William C Reiff, 'Inquiry for Col Johnson'

Inquiry for Col Johnson

['Inquiry for Col Johnson', C Reiff, Charleston News and Courier (Charleston SC), Monday 3 June 1907, page 2]
[transcribed from GenealogyBank, 22 March 2013]

Gen Boyd Receives Request from Mexico for an Officer's Address.

Columbia, June 2.--Special: Time's work in effacing the bitterness of war is in no way better shown than through the letters which from time to time are written by the soldiers of the Union or of the Confederate army in inquiry for some former foe whom they met on the field of battle or in the prison. Another of these inquiries has been received here, addressed to the Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina, and was turned over by Gen Boyd to Mr A. S. Salley, Jr, secretary of the South Carolina State Historical Commission. It is an inquiry for Lieut Col Johnson, of the 6th South Carolina cavalry, and is as follows:

Carlsbad, Eddy County, New Mexico, May 24, 1907.--Dear Sir: If it is within the power of your office to secure for me the present address of a certain Lieut Col Johnson, late of the 6th South Carolina cavalry (Confederate) or if dead the addresses of any surviving comrades of that command--or of any of his relatives who may be living, please to thus favor me at your earliest convenience, and now receive thanks in advance for whatever you may be able to do to put me in possession of the desired addresses. The official records of the late war make mention of the fact that upon April 9, 1865, I think that is the correct date, that a brother of mine, a Union cavalry officer, and Col Johnson met in personal combat somewhere in East Tennessee, and had a hand to hand sabre fight, which attracted considerable attention at the time. The colonel was taken prisoner, however, and that evening sent for my brother to call upon him, which he did and spent an agreeable evening, each relating to the other and to the gathered comrades just how he felt during the personal encounter, smoked cigars and then parted for the time. Comrade Metzler, of the 15th Pennsylvania cavalry, told me he saw this racket, and had it not been for some soldier parrying the blow, Johnson's sabre would have cleaved my brother's head in two. As it is, he is still alive, and I believe would be pleased to proffer the hand of friendship to his once gallant foe. Metzler mentioned this in 1869 or 1870 to me. I asked me brother about it in 1877 and within the last two years I read General William T Palmer's letter of request for my brother's promotion, as shown in the Rebellion Records.

Very respectfully,

Com C. Reiff, Company H, 91st Penn.

The brother's address is J. C. Reiff, 26 Broad street, New York city, or 247 5th avenue, late adjutant of 15th Pennsylvania cavalry.

This is a very pretty story, but if the encounter took place as related it must have been an officer from some other States [sic], as there was no Col Johnson in the South Carolina cavalry, and the 6th South Carolina cavalry was never in East Tennessee. Perhaps Col Johnson was the commander of a North Carolina regiment.

The commander of the 6th South Carolina cavalry was the gallant Col Hugh K. Aiken, who was killed in February, 1865, near Stokes Bridge, in Darlington County. Gen Butler had sent him with one hundred men on an expedition and fearing that he had encountered a force of Sherman's men later sent Col Zimmerman Davis, commanding the 5th South Carolina cavalry, to his relief. Returning, riding together, Cols Aiken and Davis at the head of their column encountered a force of Union soldiers, who had formed a half circle across the road and in leading the charge against the enemy Col Aiken was shot and killed by Lieut McQueen, the Federal officer in command. Lieut McQueen was in turn shot down by Col Davis, and thereupon produced a letter from Dr A Toomer Porter, of Charleston, asking that if McQueen were captured by Hampton's army he be treated kindly in return for favors shown Dr Porter previously. Lieut McQueen, an officer of the 15th Illinois, recovered and was always a friend of Dr Porter.

The lieutenant colonel of the 6th cavalry was L. M. Miller, who is now living at Ocala, Fla. and the major was the late Thomas B. Ferguson, of Greenville, one of the most gallant men who ever drew a sabre.

J. H.
[Wm J Palmer, report to Maj G M Bascom, Hdqrs. Cavalry Division, Dist. of East Tennessee, Huntsville, Ala., May 24, 1865. The War of the rebellion: a complication of the Official records of the Union and Confederate Armies series 1, volume 49, part II, page 555]
[transcribed from Cornell Making of America, 22 March 2013]

Third. I desire to recommend for honorable mention and promotion the following officers of my command, to wit: ... Adjt. Josiah C. Reiff, for gallantry in the above-mentioned charge in front of Greensborough [on 11 April 1865], in which he wounded with the saber and captured Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, commanding battalion of the Sixth [Third] South Carolina Cavalry; also for skill and success throughout the campaign in getting acquainted with and in clearly reporting the movements of the enemy. ...

[According to the Confederate service records available on Fold3 (accessed 22 March 2013), Thomas H Johnson served as captain of co K of the 3rd South Carolina Cavalry, and then as Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. He was 36 years old when he mustered in, on 27 January 1862, at Fort Drayton, Red Bluff, South Carolina. That record includes the following letter from Johnson (pp.138-140 of the Fold3 records):]

Rock Hill SC
April 20th 1865

To the Hon Jno C Breckenridge
Secretary of War


I have the honour to submit for your consideration the following state [sic] of facts. On the 11th Inst about 5 AM I was captured by the 15th Penna Cavl Lt Col Betz comd, about a mile from the village of Friendship, and about ten miles NW of Greensboro, Guildford County NC. The same day I was carried by my captors west of the Yadkin River, about forty two miles north of the place of capture. The next day I was carried by them about four miles in the same direction. Here my parole was offered to and accepted by me, and I took the following oath--

Hd Qrs 1st Brig Cavl Div Dist E S
In the Field April 12 1865

I Lt Col T H Johnson do hereby solemly swear that I will not bear arms for nor assist in any manner the enemies of the United States styling themselves the Confederate States of America until duly exchanged as prisoner of war.

Sworn to before
Lt R J Stewart
Pro Mar

It is proper to state that on being interogated [sic] by Brvt Brig Genl Palmer and Lt Col Betz, I stated that so far as my knowledge went, I regarded a parole under these circumstances as obligatory, as if every thing had been conducted through the regular channels, that Lt R J Stewart Provost Marshal who administered the oath stated that paroles of this sort were recognized by both Governments; and that I regarded escape or recapture improbable in the extreme; and the ability of my captors to carry me to Camp Chase Ohio, or any other of their prison camps, to be beyond question.

As some doubts have been suggested in regard to the obligation of my oath, in consequence in consequence [sic] of the cartel agreed on by the two Governments, as to the positive laws of which I am uninformed; I would respectfully ask whether said oath is regarded by the Department as obligatory upon me. What is my duty in the premises [??] ? And in case the Department regards the oath taken by me as not obligatory, and I should be again captured in arms by the enemy, prior to my exchange, wheather [sic] I would receive from the United States the treatment of a prisoner of war, without reference to my former capture and parole

I have the honour to remain very Respectfully yours

Thos H Johnson
Lt Col 3d So Ca Cavl
[According to a family tree on Ancestry.com ('Stephen Rigg's tree of many branches', owner Stephen Rigg, accessed 23 March 2013), Johnson was Thomas Hewlett Johnson, born 1825, in Barnwell District, South Carolina, to Richard C Johnson and Elizabeth A Hewlett, and buried in Old Concord Baptist Church Cemetery, Appleton, Allendale County, South Carolina. He died after 1893 ['Carolina at the capital', State [Columbia South Carolina] Thursday 13 April 1893, page 1 (available on GenealogyBank)--claims that 'Col. Thomas H. Johnson, of Barnwell county' applied to be surveyor of customs at Beaufort]. According to another article, which I transcribed below, he died before--and apparently not long before--18 January 1897.]

['...Death of Col Thomas H. Johnson', Charleston News and Courier, Wednesday 20 January 1897, page 6 (transcribed from GenealogyBank, 23 March 2013)]

Barnwell, January 18.--Special: In the death of Col Thomas H. Johnson of the Savannah River section of the county, a prominent and public-spirited citizen has passed away. He was lieutenant colonel in the Confederate service, and was a useful and determined leader in the revolution of 1876. He was a member of the House in 1880-82, and ended his days in peace and honor, leaving an honorable record as a heritage to his children.

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revised 22 Mar 13
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