Senate Trial of President Andrew Johnson, May 16, 1868, Eye-Witness Account by Johnson’s bodyguard William H. Crook TEXT

On May 16th the vote was taken.

Every one who by any possible means could get a ticket of admission to the Senate chamber produced it early that morning at the Capitol. The floor and galleries were crowded.

The journal was read: the House of Representatives was notified that the Senate, 'sitting for the trial of the President upon the articles of impeachment,' was ready to receive the other House in the Senate chamber. The question of voting first upon the eleventh article was decided.

While the clerk was reading the legal statement of those crimes of which, in the opinion of the House of Representatives, the President was guilty, some people fidgeted and some sat with their hands tensely clasped together. At the end, the Chief-Justice directed that the roll be called. The clerk called out:

“Mr. Anthony.” Mr. Anthony rose.

“Mr. Anthony”-the Chief-Justice fastened his eyes upon the Senator – “how say you? Is the respondent, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, guilty or not guilty of a high misdemeanor as charged in this article?”

“Guilty,” answered Mr. Anthony.

A sigh went round the assemblage. Yet Mr. Anthony's vote was not in doubt. A two-thirds vote of thirty-six to eighteen was necessary to convict. Thirty-four of the Senators were pledged to vote against the President. Mr. Fowler, of Tennessee, it was known, would probably vote for acquittal, although there was some doubt. Senator Ross was the sphinx; no one knew his position.

The same form was maintained with each Senator in turn. When Fowler's name was reached, every one leaned forward to catch the word.

“Not guilty,” said Senator Fowler.

The tension grew. There was a weary number of names before that of Ross was reached. When the clerk called it, and Ross stood forth, the crowd held its breath.

“Not guilty,” called the Senator from Kansas.

It was like the babbling over of a caldron. The Radical Senators, who had been laboring with Ross only a short time before, turned to him in rage; all over the house people began to stir. The rest of the roll-call was listened to with lessened interest, although there was still the chance for a surprise. When it was over, and the result - thirty-five to nineteen -was announced, there was a wild outburst, chiefly groans of anger and disappointment, for the friends of the President were in the minority.

I ran all the way from the Capitol to the White House. I was young and strong in those days, and I made good time. When I burst into the library, where the President sat with Secretary Welles and two other men whom I cannot remember, they were quietly talking. Mr. Johnson was seated at a little table on which luncheon had been spread in the rounding southern end of the room. There were no signs of excitement.

“Mr. President,” I shouted, too crazy with delight to restrain myself, “you are acquitted!”

All rose. I made my way to the President and got hold of his hand. The other men surrounded him, and bean to shake his hand. The President responded to their congratulations calmly enough for a moment, and then I saw that tears were rolling down his face. I stared at him; and yet I felt I ought to turn my eyes away.

It was all over in a moment, and Mr. Johnson was ordering some whiskey from the cellar. When it came, he himself poured it into glasses for us, and we all stood up and drank a silent toast. There were some sandwiches on the table; we ate some and then we felt better. In a few minutes came a message of congratulation from Secretary Seward to “my dear friend.” By that time the room was full of people, and I slipped away.