Anne Leonard

The Hermitage

Add Andrew Jackson to the list of presidential sites I’ve visited (libraries, homes, etc.). As my brother once said, if they put up a sign in the woods saying Lincoln took a leak here we’d have to go see it. That was years ago after a brutal trip through the backwoods of Kentucky to what may or may not be Lincoln’s birthplace (if you read the fine print).

I saw that question on Facebook recently, and I think I missed a few. So in order of chronological presidents (rather than the order I’ve seen them): Washington (Mount Vernon), Thomas Jefferson (Monticello, twice I might add), Andrew Jackson (The Hermitage, last week), Abraham Lincoln (his sort-of birthplace as noted, New Salem, his Springfield home and tomb, Ford’s Theater), FDR (Hyde Park and Warm Springs), Truman (library and home in Independence, Missouri, twice), Eisenhower (library), Kennedy (library, gravesite, Texas Book Depository and a walk-by his birthplace in Brookline, Massachusetts), Johnson (library and ranch multiple times — hey I live in Texas), George H.W. Bush (library, which got me on the mailing list for Junior’s presidential library), Clinton (library, drive by Hope all the time so need to swing by his birthplace some day) and Obama (his Honolulu high school in the distance). And, I’ve toured Jefferson Davis’s home, Beauvoir on the Mississippi coast.

The Hermitage was a welcome break from the mob of tourists in downtown Nashville. A lot of the plantation, including the road it’s on, is devoted to Jackson’s wife, Rachel. I first caught wind of her tragic story (accusations of bigamy probably contributed to her death) as a teenager when I came across “The President’s Lady” while channel surfing late at night back on the farm. Charlton Heston played Andrew Jackson, while Susan Hayward was Rachel. In real life, Rachel was described as a fat, little dumpling who smoked a pipe. Well, it was the frontier. Furthermore, Jackson loved her to the end of his days. Nonetheless, it’s highly doubtful she looked like Susan Hayward.

A final note, Andrew Jackson is not politically correct these days. So a great deal of detail (and ongoing archeological work) is devoted to the lives of his slaves.

Rachel’s Garden

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