Eliza Johnson, First Lady

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Eliza Johnson (McCardle)

Birthdate: (65)
Birthplace: Leesburg, Washington, Tennessee, USA
Death: January 15, 1876 (65)
Carter, Tennessee, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of John McCardle and Sarah McCardle
Wife of Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the USA
Mother of Martha Patterson; Charles Johnson, MD, USA; Mary Stover; Brig. Gen. Robert Johnson (USA) and Andrew "Frank" Johnson, Jr.

Managed by: Private User
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About Eliza Johnson, First Lady

The way this poor woman was treated after her husband was Vice President is a black eye upon the Confederacy:

Despite being under Confederate Army authority, the people of eastern Tennessee, where the Johnsons lived, were largely loyal to the Union. With Senator Johnson speaking vigorously against the Confederacy and seeking Union protection of his region, Eliza Johnson became a target. Without warning, her Greeneville home was confiscated for use as sleeping quarters for Confederate Army troops. Forced from there, Eliza Johnson and her young son Frank and adult son Charles, had to seek shelter at the nearby Carter County home of her daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Daniel Stover, and three young children. The Stover home, however, was also located in the area controlled by the Confederate government. In April of 1862, Eliza Johnson, along with other prominent Union families in that jurisdiction were given short notice to vacate by Confederate General Kirby Smith, who oversaw it. In one of her only remaining letters, Eliza Johnson responded formally but honestly that “in my present state of health, I know I can not undergo the fatigues of such a journey; my health is quite feeble, a greater portion of the time being unable to leave my bed.” Five months later, she wrote him again, this time declaring herself able to travel and requesting the necessary permits for movement within the Confederate-held regions and to cross into Union territory when necessary.

Starting in mid-September 1862, the privations endured by Eliza Johnson essentially made her a wartime refugee. For several nights, she and her daughter Mary Stover also prepared and smuggled food into nearby mountain caves where her son-in-law and his fellow Union military sought shelter and eluded detection by Confederates. In late September, she was detained for two days in Murfreesboro by Confederate General, Nathan B. Forrest which proved to be a degrading and harrowing episode. Having had no warning that the family would be detained in Murfreesboro, Eliza Johnson was literally forced to go door to door to seek to the homes of strangers and beg for shelter that night for herself and her family. Only begrudgingly was one home of Confederate sympathizers made available to them but denied the next night. On the second night, Eliza Johnson and her family were able to find shelter only in an abandoned restaurant, with no place to sleep, no food for sustenance, and no light. Eliza Johnson had apparently considered such a possibility, for she had brought candles from home and kept sandwich remnants from the previous day, which she gave her grandchildren to eat. Once permission from the Confederate capital in Richmond was wired to officials in Murfreesboro, Eliza Johnson and her family proceeded by train to Nashville, during which they were violently harassed and her sons threatened with death by fellow passengers who were Confederate sympathizers.

Although she and her family were given safe refuge in Nashville, arriving there on 13 October 1862, Eliza Johnson was soon notified that the alcoholism of her adult son Robert Johnson had deteriorated his condition and threatened his Union Army appointment as a Colonel. Stationed with his military unit in Cincinnati, Ohio, determination of his case was delayed, due to the status of his father as a U.S. Senator. With Andrew Johnson seeking to coordinate matter from Washington, Eliza Johnson and her family members left Nashville for Cincinnati in November of 1862, to personally intercede on Robert Johnson’s behalf. From there, with her son Frank, Mary Stover, and her three Stover grandchildren, Eliza Johnson sought a health treatment at a sulfuric spa in Vevay, Indiana. Joined there by her son-in-law Daniel Stover in early 1863, the party proceeded to Louisville, Kentucky. The anxious months and exposure to the elements had worsened Eliza Johnson’s breathing problems and she decided to then proceed to Nashville in May, rather than unite with her husband in Washington, where the weather would further deteriorate her condition.

Appointed by President Lincoln as Military Governor of Tennessee (1862-1865), Johnson made several dramatic references in public speeches to the treatment of his wife by the Confederate Army. This prompted deeper resentment of him and increased threats against his life. Andrew and Eliza Johnson had an emotional but brief reunion in Nashville when she arrived there with her family in May of 1863. He separated from them again weeks later, removing himself to Kentucky’s Union territory for his safety. Ongoing threats against him and their renewed separation nonetheless perpetuated anxiety for Eliza Johnson.



Eliza McCardle Johnson


First Lady of the United States In office April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869 Preceded by Mary Todd Lincoln Succeeded by Julia Grant


Second Lady of the United States In office March 4, 1865 – April 15, 1865 Preceded by Ellen Vesta Emery Hamlin Succeeded by Ellen Maria Colfax


Born October 4, 1810 Telford, Tennessee, U.S. Died January 15, 1876 (aged 65) Greeneville, Tennessee, U.S.

Eliza McCardle Johnson (October 4, 1810 – January 15, 1876) was the 21st First Lady of the United States and the wife of Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States.

Early Life and Marriage

Born at Telford, Tennessee, the only child of John McCardle, a shoemaker, and Sarah Phillips-McCardle, Eliza lost her father when she was still a small child. She was raised by her widowed mother in Greeneville, Tennessee. One day in September 1826, Eliza was chatting with classmates from Rhea Academy when she spotted Andrew Johnson and his family pull into town with all their belongings. They instantly took a liking to each other. Andrew Johnson, aged 18, married Eliza McCardle, aged 16, on May 17, 1827, at the home of the bride's mother in Greeneville. Mordecai Lincoln, a distant relative of Abraham Lincoln presided over the nuptials.

At 16, Eliza Johnson married at a younger age than any other First Lady. Mrs. Johnson was rather tall and had hazel eyes, brown hair and a good figure. She was better educated than Johnson, who by this time had barely taught himself to read and spell a little. Johnson credited his wife for teaching him to do arithmetic and to write, as he had never attended school himself. She tutored him patiently, while he labored in his tailor shop. She often read aloud to him.


The Johnsons had three sons and two daughters, all born in Greeneville, Tennessee:

Martha Johnson Patterson (1828–1901). She married David T. Patterson, who after the Civil War served as U.S. Senator from Tennessee. She served as official White House hostess in place of her mother. The Pattersons maintained a farm outside Greeneville, Tennessee.

Charles Johnson (1830–1863) - doctor, pharmacist. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he remained loyal to the Union. While recruiting Tennessee boys for the Union Army, he became the object of an intense Confederate manhunt. He joined the Middle Tennessee Union Infantry as an assistant surgeon; he was thrown from his horse and killed.

Mary Johnson Stover Brown (1832–1883). She married Dan Stover, who served as colonel of the Fourth Tennessee Union Infantry during the Civil War. The Stovers lived on a farm in Carter County, Tennessee. Following the death of her husband in 1864, she married W.R. Brown.

Robert Johnson (1834–1869) - lawyer. He served for a time in the Tennessee state legislature. During the Civil War he was commissioned colonel of the First Tennessee Union Cavalry. He was private secretary to his father during his tenure as president. He died an alcoholic at age 35.

Andrew Johnson, Jr. (1852–1879) - journalist. He founded the weekly Greeneville Intelligencer, but it failed after two years. He died soon thereafter at age 27.

First Lady of the United States

She supported her husband in his political career, but had tried to avoid public appearances. During the American Civil War, Confederate authorities ordered her to evacuate her home in Greeneville; she took refuge in Nashville, Tennessee.

A few months later after her husband became president, she joined him in the White House, but she was not able to serve as First Lady due to her poor health. She remained confined to a room on the second floor, leaving the social chores to her daughter (Martha Johnson Patterson). Mrs. Johnson appeared publicly as First Lady on only two occasions - at a reception for Queen Emma of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1866 and at the president's birthday party in 1867.


She died on January 15, 1876, at age 65, having survived her husband by just six months. She was buried next to him in Greeneville, Tennessee.


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Eliza Johnson, First Lady's Timeline

October 4, 1810
Leesburg, Washington, Tennessee, USA
October 25, 1828
Age 18
Greenville, Tennessee, USA
February 19, 1830
Age 19
Greenville, Tennessee, USA
May 8, 1832
Age 21
Greeneville, Greene, Tennessee, USA
February 22, 1834
Age 23
Greeneville, Greene County, Tennessee, United States
August 5, 1852
Age 41
Greenville, Tennessee, USA
January 15, 1876
Age 65
Carter, Tennessee, USA