Andrew Jackson, senior, and his wife Elizabeth, along with their two sons, Hugh and Robert, immigrated to America from Ulster, Ireland, in 1765. In Ireland they had worked in the linen mills as weavers and in America they established a small farm in the Catawba River Valley on the border between present day North and South Carolina. Andrew Jackson, senior died in 1767 just before his third son, Andrew, was born on March 15, 1767. Andrew's mother had five married sisters living within a few miles of their home and her sister Jane Crawford's family took Elizabeth and her three sons in to live with them. Andrew's early schooling was provided by two clergymen living nearby. Andrew was not overly interested in either religion or studies, but he did learn the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Andrew and his two brothers all saw active duty in the American Revolution. Hugh died of exposure following the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779. Robert fought in the Battle of Hanging Rock in October 1780. Andrew served as a courier for the revolutionaries and was captured along with Robert in 1781, after a loyalist turned them in to British troops. Following the capture, a British officer demanded that Andrew clean his boots. Andrew refused, claiming status as a prisoner of war. The officer struck him with his sword and left a lifelong scar on Andrew's head as well as a lifelong dislike of the English. While in captivity, both Andrew and Robert contracted smallpox. Andrew survived the disease, but Robert died. Elizabeth managed to secure Andrew's release in a prisoner exchange. Shortly later, while attempting to gain the release of two of her nephews from a prison ship in Charleston harbor, Elizabeth contracted cholera and died.
Orphaned at fifteen, Andrew apprenticed as a saddler, but was not interested in the occupation preferring instead fast horses, potent whiskey, non-stop gambling, and pretty girls. In 1783 he received an inheritance from a grandfather living in Ireland, but did not invest it wisely. In 1784, once again without funds he moved to Salisbury, North Carolina, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar in September 1787. In October 1788, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and was one of the very first lawyers to establish a law practice in newly settled middle Tennessee. He was twenty-one years of age. In 1791 he courted and married a local divorcee, Rachel Donelson. Through Rachel's family connections, Jackson became associated with William Blount, the Governor of Tennessee Territory. In 1791 Jackson was appointed Attorney General of Tennessee, and in 1795 was elected to the Tennessee Constitutional Convention. In 1796, when Tennessee was made a state, Blunt was chosen as a senator and Jackson was elected as the state's first congressman. In 1797 Blount was accused of planning a rogue military adventure against Spanish Florida and removed from the Senate. Jackson was named to replace him by the Tennessee legislature. In Washington, Jackson associated himself with the Thomas Jefferson's opposition to President George Washington's Federalist administration. His backwoods heritage and mannerisms led to his being ostracized by many of his fellow senators.
In 1798 Jackson resigned from the Senate and returned to Tennessee to become a circuit- riding justice of the state superior court. In 1802 he was named major general of the state militia. In 1804 he resigned from the court in-order to devote himself full time to his cotton plantation which he called the Hermitage. He was already one of the more successful cotton planters in Tennessee and would eventually become one of the very largest. His plantation, of course, depended on slaves, and like most people living in the South at the time he saw black people as being inferior to white people and incapable of managing their own affairs. In 1805 Jackson became involved with Aaron Burr in plotting a vaguely defined military expedition against Spain. James Wilkinson was also talking to Burr and eventually reported Burr's activities to President Jefferson. Jefferson ordered Burr's arrest and Jackson broke off his relations with Burr, but defended him verbally to Secretary of War Henry Dearborn. The scandal poisoned relations between Wilkinson and Jackson. In 1806, Jackson killed Charles Dickinson in a duel with pistols but was not judged to have acted improperly. In 1812, war broke out with England. In August 1812, the British captured Detroit without a fight and in January 1813 Jackson led 2,000 Tennessee volunteers South with the intention of bolstering the defense of New Orleans. President Madison's Secretary of War, John Anderson, ordered Jackson to dismiss his troops. Jackson, fearing that they would come under the command of General Wilkinson, refused and took his soldiers back to Nashville without engaging the British. It was during this march that his troops gave him the nickname "Old Hickory."
Back home in Nashville, Jackson got into an armed brawl with Jesse and Thomas Hart Benton. The fight did not have any lasting adverse effect on their relationship and Thomas Hart Benton would later become one of Jackson's closest political allies. In April 1813, General Wilkinson managed to eject the Spanish from Mobile and Jackson was ordered to assist by containing Indians thought to be allies of the Spanish and British in Georgia and Alabama. Most of these Indians lived in peace, but there were several thousand Creek Indians led by a Chief named Red Eagle that were considered to be dangerous. Red Eagle's father was a Scottish trader and the chief's English name was William Weatherford. Red Eagle had met the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh in 1811 and was greatly influenced by his message of resistance to Anglo-European encroachment on lands traditionally occupied by Native Americans. In 1813 some of Red Eagle's warriors killed two families of settlers at Fort Mims on the Alabama River. Jackson reciprocated by killing two hundred of Red Eagles men at Tallushatchee village near Huntsville, Alabama. David Crocker was one of Jackson's men in the action and is reported to have said "we shot them like dogs." A follow-on action at Talladega village resulted in the death of three hundred Indians. A final action at Horseshoe Bend resulted in more Indian deaths and Red Eagle's surrender. A treaty negotiated by Jackson after Horseshoe Bend resulted in the transfer of twenty-three million acres of Creek Indian lands to the United States.