Health and Medical History of President

Andrew Johnson

President #17: 1865-1869
Lived 1808-1875
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Health and Medical History of President

Andrew Johnson

President #17: 1865-1869
Lived 1808-1875
Lived 1808-1875 2023 1776
Revolutionary War
War of 1812
Mexican-American War
Civil War
Spanish-American War
World War 1
World War 2
Korean War
Viet Nam War
Desert Storm
Bush's Wars

Maladies & Conditions  · native intelligence · big head and chest · typhoid fever · not a drunkard · kidney stones · snored · stroke

Odds & Ends · Doctors · Resources · Cited Sources

Maladies and Conditions
native intelligence
Whatever faults Johnson had, no one can dispute his remarkable, inspirational personal story nor the determination and intelligence it displays. His obituary headlined: "The boy who never went to school becomes President" 1 -- but his circumstances were even more lowly than that. MORE
big head and chest
"massive head and deep chest" 2a
typhoid fever
Had typhoid fever during the winter of 1864-1865, and was "slow to recover from the fever" 2a
not a drunkard
Johnson was ill on March 4, 1865 -- the day he was to be inaugurated Vice-President and Lincoln president. He wanted to skip the ceremony, but Lincoln persuaded him otherwise 3a. To steady his nerves, Johnson had "three stiff drinks of whisky [sic]" and became drunk 2b. He walked into the inauguration ceremonies red-faced, on the arm of outgoing Vice President Hannibal Hamlin 4a. Then, during his speech, he talked too much and rather incoherently, leading to his reputation as the "drunken tailor." Lincoln defended him: "I have known Andrew Johnson for many years. He made a slip the other day, but you need not be scared; Andy ain't a drunkard" 3a.

Nevertheless, the consequences of this episode persisted. MORE

kidney stones
While president, Johnson chronically suffered from kidney stones. This is a painful condition. It has been speculated that "His temperament and ability to compromise were likely impaired by a state of chronic pain [and this] may have adversely contributed to his political failure with far-reaching political and societal consequences" 5.
Reliability of this information is uncertain. 6
The New York Times of Sunday, August 1, 1875 7 quotes a story in the Cincinnati Gazette, dated the prior day:
This morning at about 2 o'clock ex-President Johnson died at the residence of his daughter... from a paralytic stroke. He had been in rather bad health since the adjournment of the last sesson of Congress, but nothing serious was anticipated. On Wednesday morning he left on the train for Carter's Station, and from thence he went on horseback to his daughter's residence, a distance of about seven miles, riding in the hot sun. Arriving there he felt very fatigued, and the same afternoon, about 4 o'clock, his right side was paralyzed, rendering him speechless. His wife was with him at the time, and his [children] were at once sent for.... On Thursday about noon he became conscious and had a partial use of his side again, but it was evident that the great commoner could not live long, and thus surrounded by his entire family and neighboring friends he passed away about 2 o'clock this morning. Much feeling is manifested here and at Knoxville.
Odds and Ends
During Presidency
Ampres Series
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Kansas Series
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Signature Series
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Cited Sources
  1. Anonymous. Andrew Johnson dead. New York Times. 1875; Aug. 1.
  2. Leech, Margaret. Reveille in Washington 1860-1865. Alexandria: Time-Life Books, 1962.
    a  p.451  b  p.453

    Comment: A vivid account of Washington, DC during the Civil War. Won the Pulitzer Prize.

  3. Boller, Paul F. Jr. Presidential Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
    a  p.150
  4. Helm, Katherine. The True Story of Mary, Wife of Lincoln. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1928.
    a  p.244
  5. Canter D, Canter R, Kutikiv A, Uzzo RG. Andrew Johnson's rocky medical and political "calculous" [Abstract]. Journal of Urology. 2011; 185(4S): e416.
  6. Dugan, James. Bedlam in the boudoir. Colliers. 22 Feb. 1947; pages 17, 69-70.

    Comment: Credibility is dubious. Just before a list of Presidents, the article states: "Twenty of the 32 Presidents ... are proved or believed on a thick web of circumstance to have been nocturnal nuisances in the White House."

  7. Anonymous. The ex-president's last hours. New York Times. 1875; Aug. 1, p1.
Other Sources
Pubmed Search   (1 match when checked in March 2013)

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