Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LXXXIX
PEACE AT LAST

Two days after his denunciation of the Grant administration, the executive session of the Senate ended, and Johnson returned to Greeneville. The consciousness of personal power, and the exhilaration of his opportunity to use it, seemed to give him a new strength.1 The chance to lead in the Senate of the United States the lost cause of justice, the chance, perhaps, once more to vindicate his own and Lincoln's cause, had fired his spirit. He was the first ex-President to come back to the Senate, perhaps his full vindication would lead him to the White House once again!

He rested quietly in his home until the summer came. Some forty miles from Greeneville, in the mountains of Carter County, on the lovely banks of the Watauga River, his daughter Mary Stover lived. In the torrid last days of July Johnson went to visit her. He seemed in splendid health and walked the half-mile to the station with elastic step. Those who saw him on that journey spoke later of his high spirits.2

Peace settled upon him, as he sat with his granddaughter and looked out on the smooth waters of the Watauga, discoursing happily of her approaching marriage. The whole world seemed at peace, and then like a blow struck from behind,--apoplexy! Physicians came, but he had gone beyond their power. For thirtysix hours he lay unconscious; on July 31st his lion heart had ceased to beat.3

"All seems gloom and despair," two years earlier in what seemed a mortal illness he had written, "I have performed my duty to my God, my country and my family. I have nothing to fear. Approaching death to me is the mere shadow of God's protecting wing."

"When I die," in one of his great speeches he had declared,

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