"I knew he'd be acquitted; I knew it," declared Eliza Johnson when told how the Senate had voted in her husband's impeachment trial. Her faith in him had never wavered during those difficult days in 1868, and her courage had dictated that all White House social events should continue as usual.
That faith began to develop many years before in East Tennessee when Andrew Johnson first came to Greeneville and established a tailor shop. Eliza McCardle was not quite 16 then and Andrew only 17. Local tradition tells that on the day she first saw him she said to a girlfriend, "There goes my beau!" She married him within a year, on May 17, 1827.
Eliza was born in 1810, the daughter of a shoemaker. Fortunately, she had received a good basic education that she was delighted to share with Andrew. He already knew his letters and could read a bit, so she taught him writing and arithmetic. Her skill at keeping a house and bringing up a family - five children, in all - had much to do with Johnson's rapid rise to success. When the Civil War came and East Tennessee remained loyal to the Union, President Lincoln sent Andrew Johnson to Nashville as military governor. Rebel forces caught Eliza at home with part of the family. Only after months of uncertainty did they rejoin Andrew in Nashville. By 1865, a soldier son and son-in-law had died, and Eliza was an invalid for life.
Quite aside from the tragedy of Lincoln's death, Eliza Johnson found little pleasure in her husband's position as president. At the White House, her second-floor room was the center of activities for a large family including two sons, a widowed daughter and her children, and an older daughter with her husband and their children.
At the end of her husband's term, Eliza returned with relief to their home in Tennessee, restored from wartime vandalism. She lived to see the legislature of her state vindicate Andrews career by electing him to the Senate in 1875. She survived him by nearly six months, dying at the Pattersons' home in 1876.
You Might Also Like
Collection By Land, By Sea, By Air
Whether by hoof, air, waterway, road, or rail, the President’s access to reliable transportation is essential during their time in...
Podcast Presidential Leadership in Times of Challenge: FDR and LBJ
Throughout our history, presidents have faced crises that have gripped both the nation and the world. In this episode, Association...
Collection Art in the White House
The collection of fine art at the White House has evolved and grown over time. The collection began with mostly...
Collection The White House Behind the Scenes
While the presidency is often in the eye of the public, those who ensure operations at the White House run...
Podcast Women’s Suffrage and the White House
This year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the culmination of the suffragists' fight to secure the right to...
Podcast Fearless Leadership: A Conversation with Jean Case
Fearless leaders have walked the halls of White House for centuries. In this episode, White House Historical Association President Stewart...
Collection The Working White House
For more than two centuries, the White House has been the home of American presidents. A powerful symbol of the...
Collection Animal Ambassadors
Animals, whether pampered household pets, working livestock, birds, squirrels, or strays, have long been a major part of White House...
Collection Presidential Inaugurations
In April 1789, George Washington took the oath of office in New York City. Constitutional guidelines for inaugurations are sparse, offering...
Podcast Back to Basics - White House History with David Rubenstein
In this special episode of The 1600 Sessions, we turn the tables on our podcast’s usual format. Financier and philanthropist Da...
Podcast Presidential Portraits
Portrait artists have captured the image and personality of our presidents throughout history, providing a record of their time in...
Collection A Tour of the White House
In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy resolved to make the White House a “living museum” by restoring the historic integrity of the...