Three hundred thousand Northern soldiers died in the American Civil War (1860-1865). The southern part of American had suffered the loss of 270,000 soldiers. Many in the north wanted a hard peace. Senators Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens wanted the South punished for causing the American Civil War.
The gentlemen of the Senate — who had never faced the bullets of battle — may have become more heated about the peace than they had over the war.
Fierce lobbying took place as momentum built to impeach President Andrew Johnson, the man who took over as president when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Johnson fought the war to save the Union. It was saved. The goal had been accomplished. He could forgive the south.
But impeachment fever spread. On the day the vote was taken, Senator Fowler of Tennessee came into the chamber. Several radicals intercepted him and reminded him that he had previously said the President deserved to be impeached. He pushed past them, sat down and waited until Chief Justice Chase called for his vote.
When called upon for his vote, Fowler muttered a response. “Guilty” is what some thought they heard Fowler say.
“Did the court hear his answer,” Sumner called out in a challenging and menacing tone?
When Fowler was asked to repeat his answer, Fowler shouted so loudly “Not guilty” that people blinked and pulled back. Some believed that because of the bullying by the Northern war hawks, Fowler had an instant change of mind on the spot. Bullying can backfire.