The only thing you're taught about President Andrew Johnson in school, is that he was the first president to be impeached. To be honest, I wasn't even sure why he was impeached -- and I knew nothing about other aspects of his presidency or the man himself. And although he hailed from Greeneville, TN, I don't think we really celebrate or claim this east Tennessee president because of the dark cloud of impeachment. But after touring his home and national historic site, I have an appreciation for (and certainly a much better understanding of) our 17th President.
For a man with no formal education, Johnson certainly met with success throughout his life. Going from alderman to Mayor, State Representative, State Senator, Governor of Tennessee, US Representative, US Senator, Military Governor, Vice President and President. His life contained many contradictions: a Democrat, yet he was elected Vice President under a Republican president. A Southerner, yet loyal to the Union. A slave owner, yet opposed to secession. Indeed as military governor in 1864, Johnson issued a proclamation freeing all slaves in Tennessee.
During his presidency, Johnson sought to implement Lincoln's reconstruction policies. Congress had other ideas - and the conflict led to his impeachment. The Congress had set a trap for him - declaring it unlawful for a President to remove from office any official confirmed by the Senate. When Johnson suspended Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, impeachment proceedings began. He came within one vote in the Senate of being removed from office. Perhaps the best known accomplishment of his Presidency was the purchase of the Alaska territory from Russia for $7.2 million -- widely considered a 'folly' at the time. Following his presidency, Johnson became the only President to return to the US Senate.
The President's home (above) is open for self-guided tours -- across the street is the impressive museum and visitor's center celebrating his life. Be sure to watch the short video narrated by former Senator Fred Thompson. A short drive from downtown brings you to the national cemetery where he was laid to rest, wrapped in the flag and with a copy of the Constitution under his head. Click here to visit the official website of the historical site. More information here.