The Dial/Volume 15/Number 170/The “Hero of New Orleans” and “Old Rough and Ready”

The “Hero of New Orleans” and
“Old Rough and Ready.”

The second and third volumes of the "Great Commanders " series give sympathetic and inspiring biographies of General Zachary Taylor and General Andrew Jackson. As the name implies, this series has a different purpose from that of the "American Statesmen Series," even when, as in the case of Jackson, a biography of the same man appears in each series. This difference in purpose sufficiently appears from examination of the two lives of Jackson, when it is found that Professor Sumner, who wrote the volume in the "Statesmen" series, has devoted only 72 pages out of 386 to the events in the General's life previous to 1824, when he first ran for President, while Mr. Parton, in the volume in the "Great Commanders " series, gives 272 pages out of 326 to the same period. The life of General Taylor follows a similar plan, and it will be readily seen that this difference in purpose makes the later series one which appeals strongly to boys and young men.
Andrew Jackson, the intolerant and volcanic, but intensely patriotic, honest, and indomitable man, is made to live again in Mr. Parton's pages. From the days of '76, when as a boy prisoner he was struck to the ground with a sword by a British officer for refusing to black his captor's boots, through stormy years of service as public prosecutor in the untamed days of early Tennessee, day by day amidst the difficulties of conducting a successful campaign, with the aid of a half-starved and mutinous army, against the Indians of Alabama, in perpetual warfare with weakness and pain in his own body, through the awful carnage of New Orleans, and finally upon the no less stormy if less bloody political field of Calhoun and Webster's day, Andrew Jackson the man stands forth as the only adequate explanation of Andrew Jackson the general and statesman. His faults are not covered up or explained away, and a boy must see them as faults ; but the essential greatness and manliness of his character and achievements are so clearly shown that, in spite of faults, he must be a rare American youth who can read these pages without feeling a healthful stimulus to his own manliness and patriotism.
In 1812, a year before General Jackson took terrible revenge upon the Creeks for the massacre of Fort Minis, Captain Zachary Taylor, then a young man of twenty-eight years, serving under General William Henry Harrison, made such a gallant defense of Fort Harrison against a superior force of Indians led by the Prophet, Tecumseh's brother, that his superior in his despatches to Washington warmly praised him. From that time on, and indeed for some time previously, in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida (where Jackson had once been a campaigner and Governor), in Texas at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, beyond the Rio Grande at Matamoras, and finally at Monterey and Buena Vista, another American commander was slowly fitting himself for greater deeds and heavier responsibilities by quietly "doing his duty." The evolution of the sturdy old soldier and patriotic American is lovingly traced by Major-General O. O. Howard. Here, as in the life of Jackson, the man himself is introduced to us and we share his tent. The contrast between the two men is striking. One is impetuous, intolerant, radical, the other is poised, generous, and conservative. And yet, when need was, the aggressive boldness and unconquerable will of "Old Rough and Ready" were not surpassed even by the "Hero of New Orleans."
The civic life of Taylor is briefly but adequately told. Special prominence is given to his attitude toward the slavery agitation of that day. We are told that when, in 1850, the President was approached by Southern leaders to get him to join in their plan to, set up a southern confederacy with him as President, Taylor replied with true Jacksonian vigor and effectiveness that he would put down such an attempt "with Southern volunteers." In General Howard's opinion, this answer postponed the "irrepressible conflict" ten years and made the ultimate success of the Union cause possible. A good map of the battlefield of New Orleans is given in the life of Jackson, and excellent maps of the Texas and Mexican battles are found in the other volume ; but a few good general maps, covering the whole field of military movements described, would add to the reader's interest and profit. The volumes are well indexed.

Henry W. Thurston.

  1. General Jackson. By James Parton. With portrait. "The Great Commanders." New York : D. Appleton & Co.
    General Taylor. By Oliver Otis Howard. With portraits and maps. "The Great Commanders." New York : D. Appleton & Co. .