THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT JOHNSON
May 14, 2013
THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT JOHNSON
By: John L. Kiener
(Editor’s Note: Articles from the “Autobiography of Dr. Abraham of Elizabethton, Tennessee” have been included in a number of issues. Justin White, a student in Dr. Tom Lee’s Historical Methods Class at East Tennessee State University, enhanced with footnotes the account of Dr. Jobe’s attendance at THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT ANDREW JOHNSON. In the chapter of Jobe’s memoirs titled “A Strange Incident,” he tells the story of the death of Johnson and claims to have been the attending physician. No other source outside of Jobe’s memoirs mentions him as the attending physician during Johnson’s death. Here is Jobe’s account as presented in White’s “A” graded paper with some occasional editing. – J. L. Kiener)
When I finished my work at Murphey in Cherokee county, North Carolina, it was my intention to go to the nearest railroad point, Walhalla, South Carolina and send my horse home, by railroad and I intended returning to Raleigh by way of Charleston, South Carolina. (White’s editorial note 1 reads: At this time, Jobe was working as an agent of the United States Post Office in North and South Carolina.)
The night before, I intended starting next morning, I went to bed at my hotel at the usual hour, and slept soundly until about midnight. When I awoke, something troubled me. When I realized that I was wide awake, all my thoughts centered on home, I felt a kind of presentment that something dreadful had happened back at my home in Elizabethton that some of my family was dangerously sick, or some awful accident had happened. It had been less than two weeks since I
left them. I had heard nothing of them since I left, but I could not shake the agonizing feeling off. I concluded to cross the mountains that lie between Murphey, North Carolina and Louden, Tennessee. (White’s editorial note 2 reads: Louden, Tennessee is located approximately 25 miles southwest of Knoxville, along the Tennessee River.)
I put my horse on the freight train on the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia
road, and took the first passenger train and reached home as soon as steam could bring me. This was just after the close of the war, and the mountainous regions were a hiding place for murderers, robbers, bush whackers etc. (White’s editorial note 3 reads: “Bush whacker” is a term for a guerrilla soldier, particularly in rural areas during the Civil War. They were most prominent in areas where there were strong divisions in support for the Union and Confederacy.)
A man had been killed on this mountain a few days before I started from Murphey, but I run all this risk, and came to Louden, and traveled a little in
the night first day, and a little before day the second in order to reach the railroad in time for a certain train. And I reached home a little after night on the second day, to find my little son dying. He passed away the second day after my arrival home. (White’s editorial note 4 reads: Jobe gives no other information about his son’s death. Of his twelve children, six died in infancy.)
RETURN TO RALEIGH
I returned to my headquarters in Raleigh as soon as possible. I soon made the acquaintance of the best, and most influential men of the State, as well as, army officers, all of whom showed me kindness, and favors as occasion offered. The memory of President Johnson will always be dear to me. I never was as much mistaken in any man as I was in him. When I first became acquainted with him in 1837, when he was a Democrat and I was a Whig and on till the War, I could not help looking on him with distrust from the extravagant abuse heaped upon
him by the Whig papers. (White’s editorial note 5 reads: William Brownlow used his popular newspaper The Whig to smear the character of Andrew Johnson during their Congressional campaign in 1844. After Johnson defeated him, Brownlow continued for years to attack him in the press.)
But when the War clouds began to spread over the country it brought us together, and when I became well and intimately acquainted with him, I soon found he was not the man he was reported to be — that is a man who wou1d, as his enemies said, “Sink the Nation, if by doing so he could be promoted.” I found him to be a true patriot — that every interest was sacrificed, if it was in conflict with the true interests of the people. His doctrine was “the greatest good to the greatest number.” His veto message of the second Freedman’s Bureau bill (White’s editorial note 6 reads: The Freedman’s Bureau was a government agency created after the Civil War to aid former slaves in their transition to freedmen. President Johnson vetoed an attempt to increase the power of the Bureau in 1866 to the dismay of many Republicans in Congress. The Bureau was eventually ended by President Ulysses Grant in 1871.) — saying “it could give the President too much power” was proof that he was not selfish and ambitious.
He was a far better man than Parson Brownlow his reviler. (White’s editorial note 7 reads: William “Parson” Brownlow was an influential politician, minister, and newspaper editor from East Tennessee. During the 1840s and 1850s, Brownlow feuded with Andrew Johnson, whom be despised. They formed an uneasy peace at the outbreak of the Civil War, as both men were fiercely anti-secessionist. Johnson and Brownlow both became prominent leaders of the Unionist movement in East Tennessee. After the Civil War, Brownlow served as Tennessee’s Governor (1865-1869) and as a U.S. Senator (1869-1875). Additional note by JLK – Brownlow is listed as one of Washington County’s 108 “Notable People” in the History of Washington County Tennessee in an entry that states in part that he moved his Whig newspaper from Elizabethton to Jonesborough in 1840 and to Knoxville in 1849.)
AT PRESIDENT’S BEDSIDE
He (President Andrew Johnson) continued to be my friend as long as he lived, and showed his steadfast friendship and confidence in me, by calling
me alone to his bedside, in his last illness, which took him from time to eternity. He had an appelectic stroke, (White’s editorial note 8 reads: The correct spelling is apoplectic. In the late 19u century the word “apoplexy” was used to describe a patient’s sudden unconsciousness and death, and could have been used to describe events such as heart attacks, strokes, and aneurisms.) and would have had a second one in a few minutes, if I had not resorted to prompt, and heroic treatment to prevent it. He soon became parylized (White’s editorial note 9 reads: Paralyzed) in one side.
I could see no prospect for his recovery from the first time I saw him, and at once notified the family of the danger, and suggested that they telegraph to Greeneville for his family physician (Dr. Broyles) but he objected. Finally at the end of two days they did telegraph and Dr. Broyles and Taylor came just in time to see him die, only a few hours before he died, which was on the third day after the attack. I remained with him almost constantly day and night, up to within six hours of his death, and left then only to visit another close friend and relative, who was thought to be in about as much danger, but who finally recovered.
I was much astonished at the reporters, who on hearing of the President’s death, hastened to gather the facts connected with his illness — on coming to “Carter’s Depot,” the nearest station on the E. Virginia and Georgia railroad six miles from where he died at his daughters Mrs. Stovers. (White’s editorial note 10 reads: Andrew Johnson’s daughter Mary Stover lived at a farm in the Watauga Valley area of Carter County.)
Here they received information from parties who had merely heard that he died from paralysis, and they contented themselves to make their report to their several newspapers upon the uncertain rumor and they never came to Mrs. Stovers, where he died nor to Elizabethton, two miles away, to ask me what disease be died with.
He died of the appopectis stroke. Some enterprising photographer went so far as to present to the world a picture of the death bed scene, with my picture as the attending physician, and members of the family, etc. Several persons have told me they saw them in Europe, but I never heard of them being offered for sale in this country. (White’s editorial note 11 reads: An illustration of Johnson’s death bed scene does exist, with the caption “U.S. Senator from Tennessee and ex-president of the United States. Died at Greenville, Tenn. July 3 1st, 1875. Aged 66 years, 7 months and 2 days.” The image depicts Johnson’s family and three doctors, possibly confirming Jobe’s account. JLK’s check of the web site finds the illustration is “copyrighted” by The Granger Collection, Image No. 0036852.)
There were no death bed scene pictures taken at Mrs. Stovers — there should have been. I regretted afterwards that I had not had it done; as I could have telegraphed to Nat W. Taylor (White’s editorial note 12 reads: Nathaniel W. Taylor was a member of a distinguished family from East Tennessee. He studied photography in New York and operated a studio out of Asheville, NC, becoming known for his pictures of the rugged terrain in and around Western North Carolina. Taylor at one time had been appointed by President Johnson to the United States Commission on Indian Affairs.) then at Glade Springs, Virginia and could have been on the ground in a few hours, with his instruments and every thing prepared, and would have executed the work in an artistic style.