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Episode credited cast:
Billy Gray ...
Andy Jackson
Fiona Hale
Robin Hughes
Orley Lindgren
Tom McKee
Mabel Paige
Richard Reeves
Russell Simpson
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Drama

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Release Date:

23 March 1954 (USA)  »

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The Birth of a Patriot - and a Great Hater
4 November 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

If I am right about this episode of "Cavalcade Of America" (and if I'm wrong, I hope somebody corrects this), it tells the story of how Andrew Jackson grew up (tragically) from a boy into a young man, and also how he developed a lifelong hatred (no weaker word possible) for the British.

Billy Grey of "Father Knows Best" played Jackson. Born in 1767, Andrew Jackson was only eight when the battles of Lexington and Concord were fought. But they were fought in Massachusetts, and for the early part of the American Revolution (except for a botched attack on Savannah in 1776) the British did not touch the Carolinas, where the Jackson family lived. But in 1779 this strategy changed. George, Earl Cornwallis (years later he became Marquis Cornwallis) was the best British Commander in the war who was stationed in the thirteen colonies. He noticed that the South, except for the Savannah attack, had not been touched. He felt that it had plenty of pro-British Tories there, and that if he could get control of the seaports (Charleston and Savannah) he could reach out to the Tories and detach three colonies from the revolt. Then, after securing the region, he could march into Virginia and Maryland and do the same thing. Then Pennsylvania (you can see how this long term plan would have worked).

Actually it has been jeered at as a ridiculous fiasco (with hindsight) by historians, but it wasn't a bad plan. Had the local Tories had the support, they could have worked with Cornwallis. Unfortunately, Cornwallis needed full support to get the plan to work - meaning ships full of men and material diverted to him instead of the center of British operations: New York City. I say unfortunate because the Commander in Chief of British Forces in North America was Sir Henry Clinton, and he did not wish to lose all those men and supplies. Not that Sir Henry was doing anything with them - he just did not feel that his command should lose all these supplies, especially to a superior subordinate.

Which meant that Cornwallis had to stretch his men and supplies so thin as to make them a tempting target for partisans supporting the Revolution (Francis Marion, Andrew Pickens, Thomas Sumter). Also the Tory leadership and most of their men were wiped out at the battle of King's Mountain. To add to this mess Cornwallis did not prevent reprisals against those suspected of supporting the Revolutions, either by Tories or by British troopers like his notorious "Green Dragoon" (Banastre Tarleton). This is the subject (with some notorious exaggerations) of the Mel Gibson film "The Patriot".

Jackson's family were rounded up and imprisoned by the British. He was confronted by a British officer (my guess is that this role was played by Douglas Dumbrille in the episode), who insisted Jackson black his boots. Jackson refused to do so, and the officer slashed him across the head with his sword! Jackson had this scar for the rest of his life. Shortly after his parents and a brother all died in the British military prison. Jackson, an orphan now, never got over his hatred of the British.

He fully supported the Revolution until Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. But that hatred of the British lasted until he died. It carried him through the biggest American military victory of the War of 1812, the battle of New Orleans, where Jackson's forces killed 2,000 British troops plus their commander Edward Parkingham. It carried him into his incursion into Florida in 1818, leading to the execution (still a matter of controversy) of two Englishmen, Robert Arbuthnot and Lt. Armbrister, whom Jackson accused of spying. It carried him into his Presidency, when he threatened military action against Britain if they did not pay debts owed to the United States in the War of 1812.

Britain, surprisingly, agreed to pay these: I say surprisingly because Jackson just missed having a mirror image situation. Britain changed Prime Ministers in 1830, and it was the new one (Lord Grey) that Jackson dealt with. The old one would have been the Duke of Wellington, and he would have had a possible grudge matter to settle too. You see, his friend and brother-in-law was Ned Parkingham, the same fellow Jackson's men killed at New Orleans!


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