"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 Presidential Pastimes
Although the presidency is an often all-consuming job, many presidents have found solace in their various hobbies and pastimes. When...
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...
Collection The 2016 White House Christmas Ornament
Every year since 1981, the White House Historical Association has had the privilege of designing the Official White House Christmas Ornament....
Collection Presidential Inaugurations
In April 1789, George Washington took the oath of office in New York City. Constitutional guidelines for inaugurations are sparse, offering...
Collection Presidents & Baseball
No sport is more closely tied to the American presidency than baseball. One of Washington’s first baseball fields was lo...
Collection The Presidents
Biographies & Portraits
Collection The First Ladies
Biographies & Portraits
Collection Presidential Retreats
Presidents have found different ways to escape the pressures and politics of the position. For early leaders, it was a...
Collection White House Easter Egg Roll
Since 1878, American presidents and their families have celebrated Easter Monday by hosting an "egg roll" party. Held on the South...
Collection The President's Neighborhood
Since the White House was first occupied by President John Adams in 1800, influential people and organizations—or those who hoped to...
Collection Animal Ambassadors
Animals, whether pampered household pets, working livestock, birds, squirrels, or strays, have long been a major part of White House...
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...