On December 26, 1827, Andrew Jackson boarded The Pocahontas in Nashville, along with his wife, his closest political advisers, and his crop of cotton. At the invitation of the Louisiana Legislature, he was heading down the Mississippi to New Orleans to commemorate his great victory there thirteen years earlier.
The “Corrupt Bargain” between John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, which made Adams President and Clay Secretary of State, had robbed him of the Presidency in 1824, and he was in the midst of a campaign for the White House. His opponents were waging the most vicious campaign of personal destruction in the history of American politics. He was accused of seducing, abducting, cohabiting, and then marrying another man’s wife. He was a street brawler, constantly shooting and being shot in duels.. He was a gambler and a drunkard, who frequented cock fights and swore.
Since he had entered national politics in1822 Jackson had been a model of restraint. He knew his violent past was a political problem, and he had not allowed himself to be provoked. But on the ride down the river a smaller, quicker steamboat surged ahead of The Pocahontas, and then swerved back and forth across the river in front of it. Jackson ordered a rifle brought to him, then hailed the pilot of the other steamer, and told him if he zigzagged one more time he’d shoot him. One of his aides fetched Rachel, his wife, and she was able to calm him down.