I remember hearing a story about a Senator who cast the deciding vote not to impeach Andrew Johnson, even though he despised Andrew Johnson, because he didn't think Johnson was guilty and it would set a bad precedent. In the story I heard, he was deathly ill but was brought back to Congress just to make this vote.

I did a search and could not find any evidence that this ever happened. I started to think that maybe it had nothing to do with Andrew Johnson and that I'm confusing different stories, because Johnson avoided being impeached by a single vote.

Anybody know what I'm talking about?

2 Answers 2


The story of a senator leaving his sickbed to save Andrew Johnson from conviction may have it roots in the 1942 movie, Tennessee Johnson.

The climactic scene is described in the Wikipedia article (retrieved 12:19, July 29, 2017):

The vote is close, with 35 judging him guilty and 18 not, but Senator Huyler is unconscious and unable to vote. Stevens, who is counting on him, delays the final verdict until Huyler can be roused and brought in for the deciding vote. To his dismay, Huyler votes not guilty.

This scene is purely fictional. There wasn't even a Huyler in the Senate.

  • That must have been what I heard. Thanks for clearing that up.
    – jonstieg
    Jul 30, 2017 at 21:03

Are you perhaps thinking of Maryland Senator George W. Vickers?

He was elected to the US Senate in 1868, just as the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson was getting underway. Apparently, men crossed the Chesapeake Bay in an ice-boat to wake him in the middle of the night and inform him of his election. Vickers then hurried to Washington, and was sworn in just in time to cast the deciding vote against impeachment.

Vickers' election was subsequently unsuccessfully challenged by Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.

The full story of Andrew Jackson's impeachment hearings (from Friday 13 March 1868 to Tuesday 26 May), including Vickers being sworn in on 13 March - just in time to serve on the Court of Impeachment (page 6), is recorded in a Supplement to the 1868 issue of The Congressional Globe (the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress from the 23rd Congress in 1833 through to the 42nd Congress in 1873). It runs to a mere 552 pages ...

  • The Chesapeake was frozen enough to cross the ice? At least in one way, times have changed. Jul 28, 2017 at 23:39
  • 1
    @axsvl77: baltimoresun.com/…
    – Spencer
    Jul 29, 2017 at 0:00
  • 2
    @ axsvl77 Note this ice boat didn't travel on the ice, but cut through the ice. See this article.
    – justCal
    Jul 29, 2017 at 13:19
  • Wikipedia's Vickers article used a single source, Slavery and the Civil War, which is a bit dramatic when describing the timing of events. Vickers was in D.C. on March 7 to be sworn in. The trial didn't start until March 23. The first vote wasn't taken until May 16, more than two months after Vickers arrived. It appears the historical society was fluffing up the role of the hometown boy just a bit.
    – D Krueger
    Jul 29, 2017 at 16:01
  • @DKrueger Although elected on March 7 (to replace Senator-elect Philip F. Thomas who had failed to qualify), The Congressional Globe shows that Vickers wasn't sworn in until March 13th - just in time to serve in the Court of Impeachment for the trial that began the same day (not March 23). The motion to impeach failed to reach the required two-thirds majority by a single vote .... Jul 29, 2017 at 16:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.