In 1864, the Republican Party nominated Andrew Johnson for vice president, which helped Lincoln carry the state of Tennessee. The two were inaugurated on March 4, 1865. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the war. Then on April 14, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln, who died the next day. Johnson became president following Lincoln’s death. He inherited a nation torn apart, and his efforts toward reconstruction were troubled.
The rolling hills of Greeneville, Tenn., are richly steeped in history. Situated along the Nolichucky River, Greeneville was home to the nation’s 17th president, Andrew Johnson, who came into the role after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.
Johnson was born in Raleigh, N.C., in 1808. After his father’s death, Johnson and his brother were entered into an apprenticeship to a local tailor. Johnson did not like the apprenticeship, and he convinced his brother, mother, and stepfather to run away with him to Greeneville. Johnson opened his own tailor shop and married Eliza McCardle, who taught Johnson how to write and do arithmetic and bore him five children.
At age 19, Johnson was elected to the Village Council, serving two years as Alderman, and then was elected mayor—a position he held for three years. Johnson, an adept stump speaker, moved up the political ranks and served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in the 1840s and 1850s.
The political climate was complicated. After Lincoln was elected, Johnson denounced secessionism and slavery, saying he would remain loyal to the Union. Tennessee left the Union in 1861, yet Johnson stayed in Washington, earning him a reputation as a traitor among some. The following year he was appointed Military Governor of Tennessee. During that time he granted amnesty to Confederate sympathizers and pushed through a state constitution amendment outlawing slavery.
In 1864, the Republican Party nominated Johnson for vice president, which helped Lincoln carry the state of Tennessee. The two were inaugurated on March 4, 1865. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, effectively ending the war. Then on April 14, John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln, who died the next day.
Johnson became president following Lincoln’s death. He inherited a nation torn apart, and his efforts toward reconstruction were troubled. In 1867, Republicans passed the Tenure of Office Act, which forbade the President from removing from office any official who had been appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate. Johnson was sure the act was unconstitutional and removed Edward Stanton from his office of Secretary of War to in turn appoint Grant. However, Grant threw the position back in Johnson’s face. Stanton took back his position, and Johnson again removed him. Three days later, the House voted to impeach Johnson. His trial lasted two months. There were thirty-five votes for conviction and eighteen against. Johnson did not run again in 1868 and, other than the impeachment, the most significant aspect of his Presidency was the purchase of Alaska.
After leaving office, Johnson went back to Tennessee, remaining politically active. In 1874, Tennessee returned Johnson to the Senate, making him the only former President to have served in the Senate. He died of a stroke on July 31, 1875. He, along with several members of his family, is buried in Greeneville on a hill overlooking the countryside.
Learn more about Andrew Johnson
President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library
The museum focuses on Johnson’s life and political career, as well as the history of the oldest college in Tennessee. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. ajmuseum.tusculum.edu.
Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Visitor Center
The contact station for visitor information, brochures, and directions. The Visitor Center also houses the site’s orientation film, museum, Andrew Johnson’s original Tailor Shop, and Eastern National bookstore. All sites within the Historic Site are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. www.nps.gov/anjo/index.htm
Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Early Home
An early Andrew Johnson home is open on the first level and basement. Inside the home is information about Andrew Johnson’s early life and his entrance into the political world. There is a family photo album and timeline of national events as they related to Andrew Johnson’s life.
Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Homestead
Andrew Johnson owned this home for twenty-four years, both before and after his presidency. During the Civil War, soldiers occupied the house and left it in a state of disrepair. The family renovated the home following their return home from Washington, and it is now filled with much of the original family memorabilia.
Andrew Johnson National Cemetery
Drive up to or climb the stairs to the obelisk that marks Johnson’s grave. According to family tradition, Johnson enjoyed coming to this spot for peace and meditation. Because of its height, it was used during the Civil War for signaling, and it became known as “Signal Hill.” The cemetery is still active today and is one of the few cemeteries administered by the National Park Service to be the final resting place of soldiers other than those who fought in the Civil War. Here you will find veterans from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WW1, WW2, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf War.