Standards: 5.15, 5.22
Essential Questions: What role did Andrew Johnson play during the Civil War? What factors led to Johnson’s impeachment?
Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808–July 31, 1875) was the seventeenth President of the United States (1865–1869), succeeding to the presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson was a U.S. Senator from Greeneville, Tennessee at the time of the secession of the southern states. He was the only Southern Senator not to quit his post upon secession, and became the most prominent War Democrat from the South.
In 1862 Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of Tennessee, where he proved energetic and effective in fighting the rebellion. Johnson was nominated for the Vice President slot in 1864 on the National Union Party ticket. He was elected along with Abraham Lincoln in November 1864, and he ascended to the presidency upon Lincoln's assassination on April 15, 1865.
Johnson faced the difficult task of reconstructing the nation in the wake of the Civil War and he soon clashed with Congress over control of Reconstruction. Radical Republicans wanted to punish the South for the war. The Radical Republicans thought that Johnson was too friendly towards the South, in too much of a hurry to reincorporate the former Confederates back into the union, and to unwilling to give civil rights to African Americans. This caused a bitter dispute between the president and the Radical Republicans and led to Johnson’s impeachment. Johnson became the first U.S. President to be impeached when the Radicals in the House of Representatives charged with high crimes and misdemeanors in February 1868; however, he was acquitted and his presidency spared by a single vote in the Senate.
Following his tumultuous presidency, Johnson returned to Greeneville, eager for vindication. In 1874, he became the first former President of the United States to win a seat in the United States Senate. However, four months after taking his seat in the Senate, Johnson suffered a stroke and died on July 31, 1875. He is buried wrapped in an American flag with his head resting on a copy of the Constitution.