2d session United States. 33d Congress.

Addresses on the presentation of the sword of Gen. Andrew Jackson to the Congress of the United States online

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Online Library2d session United States. 33d CongressAddresses on the presentation of the sword of Gen. Andrew Jackson to the Congress of the United States → online text (page 2 of 3)
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lution by a foreign foe. He offered pardon and invoked
the very pirates who infested the neighboring coast to
the rescue.

By these energetic steps, General Jackson found as-
sembled around him a force of five thousand men, of
all arms — all, save two regiments of the regular army,
being volunteers and militia-men — and with this hastily-
assembled army, on the 8th of January, he met, and, in
a sanguinary battle, overcame more than double their
number of veteran troops, led by experienced generals,
flushed with recent victory on the battle-fields of Eu-
rope, and closed the war in a blaze of glory.

Mr. President, the sword worn by the victor on that
day, the man of stern resolve and iron will, when gazed
upon in unborn ages, will send a thrill through the
heart of every true American.

I ask the unanimous consent of the Senate to intro-
duce "a joint resolution accepting the sword of General


Andrew Jackson, and returning tlie thanks of Congress
to the family of the late General Eobert Armstrong."

Unanimous consent was given^ and the joint resolution
was read twice, and considered as in Committee of the
Whole. It is as follows:

Resolved hy the Senate and House of Beprese7itatives of
the United States of America in Congress assembled, That
the thanks of this Congress he j^resented to the family of the
late General Kohert Armstrong for the present of the sword
worn by General Andrew Jackson while in the military
service of his country ; and that this precious relic he hereby
a-ccepted in the name of the nation, and be deposited, for
safe-keeping, in the Department of State ; and that a copy
of this resolution be transmitted to the family of the late
General Kobert Armstrong.

The joint resolution was reported to the Senate without
amendment^ and ordered to be engrossed for a third reading.
It was read the third time, and passed.

Mr. GwiN submitted the following; which was considered
by unanimous consent, and agreed to :

Ordered, That the addresses of Mr, Cass and Mr. Bell be
entered on the journal ; that the resolution and the sword
be taken to the House of Eepresentatives by the Secretary,
with a request that the House will concur in the said resolu-


Monday, February 26, 1855.

A message was received from tlie Senate, by Asbuey
DiCKiNS, esq., tlieir Secretary, notifying the House that that
hody had passed a resolution accepting the sword of General
Andrew Jackson, and returning tlie thanks of Congress to
the family of Greneral Kobert Armstrong therefor.

Mr. Smith, of Tennessee :

I ask that the House do now proceed to the consider-
ation of the resolution just brought to ns from the

Mr. Stanton, of Kentucky:

As the ceremony of presentation is to be an inte-
resting one, and there are a great many ladies who
desire to be present, and are unable to get in the gal-
leries, I move that the rules be suspended, and that the
ladies be admitted upon the floor on the occasion.

The motion was agreed to ; the doors were thrown open ,
and a large number of ladies were admitted.
The joint resolution was read as follows:

A RESOLUTION to accept the sword of General Andrew Jackson, and return-
ing the thanks of Congress to the family of the late General Robert Arm-

Resolved, That the thanks of this Congress be presented
to the family of the late General Eobert Armstrong for the
present of the sword worn by General Andrew Jackson
while in the service of his country, and that this precious


relic be hereby accepted in tbe narae of the nation, and be
deposited for safe-keeping in the Department of State, and
that a copy of this resolution be presented to the family of
the late General Robert Armstrong.

Mr. S^^nTH, of Tennessee, rose and addressed the House as
follows :

Mr. SpeaivEr: In asking the consideration of the
resolution just read, justice to the occasion requires
a few remarks from me, and I only regi'et that this
responsibility had not devolved upon some one more
capable than myself of performing so important a duty.

In all ages and in all countries it has been customary
to commemorate the deeds of illustrious men. Paint-
ing, poetry, and sculj^ture have been brought into
requisition to perpetuate the memory of their achieve-
ments, and to keep alive in the hearts of the young, ven-
eration for their ancestors and pride of country.

Every Capitol in Christendom is adorned with monu-
ments erected to the brave and wise who have, by
counsel or deeds, given direction to the policy or illus-
trated the pages of their country's history. Their mu-
seums are filled with relics, which, from their intimate
XDcrsonal association with the gallant dead, ever keep
vividly before the mind their public acts and private
virtues. These teach lessons as impressive as towering
monuments or glowing canvas.

Brief as our existence has been, the history of no
nation on earth has been so fruitful of stirring incidents —


incidents whicli have had. an influence not only upon
our own land, but upon the civilized world. The
painter's art has adorned the walls of our Capitol with
representations of some of the most important of these
events. Here v/e have the first grand scene of our
Revolution, the Declaration of Independence^ upon which
no American can look without experiencing feelings of
the most ennobling character. The very features are
preserved of the statesmen who proclaimed doctrines
which startled the world from its long lethargic sleep,
revived again the spirit of Sydney and of Hampden, and
gave the first just conception of the true dignity and
capacity of man. Their voices are all hushed in death;
but the echo of the appeal of 1776 still lives, and is
reverberating throughout the earth, making strong the
arms and hearts of those who for their rights and liber-
ties would proudly welcome death and the grave.

With what glowing pride do we look upon the battle-
scenes here portrayed! — battles fought, not to further
the schemes of ambition, but in defence of freedom and
universal humanity. No enslaved people have bewailed
the triumphs of our warriors, but the whole earth has
arisen and pronounced them blessed.

The battles and victories which the artist has here
celebrated were still fresh and green in the memory of
the people, when the nation was again called to arms
to vindicate its honor and the rights of man. Many of
the leading spirits of the Eevolution still lived. Upon


some the palsying hand of time had been heavily laid ;
but in their hearts the love of country and the fires of
patriotism still brightly burned. They urged the young
to the conflict. The voice of Jefferson rang through the
land, cheering the brave, nerving the arms of the timid,
and giving hope and courage to the hearts of all. The
warriors of the Revolution who still retained their vigor
buckled on their armor for the conflict. Conspicuous
among these were Yan Rensselaer of New York, Smith
of Maryland, and Jackson of Tennessee. Our country-
men, under the lead of their gallant commanders, tri-
umphed upon the land and upon the sea, and estab-
lished forever our rank among the nations of the earth.
The actors in these scenes are fast passing away. But
few of the gallant leaders in this glorious war still sur-
vive ; and they are verging upon their three score and
ten, and must soon be gathered to their fathers. Duty,
gratitude, and patriotism should j)rompt us to collect
trophies of their victories, and garner up memorials
which v/ill speak to future generations of their great-
ness and patriotism, and which will keep the memory
of their deeds of noble darino; alive forever in the heart
of the nation.

Not long before the death of that distinguished chief-
tain, Andrew Jackson, he placed the sword he had
worn in all of his battles in the Vv-ar of 1812 in the
hands of a friend to be delivered to his compatriot in
arms, the late General Robert Armstrong, who had in


an eminent degree commanded his respect and enjoyed
his confidence. These two lamented patriots had shared
together the hardships of the camp and the dangers of
tlie battle-field ; and the bestowal of this relic by the
illustrious hero was a fit testimonial of his apprecia-
tion of one whose courage he had seen tested on many
a bloody field, and whose patriotism had often elicited
the warmest gratitude and highest applause of his

It was at the battle of Enotochopco where the little
army commanded by Jackson was almost surrounded
by the enemy, and in the heat of the conflict General
Armstrong was severely wounded. But he did not de-
sert his post, and when unable longer to wield a sword
or stand upon his feet, he clung to a small tree which
stood near him, and cried: "My brave fellows, some
may fall, but save the cannon." Such bravery elicited
the thanks and gratitude of his commander, and made
him the worthy recipient of the favorite weapon worn
by him on that trying occasion.

The family of General Armstrong, actuated by the
patriotic impulses which ever characterized their sire,
have placed this sword at the disposal of Congress. It
seems to me eminently fit that it should become the
property of the government, and be placed among the
trophies of our victories and the mementoes of our
heroes ; for it is associated with the names of two of
the " bravest of the brave," and with battles the history


of which will fill the brightest pages in our country's

In moving the adoption of the resolution on your
table a:ccepting the sword, I do not feel called upon to
pronounce a eulogy upon General Jackson. He needs
it not. " God blessed him with length of days, and he
filled them with deeds of glory," which have entered
into the history of the nation, and become the heritage
of his countrymen.

Mr. ZoLLicoFFER, of Tennessee :

Mr. Speaker : It being my fortune to represent the
Hermitage district — where that great man lived, and
where his remains are entombed — the House will par-
don me for briefly giving utterance to emotions which
fill me on this peculiar occasion. The martial renown
of Andrew Jackson has become national property.
But it must be allowed to Tennesseans to feel more than
an ordinary interest in that renown, and in this occasion.
The brave-hearted, the world over, I apprehend, pay
to his heroic spirit their true homage ; and I can well
imagine that even the boldest, when treading the paths
of danger, walk more erect and confident under the
broad sun-light of his chivalrous history; yet to those
who were his neighbors when he tenanted the Hermit-
age, and who inhabit the mountains and the valleys
which sent forth the gallant men who followed and
upheld his standard in all his victories — men Avho saw
this very sword unsheathed on all his brilliant and



perilous battle-fields — I say, sir, to such a people, some-
thing more than this feeling is but a common impulse
of that human nature which we all readily comprehend.
The sons of those gallant men are the present young
men of Tennessee. As these young men catch a glimpse
of this shining blade, passing into the depository of the
nation's precious relics, how can it be otherwise than
that their hearts will throb with quickened pulsations of
patriotic State and national pride ? Rest assured, sir,
that they feel, and must ever feel, a lofty and commenda-
ble State pride in the military renown and unquestioned
personal heroism of Andrew Jackson. I hesitate not
to say, sir, that this feeling has c ntributed in no small
degree to the full development of that chivalric senti-
ment which has ever characterized the volunteer troops
of Tennessee when their country has demanded their
services in the field.

Allow me to say, sir, that I, for near twenty years,
have held a position of antagonism, more or less, to
those who have claimed to be the especial political
friends of General Jackson, and in that State our
contests have been sharp, animated, and continuous,
through that long period. I mention this merely by
way of suggesting that the sentiments to which I have
given utterance are expressed with the more freedom
from all undue partiality or bias. They are sentiments
such as I feel that no native Tennessean, and I trust
no citizen of any other State in our glorious confederacy,


can fail cordially and heartily to respond to. They
should be held in common by the whole American
people; for this very sword, sir, gleamed over that
memorable battle-field of which every citizen of the
Union is so justly proud, and which has unquestionably
given a more world-wide fame to American prowess
than any other single battle-field which has ever
emblazoned the bright annals of American warfare.
Let the sword, sir, be preserved, and transmitted care-
fully to posterity. Let it be deposited along with the
sword and camp-chest of Washington, and th? staff and
printing press of Franklin, among the most precious
relics of a grateful country, preserved and cared for as
high incentives to the honorable ambition of American
youth, as long as liberty shall have a home, or the
Union of these States an existence among the nations
of the earth.

But, sir, I will here pause. I v/ill not dwell upon a
theme which has already been enlarged upon by others
with so much more ability than I possess. I will tres-
pass upon the valuable time of the House only for a
moment longer. I cannot, in justice to my own feelings,
withhold a brief allusion to General Robert Armstrong,
from whose family this present is received. Lie was
my neighbor and personal friend. The confidence
which General Jackson, who knew him so long and so
well, reposed in the sterling qualities of his heart and
head, is itself a sufficient eulogy, requiring no aid from


anytliing I can offer. I must, however, say that I held
him to be one of the bravest, most magnanimous, and
most truly kind-hearted men it was ever my good
fortune personally to know.

In conclusion, I need hardly add that I take it for
granted the resolution will be sanctioned, not only
unanimously, but with the most cheerful alacrity, by
every American representative.

Mr. Benton, of Missouri:

Mr. Speaker : The manner in which this sword has
been used for the honor and benefit of the country is
known to the world ; the manner in which the privilege
w^as obtained of so using it is but little known, even
to the living age, and must be lost to posterity unless
preserved by contemporaneous history. At the same
time it is well worth knowing, in order to show what
difficulties talent may have to contend with, what mas-
takes governments may commit, and upon what chances
and accidents it may depend that the greatest talent
and the purest patriotism may be able to get into the
service of its country. There is a moral in such
history which it may be instructive to governments
and to people to learn. When a warrior or a statesman
is seen, in the midst of his career and the fullness of
his glory, showing himself to be in his natural place,
people overlook his previous steps and suppose he had
been called by a general voice, by wise councils, to the
fulfilment of a natural destinv. In a few instances it


is so ; in the greater part, not. In the greater part
there is a toilsome, uncertain, discouraging, and morti-
fying progress to be gone through before the future
resplendent man is able to get on the theatre which is
to give him the use of his talent. So it was with
Jackson. He had his difficulties to surmount, and sur-
mounted them. He conquered savage tribes and the
conquerors of the conquerors of Europe ; but he had
to conquer his own government first, and did it, and
that was for him the most difficult of the two ; for,
while his military victories were the regular result of a
genius for war and brave troops to execute his plans,
enabling him to command success, his civil victory over
his own government was the result of chances and
accidents, and the contrivances of others, in which he
could have but little hand and no control. I proceed
to give some view of this inside and preliminary history,
and have some qualifications for the task, having taken
some part, though not great, in all that I relate.

Retired from the United States Senate, of which he
had been a member, and from the supreme j udicial
bench of his State, on which he had sat as judge, this
future warrior and President — and alike illustrious in
both characters — was living upon his farm on the banks
of the Cumberland, when the war of 1812 broke out.
He was a major general in the Tennessee militia — the
only place he would continue to hold, and to which he
had been elected by the contingency of one vote, so


close was the chance for a miss in this first step. His
friends believed that he had military genius, and pro-
posed him for the brigadier's appointment which was
allotted to the West. That appointment was given to
another, and Jackson remained unnoticed on his farm.
Soon another appointment of general was allotted to
the West. Jackson was proposed again; and was
again left to attend to his farm. Then a batch of gen-
erals, as they were called, was authorized by law — six
at a time, and from all parts of the Union ; and then his
friends believed that surely his time had come. Not
so the fact. The six appointments went elsewhere, and
the hero patriot, who was born to lead armies to vic-
tory, was still left to the care of his fields, while incom-
petent men were leading our troops to defeat, to
captivity, to slaughter; for that is the way the war
opened. The door to military service seemed to be
closed and barred against him; and was so, so far as
the government was concerned.

It may be wondered why this repugna^nce to the
appointment of Jackson, who, though not yet greatly
distinguished, was still a man of mark — had been a
Senator and a Supreme judge, and was still a major
general, and a man of tried and heroic courage. I can
tell the reason. He had a great many home enemies,
for he was a man of decided temper; had a great many
contests, no compromises; always went for a clean
victory or a clean defeat, though placable after the


contest was over. That was one reason, but not tlie
main one. The administration had a prejudice against
him on account of Colonel Burr, with whom he had
been associated in the American Senate, and to whom
he gave a hospitable reception in his house at the time
of his Western expedition, relying upon his. assurance
that his designs were against the Spanish dominion in
Mexico, and not against the integrity of this Union.
These were some of the causes, not all, of Jackson's
rejection from Federal military employment.

I was young then, and one of his aids, and believed in
his military talent and patriotism ; was greatly attached
to him, and was grieved and vexed to see him passed
by when so much incompetence was preferred. Besides,
I was to go with him, and his appointment would be
partly my own. I was vexed, as were all his friends;
but I did not despair, as most of them did. I turned
from the government to ourselves, to our own resources,
and looked to the chapter of accidents to turn up a
chance for incidental employment, confident that he
Yfould do the rest for himself if he could only get a
start. I was in this mood in my office, a young lawyer,
with more books than briefs, when the tardy mail of
that time, one "raw and gusty day" in February, 1812,
brought an act of Congress authorizing the President
to accept organized bodies of volunteers to the extent
of fifty thousand, to serve for one year, and to be called
into service when some emergency should require it.


Here was a chance. I knew that Jackson could raise

a general's command, and I trusted to events for him to
be called out, and felt that one year was more than
enough for him to prove himself I drew up a plan,
rode thirty miles to his house that same raw day in
February — rain, hail, sleet, wind — and such roads as we
then had there in winter, deep in rich mud and mixed
with ice. I arrived at the Hermitage — a name then but
little known — at nightfall, and found him solitary, and
almost alone, but not quite; for it was the evening,
mentioned in the "Thirty Years' View," when I found
him with the lamb and the child between his knees. I
laid the plan before him. He was struck with it —
adopted it — acted upon it. We began to raise volun-
teer companies. Whilst this was going on, an order ar-
rived from the War Department to the Governor (Willie
Blount) to detach fifteen hundred militia to the Lower
Mississippi; the object to meet the British, then expected
to make an attempt on New Orleans. The Governor
was a friend to Jackson and to his country. He agreed
to accept his three thousand volunteers instead of the
fifteen hundred draughted militia. The General issued
an address to his division. I galloped to the muster-
grounds and harangued the young men. The success
was ample. Three regiments were completed — Coffee,
William Hall, Benton, the colonels — and in December,
1812, we descended the Cumberland and the Mississippi
in a fleet of flat-bottomed boats, and landed at Natchez.


There we got the news that the British would not come
that winter — a great disappointment, and a fine chance

We remained in camp, six miles from Natchez,
waiting ulterior orders. In March they came — not
orders for further service, or even to return home, but
to disband the volunteers where they were. The com-
mand was positive, in the name of the President, and
by the then Secretary at War, General Armstrong. I
well remember the day — Sunday morning, the 25th
day of March, 1813. The first I knew of it was a
message from the General to come to him at his tent;
for though, as colonel of a regiment, I had ceased to be
aid, yet my place had not been filled, and I was sent
for as much as ever. He showed me the order, and
also his character, in his instant determination not to
obey it, but to lead his volunteers home. He had
sketched a severe answer to the Secretary, and gave
it to me to copy and arrange the matter of it. It
was very severe. I tried hard to get some parts soft-
ened, but impossible. I have never seen that letter
since, but would know it if I should meet it in any
form, anywhere, without names. I concurred with
the General in the determination to take home our
young troops. He then called a ^'' counciV of the field-
officers, as he called it ; though there was but little of
the council in it, the only object being to hear his de-
termination and take measures for executing it. The


officers were unanimous in their determination to sup-
port him; but it was one of those cases in which he
would have acted not only without, but against a

The officers were unanimous and vehement in their
determination, as much so as the General was himself;
for the volunteers were composed of the best young
men of the country — farmers' sons, themselves clever
young men, since filling high offices in the State and
the Federal Government — intrusted to these officers by
their fathers, in full confidence that they would act a
father's part by them; and the recreant thought of
turning them loose on the Lower Mississippi, five hun-
dred miles from home, without the means of getting
home, and a wilderness and Indian tribes to traverse,
did not find a moment's thought in any one's bosom.
To carry them back was the instant and indignant
determination ; but great difficulties were in the way.
The cost of getting back three thousand men under
such circumstances must be great ; and here Jackson's
character showed itself again. We have all heard of
his responsibilities — his readiness to assume political
responsibility when the public service required it. He
was now equally ready to take responsibility of another
kind — moneyed responsibility, and that beyond the
whole extent of his fortune! He had no military
chest, not a dollar of public money; and three thousand
men were not to be conducted five hundred miles


through a wilderness country and Indian tribes without
a great outlay of money. Wagons were wanted, and
many of them, for transport of provisions, baggage,
and the sick — so numerous among new troops. He had
no money to hire teams ; he impressed ; and at the end
of the service gave drafts upon the quartermaster
general of the Southern department (General Wilkin-
son's) for the amount. The wagons were ten dollars


Online Library2d session United States. 33d CongressAddresses on the presentation of the sword of Gen. Andrew Jackson to the Congress of the United States → online text (page 2 of 3)