In the section devoted to pre-1800s veterans, the TSLA has a great letter from John Sevier to Andrew Jackson containing some of the best insults you're likely to read all day (and shoot, if anyone wants to talk about the incivility of online commenters, remember, these dudes were writing insulting letters AND challenging each other to "interviews" which is fancy language for "duels"):
I am again perplexed with your scurrilous and poltroon language. You now pretend you want an interview in this neighborhood, this evening, or tomorrow morning!! And all this great readiness after you have been so repeatedly informed that I would not attempt a thing of the kind within the State of Tennessee. I have constantly informed you I would cheerfully wait on you in any other Quarter and that you had nothing to do but name the place and you should be accommodated. I am now constrained to tell you, that your conduct, during the whole of your pretended bravery, shows you to be a pitiful poltroon and coward, for your propositions are such as you and every other person of common understanding so well know is out of my power to accede too [sic], especially you a Judge!! Therefore the whole tenor of your pretended readiness is intended for nothing more than a cowardly evasion. Now Sir, if you wish the interview accept the proposal I have made you, and let us prepare for the campaign. I have a friend to attend me. I shall not receive another letter from you, as I deem you a coward.
Poltroon?! I don't even know what that means, but it sounds bad. Merriam-Webster says it means "a craven coward" or "complete cowardice," but I feel like Sevier must have meant something subtly different by it, since he certainly wasn't calling Jackson a pitiful coward and coward. Anyway, I now vow to find a way to incorporate "poltroon" into my blogging vocabulary.
It seems this letter was sent in response to Sevier making some mention of Jackson marrying a woman who already had a husband and Jackson getting pissed and challenging him to a duel. You can see why I think this would be a great soap opera.
But check out John Sevier, no slouch in the sordid history department. Not only did he have 18 kids with two different wives, he had a daughter — Winney Alice Sevier — who, according to family stories, was either the daughter of a Cherokee woman (and perhaps married men who have daughters with other women should not slag on men who marry married women, you know?) OR she was kidnapped by Indians and finally returned to Sevier ... but she was a witch!
How a man had time to father almost 20 children and run the state and challenge Andrew Jackson to duels, I just don't know. But it kind of makes our modern batch of politicians look pretty boring. I'd give anything for a good "Bill Haslam has a secret witch daughter and an appointment to duel Andrew Jackson" scandal.