Civil War History 50.1 (2004) 90-91
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The Papers of Andrew Johnson. Volume 16: May 1869-July 1875. Edited by Paul Bergeron, Patricia J. Anthony, Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein, Marion O. Smith, and Richard M. Zuczek. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000. Pp. xxxii, 804. Cloth, $60.00.)
This volume is the last in the Papers of Andrew Johnson collection. With its publication, Paul Bergeron and his staff at the University of Tennessee have completed the project that has included the work of approximately seventy people and spanned forty-odd years. As expected, this volume also concerns the end of Johnson's life. Much like other presidents who have left office after scandal (and even impeachment), the Johnson that emerges in this volume is not content to stay in his home state living out his final days in quiet reflection. During the last six years of Johnson's life, he attempted to rebuild a legacy tarnished by impeachment and the abandonment of his party. Seeking vindication, he made three bids for office, including his successful election to the U.S. Senate in 1875. Johnson also faced serious bouts with illness and financial trouble before suffering two strokes and dying in July 1875.
This final book is notably different from previous works in this series both in its coverage and in content. While the nine most recent editions cover roughly one year of Johnson's life, this volume covers a period of over six years. This change reflects both the decrease in correspondence to Johnson once he left the White House and the editors' condensation of matters relevant to the overall [End Page 90] collection. Contained in this collection are speeches Johnson delivered during his failed 1869 campaign for U.S. Senate, his failed run in 1872 for a new congressional seat in Tennessee, and his successful senatorial bid in 1875. Letters written to Johnson from a variety of Tennessee politicians enrich the reader's understanding of the behind-the-scenes political strategy in this post-presidential period as well. Another feature that makes this work distinct from previous volumes is the inclusion of forty-five letters from Johnson, including many to his family, which reveal a personal side of the politician. In 1871, for instance, Johnson wrote to his daughter, Martha Patterson, that with her mother and his wife ill, "The House seems abandon [sic] by all and I am as solitary as though I were in the wilds of Africa" (268). There are also accounts of financial trouble for Johnson, who lost 473,000 when First National Bank in Washington closed. A trip to the capital settled the matter and his money was later nearly completely returned. These insights into the extra-political life of the former president add rich personal context to the overall story of his last years. A personal and political conviction drove Johnson to return to elected office after leaving the White House. These documents, both public and private, demonstrate both his drive and eventual vindication.
This final installment of the Papers of Andrew Johnson will be especially useful to scholars of post-Civil War Tennessee thanks to the wealth of material regarding various statewide elections. With a brief introduction and an appendix that contains Johnson's obituary from the Greenville Intelligencer, this volume is well conceived and representative. It is a fine capstone to the entire series.
University of Georgia