The Age of Hate: Andrew Johnson and the Radicals

By George Fort Milton | Go to book overview

VII. ON THE TICKET WITH LINCOLN

THE night when the news reached Nashville that Andrew Johnson had been placed on the ticket with Lincoln, his enthusiastic friends turned out to accord him an old-fashioned, jubilating serenade. A huge throng gathered in front of the Capitol, with brass bands playing patriotic airs. The candidate for Vice President stepped out upon the portico, to be greeted with thunderous applause. Let us pause to note what manner of man this was, so loyally acclaimed.

"He says he is in every respect a sound man," an insurance examiner reported in April, 1865, thus indorsing Johnson's own belief.1 The Tailor-Statesman was of medium height, his compactly shaped figure giving a hint of sinew, strength and power. Ben Truman, his secretary, thought Johnson "matchlesssly perfect in figure." He always held himself erect, his fine shoulders thrown back. His chest was broad and deep. A large but not unshapely neck sustained a massive, well formed head,2 which so impressed Charles Dickens that he wrote to his son that Johnson's head was splendidly shaped, and that no judge of human nature could look upon Johnson and doubt that be was an extraordinary man. His skin was slightly swarthy, his hair dark and luxuriant; under the stress of the Presidency, it was to thin out to a silver gray.

The striking features of his countenance were his eyes, dark, deep-set, and piercing. Major Truman tells us that they were small, "black, sparkling, and absolutely beautiful." His forehead, a contemporary asserts, "was not exceptionally high, but very wide and perpendicular." Above his eyes were two "remarkable bumps or protuberances, swelling out from his brow."3 He had a large nose, a large and mobile mouth and a firm chin. Colonel Crook, a White House attendant, says it was very square, jutted out at an obstinate angle and bad a combative cleft in it.4 His hands and feet were small.

He did not smile readily. "On his front," says George W. Jones, who loved him, "deliberation sat, and public care." But when he did smile and it was chiefly with children--his face became marvelously attractive. One little boy who lunched at the White House with Johnson's grandson, remembered

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