Eliza McCardle Johnson
|First Lady of the United States|
April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
|Preceded by||Mary Todd Lincoln|
|Succeeded by||Julia Grant|
|Second Lady of the United States|
March 4, 1865 – April 15, 1865
|Preceded by||Ellen Hamlin|
|Succeeded by||Ellen Colfax (1869)|
October 4, 1810
Telford, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||January 15, 1876
Greeneville, Tennessee, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Andrew Johnson (1827–1875)|
Early life and marriage
Born at Greeneville, Tennessee, the only child of John McCardle, a shoemaker, and Sarah Phillips-McCardle, her father died when Eliza was still in her teens. 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, 18, married Eliza McCardle, 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. She 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. 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:
- Martha Johnson (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.
- 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 (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 and politician. 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 became alcoholic and committed suicide 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 from tuberculosis. She remained confined to her bedroom there, 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.
After episodes of tuberculosis, Eliza died on January 15, 1876, at the age of 65 in Greeneville, Tennessee. She survived her husband by five and a half months.
- Eliza Johnson on Find-A-Grave
- The White House Web Site
- National First Ladies' Library
- Eliza Johnson at C-SPAN's First Ladies: Influence & Image
|Second Lady of the United States
Title next held byEllen Colfax
Mary Todd Lincoln
|First Lady of the United States