Coit’s Andrew Jackson dangerously approaches the realm of hagiography, as no scholarly twentieth century biography evaluates Jackson in so favorable a light. This overly positive portrayal is partly achieved by the author’s concentration on those historical events and incidents that show Jackson at his exemplary best. Most often, however, Jackson emerges almost unscathed because his character faults and personal limitations are rationalized or ignored. The overall effect produces significant historical distortion. Sophisticated younger readers will wonder why so many intelligent and honest Americans despised or feared this man; Coit’s biography gives very few clues to this mystery.
Jackson’s superb military service receives undue emphasis in the first half of the book. Discussion of his participation in the revolutionary war, although comparatively little is known about it, consumes five pages. The Battle of New Orleans itself unfolds in approximately fifteen pages. The Creek War is described in similar detail, while the First Seminole War—aside from the defense of New Orleans, the military campaign having the most profound effects on Jackson’s career—receives comparatively short shrift. Very little can be said about Jackson’s military leadership that is negative: With respect to personal bravery and service, few American politicians can equal “Old Hickory.” Jackson suffered deprivation, a painful and disfiguring head wound,...
(The entire section is 600 words.)