Archive for August, 2007

Andrew Johnson Historic Site

August 31, 2007

From the moment the prospect of Republicans impeaching President Clinton became real in 1998, I was fascinated with Andrew Johnson, the only other president to be impeached in American history.

I worked at a now-defunct online publication called back then and wrote a monthly column about congressional history that tried to draw modern-day lessons from historical events. Johnson’s impeachment during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period seemed ripe for exploring because of Clinton’s woes, so I happily dug into the historical record about Johnson.

The end result was one of my most-read essays ever. Every few weeks over the next year or so, I received e-mails from people who found the article online. My work was cited by others and even became part of some classroom studies in American history classes.

My fascination with Johnson’s presidency continues to this day, so it is no coincidence that the second stop on our tour of presidential homes was at the Johnson historic site in Greeneville, Tenn. I built the trip into our itinerary when my wife and I chose Chattanooga, Tenn., as the spot for this year’s family vacation.

You can get the scoop on Johnson’s home and some of his history in the posts that follow or by clicking on the links in this guide:
Defender Of The Constitution
Birthplace Replica
The Tailor Shop
The Early Home
The Homestead
Cemetery And Memorial
The Glover Family Tour

Another president named Andrew, also from Tennessee, became a subject of insider conversations during Clinton’s presidential scandal. Andrew Jackson was censured by Congress during his presidency, and some politicians suggested than as an alternative to impeaching Clinton.

I also wrote an essay about Jackson’s censure while at IntellectualCapital, and two years ago for National Journal magazine, I wrote an essay about Jackson’s infamous veto of the Maysville Road bill.

The Glover clan did not have time to visit Jackson’s presidential home in Nashville, The Hermitage, during our trip to Tennessee this year, but we hope to get there soon. We often have occasion to travel through Nashville on the way to visit family in Shreveport, La.


Andrew Johnson: Defender Of The Constitution

August 31, 2007

As you take the main road into Greeneville, Tenn., in search of the Andrew Johnson historic site, the first thing you’re likely to notice is the statue of the man himself in the heart of downtown.

    Defender of the Constitution

Margaret Johnson Patterson Bartlett, the great-grandaughter of America’s 17th president, donated the memorial and tribute. It includes a plaque that promotes Johnson’s historic legacy as “the preserver of the union of the United States and defender of the Constitution.” The status makes no mention of the one event for which most people remember him (if they remember him at all): his legacy as the first president to be impeached by the House and later acquitted by one vote in the Senate.

The memorial is on one corner at an intersection that includes three other features of the Johnson historic site: a replica of Johnson’s North Carolina birthplace home, his early home in Greenville, and the visitors’ center for the site. The visitors’ center encompasses Johnson’s tailor shop.

Andrew Johnson: Birthplace Replica

August 31, 2007

Although Andrew Johnson spent most of his life in Tennessee, he was born in Raleigh, N.C. The tradition of his birth is told on a plaque outside a replica of his birthplace home that was built in Greeneville in 1999.

The small cabin was part of Casso’s Inn, where Johnson’s father worked as a stable keeper and his mother as a weaver. Tradition has it that the future president was born in the loft of the kitchen at the inn on Dec. 29, 1808. A wedding party at the inn was interrupted with news of the birth.

The story “represents an important part of the Andrew Johnson story and speaks of a man who began his life in very humble conditions,” according to the plaque.

Andrew Johnson: The Tailor Shop

August 31, 2007

While Andrew Johnson and his brother, William, were still young, their widowed mother apprenticed them to a tailor in Raleigh, N.C. Both fled the area before their contracts were fulfilled at age 21, however, and Andrew eventually ended up in Greeneville, Tenn. — a town that just happened to need a tailor.

Johnson settled in Greeneville, and his shop still exists inside the visitors’ center at the Johnson historic site. The family maintained the tailor shop until 1921 and then deeded it to the state of Tennessee. The National Park Service took over the property in 1941.


The visitors’ center is also home to the presidential museum, which contains memorabilia like the Bible that Johnson used while proclaiming the presidential oath.


Andrew Johnson: The Early Home

August 31, 2007

The early home where Andrew Johnson lived in Greeneville, Tenn., is modest when compared with the Johnson homestead located a few blocks away — but both properties are modest compared with other presidential homes.

The early home consists of a few rooms with displays about Johnson’s family, career, political viewspresidency and more.




Andrew Johnson: The Homestead

August 31, 2007

Visitors to Greeneville, Tenn., are on their own much of the time to absorb the information available at the various features of the Andrew Johnson historic site. But the tour of the homestead, where Johnson lived during much of his political life, is guided by rangers from the National Park Service.



The focus of the homestead tour is the Johnson’s troubled family life. I didn’t take notes, but here are the details as I recall them: One of Johnson’s sons was killed during the Civil War; his two others died fairly young, at least one from substance abuse; and one of his daughters left her husband and their children.

The house on the homestead stayed in the family long after Andrew Johnson’s death, and one of his descendants gave tours even after the National Park Service took over the property. The home, including an expansion, has been restored to look like it did when Johnson lived there after his presidency. It consists of Johnson’s office, six bedrooms, a kitchen and dining room, and quarters for the slaves.




Many of the furnishings, including some of Johnson’s canes and one of his shirts, are original. A section of wallpaper in one of the bedrooms also has been peeled back to reveal some of the anti-Johnson graffiti left there when the house was occupied by Southern troops during the Civil War.



Andrew Johnson: Cemetery And Memorial

August 31, 2007

A short drive from the main features of the Andrew Johnson historic site in downtown Greeneville, Tenn., the National Park Service maintains a cemetery where Johnson and his immediate family are buried. Johnson’s wife resurrected a memorial to him there.

Andrew Johnson: The Glover Family Tour

August 31, 2007

We began our Glover family tour of the presidential homes with a visit to Mount Vernon during Memorial Day week of this year. Our three children (Anthony, 7; Elli, 5; and Catie, 2) mostly enjoyed that leg of our journey because the tour included a scavenger hunt of sorts to keep the youngsters engaged.

The Andrew Johnson historic site isn’t nearly as kid-friendly, so there were more whimpers of “Can we go yet?” than there were smiles and laughter. It didn’t help that the tour of the various parts of the site took us much longer than we had anticipated and bumped against the lunch hour. Plus we squeezed the visit to Johnson’s place into our return nine-hour trip to Virginia after a week’s vacation in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Needless to say, there weren’t many photo ops for the family. But here are a few pictures I snapped: