To mark the 200th anniversary of Andrew Jackson’s stunning victory in the Battle of New Orleans, The Hermitage celebrated with the launch of an exhibit taking a new look at Jackson’s life and a ceremony with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.
The launch of Andrew Jackson: Born for a Storm is the first comprehensive content change in the Andrew Jackson Center in 25 years, and the title comes from a famous Jackson quote: “I was born for a storm, and a calm does not suit me.” It’s the latest step in a multiyear plan that will refocus attention away from the mansion to the man, telling Jackson’s story in a new way that underscores his relevance to the 21st century.
“Andrew Jackson is controversial and consequential, and we don’t need to embrace him uncritically to engage with him profitably,” said Jon Meacham, author of “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” and Andrew Jackson Foundation board member. “He is a vital figure in the American story and repays consideration. It’s not an easy task to draw sustained attention to a man often passed over in a popular memory that zooms from the Founding to Fort Sumter, but it’s a task worth tackling.”
Local business and civic leaders gathered at a breakfast event at the Hermitage Hotel to celebrate the bicentennial, following which Haslam and Dean led a group to lay a wreath at Jackson’s statue near the state Capitol.
“We were still young as a state and a nation when the Battle of New Orleans was fought,” Haslam said. “The bicentennial allows us to remember how fragile the early republic was and how important Andrew Jackson was in shaping the American identity and our sense of what it means to be a democracy.”
Mara Liasson, NPR national political correspondent and Andrew Jackson Foundation board member, and H.W. Brands, a presidential biographer and Jackson scholar from the University of Texas at Austin, spoke in the late morning at the annual wreath-laying ceremony led by board members at the tomb of Andrew and Rachel Jackson on the grounds of The Hermitage.
“The meaning of Jackson’s accomplishment is often lost on modern generations because we are so thoroughly his heirs,” Brands said. “We assume that the United States was bound to continental greatness, and we forget that it might have been otherwise – had the British won the Battle of New Orleans, for example, and checked America’s growth.”
In honor of Jackson’s military service, Fort Campbell’s “Pride of the Eagle” band performed at The Hermitage, and the Tennessee Army National Guard participated in a military salute at Jackson’s statue near the state Capitol. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated the War of 1812 Battle of New Orleans Limited Edition Forever stamp during a special ceremony at The Hermitage. Beginning today, the stamp can be ordered at post offices nationwide, online at www.usps.com/stamps and by phone at 800-STAMP24.
As part of its commemoration of Andrew Jackson’s historic victory at New Orleans, The Hermitage is inviting all U.S. military personnel, active and retired, to visit Andrew Jackson’s home free of charge in 2015. Visitors to the exhibit will get a new look at Jackson, starting with his early life as a frontiersman through his military and political careers and ending with a look at his legacy – both the negative and the positive aspects of his administration and policies – through new artwork, artifacts, interactive elements, and interviews with historians like Meacham and Dan Feller, director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson at the University of Tennessee.
The exhibit covers 4,200 square feet and includes significant Jackson artifacts from The Hermitage collection, such as Andrew Jackson’s presidential carriage, and also new elements like a gold presentation box given to Jackson for his victory in the Battle of New Orleans that was just recently rediscovered. A special section is dedicated to Jackson’s historic victory in the battle, and visitors can relive the war story through interactive maps and graphics detailing his ragtag army’s defeat of a highly trained and experienced British force. A major piece of the exhibit covers “The Age of Jackson,” including his campaigns for president and policies that defined his administration, such as his battles with Congress, war against the banks and Native American removal.
“Our goal is to shift the focus of our efforts back onto Andrew Jackson the man, whose actions during his lifetime shaped the course of our young nation’s history more than most Americans realize,” said Howard Kittell, president and CEO of The Hermitage. “We think the exhibit takes an honest look at his accomplishments as well as his shortcomings, and this is just the beginning of our new campaign. We invite Americans from all walks of life to visit our exhibit this year, and we hope to have more announcements to make later this year about dialogues and programs we’re having that will bring Andrew Jackson back into the national spotlight.”
Late last year, The Hermitage announced a new logo, tagline and national board of trustees, including Liasson, Meacham, Charles Overby, former CEO of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum, and CedarStone Bank President Bob McDonald. More announcements on the board are expected later this year.
About The Hermitage
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage: Home of the People’s President is one of the largest and most visited presidential homes in the United States. In 1856, the state of Tennessee purchased the property from the Jackson family, entrusting it to the Ladies’ Hermitage Association in 1889 to operate as one of America’s first historic site museums. Today, The Hermitage is a 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark with more than 30 historic buildings, including restored slave cabins. In recent years, new interpretive initiatives and educational programs such as archaeology and the history of slavery have enhanced the experience of more than 180,000 annual visitors. For more information, visit www.thehermitage.com.