Old Hickory Decapitated
Theodore Roscoe and Fred Freeman

"OLD HICKORY" DECAPITATED - "murder" aboard "Old Ironsides."
One of the most controversial figures in American public life was Andrew Jackson, whose very figurehead became subject of raging controversy. When Constitution returned to Boston after South Carolina episode, Yard Commandant Jesse Elliott replaced ship's worn-out Hercules figurehead with figure of President Jackson. Campaigning against Jackson, anti-Democrats of Boston staged rally; demanded different figurehead for Constitution. And night of July 3, 1834, a marauder boarded "Old Ironsides" and beheaded "Old Hickory."

Working with saw in dark and rain, headsman made clumsy decapitation. Offering $1,000 reward for discovery of perpetrator, Commandant Elliott described affair as "an insult to the United States Navy, if not to the entire United States." Losing own head, Elliott threatened to court-martial all hands in Boston Yard if vandal were not brought to book. But doer of deed escaped.

MAHLON DICKERSON - Naval Secretary who kept his head.
One of department's top leaders, Dickerson of New Jersey urged steam navigation, sponsored Fulton II and wasted no steam on teapot tempests, even when sailorman walked in and placed Jackson's head on his desk. Cool visitor stated there was nothing "unconstitutional" about beheading figurehead of warship Constitution. "Who are you?" Dickerson glared. Answer: "A Cape Cod skipper named Samuel Worthington Dewey." Dickerson scowled, then grinned. "Close the door, Cap'n Dewey, and tell me how you did it." When story was relayed to White House, "Old Hickory" roared. "I never did like that image! Give the man a postmaster's job!" Postmaster Dewey was collateral ancestor of George Dewey, hero of Manila, who also saw and conquered.


Picture History of the U. S. Navy by Theodore Roscoe and Fred Freeman
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1956, Articles 475 thru 477