By: Ashley Bond, SLIS graduate student
General Johnston was born in Hillsboro, North Carolina, on May 30, 1832. After studying at Cumberland University’s School of Law in Lebanon, Tennessee, he began his own practice in Marion, Alabama, the town where he was raised. There he was elected mayor in 1856 and afterward served in state legislature from 1857 to 1858. Johnston enlisted as a Second Lieutenant of Company G in the 4th Alabama Infantry in the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. With this unit, he fought at the first Battle of Bull Run and was later commissioned as Major of the 25th Alabama Infantry in early 1862. In September 1863, he was promoted to Colonel, and by July of the following year, he rose to the rank of Brigadier General. Two days after his promotion, he received a bullet wound to the leg and continued to lead his brigade on crutches. After the Battle of Franklin, he took command of Brigadier General William Andrew Quarles’ Brigade through the Battle of Bentonville in March 1865. Afterward, he led General E. C. Walthall’s division until reorganization at Goldsboro. He eventually headed westward to join Lieutenant General Richard Taylor in Alabama up until the Confederate Army’s surrender.
Once the Civil War was over, Johnston returned to his practice in Marion, Alabama, with law partner John F. Vary. In 1868, he moved to Tuscaloosa and became commandant of the cadets at the University of Alabama. He also later served as superintendent at the South Carolina Military Academy and as United States Civil Service Commissioner under President Grover Cleveland. In Johnston’s later years, he was involved in the Southern Historical Society Papers series and elected as a state senator of Alabama. He passed away on December 8, 1910 and is buried at historic Greenwood Cemetery in Tuscaloosa.
The George Doherty Johnston Collection consists mostly of Johnston’s personal letters and war-related correspondence. Many of the letters are to and from his first wife, Euphradia, and his mother, Eliza Mary Weissinger. Other letters in the collection include those from Johnston’s son, Burke, his aunt, Mary W. Burke, his pastor, H.R. Raymond, and other miscellaneous correspondence. There are also hand-drawn maps, Johnston’s Confederate commissions, field orders, and Union parole documents, as well as a copy of the History of the 25th Alabama Infantry C.S.A. by Captain Wilson P. Howell. The collection has been recently made available for viewing on Acumen, the university’s digital archives explorer, as well as in person at W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library on the second floor of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall.
Stay tuned to read about the acquisition history of this new collection!