John Wood’s Court Martial

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012-John-Wood-Court-Martial-Document-from-Chicago-Historical-Society-1-1A surviving fragment of the court martial record for John Wood, a private in Andrew Jackson’s army. Wood was apparently no more than 18, and possibly underage, when he joined Jackson’s army fighting Creek Indians. Wood was arrested in 1814. He had, by some accounts, grown angry at an officer’s demand that he pick up bones left on the ground after a meal; the young man brandished his rifle before surrendering.¬†Jackson had him executed for this. An aide later said the execution produced the “happiest effects,” imposing “obedience” and discipline on the army. Years later, when Jackson ran for president, his political opponents cast the story in very different form, as the brutal act of an out-of-control officer. The evidence found in research for Jacksonland reveals a story¬†that is subtly different than either narrative.

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