Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Andrew Johnson Museum

I just returned from vacation, hence the somewhat longer hiatus. One of the highlights for me was visiting the President Andrew Johnson museum in Greeneville, TN. I was endeavoring to give my wife a taste of real East Tennessee, and not the Dollywood/Gatlinburg fake East Tennessee. I have been to several Presidential libraries/museums (Johnson lived before the "Presidential Library" per se) and this is one of my favorites.

I always thought Andrew Johnson was a very interesting character. Johnson was Lincoln's Vice President for his second term and became president after Lincoln's assassination. Johnson had the ignominious duty of trying to piece the Union back together after the War between the States. He was not trusted by Northerners because he was from the South, and Southerners did not trust him because he was staunchly pro-Union his entire career. He was also a Democrat at a time when both Lincoln and the vast majority of Congress after the Civil War were Republicans.

He was originally a slave owner, but freed his slaves after the Emancipation proclamation. To his credit, most of his slaves remained his paid employees until their deaths and most of them always thought well of him. There are a few pictures of his former slaves in the photos above from the Museum.

The museum itself is a Federal park and is free admission. It includes his original tailor shop (a subsequent museum have been built over the original building to preserve it. His house and possessions are still available for a guided tour, which is very interesting as well. He had three sons, none of whom had children and all died in early adulthood. His daughter had to remodel the house during the end of his presidential term because the house had changed hands from Confederate to Union about 20 times during the war, as Greeneville was always being fought over because of the railroad nearby. His house was used as a hospital, and soldier graffiti (from both sides) covered the inside upon his return. His daughter even added on to the building and hired contractors, which was quite unusual for women of the time.

If you ever are in Greeneville, Tennessee, I recommend stopping. It is a great little museum.


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