By Brad Dison
For months, Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, had been on the cusp of death. Several times his skillful doctor had “snatched [him] from the very jaws of death by the timely and skillful application of medicinal remedies.” But on that Sunday evening, the doctor’s skill was exhausted. “The suffering old hero” knew his time had come. “Death had no terrors for him,” one newspaper reported, “he met [death] with composure, and with a full confidence that he was prepared for a better world.” “His dying hour was cheered with the bright assurance within him that in a few short moments he would be united in Heaven with his beloved wife, [Rachel], who had gone before him.” At 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 8, 1845, Andrew Jackson took his last breath. When news of his death was reported, newspapers referred to Jackson, not as former president, but General Andrew Jackson.
Early on Tuesday morning, June 10, the day of his funeral, throngs of people who had procured every available vehicle in Nashville and surrounding towns gathered at the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home. Friend and foe alike gathered to take one last look at “Old Hickory.” Some came out of respect and admiration, while others came to be sure he was mortal and was truly gone forever. Businesses throughout Nashville closed and “the city had all the appearance of a Sabbath.” From 11:00 a.m., the time his funeral began, until 1:00 p.m., people fired “minute guns,” guns fired at the top of each minute, and the bells of all the churches in the city tolled. Reverend Dr. Edgar presided over the funeral at the Hermitage and preached a sermon which, by all accounts, was most impressive and eloquent. Following the funeral, Andrew Jackson’s body was interred in the vault next to his beloved wife, Rachel.
The former president’s visitation, funeral, and burial was completed according to his wishes, quietly and peacefully…well, sort of. While the crowd was gathering at the visitation before the funeral, one who had been a constant companion of “Old Hickory” for nearly 20 years, an African named Poll, “got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long” that he upset the others in attendance and had to be physically removed from the house. Some people were shocked that the dead man’s companion showed no reverence for the solemn occasion, while others were shocked to hear such language spoken aloud in mixed company. Some asked where the companion had learned such language in the first place. Many suspected the companion learned the expletives from Old Hickory himself. You see, the companion who swore at Andrew Jackson’s visitation, the African named Poll, was an African gray… Parrot.
1. Tri-Weekly Nashville Union, June 10, 1845, p.2.
2. Tri-Weekly Nashville Union, June 12, 1845, p.2.
3. “History from Home – Presidential Pets.” The Hermitage, April 30, 2020, https://thehermitage.com/