Jackson was born a few days after his father died, the third child of the family. When he was 13 he became an orderly and messenger in the Revolutionary Army against the British. One of his brothers was killed in the war in 1779 and Andrew and the third brother, Robert, were captured and imprisoned. Robert caught smallpox in prison and died soon after their release, and his mother died soon afterwards, probably also of smallpox, in 1781. Jackson was now still only 14 and an orphan with no near relatives.
He became a saddler and schoolteacher, then studied law. He was a successful lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee, and a land speculator and storekeeper. He married, but they had no children born to them. They adopted one boy in 1809 (his wife's nephew, (Andrew, Jr.), raised three other nephews, and also raised a Creek orphan boy whose parents had been killed in a war directed by Jackson himself in 1814.
He became a congressman (1796), senator (1797) and judge (1798), but from 1804 to 1812 he returned to private life. Although he owned slaves he was not reckoned to have been a cruel master. He had been a major general in the Tennessee militia since 1802 and became active when the War of 1812 broke out, winning great military fame. After the war he led an expedition against the Seminole people of Georgia and Florida.
He was elected president in 1828 and was re-elected in 1832. He suffered from tuberculosis from 1836 until his death, having retired to his plantation, The Hermitage.