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Andrew Jackson Donelson and William Alexander Donelson Correspondence

Identifier: MS-1722

  • Staff Only

These letters contain the correspondence between Andrew Jackson Donelson, addressed to or written by, and various family members, largely his father and second wife, Elizabeth. Most are concerned with traveling information, such as where to forward a letter whilst traveling, or to whose care a letter may be addressed that it might be received. A generous portion of each letter is devoted to asking after the well-being and current status or whereabouts of various family members and the authors approval or not of certain actions, such as marriage.

Also contained in the letters are the relaying of the status of various plantations and farms. This includes the hiring and firing of help and "negroes," the amount of cotton that might be had per acre, the poundage of cotton expected to be sold, the size and quality of the coming corn crop and the tending of various livestock, mainly pigs.

Several letters also contain information of the affairs of the court in Paris and people of Prussia. This includes a soiree attended in France and the types of people met.

This collection also includes several letters written by Andrew Jackson Donelson's son, William A. Donelson, during his time at Kentucky Military Institute, Farmdale, Kentucky. One letter addresses the vice that consumes the cadets during Christmas Day, to include mainly drinking "their deadly poison [whiskey], the root of so many evils." These letters also ask for the quarterly tuition of $100 to be sent, as well as asking after the welfare of family.


  • 1816 November 14-1870 September 27

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Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


0.1 Linear Feet (2 folders)


These letters, spanning 1816 to 1870, are written by Andrew Jackson Donelson of Tennessee, plantation owner and political advisor and manager, as well as nephew of President Andrew Jackson. Several letters are also written by his son, William A. Doneslon while he was at the Kentucky Military Institute. The letters cover details such as plantation management and the hiring and dismissal of employees and "negroes" as well as much time devoted to the wishing well of family members. The correspondence is written from all over the American East and South, as well as parts of Europe.

Biographical/Historical Note

Major Andrew Jackson Donelson was the adopted nephew and private secretary of President Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson Donelson was born in 1799 in Nashville, TN to Samuel and Mary Donelson. He Attended Cumberland College, then the United States Military Academy at West Point, finishing second in his class in 1820. He served as an aid to Major General Jackson, then studied law and married his cousin, Emily. A. J. Donelson worked on his uncle's campaigns for presidency, acting as his secretary throughout the campaign and presidency.

After Emily died, having birthed four children, Donelson would marry another cousin, Elizabeth, and have eight more children. After serving under President Tyler to persuade Texas to join the Union, Andrew Jackson Donelson was made Minister to Prussia for the United States. In 1856, Donelson was the running mate of former President Millard Filmore but lost the election.

Donelson then spent most of his time managing his plantations and land. During the Civil War, he suffered monetarily and personally, losing two sons. After the war, he continued managing his land and died in Memphis, TN, in June 1871.

Born in Germany, William Alexander Donelson (1848-1900) was the son of Andrew Jackson Donelson and his wife, Elizabeth. He attended Kentucky Military Institute in the late 1870s. In 1882, Donelson married Bettie Mizell and the next year the couple had their only child, William Alexander, II. In 1900, William Giles Baker murdered Donelson after several failed attempts.


This collection is in two folders.

Acquisition Note

Portions of this collection were donated by George E. Webb, Jr. Additional materials were purchased in 1989.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA