Louisa Adam’s Dangerous Journey

Louisa Catherine Adams c. 1820 by Gilbert Stuart (source)

Louisa Catherine Adams c. 1820 by Gilbert Stuart (source)

Prior to becoming President of the United States, John Quincy Adams held several posts as ambassador for the young country. During the War of 1812, he was posted in Russia and had taken his wife Louisa Catherine Adams and their third son, Charles Francis, with him. At the end of the war, John was called to Ghent to participate in the peace talks. It was winter, so he left Louisa and Charles behind to wait until he knew where his next posting would be.

The talks concluded more quickly than he thought and he sent word to Louisa to join him as soon as possible in Paris. In February of 1815, Louisa Adams left St. Petersburg traveling with Charles, then seven-years-old, a French nurse, and two men servants. The weather was bitterly cold, at one point causing even the Madeira they carried to freeze solid.

The journey was perilous, particularly during the winter, but along the way, Louisa met with a few friends and help from the locals. The snow in Courland (present-day Latvia) was so deep at one point that they had to ask for help. The bells were rung and the inhabitants “came out in numbers with pickaxe and shovel to dig us out.” Evidently, this was a common occurrence in the area. Another example of the type of danger she encountered occurred in Courland as well.

When they reached Mitau (also known as Jelgava), the capital of Courland, they stopped to rest for a few hours before proceeding another four miles and stopping for the night. While there she had two visitors. One, Countess Mengs, a woman Louisa had met in St. Petersburg and liked very much, came to extend an invitation to stay for a couple of days and meet some people she thought Louisa would like. Although she knew she would enjoy the visit as the Countess was “a woman of polished manners, fine sense, and charming conversation,” Louisa explained the urgency of her journey and declined.

After the Countess left, the innkeeper came in, shut the door, and checked the windows to be sure no one else was listening. He said he needed to speak to her in private. The house was well-appointed and he was a friend of Countess Mengs, but Louisa was becoming a little uneasy at the sense of mystery about him. After checking for listeners again, he sat down close to her and began his message.

He proceeded to tell her that there had been a dreadful murder along this very road the night before and urged her to wait for the morning before leaving. She told him that she only had four more miles to go and would arrive at the post-house before 9 or 10 o’clock, so she anticipated no risk. He then told her that he had only mentioned the murder incidentally and that the real reason he wanted to warn her had to do with one of her servants!

Louisa knew that one of the men had been taken prisoner from Napoleon’s army and was being sent back to France in her service, but the innkeeper proceeded to tell her that he was well-known in Mitau and was “a desperate villain of the very worst character.” He didn’t believe that Louisa’s life was safe if she kept him on as a servant. At the same time, the “gallant” gentleman begged her not to dismiss him in Mitau, because he was afraid the man would know where the information came from and “his house might be burned over his head.”

He didn’t think she was safe, but at the same time didn’t want her to do anything that would put him in danger. That along with telling her about the murder, incidentally, makes it seem that all he wanted to do was frighten Louisa. Certainly, that’s all he accomplished.

Louisa made a point of remaining calm and told him that the man had “behaved very well so far”, although she did suspect him of stealing a silver cup that belonged to her son, but she had no proof. He also was more efficient in making arrangements for the journey than the other man, and it had been stipulated by a bond that she couldn’t dismiss him, unless he behaved improperly, until they reached France.

The innkeeper then told her she should “appear to put all confidence in him [the servant], to seem to rely on him in any emergency, and to accept his advice if any difficulty occurred.” He then apologized for taking the liberty of speaking to her and begged her to keep their conversation a secret. She promised and said that it was time for her to leave and thought that if she changed her plans now it would seem suspicious. The Countess then reappeared and urged her to take her up on her offer and Louisa again declined.

“All this I declined, I fear, from a proud and foolhardy spirit, and the conviction that, however retarded, the difficulties of my path must be conquered, and it was as well to face them at once.”

She resumed her journey and after about four miles, the postilion stopped and told her that he wasn’t the man who usually traveled that road, the other being sick, and that they were lost.

“Until eleven o’clock at night we were jolted over hills, through swamps and holes, and into valleys into which no carriage had surely ever passed before; and my whole heart was filled with unspeakable terrors for the safety of my child. . . I consulted Baptiste frequently and took his advice as to the best mode of proceeding; and at twelve o’clock at night, the horses being utterly worn out, and scarce a twinkling star to teach of living light, we determined that Baptiste should ride one of the horses and endeavor to find a road through which we might be extricated from our perilous situation.” (She hasn’t mentioned the name Baptiste before, but I assume it’s the French servant she had been warned about.)

About fifteen minutes later, she heard voices and the trampling of horses feet. She was terrified and thought her heart would burst. Meanwhile, Charles Francis slept quietly.

Baptiste rode up to the carriage and told her that he had found a nearby house and a Russian officer who offered to help. The path they were on was even more treacherous than they imagined and they were surrounded by gullies that the carriage could fall into. Proceeding at “foot-pace” they managed to reach the inn about half-past one. After accepting refreshments and a small gift, the Russian officer left telling the innkeeper to take care of Louisa and her horses.

Louisa made a point to thank her servants for the “prudence and discretion” they had shown during the incident and told them to be ready to leave early in the morning. Louisa then went to bed, having survived the incident as well as the terror induced by the innkeeper’s warning.

“After thanking most devoutly the Almighty for His protection through this hour of trial, I sought repose with renewed confidence in the persons attached to my service, and determined not to listen to any more bugbears to alarm my nerves and weaken my understanding.”


Scribner’s Magazine, Volume XXXIV July – December, page 449. This is the narrative of her journey written originally for her family members, with an introduction by her son.

The Adams Women: Abigail & Louisa Adams, Their Sisters and Daughters by Paul C. Nagel

Dolley Madison: Life in Washington City

Dolley Payne Madison c. 1794 around the time of her marriage to James Madison (source)

Dolley Payne Madison c. 1794 around the time of her marriage to James Madison (source)

When Dolley Payne Todd married James Madison on September 15, 1774, it was somewhat shocking. Not that she remarried, but that she didn’t wait at least a year after John Todd’s death. She also married outside the Quaker faith, which of course meant that she was read out of Meeting. But, Dolley was practical. She knew that as a woman in the 18th century, she had very few options unless she was married, and she had a son to think about. On the day of her wedding, she wrote to a friend that she knew her “little Payne” would have a “generous & tender protector.”

She may have been somewhat ambiguous about the relationship. After signing the letter “Dolley Payne Todd”, she went back after the wedding ceremony and signed underneath, “Dolley Madison! Alass!” Nevertheless, Dolley and James were well suited to each other. James was considerate and even-tempered, as was Dolley, and they had similar backgrounds. If returning to the type of life she lived in her girlhood bothered her, we don’t know. Dolley, Payne, and her sister Anna soon moved to Madison’s plantation in Virginia. As the oldest son in his family, the plantation became John’s after his father’s death, but his mother was still living, so Dolley didn’t immediately have to become a slave mistress.

When Dolley married James, she knew he was a political man, but it wasn’t clear whether or not he would continue his career in politics. Not because he didn’t want to, but because the country was in such turmoil. The government without parties that George Washington envisioned didn’t exist. Republicans such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison feared a monarchical government with actions such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. On the other hand, the Federalists feared mob rule as in the bloody French revolution. Nevertheless, Thomas Jefferson easily won the election of 1800, and selected James Madison as his Secretary of State. Dolley was headed to Washington.

When Dolley moved to Washington, what she found was, what appeared to be, a group of little villages connected by muddy roads which became almost impassable when it rained. The city had been planned and eventually would be beautiful, but it would take time. Most congressmen didn’t bring their families and lived in boarding houses which clustered around the capitol building. The Executive Mansion and the Supreme Court Buildings each had their own little group of buildings, the separation mirroring the separation of powers as described in the Constitution.

Unlike New York City and Philadelphia, Washington didn’t have an existing social structure. There weren’t many year-round families, but there were a few who had, in most cases, moved there for the purpose of business. Dolley wanted to bring together these families with congressmen and foreign diplomats. But it was going to be a delicate process, because of the new President’s stand on society.

Thomas Jefferson as President (source)

Thomas Jefferson as President (source)

Thomas Jefferson liked social functions, but he didn’t want to mix society with politics. He particularly wanted to avoid having women involved in politics. As the United States’ ambassador to France at the beginning of the French revolution, he blamed all of the excesses on the Queen. He also wrote home that all of the reforms would fail unless the men  controlled the “influence of women in the government.” He intended to do that in America.

Once in office, he immediately discontinued the weekly levees, opening the Executive mansion to the public only on July 4 and New Year’s Day. Instead he held small separate dinner parties for either Federalist or Republican congressmen and his cabinet members, and of course he excluded women.

Dolley had to tread lightly to avoid alienating Jefferson, but she set out to make the Madison home the center of Washington society. As soon as she moved in, she began to make calls on the other women in the city. Then she began to hold small parties where she invited a mix of people, men and women, Federalists and Republicans, locals and foreign diplomats. She combined elegant food with good conversation, but was careful not to be too extravagant. And, she remained non-partisan whenever possible. Margaret Bayard Smith, an author and prolific letter writer, said that Dolley extended to both parties “cordial attentions” and “undistinguished politeness.”

She was truly brilliant in the social realm, and Jefferson always liked her. But not everyone did. During the eight years before Madison became President, she was the subject of her share of gossip and slander. It was rumored that James “pimped out” Dolley and her sister, Anna, to foreign visitors, that she had an affair with Jefferson, and that she and James had no children because Dolley was too “hot.” I don’t know how “hot” she was, but of course it had nothing to do with their childlessness, and there was no truth to the other rumors. Even the fact that John Todd returned to Philadelphia when he became infected with yellow fever in 1793, to protect the family, got turned around on Dolley. It was said that she “banished” him to die alone.

This last rumor was particularly hurtful, and Dolley had other personal griefs to deal with during this time. Her mother died, then two nieces, followed by their mother, Dolley’s sister Mary. Also, Dolley was deprived of the person who was possibly her closest confidante;her sister Anna got married. Anna had lived with Dolley for her entire life. When Dolley married John Todd, Anna moved in with them, and had continued to live with Dolley and James.

Engraving of James Madison by David Edwin dated 1809-1817 (source)

Engraving of James Madison by David Edwin dated 1809-1817 (source)

Dolley poured all of her grief out privately in letters to family, but to the public she showed a smiling face. She kept her hurt feelings and griefs to herself, and made every effort to rise above it, avoid pettiness, and appear bipartisan. And it worked. By the time Jefferson’s two terms were coming to an end, the Madison home had become the primary place for political activity in Washington.

Dolley was a serious political partner to James from the beginning of their marriage. She often acted as a secretary for him, even after he became President if his official secretary was ill. So when it became clear that Jefferson was going to abide by the two term precedent set by Washington, it was time to go into campaigning mode.

While James may have been the obvious choice for the next President, it wasn’t a forgone conclusion. He had challengers from his own party as well as the Federalists. Of course it would have been unseemly for James to campaign, but Dolley had laid the groundwork. They had relationships with everyone that mattered in Washington and all James had to do was be present when she invited them over.

Dolley had honed her skills over the last eight years, in addition to building the social structure of the city, and it paid off. By the time of the election, any serious challengers from within the Republican party had dropped off and James defeated Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the Federalist challenger, by an electoral vote of 122 to 47. And Dolley’s contribution didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, Pinckney said that he had been beaten by Mr. and Mrs. Madison, and famously added, “I might have had a better chance had I faced Mr. Madison alone.”

Dolley is widely recognized as the woman who defined what the role of a First Lady should be, but what I wasn’t aware of is that the work began eight long years before she reached the Executive Mansion. Also, her impact was about much more than society and campaigning. She understood that for the young nation to survive, the men in government had to work together, and often that is much easier to do when people can meet on neutral ground.

19th century lithograph of Montpelier (source)

19th century lithograph of Montpelier (source)

First Ladies: The Saga of the Presidents’ Wives and Their Power 1789 – 1961 by Carl Sferrazza Anthony
A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation by Catherine Allgor
The History Chicks podcast on Dolley Madison
CSPAN First Ladies Influence and Image

Further reading
Feather Schwartz Foster: Presidential History Blog has a number of excellent posts about Dolley.

Dolley Payne Todd: Life Before James Madison

Dolley c. 1800 (source)

Dolley c. 1800 (source)

Although Dolley Madison liked to refer to herself as a “Virginian, born and bred”, she was actually born in North Carolina. In 1765, her father, John Payne was admitted to the Cedar Creek meeting, the local Society of Friends, or Quaker, congregation. It was not a quick decision; he had been married to Mary Coles for three years, and marriages with non-Quakers were frowned upon. But, when he did join he pursued it with the zeal of a new convert. Six months later, John and Mary took their young son Walter and moved to the wilds of North Carolina with a number of other Quaker families to begin a new settlement.

John Payne and Mary Coles were from two of the oldest families in Virginia. According to Allgor, they had the three most important things for Virginia gentry, “lineage, land, and the ownership of enslaved peoples.” (At the time, it wasn’t a requirement that Quakers free their slaves. Also, a 1723 law in Virginia required approval of the governor and council to manumit slaves.)

John sold all of his land holdings in Virginia and purchased land in North Carolina. He was referred to as a merchant, but there is no record of what he sold. However, the move must not have been a successful one. In 1769, he sold his North Carolina land at a loss and moved his family back to Virginia, this time with another son, William Temple, and their first daughter Dolley, born on May 20, 1768.

Once again in the Cedar Creek meeting, they were surrounded by friends and extended family. For the next fifteen years, the family farmed and expanded. Five more children followed Dolley: Isaac, Lucy, Anne, Mary Coles, and John Coles. Quakers believed in educating girls as well as boys, and although we don’t know specifics about Dolley’s education her writing indicates that she was well-educated for the time.

After the Revolutionary War and changes in the laws of the new state, John manumitted his slaves. Without them it was impossible to farm at the level he had, so he decided to move the family to Philadelphia in 1783. By this time, Dolley was a vivacious fifteen with black hair, blue eyes, and a winning smile. She made quite an impression on the young men in the Society of Friends in Philadelphia and in nearby Haddonfield, New Jersey, one of the oldest Quaker communities in the country.

John Payne did well initially, too. He became an elder and began to preach in meetings. He was strict and exacting in his faith, but his business skills were not any better than they were in North Carolina. By 1789, his business went under and he was read out of the Pine Street Meeting. Whether this was simply because failure in business indicated a weak character to the other Friends, or because of some shady business deals, I’m not sure. Nevertheless, depressed, John took to his bed.

Mary Payne was a woman of strong character and determination, and Dolley adored her. When she realized she could no longer depend on John to support the family, she opened her home to boarders. In 1791, the fledgeling government moved the capital to Philadelphia and Mary catered to congressmen. She earned a reputation for running a “good house” and by the time John died in Oct of 1792, she had a thriving business.

In spite of his strict religious views, John wasn’t able to completely control his oldest daughter. One of the women in their meeting recalled years later that Dolley was inappropriate in her choice of caps, gowns, and “the shape of her shoes.” However, he did impose his will on her in the choice of a husband.

John Todd was a successful attorney and a Quaker. He was tall and handsome, and apparently had not given up when Dolley originally turned him down. They were married on January 7, 1790, and even though he may not have been her first choice, they appear to have had a happy marriage. But, this happiness didn’t last long.

John Payne Todd c. 1817 by Joseph Wood (source)

John Payne Todd c. 1817 by Joseph Wood (source)

Dolley’s first son, John Payne Todd, was born on February 29,1792. He was healthy and happy and joined by a baby brother, William Temple Todd, in the summer of 1793. Sadly a yellow fever epidemic also reached Philadelphia in the summer of 1793. The symptoms of the disease are terrifying and the cause wouldn’t be known for another 100 years. The entire city was in a panic. (It would kill almost 10 percent of the population before winter came, killing the mosquitoes.)

In August, although Dolley had just given birth, John Todd sent her and the boys out of the city for their protection. Mary Payne went with them to care for them, but John had to return to the city. He had his parents to care for as well as clients, many of whom had legal matters to attend to because of deaths in the family.

For the Todd family, October was the fateful month. John nursed both of his parents and his law clerk, but to no avail. They all three died and Dolley was frantic for John’s safety. He finally agreed to close his law firm and join her. When he did, he stayed in another part of the house to avoid bringing the infection to the family. (Not knowing yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes, they believed it was contagious.)

Ironically, after surviving his time in the city, John came down with the fever after spending the evening hunting in the marsh. In an effort to protect the family, he returned to the city. There he died on October 14, 1793, the same day the baby, William, died.

Dolley was bereft, but she was also out of money. Mary Payne had to write to Philadelphia to get money for William’s funeral and for the move home. Once they were back, she should have been fine, but there were complications. John had designated Dolley his executrix as well as leaving her “all his worldly goods.” Since John’s parents died before he did, she was also due his portion of their estate.

In a city with over 5000 deaths, the courts were overloaded, and even though John’s will was clear, his brother James, a bank clerk, wouldn’t hand over any of the money to Dolley. He wouldn’t even turn over copies of both of the wills or any of John’s other papers. When she pressed him, he suggested that she sell items from the house that were in her possession. She steadfastly refused to sell the library books! Finally, after numerous requests and demands, James settled out of court, but only after she got a lawyer.

Dolley was now a wealthy widow. At 25, she was tall, beautiful, and very eligible. Supposedly, men stood at the end of her street to get a glimpse of her. But this eligibility wouldn’t last. It wasn’t long before she caught the eye of, and was formally introduced to, in her words, the “great little Madison.”

Dolley Madison c. 1804 by Gilbert Stuart (source)

Dolley Madison c. 1804 by Gilbert Stuart (source)

A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation by Catherine Allgor
The History Chicks podcast on Dolley Madison
CSPAN First Ladies Influence and Image

Nellie Bly Meets Julia Grant – In Her Own Words

This brief article appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book in December 1888 in preparation for a full-length article by Nellie Bly in the January issue.

The following extract from an interview with Mrs. Gen. Grant by Nellie Bly , printed in the N.Y. WORLD, October 28th, will show our subscribers who Nellie Bly is:

“I was somewhat nervous about my visit to Mrs. Grant. I only knew of her as the wife of the famous general; the successful hostess for eight years in the White House; the woman who had, in making a tour of the world, been received as a queen in every civilized land.

Would anyone wonder, then, at my apprehension, when women of so much meaner light so often try to parry all attempts at approach? But I was wrong.”

“My son tells me,” Mrs. Grant said, with a pleasant laugh, after greetings had been exchanged and she had drawn me by the hand to a chair and seated herself on a lounge, most cordially near, “that Nellie Bly is a little scamp”—

“Oh, no, no,” I broke in, but holding her finger up playfully, she continued:

“That, not being content with exposing the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum—yes, and benefiting it wondrously—and exposing Phelps, the great Albany lobbyist, she needs must go to Central Park and allow herself to be ‘mashed,’ and then tell all about it in THE WORLD , so that now none of the men dare wink at a girl while out driving, lest she be Nellie Bly .”

“Why, that’s a shame,” I replied, and we both laughed, I fear not altogether in pity of the men.

Nellie Bly’ s first article will appear in the January issue of GODEY’S. Be sure your subscription is sent in on time, to get this issue.

“Who is Nellie Bly?” Godey’s Lady’s Book, December, 1888
Transcription: Accessible Archives

Photo source: Julia Grant, Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)
Photo source: Nellie Bly, H. J. Myers, photographer (Library of Congress)

Not Quite First Lady – Rachel Jackson

Rachel Jackson c. 1830 by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl (source)

Rachel Jackson c. 1830 by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl (source)

The Presidential campaign of 1828 was brutal. Andrew Jackson felt that the election of 1824 had been stolen from him (he won the popular vote) and John Quincy Adams was defending his position as incumbent. Although it was considered undignified for the candidate to campaign, their supporters pulled out all the stops even attacking the wives. Louisa Catherine Adams was considered by many a foreigner who brought unwelcome influence to Washington, (she was born and raised in England, although her parents were Americans), but the worst criticism was reserved for Rachel Jackson. Called a whore, a bigamist, and an unsophisticated westerner (my goodness she smoked a pipe!), many considered her unqualified to inhabit the White House.

When Rachel Donelson was 12 years old, her family left Virginia to travel to the frontier of Tennessee. The trip was arduous and the situation with the Indians unsettled, but eventually they established themselves as one of the most prominent families in the area. They built a palisade which surrounded the family home and several cabins where boarders lived. This is where Rachel and Andrew met and fell in love. Rachel was a beautiful young woman and Andrew was tall and handsome with an instinct to protect women. Rachel may have seemed like she needed protecting – from her husband, her first husband.

A few years earlier, when the situation with the Indians was very dangerous, the family briefly moved to Kentucky. There Rachel met and married Lewis Robards. The Donelsons and Robards were of similar social standing and circumstances. Lewis was from a large family who welcomed and liked Rachel. It seemed like a good match. And it was for a while, but the vivacious and friendly nature of Rachel that attracted Lewis became a problem. She was raised with seven brothers and quite innocently enjoyed the company of men, but Lewis was of a jealous nature. By 1788, the situation had become unbearable and Rachel’s brother came to get her, bringing her home to her family in Tennessee. It is unsure whether Rachel intended the move to be permanent or not, but later in the year Lewis followed her to Nashville and moved in with her and her family.

Andrew Jackson c. 1824 by Thomas Sully (source)

Andrew Jackson c. 1824 by Thomas Sully (source)

It was during this time that Andrew Jackson moved to Nashville. Rachel and Andrew were attracted to each other, but there is no evidence that their relationship was inappropriate. However, Lewis couldn’t accept this; he forbid her to talk to Jackson and interrogated her about the few interactions they had. Finally, during the summer of 1789, Lewis made the mistake of telling other men that Jackson was too intimate with his wife. Lewis was not well-liked, but Jackson and the Donelson family were. Word got back to Jackson and he confronted Lewis and threatened to cut off his ears.

Rather than challenge Jackson to a duel, which he undoubtedly would have accepted, Lewis had a warrant issued against him. While traveling to see the magistrate, under armed guard, the looks that Jackson gave Lewis terrified him so much that he ran off. Of course the fact that the guards allowed Jackson to carry a knife and to chase after Lewis, may have had something to do with the fact that Lewis didn’t show up at the magistrate’s office. Without a complainant, the charges were dismissed. This was the last straw for Lewis, he left Tennessee and returned to Kentucky swearing to have nothing more to do with Rachel and her family.

By this time, Rachel and Andrew knew that they were in love and wanted to marry. While attitudes toward marriage and divorce were more relaxed in the west, including self-marriage and self-divorce determined by the families rather than a bureaucrat from across the mountains, the Donelsons liked to abide by the legal niceties when possible. This was particularly important with regard to property rights. Rachel’s father had died in 1885 and although his will had yet to be settled, anything that came to Rachel would legally belong to Lewis Robards.

Women had no legal right to divorce (at least none that would be acceptable to a southern judge), so the hope was that Lewis meant what he said and would file. In the meantime, the only option Rachel and Andrew had to live as husband and wife was to elope to an area beyond American Law. The closest place whether Andrew could hope to earn a living was Natchez (now in Mississippi) which was then still Spanish territory.  In the summer of 1789, Andrew began to establish connections there.

Approximate location of Natchez Trace between Nashville, TN and Natchez, MS (source)

Approximate location of Natchez Trace between Nashville, TN and Natchez, MS (source)

That fall, they heard rumors that Lewis was angry and preparing to come get Rachel and force her to return to Kentucky with him. He was within his legal rights to do so and Rachel and Andrew made a decision. In December of 1789, they boarded a flat boat and headed down the river. There is no documentary evidence that they married in Natchez, but there is evidence that they presented themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Jackson. They made connections with family friends and entertained, making no effort to hide who they were. Neither purchased land; presumably they rented with the intent of returning to Nashville when they could.

By July 1790, Lewis had not returned to Nashville and Rachel and Andrew decided to go home. The journey up Natchez Trace with an armed party was uneventful with one exception. One of their traveling companions knew Lewis Robards and later reported to him that Rachel and Andrew were living as husband and wife. This testimony was the tangible evidence he had been waiting for and he made a petition to the Virginia legislature for an action of divorce. This gave Lewis permission to sue Rachel for divorce in Kentucky supreme court. (Kentucky was still part of Virginia at the time.)

There were other requirements that had to be met: notice in the Kentucky Gazette, filing a writ in Kentucky, and taking depositions from witnesses. But, Lewis put off doing these things. Maybe because of anger toward Rachel or because of lingering hopes of receiving her inheritance, nevertheless, the divorce wasn’t finalized until three years later in September of 1793. The charge was adultery, but neither Rachel nor Andrew appeared in court. After all, they weren’t going to fight something they had been hoping for all along.

Rachel and Andrew had been living in Nashville as husband and wife since 1790, so they quietly married (remarried?) on January 17, 1794. They enjoyed their lives together and the events of the previous years receded into memory until the election of 1828.

In spite of the ugliness of the campaign, Jackson won the election by a landslide. Briefly, Rachel considered not going to Washington with Andrew, but they decided that that would be admitting they were wrong, which they didn’t believe. So Rachel prepared to become First Lady of the land. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. On December 22, 1828, Rachel Donelson Jackson died, leaving Andrew a deeply sad and embittered man. He would always blame those who attacked Rachel for her death. Two days later, Rachel was buried in the white satin gown she had planned to wear to the inaugural ball.

The tomb of Rachel and Andrew Jackson (source)

The tomb of Rachel and Andrew Jackson (source)

A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson by Patricia Brady
C-SPAN: First Ladies Influence and Image – Rachel Jackson