The Civil War

William Robert Johnson

William Robert Johnson was a struggling farmer in Appomattox Co., never owning his own land. In 1870, though 28, married and with a child, census records list him as a laborer with no property, personal or real, of value.

Service Record:
Enlisted as a Private on 06 July 1863
Drafted in Company C, 18th Infantry Regiment Virginia on 06 July 1863.
Promoted to Full Corporal on 01 October 1863
Surrendered Company C, 18th Infantry Regiment Virginia on 09 April 1865 in Appomattox Court House, VA
American Civil War Soldiers

It was initially unclear why William Johnson entered service more than 2 years after Virginia seceeded from the Union. Once I correctly identified his parents, however, I found that he was the only son in a large household (4 sisters remained at home in the 1860 census) and that his father was 58 in 1861, and so would have very much needed his presence to continue to run the farm to support the family. They lived in Prince Edward Co., explaining his conscription there. The fact that he was relatively mature, already 24 in 1863, would have contributed to his quick promotion.

His pension application made in 1900 reports that he was wounded in the hand on March 31, 1865 at Hatchers Run, which is in Appomattox Co. (He received a $15/year pension.)

The 18th were severely decimated at Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, loosing their battle flag and being reduced to barely 50 in the entire regiment. After the battle the remnants limped south, the "ranks slowly filled with exchanged Gettysburg captives plus a trickle of enlistments and a handful of conscriptions." William R. Johnson was one of these, being conscripted in Prince Edward County (immediately next to Appomattox County) on July 6. This explains how he ended up in Company C, originally raised in Nottoway County.

By autumn Company C was in Richmond, part of the City Guard Forces. The Regiment continued to suffer from terrible morale and poor supplies. For the balance of the war, they served in few engagements, including skirmishes following Cold Harbor in June of 1864, Gravelly Run (also called Hatcher's Run) where WR Johnson was injured on March 31, 1865, Howlett's Farm, and finally Sayler's Creek. Sayler's Creek, which occurred near Farmville on April 6, 1865, was the last major battle of the war, and was the end of the 18th. "Veterans too weary to endure more simply walked away from the retreating army and headed for the tranquility of their nearby homes." Upon seeing the survivors streaming along the road, Lee exclaimed “My God, has the army dissolved?” At Appomattox there were only 43 of the regiment present, Lt. CH Wilkinson of Company C being the only officer. Family memory says that William R. Johnson was still present at Appomattox. (In fact, it is recorded that he was the senior member of Co. C remaining and that he officiated their surrender.) regimental history and quotes from James I. Robertson's 18th Virginia Infantry. 1984.

Alan, 12 July 2009:

Here's a question I have been pondering.

William Robert Johnson

One major question I have about William Robert Johnson is his status as an Appomattox surrenderee.

Whether Johnson surrendered at Appomattox is a major question, given that status as a Appomattox surrenderee appears to be a "biggee" in the world of Confederate genealogy (at least that's my understanding from Confederate in the Attic).

According to his service record as you have it, he Surrendered on 09 April 1865 in Appomattox Court House, VA. I can't duplicate that record from on-line resources.

A regimental history, James I. Robertson, 18th Virginia History (1984 H.E. Howard, Inc.) has the following entry: "Johnson, William Robert: Co. C (July 6, 1863); conscript, apptd. Cpl., Oct. 1, 1863; surrendered Apr. 9, 1865, at Appomattox; died later that year in Charlotte Co. of 'insanity.'"

This regimental history used quite a variety of sources to compile individual service records.

However, the Virginia Historical Society has the following book: Confederate States of America, Army of Northern Virginia. Paroles of the Army of Northern Virginia : R.E. Lee, Gen., /C.S.A. commanding surrendered at Appomattox C.H., Va. April 9, 1865, to Lieutenant General U.S. Grant, commanding armies of the U.S. / Now first printed from the duplicate originals in the archives of the Southern Historical Society, ed. with introduction by R.A. Brock, secretary.

The document purports to print transcripts of duplicate originals of parole rolls executed at Appomattox that were given to Robert E. Lee. I checked the entry for the 18th Virginia, and every other entry for the 18th Virginia in the book, as well as every "William Robert Johnson," and did not find a record for him.

My question is this: does the failure of William Robert Johnson in the parole rolls as reflected in the book call into question he was, in fact, an Appomattox surrenderee? What is the source document for the claim in your record for a April 9, 1865 surrender at Appomattox?

To put things in context, the 18th Virginia Infantry was essentially wiped out as a unit April 6 at Sayler's Creek. A relative handful (43) were surrendered, according to the regimental history. I note from the Paroles book that 18th Va. surrenderees ended up on scattered rolls, including five or so from a hodgepodge roll put together by a calvary officer assigned to round up miscellaneous soldiers separated from their units. It would not surprise me if the official parole rolls were incomplete reflection of Confederates present at Appomattox, particularly given that the 18th Virginia Infantry had been smashed and scattered a few days before.

© 2009 Footie Lund