It is said, indeed, that Jackson was twice recommended to President Madison for a commission in the regular army, and twice rejected. Many years later, Thomas H. Benton told in Congress how he himself, who was in 1812 a young lawyer in Nashville and a militia officer under Jackson, found in his mail one morning an act of Congress authorizing the President to ac-cept organized bodies of volunteers. It was a raw day in February, but young Benton at once drew up a plan for offering Jackson's militia command to the government, rode to The Hermitage to find the general, " and came upon him," so Mr. Benton's story goes, " in the twilight, sitting alone before the fire, a lamb and a child between his knees. He started a little, called a servant to remove the two innocents to another room, and explained to me how it was. The child had cried because the lamb was out in the cold, and begged him to bring it in - winch he had done to please the child, his adopted son." That is a far pleasanter picture than the other we saw just now of Jackson the duellist, but this also is a characteristic picture, and should go into the gallery; for Jackson, like many another man who has been denied children of his own, was singularly tender with little folk. It is certainly good to be able to think of him, fierce man that he was, as turning from fondling a child to enter on his soldier's career.
Mr. Benton's account of the matter is questioned, but it is certain that Jackson offered his services, with those of 2500 volunteers, immediately after the declaration of war. The government accepted the offer, but left him in idleness until October, 1812, when the governor of Tennessee was asked for volunteers, ostensibly to reinforce General Wilkinson at New Orleans. The governor in turn called upon General Jackson, and he, setting to work with the utmost enthusiasm, issued to the volunteers the first of those eminently Jacksonian addresses wherewith he was wont to hearten his followers. On January 7, 1813, the command set forth, the infantry by river, the cavalry, under John Coffee, by land. By the middle of February all were united at Natchez, Mississippi, where the expedition was halted to await further orders. Week after week passed by, and finally, late in March, to the general's rage and disgust, he heard from the Secretary of War that the causes of the expedition had ceased to exist, and that he was to consider his command " dismissed from the public service " - and not one word as to any provision for getting the men home!
Jackson's resolution was instantly taken and firmly carried out. He refused to disband the men at Natchez, and marched them home, pledging his own credit for the necessary expenses. His course commanded the approval of the State and won him the devotion of the men. It was the first of many occasions on which, while acting as a military officer, he dared to do the thing he thought to be right, no matter how irregular it was. On the journey home, his soldierly behavior in trying circumstances won him his famous nickname. The men spoke of him as being " tough as hickory," and so came to call him " Hickory," and finally, with affection," Old Hickory." Before he reached Nashville he again offered his command for service in Canada, but no reply came. In May, he dismissed it, and it seemed as if he were not going to have any soldier's career at all.
Benton, who had served in the expedition as an aid, went to Washington and with difficulty persuaded the War Department to pay the expenses of the march from Natchez. When he returned to Nashville, it was to find that in a duel between Jesse Benton, his brother, and one Carroll, the general had acted as Carroll's second. A bitter quarrel between Jackson and the Bentons followed; before it ended, Jackson swore " by the Eternal " he would horsewhip Thomas Benton on sight. They met at a Nashville hotel. J esse Benton was there, and also John Coffee and Stokeley Hays, friends of Jackson's. There was a rough-and-tumble fight. Thomas Benton fell down a stairway ; Jesse Benton was stabbed; J ackson was shot in the shoulder and severely wounded. He was put to bed in the old Nashville Inn, a famous hostelry of the time, and while he lay helpless from a wound so ignobly won, the call was on its way which should at last summon him to the work for which he was fittest. He was to pass from an action such as no biographer can defend to deeds which none can fail to praise. Jackson the duellist must give place to Jackson the soldier. Yet all fighting is akin, and it was but a change of scene and purpose that turned the man of the tavern brawl into the man of The Horseshoe and New Orleans; for it happened that there was nowhere in the Southwest, perhaps nowhere in the country, any other man quite so sure to have his way, whether in a street fight or in a battle.