In one of his many letters to John Coffee, Andrew Jackson assured his former second-in-command, "I have no friend on earth who possesses more of my affection than you."1 Coffee was Jackson's most trusted and skilled comrade-in-arms, his neighbor for some years, his business partner on occasion, the father figure to one of his wards, husband to his niece, and an especially valued confidant in all matters, including politics, even though Coffee eschewed the political life completely. Jackson knew that, like John Overton, John Coffee had no ulterior motive, no political agenda of his own, in befriending the old general. Coffee was a clansman who Jackson was sure would never betray him and, given Jackson's view of the world and his paranoia regarding evil enemies surrounding him, that loyalty meant everything.
John Coffee was among the first generation of his family born in America. His paternal grandparents came with their children to Virginia from Ulster in 1750. 2 Coffee's father lived on the family land until 1777, when he moved with his wife and son John, then five years old, to North Carolina. The senior Coffee fought in the Revolution and he prospered as a slave trader in the years after the war. Among his customers were the rapidly increasing number of settlers in the Cumberland River region of what was to become Tennessee. Coffee's father died in 1797 and John, with his mother and the rest of his family, decided to join the steady