Jackson's return shot.  Jackson pulled his trigger, but the pistol stopped at half cock.  He pulled the hammer back to full cock and squeezed the trigger a second time.

This time the pistol fired and the bullet hit Mr. Dickinson in the lower abdomen.  By nightfall, Charles Dickinson was dead.

Andrew Jackson was helped from the field with a bullet lodged near his heart.
Doctors did not attempt to remove it and Jackson carried it in his body the rest of his life causing considerable pain and the spitting up of blood.

Mr. Jackson, however, was fortunate to have survived the wound.  When his doctors said that they were amazed that he had been able to remain standing and return fire after being shot, Andrew reportedly said...

"I should have hit him if he had shot me through the brain."

Of the 43 men who have served as President of the United States, Andrew Jackson is the only one who is known to have taken the life of another human being in a non-military situation.

                    A Duel in Kentucky

*Charles Dickinson (1780-1806) was born in Caroline County, Maryland.  He studied law under Chief Justice John Marshall and moved to Tennessee where he became a plantation owner and horse breeder.


"My God, have I missed him?," by Dantan Wernecke,