James K. Polk: The Cause Above All Else
In 1812, Andrew Jackson, who then led the Tennessee militia, put out a call for volunteers to face the Indians and perhaps one day the British. From the rolling fields close to the Duck River in what was then West Tennessee, some 2,500 men responded. But James K. Polk, ill with urinary stones, was not one of them. Polk missed his war and his chance to risk his life for the republic, to march with General Jackson, to prove his courage and his commitment to uphold his honor. Although never in battle, Polk later did become part of the militia, holding an appointment at the rank of colonel. Jackson, with his sense of the importance of having served in the military as a mark of status, always wrote to him as Colonel Polk. Like Campbell, Lewis, and Overton, Polk became a soldier in Jackson's cause, but not on a battlefield.
Like Jackson and several others in the clan, Polk grew up in North Carolina, in his case in Mecklenberg County. 1 He too was of Ulster descent, but being younger he was further removed from the time of emigration. Polk's great-grandfather had made the journey from Ulster in 1727. Polk's father owned four hundred acres of land, worked hard alongside his slaves, and managed to reach a reasonable level of prosperity, if not gentry status. Like most young boys of his place, James Polk grew up hearing stories of brave relatives, his own and his friends', who did battle against the British and their evil Tory allies; both of Polk's