Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I’m late posting today. Somewhere, I lost a day due to a hectic, crazy weekend and week. Now I realize it’s Wednesday.

Nancy (nee Wood) and
William Harrison Johnson
circa 1885
What is going on
with her hair?
 Commemorating the start of the Civil War still, today I want to post about an ancestor who fought in the war. He didn’t want to. This man, William Harrison Johnson, believed he should mind his own business and take care of his farm and family. He truly believed he could get away with taking care of his own and letting everyone else do the same. Nope, didn’t work.

A distant relative, a villainous man who shall remain nameless here, confronted Johnson and told him that if he did not enlist in the Confederacy, his farm would be burned, his wife and daughters raped and killed, and his sons would be killed. Johnson knew this man meant it, because he had the reputation to back up the claim. The relative was one mean sonofagun! But that’s another story - an interesting but long one I'll save for another time or for a book.

Thomas Vestal Johnson
William Harrison Johnson and his sons William Riley and Thomas Vestal enlisted. Riley went to a neighboring town with friends, but Thomas (who was barely sixteen) enlisted with his father in the Sardis Volunteers. Early into the war, William and Thomas were separated. William served in Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Battle of Chicamauga, GA. He was hospitalized in Atlanta. When Sherman approached Atlanta, William hurried to move his parents and sister Caroline away from the city to Northwest Georgia where he lived. Definitely not heroic--unless you were an elderly couple or the daughter caring for them. William lived until 1899 and is buried in Rome, Georgia.

Thomas continued to do what he saw as his duty. Among the battles in which he fought were Gettysburg and the Second Battle of Manassas. Once the war was over, he vowed never to fire another gun. He married Sarah Bailey and they had a son. After only a few years, Sarah died of childbed fever. Luckily for me, Thomas remarried. Eleven years after the end of the Civil War, Thomas and his brother James came to Texas. James went back to Georgia, but Thomas and his new wife and baby remained near Waco.

This 150th anniversary has many engaging in heated and serious debates about the justification and causes of the Civil War. Not me. For good or ill, it’s a part of our history but we don’t want to repeat it. Regardless of the pros and cons, we need to study it to protect our peace and our freedom.

“Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.”

from The Wild Rose Press
My story, LONG WAY HOME, in the Civil War anthology NORTHERN ROSES AND SOUTHERN BELLES is very loosely based on my family in Northwest Georgia and is the only non-Texas setting I’ve ever used. I fictionalized Rome, Georgia, but I remember visiting the town. Lovely setting and probably a nice place in which to live.

Friday, I’ll write about another aspect of the Civil War.

Thanks for stopping by.


Susan Macatee said...

So many real and fascinating stories came out of this war. And you're right, we should never forget our history.

I think a lot of men who enlisted--both North and South--were either bullied or shamed into joining, even if they disagreed with the reasons for going to war. Even General Lee thought declaring war was a bad idea, but he couldn't fight against his home State of Virginia.

Maria Papadopoulou said...

What an intense story...It is really impossible not to carry these experiences with you, wherever you go, whatever you do.