America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Andrew Johnson Home 1865

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Tennessee

He's sometimes forgotten by all but historians and sometimes reviled by them and others, mostly due to the mess he made with Reconstruction after the Civil War ended and Abraham Lincoln's death elevated him to President. He's sometimes confused with President Andrew Jackson. But make no mistake, the presidency of Andrew Johnson built the post-Civil War America that saw amendments about Civil Rights, for good, even though he oppossed one, and the stalling of true Civil Rights in a reconstruction era that eventually gave too much power back to Confederate politicians who had no intention to make black americans, or women, equal citizens. All that was not Jackson's fault, but a visit to his historic site tells both tales, and they are tales we should learn significant lessons from. Photo above: Engraving of Andrew Johnson's home in Greenville, Tennessee, in 1865, 1865, Marsh and Reiff. Courtesy National Park Service.

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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Andrew Johnson NHS, Tennessee

Although Andrew Johnson is often misunderstood as a President, his story is a remarkable one. He never attended one day of school, yet rose to political office from the local level, to Governor, to Congress, then the Presidency, and back to the Senate. He deferred to the Constitution often, which put him at odds with Congress during the debates about freedmen's issues. He often had different opinions than the majority, even in his own Republican party, at the time. He favored almost immediate reinstatement of southern states into the Union, even before the amendments to safeguard them had passed. When Mary Surrat, the owner of the house where John Wilkes Booth stayed was put to trial and executed, Johnson stated,...

"The execution of Mrs. Surrat [sic] was a crime of passion without justice or reason. She knew no more about the intentions of Booth and his associates than any other preson [sic] who chanced to know Booth or Asterot. They had simply boarded as others had done, at her boarding house. She was entitled to trial in open court and the record of that trial preserved, but her executioners knew the records would condemn them if they kept till passion had subsided and they were destroyed," Andrew Johnson.

Why didn't President Johnson pardon her? He stated that it would have caused his death and riots that may have started war again.

Johnson was responsible for the freedom of four million men and women during his time in office through the passage of the 13th, 14th (Johnson opposed the 14th), and 15th amendments, but sparred with Congress on specifics of reconstruction. He used the veto pen more times than any President before him, which, in part, caused the call for his impeachment.

Johnson's beliefs were complicated; he owned ten slaves, freeing them on August 8, 1863. To this day, many historians think of him as one of the worst Presidents in history.

Image above: Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, unknown date, Moody Studios. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: Andrew Johnson's Tailor Shop, Unknown date and author. Courtesy National Park Service.

Andrew Johnson Tailor Shop

Where Is It

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site is located in Greeneville, Tennessee with the Visitor Center located 101 North College Street, Greeneville, TN. There is another aspect to the park, which is the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, which is accessed from the west off East Vann Road. Greeneville is south off I-81, west of Johnson City and east of Knoxville.

What is There Now

Andrew Johnson NHS

First stop should probably be the Visitor Center, which is open daily in summer, and located two and one half blocks from the Homestead. However, inside the Visitor Center, there's lots to do and look at, including a Memorial Building, inside which Johnson's original Tailor Shop stands, a film called "Defender of the Constitution," plus orientation, a museum, and a bookstore. Outside the building there's a statue of President Johnson. The Homestead, as noted before, is down the street on Main Street.

When Open and How Much

The Homestead is open during the summer months for guided ranger tours four times per day, starting at 10:30 a.m. If you're going from December to April, call to check for the appropriate days and hours. There is onsite parking at both the Visitor Center and the Homestead. Admission is free.

Fees subject to change.

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

History Nearby

Located off Route 81 in eastern Tennessee, you're close to so much natural and man-made history, that your tour to Andrew Johnson NHS is likely to include more sites. Coming from the north, there's Cumberland Gap National Park; from the south, Rocky Mountain National Park, and many others.

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