Two Colonial Women: Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson


The grave of Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson.


Elizabeth Hutchinson was born circa 1740 in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland. Her husband to be, Andrew Jackson, was born about 1730 in northern Ireland.  Elizabeth and Andrew were married in Carrickfergus circa 1761.  Later, the couple immigrated to America in 1765 with their two young sons, Hugh and Robert.


They were Presbyterians escaping religious persecution and tariffs from the ruling Anglican faction. Four of Elizabeth Jackson’s sisters and three Crawford brothers – James, Robert and Joseph – also moved with their families to America at that time. James Crawford was married to Jane Hutchinson, Elizabeth’s sister.


For a while they lived in western Pennsylvania. The problem of the Indians coupled with the fact that Pennsylvania did not have a militia, because the Quakers did not believe in the use of force, induced the Crawford, Hutchinson and Jackson families to move further south on the Great Wagon Road.


Within a short time of their arrival, there Elizabeth and her husband acquired 200 acres of poor land at Twelve Mile Creek, a tributary of the Catawba River in the Waxhaws settlement in the Carolinas, southeast of the present city of Charlotte.


Waxhaws is the name of both an extinct American Indian tribe and of a geographical area bordering North and South Carolina. At that time, the Waxhaws consisted of little more than a Presbyterian church, a general store, and a few scattered houses.


In February 1767, Elizabeth’s husband died unexpectedly at the age of twenty-nine – just before his wife was to give birth again. His son, named for him was born March 15, 1767, just three weeks after his father’s death.


A few weeks later, Elizabeth and her sons moved to the house of her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and James Crawford, just over the border in South Carolina. Jane’s health had greatly deteriorated after she moved to America, and she was now an invalid.


When the Crawfords asked Mrs. Jackson and her sons to live with them, it was not wholly out of a sense of familial devotion and duty.   The Jacksons needed a home, the Crawfords needed help, and a bargain was struck. “Mrs. Crawford was an invalid,” wrote James Parton, a colonial historian, “and Mrs. Jackson was permanently established in the family as housekeeper and poor relation.”


Elizabeth raised her sons in the Crawford house, where she worked as a housekeeper and a nurse for her ailing sister.  Elizabeth was never a mistress of her own home.


When the Revolutionary War broke out, her three sons were anxious to fight the British. Elizabeth had regaled her sons with stories of the battle for freedom in her native Ireland, including tales of how their grandfather had fought against the British in Ireland and participated in the siege of Carrickfergus.  Unknowingly, she had instilled a martial spirit in her sons, which she now was unable to quiet.


It was several years, however, before the War for Independence reached the Southern colonies. In 1780, the British launched an invasion of South Carolina and captured Charleston on May 12.  A declaration by General henry Clinton, which, in essence, said that any man, whether or not he had been paroled before, had to fight for the Crown, or be considered to be an outlaw had three unintended consequences.  First, groups of soldiers and Tory sympathizers began to loot and pillage the countryside.  Second, men such as Sumter, who had been patriots before but who had later accepted a parole, now decided to fight again as patriots.  Third, The Scots-Irish, inspired by preachers such as William Martin, felt that their religious liberties were about to be taken away by the British, such as had happened in Scotland first, and then later in Ireland, joined the patriot side.


Nearby the Waxhaws, LT. Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his British Legion, an elite military force of cavalry, infantry and artillery, caught up with General Abraham Buford and his force, which was the last organized Rebel army in South Carolina after the fall of Charleston. Buford was guarding the Governor of South Carolina and his entourage in their escape to North Carolina. Buford’s men were quickly surrounded and when they surrendered, Tarleton’s men proceeded to massacre the Rebels. The massacre led to the derisive term of “Tarleton’s Quarter” meaning that the laws governing civilized warfare did not apply.


This massacre sparked widespread outrage, as many bodies were mutilated and some had suffered more than a dozen wounds. The approximately 150 wounded were put up in the Waxhaw church, where residents, including Elizabeth and her sons, tended to the wounds and administered first aid.


After the Waxhaw massacre, Andrew (age 13) and his brothers Hugh and Robert joined a patriot regiment. Soon thereafter, Hugh died from heat exhaustion at the Battle of Stono Ferry.


In the late summer of 1780, British commander General Charles Cornwallis gained the upper hand following the battle of Camden, which left the patriots in tatters. As Cornwallis marched toward the Waxhaws, a yearlong battle of attrition began.


After a small engagement near the Waxhaws, Robert and his younger brother hid in the house of their relative, Thomas Crawford. British dragoons discovered the two  boys and began to destroy the house, tearing apart furniture and breaking windows. The prisoners cowered in the living room until the British commander ordered the younger brother to clean the mud from the soldiers’ boots.


He refused, replying, “Sir, I am a prisoner of war and claim to be treated as such.” In an angry response, the soldier raised his sword and swung at the boy’s head. The boy managed to deflect part of the blow with his left hand, but he received a serious gash on both his hand and his head – two scars he would bear for the rest of his life. When Robert also refused to clean the boots, he was sent staggering across the room by a blow from the officer’s sword.


As a result of this incident, Andrew and Robert were held prisoner at Camden, South Carolina. Both boys became infected with smallpox and would have likely died, but Elizabeth arranged a prisoner transfer – the patriots turned over thirteen redcoats and the British freed seven prisoners, including the two brothers. The younger brother walked 40 miles back to Waxhaw, while his mother and his dying brother rode beside him. Robert died two days after returning home, and it was several weeks before the younger brother regained enough strength to leave his bed.


After Andrew got well, Elizabeth left to tend to other soldiers, who were being held on prison ships in Charleston harbor. The work was hard, and she took ill with ship’s fever – cholera.  Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson died November 1781 at Charleston, South Carolina. As a notice of her death, relatives sent a small pile of her belongings to Andrew, whose entire immediate family had died from war-related hardships, which he blamed on the British.


The remaining boy was orphaned at age fourteen.


Agnes Barton was located and interviewed on the subject of Elizabeth Jackson’s burial place. She had come to the Waxhaws when the youngest boy was two years old, but during the Revolutionary War, she and her husband went to Charleston and settled in the suburbs of that city. When Elizabeth became ill, she was taken into Mrs. Barton’s home and nursed. When she died, Mrs. Barton dressed the corpse in her own best dress, while Mr. Barton built the casket. They buried her on a hill in a simple unmarked grave.


Her remaining boy later grew up and became a military officer in the army of the United States. In the war of 1812, he became a general and successfully defended a city-New Orleans-against the British.  He parlayed his fame as a general and became President of the United States.  His name was Andrew Jackson.


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