Eliza McCardle Johnson

Eliza Johnson (née McCardle; October 4, 1810 – January 15, 1876)[1] was the first lady of the United States from 1865 to 1869. She served as the second lady of the United States in 1865. She was the wife of Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States.

Eliza McCardle Johnson
First Lady of the United States
In role
April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
PresidentAndrew Johnson
Preceded byMary Todd Lincoln
Succeeded byJulia Grant
Second Lady of the United States
In role
March 4, 1865 – April 15, 1865
Vice PresidentAndrew Johnson
Preceded byEllen Hamlin
Succeeded byEllen Colfax (1869)
First Lady of Tennessee
In role
October 17, 1853 – November 3, 1857
GovernorAndrew Johnson
Preceded byFrances Owen
Succeeded byMartha Mariah Travis
In role
March 12, 1862 – March 4, 1865
GovernorAndrew Johnson
Preceded byMartha Mariah Travis
Succeeded byEliza O'Brien
Personal details
Eliza McCardle

(1810-10-04)October 4, 1810
Telford, Tennessee
DiedJanuary 15, 1876(1876-01-15) (aged 65)
Greeneville, Tennessee
Resting placeAndrew Johnson National Cemetery
Greeneville, Tennessee
(m. 1827; died 1875)
  • Martha
  • Charles
  • Mary
  • Robert
  • Andrew Jr.

Early life and marriageEdit

Eliza was born in Telford, Tennessee, the only child of John McCardle, a shoemaker, and Sarah Phillips.[2][3] Her father died when Eliza was still in her teens in 1825.[4] 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 paternal uncle 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.[citation needed] 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. She died at age 72.
  • 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 at age 33.
  • 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. She died at age 50.
  • 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 three years. He died soon thereafter at age 26.

First Lady of the United StatesEdit

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.[1] Mrs. Johnson appeared publicly as First Lady on only two occasions—at a reception for Queen Emma of the Kingdom of Hawaii on August 14, 1866,[5][6] and at the President's 59th birthday party on December 29, 1867.


Eliza had tuberculosis. Due to her poor health, she was not able to serve as the First Lady for long. She remained in her bedroom most of the time in the White House, which was from 1865 to 1869. Due to her illness, she died 7 years later, on January 15, 1876, at the age of 65. Her death occurred less than six months after that of her husband, who died on July 31, 1875.


  1. ^ a b "Andrew Johnson: Impact and Legacy". Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  2. ^ Ann Bausum (2007). Our Country's First Ladies. National Geographic. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-4263-0006-6.
  3. ^ National First Ladies' Library. "First Lady Biography: Eliza Johnson". National First Ladies' Library. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
  4. ^ Ford, Lynne E. (2010). Encyclopedia of Women and American Politics. Infobase Publishing. pp. 259–260. ISBN 9781438110325. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  5. ^ Johnson, Andrew; Johnson), United States. President (1865-1869) (1967). The Papers of Andrew Johnson: August 1866-January 1867. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-87049-828-2.
  6. ^ Kanahele, George S. (1999). Emma: Hawaii's Remarkable Queen. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 223–224. ISBN 978-0-8248-2240-8. OCLC 40890919.

External linksEdit

Honorary titles
Preceded by Second Lady of the United States
Title next held by
Ellen Colfax
Preceded by First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by