On January 8, 1815, Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson lead a ragtag group of American soldiers to an unlikely victory in the Battle of New Orleans. Nobody could have known it at the time, but that win propelled Jackson to become the first self-made man in the White House and helped him change the nature of presidential campaigns.
Jackson was a country boy who grew up poor and fatherless. His mother died during the Revolutionary War, around the same time he was a teenaged prisoner of war. By the time the War of 1812 broke out, he’d managed to become a wealthy frontier lawyer in a brand-new Nashville. He’d even served a brief term as Tennessee’s first Congressman. But even as an officer, Andrew Jackson was still just a militia volunteer, not a member of the regular army.