For the Jackson family, the enslaved were property and the foundation of their wealth. The monetary value of the enslaved far exceeded the combined worth of the Hermitage land, mansion and other improvements.
Andrew Jackson himself had no qualms about owning slaves. Yet, the Jacksons called the enslaved their "black family." Jackson treated everyone in his life paternally—his family, his soldiers, his political associates, and his slaves. When they behaved as Jackson thought they should, they were in his favor; when they didn't, Jackson's wrath came down. The Jacksons could separate enslaved families through sale or by moving them to other plantations. The threat of physical violence was constant.
The enslaved left few records of their opinions of the treatment they received. But, twenty years after Andrew Jackson's death, these men, women, and children spoke loudly through their actions. Following the capture of Nashville by Union forces in the Civil War, most of Jackson's "black family" still at The Hermitage chose an uncertain future and fled behind Union lines. To the enslaved, a life with the potential for freedom was superior to the certainty of perpetual servitude.