Friday, March 2, 2018

Personality Spotlight - Bradley T. Johnson

At work we have a significant archive of unprocessed antebellum letters relating to Gen. Bradley T. Johnson. I've not delved too deeply into them as yet. One quick glace showed that they are not the most legible, and some are written in one direction and then perpendicular back across the first lines. These should be fun to transcribe - (sarcasm!)

I had certainly come across Johnson's name in my Civil War reading a number of times, yet I realized that I did not know much anything about him. As so often happens, this got my historian's curiosity stirred, so I thought I do a little research to see what I could learn. I was not able to find a full biography published about Johnson. One reason for that may be that his papers are scattered in various repositories, and there may be others out there unprocessed such as ours with the primary source material necessary to form a good life story.

Johnson was born in 1829 in Frederick, Maryland. He had the benefit of an excellent education at Princeton and entered public life after graduation serving in a number of political positions in his native state before the Civil War. A strong Democrat, Johnson stumped for John C. Breckinridge in the 1860 presidential election. When the war came he was found helping organize Marylanders sympathetic to the Confederate cause.

In the summer of 1861, Johnson was on the staff of the 1st Maryland (CSA) serving as the regiment's major. The unit fought gallantly at First Manassas where promotions above elevated Johnson as well. As the 1st Maryland's Lieutenant Colonel, the regiment experienced a lull in active campaigning. However, Johnson benefited again from others' promotions and was made colonel of the 1st in the summer of 1862.

Bradley and the 1st Maryland served in Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign that spring and summer, fighting memorably against fellow Marylanders at the Battle of Front Royal. They followed up their Valley fighting by transferring to Richmond and opposing McClellan's forces in the Seven Days' battles.

When the 1st Maryland was disbanded in August 1862, Johnson was left without a command. He had caught the eye of Jackson though, who placed him in temporary command of a brigade whose commander was ill. In this position Johnson led troops successfully at Second Manassas. When the brigade commander returned Johnson was out again. However, Jackson soon tabbed Johnson for promotion to brigadier general, but he was denied.

Johnson remained in limbo for about six months in Richmond assigned to various duties about the city. He assisted the Army of Northern Virginia in the Gettysburg Campaign during the summer of 1863, and following that, he organized diverse Maryland units to form a force called the Maryland Line, In the spring of 1864 he helped defend Richmond against a Union cavalry raid seeking to burn the city and capture president Jefferson Davis, in so doing earning praise from his superiors for his leadership performance.

Working along with cavalrymen J.E.B. Stuart and Wade Hampton, Johnson finally earned his brigadier commission during the Overland Campaign. His cavalry assisted Jubal Early's move through the Shenandoah Valley the summer and fall of 1864. During the campaign Johsnon was tasked with attempting the liberation of Confederate soldiers held at Point Lookout prison. Unable to do so he returned to Early's command and assisted in the burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania with John McCausland's troopers. A consolidation of cavalry caused Johnson to lose his command and he was assigned to oversee the Confederate prison camp at Salisbury, North Carolina, where he served until the end of the war.

Johnson lived in both Virginia and Maryland after the war practicing law. He died near Amelia, Virginia, in 1903, and was buried in Baltimore.

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