Eliza McCardle Johnson
(October 4, 1810 in Telford, Tennessee – January 15, 1876 in Greeneville, Tennessee) was
the 21st First Lady
of the United
States and the wife of Andrew
Johnson, the 17th President of the United
Early Life and Marriage
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
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
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
- 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
- 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 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
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