Andrew Jackson and the Swamp Fox? Where can I sign up?
Andrew Jackson thrills at the very mention of freedom. The escapades of General Washington and his southern Counterpart, General Marion, inspire Andrew’s already hot-blooded patriot heart. He only wishes that he could be as heroic as they are!
Soon, Andrew finds his chance. A passing British regiment accidentally gets one of its cannons stuck in a particularly nasty mudhole. They leave it there, intending to recover it later when they have horses, but in the time they are gone Andrew organizes a plan. He and his friends use their fathers’ horses to move the cannon to a place where the British will never find it.
But Andrew is not satisfied with simply depriving the British of a cannon – he wants to give it to General Marion for use against the British. But how can he carry out such a plan without getting caught by the British?
Some stories are bad. Some stories are okay. Some stories are good. Some stories are really good. Some stories are super. And then, there’s that category of books that are just amazing and fantastic and feel like they were specially written for you. You know which kind I’m talking about? Well, that’s what kind A Cannon for General Marion was.
And it’s not just because Andrew Jackson and his schoolfellows idolized Marion, a.k.a. The Swamp Fox – although that certainly helped. What really bumped this story up to the highest level was Dr. Stephenson.
And who, you may ask, is Dr. Stephenson?
Dr. Stephenson is the teacher in the school that Andrew Jackson attends. But rather than merely drill his students in the rudiments of math and grammar, he actually takes the time to nurture his students’ souls. When he discovers Andrew’s love for freedom, he procures a copy of the Declaration of Independence which Andrew devours. He encourages Andrew to ponder over the meanings and implications of the document. When Andrew and other boys express the hope that they will be able to contribute to the war by fighting in it, Dr. Stephenson replies that they may or may not be able to take up arms in the war, but they will most certainly fight in it. He goes on to explain that a new nation isn’t made just by shootings and wars – it is made by the character of the people who forge it. He encourages each boy to look ahead to the time of his manhood and consider carefully what principles he will stand for and what role he will play in the nation. He then encourages them to begin preparing for those roles now. When Andrew replies that he wishes to be a leader, Dr. Stephenson challenges him to begin now by looking for opportunities where initiative needs to be taken.
“I am terribly afraid the war will last a long time yet. But someday, it will be over. And what then? I feel in my heart that we will win the war, however long it may last. I believe that it is the will of God for us to win it. I ask you again, when we have won the war what will happen? We will be a new nation, and a new nation doesn’t run itself. We will have to use a great deal of sense and do more work than we have yet dreamed of. It will be no place for cowards, for just as much bravery will be needed then as now. It will be no place for loafers, no place for anyone who isn’t willing to do his part. The question I want to ask you boys is this, when the war is over and we do have a new nation what will each one of you, not your kinspeople, not your neighbors, but you yourself do to help make it a good nation, a good country in which to live?” [pg. 11]
Now, I don’t know if any of this dialogue ever occurred between Andrew Jackson and a teacher, but fiction or no, this is sound advice which everyone, not just those of the eighteenth century, should contemplate.
A sermon is recorded in which the pastor says that he believes “that Thomas Jefferson was divinely inspired when he penned [the Declaration].” [pg. 34] Which is taking things a little too far.
Conclusion. A great story for children who are interested in history.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret