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Greenville, TN: Andrew Johnson National Historical Site

Lincoln has been well regarded as one of the best president the United States have ever gotten. He managed to see the union through the U.S. civil war, and emancipated all enslaved people in the Confederate states. The second term of his presidency would have been focus to bring the country back, hopefully stronger, during the reconstruction era. As the civil war was coming to a close during the election of Lincoln’s second term in office, the Republicans decided to choose an extremely rare pro-Union southern Democrat as Lincoln’s running mate – Andrew Johnson, the military governor of Tennessee. Johnson was not chosen for his policy, for Lincoln was young and was expected to be the president that would reshape the new America. Unfortunately, Lincoln’s legacy was cut short, and Andrew Johnson became the president in a supermajority Republican congress (because most of the seceded states are not allowed back in yet). Due to his sympathetic views to the southern states, he was hated by the congress. President Johnson dismissed many cabinet members from the Lincoln administration, even though congress passed a bill prohibiting him to do just that. As a result, he became one of only two presidents who was impeached, but not convicted.

Andrew Johnson’s tailor shop.
Replica of Andrew Johnson’s birth home.

So how did we get there? Andrew Johnson was born in Raleign, NC, and raised as a tailor. He ran away during as a teen, and came back to fetch his family to move to the west. On his way through the Smokies, his family stopped by Greenville, TN, and found that the town’s tailor is retiring and would love to have Andrew as the new town’s tailor. He also fell in love with his future wife during the stop, and decided to set up shop here. He was 18. Slowly, the family managed to expand and Andrew’s tailor shop became the place where people talk politics. His wife taught Andrew to read and write, and that propelled him to rise in the town’s political circle. Slowly but surely, he won elected mayor, U.S. congressman, Tennessee governor. On the eve of civil war, he was representing Tennessee as its senator, and the only southern senator to not leave during secession. Being a firm believer of the constitution and the Union, Andrew (who owns slaves at his tailor shop) believe that the slavery question should be fought in congress with words and not on the battlefield with guns. This led him to become the military governor of Tennessee when the Union capture it. He provided a blueprint on controlling the population during the civil war, which delighted Republicans and thus catapulted him to the Vice Presidency in the following election.

Andrew Johnson’s estate.

The museum here has Andrew Johnson’s original tailor shop, and a replica of the house he was born in across the street. There are some exhibitions on whether he was rightfully impeached by congress or it was just politics. The city of Greenville is compact and the downtown is very pretty. A few blocks away is his estate, and still standing. The park rangers do offer daily tours but the compound is open for everyone to walk around (the outside). A few more blocks away lies the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, where thousands of war veterans are buried. On the top of the hill lies Andrew Johnson’s family’s graves. Andrew and his wife has an obelisk over their grave, which features an eagle, a bible (which I assumed he was sworn in to office), and the U.S. constitution. He asked for that tombstone, specifically the U.S. constitution, probably to clear his own conviction for the impeachment trials. I don’t think it worked, because he is still remembered as one of the worst presidents, and most people don’t even remember him. He was in between two great presidents – Lincoln, and Grant. However, the people of Greenville and Tennessee still seem to love him, and at the end of the day, he did represent his people, so mission accomplished?

Andrew Johnson’s tombstone.
Andrew Johnson National Cemetery.

Date: Sep 15, 2019.
Address: 101 N College St, Greeneville, TN 37743
GPS: 36.158333 N, -82.835 W

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