JACKSON, JAMES. (1757–1806). Soldier, lawyer, politician. Born in Moreton-Hampstead, Devonshire, England, Jackson came to Georgia in 1772. There he read law and served throughout the war, leading militia units and partisan bands.
As a teenager, Jackson participated in the Patriot capture of the powder magazine in Savannah in May 1775 and became captain of the volunteer Light Infantry by March 1776. He resigned this command in 1778 but was appointed brigade major to the Georgia militia and saw action near the East Florida border that November. In late December he participated in the defense of Savannah, and when the British captured the town, he escaped into South Carolina. His commission expired in late 1778, and he marched as a common soldier under General William Moultrie for a time, apparently joining troops in northern Georgia and western South Carolina in 1779. He participated in the siege of Savannah during the fall of 1779. In March 1780 he was reappointed brigade major of the Georgia militia and killed Lieutenant Governor George Wells in a duel. In May, as a result of the capture of Charleston by the British, Georgia rebel government officials fled into the Carolinas and Jackson went with them.
For the next year he led militia in the Carolinas, seeing action at Blackstocks (1780) and Cowpens (1781), where he acted as brigade major for Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Pickens. He continued to serve under Pickens in North and South Carolina, eventually returning to Georgia as a partisan leader. He participated in the siege and capture of Augusta during the spring of 1781. He was appointed commandant of Augusta and, at the suggestion of General Nathanael Greene, the newly formed state government awarded him a commission as lieutenant colonel and ordered him to form the Georgia State Legion in August 1781. That fall, as British forces pulled back towards Savannah, Jackson captured Ebenezer and the Great Ogeechee Ferry. Jackson and his legion joined General Anthony Wayne's troops in January 1782, serving as the advance guard. When the British completed their evacuation of Savannah on the afternoon of 11 July 1782, Jackson had the honor of receiving the keys to the town and, at the head of his troops, entered through the western gate.
In 1784 the assembly commissioned him colonel of the First or Chatham County Regiment. In 1786 Jackson became brigadier general of the Georgia state militia and in 1792 became major general of the militia. He became a uniting political figure in Georgia, serving thirteen years in the legislature, three years as governor (1798–1801), two years in Congress (1789–1791), and eight years in the U.S. Senate (1793–1795, 1801–1806). Described as short in stature with prominent features and large blue eyes, James Jackson was pugnacious, engaging in at least twenty-three duels and many street brawls. He was also apparently as courageous in politics as on the battlefield, for he became one of the first Republicans in Congress, exposed the Yazoo land fraud, and created Georgia's first true political party.
Bell, Rudolph M. Party and Faction in American Politics: The House of Representatives, 1789–1801. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1973.