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The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,156 ratings  ·  229 reviews
America's first presidential impeachment: A prize-winning author tells the story of the efforts by heroic citizens to preserve the victories of the Civil War by removing a bigoted president who ruled as if he were king.

When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Vice-President Andrew Johnson became "the Accidental President," it was a dangerous time in America. Congress was
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by Random House
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Start your review of The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation
Now I know why the impeachment of Andrew Johnson was not taught in my high school. Not only is the story too complex for the rote instruction of the time, it was also a time when curriculum never included uncomfortable truths.

Author, Brenda Wineapple, shows Andrew Johnson’s determination to undo the Union victory. He quickly pardoned prominent Confederate warmongers and appointed them to positions of authority. No dog whistles for Johnson. His racist/white supremacist speeches make you cringe bu
Now that the congress is conducting an impeachment investigation of Trump, I thought it would be a good idea to read about Johnson’s impeachment trial. Wineapple recounts the struggle over the implication of the Civil War amid the impeachment of an erratic president.

The book is well written and researched. Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) was a Southern Democrat born in North Carolina. He wanted to return the South to the way it was prior to the War. He had lenient reconstruction policies toward the S
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With all the talk of impeachment coming out of Washington, I thought it a convenient time to read Brenda Wineapple’s comprehensive book about the trial Andrew Johnson faced in the US Senate in 1868. Full of great detail and a narrative that takes the reader through the process, Wineapple provides the reader with a great primer for what may be a prickly endeavour if used again in the near future. The American state was extremely divided in the mid-19th century, a period of civil and social unrest ...more
Christopher Saunders
Engaging account of Andrew Johnson's disastrous presidency, centering on Congress's failed efforts to impeach him. Wineapple knows this period and these personages well, having covered them in previous works like Ecstatic Nation, and does an excellent job crafting the rush of Reconstruction figures into a cohesive narrative. Johnson, taking office after Lincoln's assassination, squandered an initial outburst of goodwill as his plans for Reconstructing the South prove a betrayal of racial ideals. ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Impeachment put the President on notice."

I heard the author give a talk to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society in May 2019 about this book. Her talk was fascinating and it prompted me to buy the book, however, I did not decide to read it until the current impeachment inquiry began, I wanted some historical context. Wineapple's book tells the story of the first presidential impeachment in American history of Andrew Johnson. Wineapple's writing is great and the book reads like a novel. At times I
Donald Powell
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a fun page turner that revealed real, detailed history. She writes with an angle from current times but explains, as best the record will permit, the motivations, manipulations and goals of many players. This may become a definitive work on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. I have read several books from this era and learned a way of seeing some of the players from a deeper perspective and greater understanding. This would be a great book for freshman studying political science.

A great
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The 13th amendment had some unintended consequences. One was the abolition of the 3/5ths rule that counted slaves as only 3/5ths of a person for representation. That meant that when and if the southern states were readmitted to the union they instantly gained 20 more representatives and the opportunity to win back everything they had lost during the war. Already, former slave owners and whites were attacking, beating, and killing any black who might venture onto the street, especially anyone the ...more
Kara Babcock
I grew up in the ’90s, and I vaguely remember on TV when I was a kid some kind of scandal involving this guy named Bill Clinton, whom I knew as the President of the United States. The word impeachment kept getting thrown around, but of course I didn’t really know what that meant. Fast-forward 20 years, and the word has resurfaced as a possible fate for the current President, Donald Trump—and this time, I knew what the word meant, but I didn’t really understand what impeachment entails. So Brenda ...more
Casey Wheeler
This book is well written and researched. I have read about the presidency of Andrew Johnson, but this is the first that goes into detail about his impeachment. It is well a well known fact that Andrew Johnson was not one of the better Presidents that we have had lead our nation. He worked to overturn many of the intended consequences as a result of the southern states losing the Civil War and extended extreme racial bias on a wide basis for another century and more. The book goes into detail ab ...more
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Brenda Wineapple does a very good job of "setting the stage". so to speak for what led up to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson by giving a detailed background of his actions and views that caused so many members of the Senate to despise him and wish to remove him from office. Long before we get to the impeachment process itself, the reader may find his or herself agreeing heartily that Johnson definitely needs to go and wondering how he ever got there in the first place. After all, he was and re ...more
Matthew Burroughs
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Brenda Wineapple is an engrossing history of one of the most important moments in American history: reconstruction after the Civil War. This was a period that was never taught too much in school at least from my experiences. It could have been that I just wasn't paying enough attention in class, but that's a story for another time. Due to my obsession with Ken Burns documentaries, I have a fairly good grip on the narra ...more
Porter Broyles
I suspect that most people who are reading this book are doing so because this is a new book and the current political environment has elevated the concept of impeachment. If that describes you, then this is a perfectly suitable book. {EDIT: Please make sure to read the comment I added 2 weeks after finishing this book.}

The book is well written and enjoyable.

The book is on exactly what the title describes, “The Impeachers.” Wineapple tells the story by providing short bios on the major characte
Leah K
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
This book feels like it could have been written about today's events. Instead this is a history book about events 150 years ago. The fact that it feels so in line with today is scary to say the least. This was a well researched book. Interesting and educational. A solid 4 star book for me. ...more
Ken Oder
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have trouble wading through the mountains of less interesting details most historians seem to think they should include in historical accounts simply because they discovered them. This book is an exception. Wineapple is a good story teller, and although this book is laden with detail, the story of Andrew Johnson's impeachment and her writing style make it all very interesting.
Johnson is a fascinating character of unparalleled strength and monumental weakness. The only President who never atten
Sep 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting and timely book, and I had my nose glued to it for long segments of time. I do recommend it for a perspective on impeachment, but I have two caveats:

1. The author spent so much time focused on the personalities and politics of the impeachment trial that he all but overlooked the fact that the actual articles of impeachment were badly written and misdirected. Should Johnson have been impeached? I think so, but not on the basis of the articles submitted. Poorly defined
Donna Pingry
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
If only a decent president had followed Abraham Lincoln! Andrew Johnson was a much bigger crook than Nixon yet Nixon at least had enough honor to leave. This book got long winded in many parts but that's politics for you. I didn't know anything about the Radical Republican Party before I read this book. I find myself wondering why none of this is required high school teaching. Just like today, political opinions are easily bought and paid for. Promises and honor lay in the dust. Our generation i ...more
John DiConsiglio
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was once seen as Reconstruction run amok. (Even JFK applauded his “courage.”) Historians have long since adjusted their thinking. An “accidental president” who took office 6 weeks into Lincoln’s 2nd term, Johnson was an unapologetic racist. He saw himself more as a king than a chief executive. Wineapple juggles a large Civil War cast & the ill-defined impeachment process. She handles it like a courtroom drama, even if we already know the verdict. Is it fair to compar ...more
Summary: A history of the accidental presidency of Andrew Johnson, his resistance to the civil rights fought for in the Civil War, and the impeachment proceedings against him.

Impeachment. Only twice in American history has Congress pursued impeachment proceedings against a President of the United States. Neither instance resulted in conviction of "high crimes and misdemeanors." This book chronicles the first instance where this remedy was pursued, during the presidency of Andrew Johnson.

Brenda W
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating history of the first instance of presidential impeachment in US history. I only meant to skim the book but got drawn in by the colorful characters, the superb writing and the sheer drama of the historical moment.

The U.S. Civil War had just ended, Republican president Lincoln had died, and his VP, who'd been plucked from the rival Democratic party because he was the sole southern senator who'd been anti-secession and therefore his inclusion on the ticket helped convey a pro-Union pol
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A poignant biography, a haunting, lyrical treatment of the nation's first impeachment trial. I found this book to be very, very persuasive and also immensely entertaining. The author tells the story of Andrew Johnson; president due to an assassin's bullet. Along the way we meet politicians of many stripes. Some honest crusaders, some charlatans, some who fall under both categories at once. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in presidential history, as well as Civil War buffs. An ex ...more
A great and engaging history of a time not covered well enough US History classes, much to the detriment of our society. Reading about Johnson's handling of the early years of Reconstruction helped me understand why we're still left fighting some of the same battles over 150 years later. ...more
Jim Twombly
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding portrayal of the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. A must read for anyone seeking to understand the arguments about what impeachment is or should be. It is also noteworthy how much there is in common between Johnson and Trump.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book is in general, great to fantastic.

At the same time, it's got a flaw bad enough that it loses as star for it and also makes me somewhat question Wineapple as a historian.

All the good stuff first, then the flaw at the end.

First, Wineapple does a great job of setting the stage. Long before the KKK was invented and Bedford Forest was asked to lead it, white violence against blacks was real. As in the first days after the war ended.

Johnson’s failure to act immediately could be seen as polit
Jan Lynch
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Given the impeachment of Donald Trump and the divisive political atmosphere, I’ve been reading around the Civil War as an earlier era of discord against which to measure the present. Learning about history often provides solace, but my reading this time has not been comforting. The Civil War era is complicated, its heroes and villains ambiguous. A simple narrative of values that runs like this is simply wrong: Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator who freed slaves and became a martyr; Northe ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall, I found this to be a very good read- it's extremely informative, well researched, and I thought it did a good job getting into the personalities who were at the heart of the push to impeach President Johnson, as well as the history of his path to the presidency.

If I had any complaint, it would be that I thought the book jumped around a bit, which at times made it a bit harder to read. Couple that with the few really dry parts in the book (it has to happen- this is a book about politics
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well, that was a rather depressing read. I can see that history & political cowardice is probably going to repeat itself during the current impeachment go-round. There were so many parallels, probably because the moderate/centrist is going to conspire with white supremacy (again) to maintain that mythical status quo of "peace."

At least Wineapple's book gave me greater appreciation for Benjamin Wade, Charles Sumner & Thaddeus Stevens. HEROES.
Kate McMurray
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I started reading the book during the Trump impeachment trial, which was an interesting exercise in comparisons. I thought the book was great; I knew some about the Johnson impeachment but learned a lot I didn't, particularly about the specific players involved and what was happening in the country at the time.

Some thoughts, in no particular order.

• You can see some parallels in the sorts of men who may become so corrupt as to necessitate being removed from office. Johnson had an inferiority c
David  Cook
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Andrew Johnson was called an accidental president, a Tennessean who was anti-secessionist and pro-Union yet held racist and white supremacist beliefs. Johnson was a U.S. senator and a “War Democrat,” a member of the faction that supported military action against the 11 Confederate states. Abraham Lincoln, fearing for his re-election chances in 1864, named Johnson as his running mate in an attempt to balance the Republican ticket and shore up support in a nation battered and exhausted by years of ...more
This book is not for the feint of heart, but the true lover of history. Wineapple gives us this dense, detailed, and exhaustive account of the events before, during, and after the impeachment of Andrew Johnson which show the complex, integral politics of the 185o's to the 1880's.

Readers delve into the personalities of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and how they all play a part in the first successful impeachment of a U.S. President. Remember, that impeachment just means that
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received an advance ebook copy of this book in return for my honest review.

For anyone interested in getting a more in-depth idea of the thoughts of the key Congressional figures in Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial and the dilemmas with which they grappled, this book is for you!! The author's thorough research into the extensive cast of characters involved in this particular historical event shines through on each page. The book adopts a chronological narrative form, which allows each person
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Brenda Wineapple is the author of the award-winning Hawthorne: A Life, Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner, and Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in many publications, among them The American Scholar, The New York Times Book Review, Parnassus, Poetry, and The Nation. A Guggenheim fellow, a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, an ...more

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“Impeaching a President implies that we make mistakes, grave ones, in electing or appointing officials, and that these elected men and women might be not great but small—unable to listen to, never mind to represent, the people they serve with justice, conscience, and equanimity. Impeachment suggests dysfunction, uncertainty, and discord—not the discord of war, which can be memorialized as valorous, purposeful, and idealistic, but the far less dramatic and often squalid, sad, intemperate conflicts of peace, partisanship, race, and rancor. Impeachment implies a failure—a failure of government of the people to function, and of leaders to lead. And presidential impeachment means failure at the very top.” 2 likes
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