A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson (February 2012 Discussion)

Courtesy of MacMillan Publishing

 Patricia Brady


The forty-year love affair between Rachel and Andrew Jackson parallels a tumultuous period in American history. Andrew Jackson was at the forefront of the American revolution—but he never could have made it without the support of his wife. Beautiful, charismatic, and generous, Rachel Jackson had the courage to go against the mores of her times in the name of love. As the wife of a great general in wartime, she often found herself running their plantation alone and, a true heroine, she took in and raised children orphaned by the war. Like many great love stories, this one ends tragically when Rachel dies only a few weeks after Andrew is elected president. He moved into the White House alone and never remarried. Andrew and Rachel Jackson’s devotion to one another is inspiring, and here, in Patricia Brady’s vivid prose, their story of love and loss comes to life for the first time. (courtesy of MacMillan Publishing)


About Patricia Brady (Author’s Website)


Patricia Brady (New Orleans Voices) requires Widows Media Player/other audio player (might already be installed on your computer)

Andrew Jackson’s Tragic Love Story  (U.S. News & World Report)


Reviews from Library Journal & Kirkus (Barnes & Noble) click on Editorial Reviews

Reviews from Booklist & Publisher’s Weekly (Falvey Memorial Library — Villanova University)

Review (Jacksonian America)

General Sites:

Rachel & Andrew: A Love Story (Nashville Public Television)

Letters Between Rachel & Andrew  (Nashville Public Television)

The Hermitage

Territory South of the River Ohio (Wikipedia)

New Madrid Earthquake (Wikipedia)

New Madrid Eyewitness Accounts (Center for Earthquake Research & Information)

Creek War (Wikipedia)

Seminole Wars (Wikipedia)

War of 1812 (Wikipedia)

War of 1812 (PBS)

Battle of New Orleans (Wikipedia)

Battle of New Orleans (National Park Society)

Andrew Jackson: Leading the Battle of New Orleans (HistoryNet)

Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans (C-SPAN) video

“Not a Ragged Mob”: The Inauguration of 1829 (The White House Historical Association) .pdf format

Assassination Attempt (C-SPAN)

Richard Lawrence: Failed Assassin (Wikipedia)

Political Assassination (Digital History)

Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil & The Presidency (PBS)

Marriage Controversy:

Robard Family’s Perspective on the First Marriage  (Nashville Public Television)

Jackson’s Perspective on the First Marriage (Nashville Public Television)

The Jackson Campaign Timeline of the First Marriage & Divorce (Nashville Public Television)

Remini Timeline on the First Marriage & Divorce (Nashville Public Television)

Divorce in the 1790’s  (Nashville Public Television)

The Legal Status of Women 1776-1830 (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

Marriage, Mayhem, & Presidential Politics: The Robards-Jackson Backcountry Scandal (Middle Tennessee State University)

General Jackson & His Lady: Of Two Marriages & One Divorce (Website on Dr. Boyd McNairy)

Andrew Jackson:

Andrew Jackson  (Miller Center)

Andrew Jackson (The Hermitage)

Andrew Jackson: An American President (PBS)

Rachel Donalson Jackson:

Rachel Jackson (National First Ladies’ Library)

Rachel Jackson  (Wikipedia)

Rachel Jackson: The General’s Lady (History’s Women)

Campaign of 1828:

Dirty Campaigning  (Nashville Public Television)

Election of 1828 Was Marked by Dirty Tactics (About.com)

Andrew Jackson vs. John Q. Adams: Now There Was a Dirty Election! (Anything For a Vote)

Founding Fathers’ Dirty Campaign (CNN) scroll down about 1/3rd of the page

Petticoat Affair:

The Petticoat Affair: Scandal in Jackson’s White House (HistoryNet)

The Petticoat Affair (Scandalous Women)

Little Friend Peg: The Story of Peggy Eaton, Andrew Jackson, & the Making of A President (Founders of America)

Female Trouble: Andrew Jackson vs. the Ladies of Washington (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

Presidential Actions:

Nullification Crisis (Wikipedia)

The Celebrated Bank War (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

Hard Times Tokens: Artifacts of Andrew Jackson’s Bank Wars (American Numismatic Association)

Indian Removal (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

Indian Removal Act of 1830 (Studyworld)

Andrew Jackson & the Indian Removal Act (HistoryNet)

Trail of Tears (Wikipedia)

We Shall Remain: The Trail of Tears (PBS) video


Duel! (Smithsonian Magazine)

An Affair of Honor: The Duel (The Art of Manliness) 

The Duels of Andrew Jackson (American History @ Suite 101)

Dickinson-Jackson Duel (Kentucky Land Office)

The Jackson-Dickinson Duel (Welcome to Logan County, KY)

Man Andrew Jackson Killed in Duel to be Reburied (Huntington Herald Dispatch)

Jackson-Benton Quarrel Typical of Early Southern Politics (Moultrie News)

Dueling Personalities: Nolichucky Jack versus Old Hickory (Posterity Project)

Other People in A Being So Gentle :

Thomas Hart Benton (Wikipedia)

Henry Clay (Wikipedia)

Charles Dickinson (Wikipedia)

James Monroe (Wikipedia)

John Sevier (Wikipedia)

Lyncoya (American Presidents Blog)

Emily Tennessee Donelson (Wikipedia)

John Quincy Adams (Wikipedia)

Margaret “Peggy” Eaton (Wikipedia)

John Eaton (Wikipedia)

Further Readings:

Andrew Jackson Bibliography  (The Hermitage)

Andrew Jackson (Miller Center / University of Virginia)

Rachel Jackson (The Hermitage)

Henry Clay (Biographical Directory of the US Congress)


John Quincy Adams (Miller Center / University of Virginia)

Trail of Tears (National Park Service)

Creek War and the War of 1812 in the Gulf South — Bibliography (Clay Williams / Mark Bunn)

List of Books about the War of 1812 (Wikipedia)

Discussion Questions:

1. What did you know about Rachel Jackson before reading this book? How has your view of her changed?

2. Rachel Jackson was a true child of the frontiere. What differences did growing up in Tennessee make in her life?

3. Think about the many ways life on the frontier was different from life on the east coast. How did the dissimilarities influence the attitudes, manners, and thinking of both the Jacksons?

4. How do you interpret the circumstances of the Jacksons’ elopement and eventual marriage? Were they justified in running away?

5. Was Rachel central to Andrew Jackson’s success? If so, how — financially, socially, emotionally, or a combination of the three?

6. Andrew Jackson is well known in history for seizing native American lands and ordering the Indians to be removed further west. And yet he raised the orphaned Creek child Lyncoya as a member of the Hermitage family. How do you account for such semming contradiction? Was Jackson a racist?

7.  What kind of first lady do you think Rachel would have been? Had the scandel stirred up during the 1828 election damaged her name irreparably? Would she have been accepted by the social elite in Washington, D. C.?

8. Jackson’s sorrow at Rachel’s death was extreme. Do you think his extended mourning (until his death seventeen years later), his vindictiveness toward the political enemies he blamed for her unhappiness, and daily meditation while gazing at her portrait was neurotic? Or is there such a thing as lifelong love?  (Questions courtesy of Patricia Brady)

Other books by Brady: Martha Washington: An American Life — In Search of Julien Hudson: Free Artist of Color in Pre-Civil War New Orleans George Washington’s Beautiful Nelly: The Letters of Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis to Elizabeth Bordley Gibson, 1794-1851 (editor) — Nellie Custis Lewis’s Housekeeping Book (editor) — Queen of the South: New Orleans, 1853-1862 (editor) — Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times (editor) — Louisiana: An Illustrated History (editor).

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis — Franklin & Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley — The Lincolns : Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Mark Epstein — Dearest Friend : A Life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey — The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage by Anne Edwards — Jackson’s Way: Andrew Jackson and the People of the Western Waters by John Buchanan– Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence by A. J. Langguth — The General and Mrs. Washington : The Untold Story of a Marriage and a Revolution by Bruce Chadwick —Love Stories of World War II by compiled by Larry King — We Two: the Marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by Gillian Gill — Read My Heart: a Love Story in England’s Age of Revolution by Jane Dunn — A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation by Catherine Allgor.

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