Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Hermitage

On Thursday, August 22nd, we left Jackson heading for Nashville. Although Nashville is best known for The Grand Ole Opry and country music, we bypassed that attraction since our family isn't particularly well-versed in that musical genre. Instead, we decided to do some sightseeing at The Hermitage.

The Hermitage was the cotton and tobacco plantation of our country's seventh president, General Andrew Jackson. (The boys were able to identify him when I told them he's the one on the twenty dollar bill.) He's really a fascinating person, and we all learned so much about him.

Andrew Jackson was a rather enigmatic figure. He was much loved by the common (white) man as "one of their own". He was deeply religious and completely devoted to his wife and family. He was a war hero from the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. On the other hand, he owned 150 slaves and had no qualms about it. He had utter disdain for women's rights and equality. And he was downright barbaric in his treatment of Native Americans, as the Cherokee relocation (aka, "The Trail of Tears") occurred under his direct order.

We started in the visitor center viewing some displays and a movie of his life. Then we each had an age-appropriate personal audio tour while it guided us through the grounds of the plantation.

The highlight, of course, was touring the inside of the mansion. Photography was prohibited inside the mansion; but I can tell you that even in this day and age, the mansion is still quite ornate and opulent. I can only imagine what visitors thought of it back in the day!

(Sidenote for my Texan friends: Sam Houston was a guest at The Hermitage! Texas was its own country during Jackson's presidency, known then as the Republic of Texas.)

The tour ended at the tomb of General Andrew Jackson (as he preferred to be called) and his beloved wife Rachel. Rachel died just before he was inaugurated, so she never got to see her husband as president. It is suspected that the stress from gossip about their "scandalous" marriage - it was her second marriage - caused her to have heart failure. They had no children together, so Andrew Jackson's niece became "First Lady".

One interesting note: There was a house slave named Alfred who must have been very highly esteemed by the Jacksons. He held the highest slave position in the household, and he lived in the slave quarter cabin closest to the mansion. But the surprising thing is that he had a prominent burial spot just to the side of Andrew and Rachel's tomb, on the opposite side as the rest of the family's grave sites. One can only conclude that he was well regarded by the family, ie, more than "just a slave".

I could go on and on about the many things we learned today, but this is already getting too long.  I think this is a worthwhile stop if in the Nashville area.

Unfortunately, my battery died in my phone camera, so I have only two pictures to share. (There were so many good photo opportunities, too! Wah!)