Andrew Jackson and His Tennessee Lieutenants: A Study in Political Culture

By Lorman A. Ratner | Go to book overview
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3
John Overton: The Power Behind the Throne

On his death, bed John Overton was reported to have asked those assembled to tell the general he had died a man and a soldier. 1 Although he never rode into battle, Judge Overton, a title that assured everyone he was part of the gentry, along with General John Coffee, was more trusted by the deeply suspicious Jackson than any other member of the inner circle. Overton, a small, frail man, never had occasion to defend Jackson's person, but he had many occasions upon which to defend his reputation and his honor. In that sense he was one of Jackson's soldiers. Overton and John Coffee were the men to whom Jackson turned most often for advice; they could tell him what to do or not to do as well as calm him down when necessary. 2 Overton was outside government, outside the military; he made few demands on Jackson for office or much else. Jackson, the veteran of the Revolution in which one trusted one's neighbor at the risk of one's life, trusted John Overton. Upon hearing of his friend's death, the general wrote to William Lewis in Nashville that Overton"is beyond where the wicked cease to trouble."3 John Overton's self-assumed role had been to shield his general from the wicked and to lash back at enemies when appropriate.

John Overton was born in western Virginia in 1766. His family had emigrated from Scotland to America about 1715, earlier than most of the other lieutenants. The family moved from eastern to western Virginia in

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