Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LXXXVII
JOHNSON LOOKS OUT UPON THE RECONSTRUCTION

ELBERT CLAY REEVES was a soldier of the Confederacy. Reeves had been reared on a farm in the County of Washington adjoining that where Johnson lived. He had nevertheless, at the very outbreak of the war between the states, cast in his lot upon the side of Southern independence. Major General Cheatham, the "BullDog Fighter" of Bragg's army, had been the commander of his division. But when finally the tattered followers of the Stars and Bars came trooping home, Col. Reeves selected Greeneville as the point from which to embark upon the practice of the law. His diminutive law library contained the Code of Tennessee and the law course of Cumberland University, and such hopes and fears as young and impecunious lawyers traditionally have known. Here in April, 1869, amid the fresh hot memories of the war, surrounded by more ardent and aggressive Union sympathizers than Massachusetts could have boasted, this youthful Confederate veteran, having abandoned arms, took up his new profession.1

It was at about this time that Greeneville's most distinguished citizen came home. With such prejudice against the great Union leader as would be natural in a young Confederate soldier, Col. Reeves had had Andrew Johnson pointed out to him, but he had never met him. He was able then to recognize by sight the caller who entered his small office not more than three days after it was opened. "Mr. Reeves, I suppose," his visitor observed, "my name is Andrew Johnson. I was informed that you had come to our town and had opened a law office. Pardon me; I have called to meet you and to give you a welcome."

The ex-President declined a seat, but pacing the floor continued: "I beg pardon for volunteering a few remarks; a young attorney must build up a practice; fees come slowly at first, and

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