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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  744 ratings  ·  153 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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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
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
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
Ben 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
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 ...more
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 ...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
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 ...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
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
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.

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
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.
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 ...more
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
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 ...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
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Despite the title, this book is more a general history of Andrew Johnson's presidency rather than anything specific about the impeachers or the impeachment. That's not to suggest that there isn't a fair amount of impeachment-related content here, since impeachment debates dominated years of the Johnson administration. But Wineapple often seems indifferent to pivotal moments and people in the process; for instance, when a member of the House Judiciary Committee abruptly changes his vote and ...more
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
Josh Wine
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
This is an interesting work on an even in history that is well known, but not typically discussed in great detail. While the book picks up as the Impeachment trial is discussed, the first 100 or so pages are a bit tedious in introducing the various actors in the trial. Wineapple does an very thorough job in conveying events of the impeachment and the motivations of the president's accusers and defenders.

In reading this work, the dominant takeaway is that Andrew Johnson was a racist and had no
Ronny Grethel
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If like me you were too young to remember the impeachment of Bill Clinton well, this book is a great way to learn about the impeachment process. As a bonus you get to learn about one of those areas of History that were frequently skipped over in school. Andrew Johnson is perhaps a direct historical case of a man while brilliant, did not have the temperament to be president. If you replace Andrew Johnson in the epilogue with Donald Trump you would be hard-pressed to figure out if it was written ...more
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This seemed like a particularly fitting book to read given the political climate and though I was familiar with the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, reading this much in-depth analysis of it was something else. Though I would have preferred more insight into Johnson himself, we’re kept at a distance from him which may have been intentional, The Impeachers offers fascinating and fast-paced insight into another turbulent time in America. More than anything, as infuriating as this whole process was, ...more
Ross Bonander
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book taught me a lot of US history- about Johnson, his impeachment, Reconstruction, widespread post Civil War racial violence, to name just a few topics. My only critique is that the text was laden with so many quotations that you don't enjoy-- you aren't even aware of-- the author's skills as a writer of spectacular prose until the Epilogue.

Which, I'll add, she crushes in thoroughly American prose- not the pandering red white and blue kind, rather the uplifting liberty and justice for all
Ariel Trees
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Couldn't finish...interesting topic but I just went to Wikipedia and other smaller info sources instead Might try to revisit but the story wasn't very engrossing once the trajectory was clear. ...more
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.
Audrey Mckay

It’s unfortunate that this history will repeat itself.
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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, ...more
“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.” 1 likes
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