Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XX
JOHNSON COMPLETES HIS WORK IN TENNESSEE

LET us turn back to Tennessee and observe Andrew Johnson in his final healing work of reconstruction. Four days after the Presidential election, a call was issued for a state convention to be held on December 19th, at Nashville.1 A good many events were to occur between those dates,--events of vital moment, not to Tennessee alone, but to the United States as well.

The unhappy residents of his state had no reason to doubt that a war was going on throughout 1864. When in November, Hood led the remnant of his Confederate army westward to Decatur, Alabama, he hoped to frighten Sherman back to Nashville.2 Something must be done--there was to be no repetition of 1862, when Buell left Andrew Johnson to defend the capital almost with his bare hands! General George Henry Thomas was a Virginian who remained loyal to the United States. He was a gallant Union officer.3 As Hood approached, Sherman detached Thomas with 60,000 veterans and sent him to defend the capital.4 He was a good man to send! Johnson was glad to have him come! They had much in common, these two Southerners who had remained loyal to the Union!

On December 15th, Thomas destroyed Hood's army.5 At last in Tennessee the work of reconstruction could proceed. The Convention called for December 19th had been postponed until January 9th, 1865, because of Hood's invasion. It met at Nashville on that day,6 and three days later Andrew Johnson appeared before the delegates.7 The stage was set for him, and without difficulty he filled the leading rôle.8 Under his leadership, amendments to the state constitution abolishing slavery were submitted to the people, and the ordinance of secession was repealed.9

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