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Eliza Johnson

Eliza JohnsonAKA Eliza McCardle

Born: 4-Oct-1810
Birthplace: Greeneville, TN
Died: 15-Jan-1876
Location of death: Carter's Station, TN
Cause of death: Tuberculosis
Remains: Buried, Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, Greeneville, TN

Gender: Female
Religion: Methodist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: First Lady

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Wife of US President Andrew Johnson

Eliza McCardle was 16 years old when she met and married Andrew Johnson, and she worked in his tailor's shop in Greeneville, Tennessee. Her husband had never been educated and could barely read, so she patiently taught him better grammar and presentation. She must have taught her husband well -- his first fame was for his debating skills, and after business hours his tailor shop became a sort of informal debating club where local men discussed politics.

A conventional woman of her century, Eliza Johnson remained in the background, seen but not often heard, and never offered advice on her husband's political career. She remained in Greeneville when he was elected to the state legislature and later to the US House of Representatives. In her early 40s she developed tuberculosis, which made her health progressively worse through the rest of her life, but in 1860 she moved to Washington DC to join her husband, who was then a Senator. When the Civil War broke out, she returned to Tennessee, but her husband's pro-Union stand drew numerous death threats, and she soon fled for Ohio and later Indiana. Her husband was Vice President and she was in Boston when she heard of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and her husband asked her to join him in Washington.

She lived in a small second-floor bedroom at the White House, across the hall from the President's office, and rarely left her room except to slowly cross the hall and scold him if she heard him yelling. The ceremonial duties of a First Lady were carried out by her daughters, Mary and Martha Johnson. Some historians have surmised that Mrs Johnson's health was only a secondary reason she stayed out of the public eye, and that she was perhaps more motivated toward seclusion by the feverishly unfavorable press the previous First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, had received. By the time of Andrew Johnson's death, however, Mrs Johnson was too ill to attend his funeral, and six months later she was buried in an adjacent grave.

The Johnsons' son Charles was a perpetual drunk, and in an alcohol-induced stupor he fell to his death from a horse in 1863. Their second son Robert fought for the Union in the Civil War, but was also an alcoholic, and eventually killed himself. Their daughter Martha married David Trotter Patterson (1818-1891), an attorney who served as US Senator from Tennessee, where his vote in his father-in-law's impeachment trial provided Pres Johnson with the one-vote margin by which he escaped being removed from office.

Father: John McCardle (shoemaker, d. 1826)
Mother: Sarah Phillips McCardle (d. 1856)
Father: Moses L. Whitesides (stepfather)
Husband: Andrew Johnson (US President, b. 29-Dec-1808, m. 17-May-1827, d. 31-Jul-1875)
Daughter: Martha Johnson Patterson (b. 25-Oct-1828, d. 10-Jul-1901)
Son: Charles Johnson (pharmacist, b. 19-Feb-1830, d. 4-Apr-1863)
Daughter: Mary Johnson Stover Brown (b. 8-May-1832, d. 19-Apr-1883)
Son: Robert Johnson (Union soldier, b. 22-Feb-1834, d. 22-Apr-1869)
Son: Andrew Johnson Jr. ("Frank", newspaper publisher, b. 5-Aug-1852, d. 12-Mar-1879)

    High School: Rhea Academy, Greeneville, TN

    Slaveowners
    Irish Ancestry
    Scottish Ancestry


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