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Bradley Tyler Johnson
Confederate field officer and General


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Brigadier-General Bradley T. Johnson, as commander of the Maryland Line, became most prominently the representative Marylander in the South. Ardent in his devotion to the cause, intelligent in his performance of duty, with a courage that was fearless as was his gallantry conspicuous, he attained a reputation throughout the service, and won repeated commendation and honorable mention at the hands of his superiors. His highest ambition was that his loved State should be properly represented in the great struggle for liberty, honor and home rule. No inducement that would separate him from this great purpose was for a moment considered. As a Marylander he entered the army of the Confederacy associated with Maryland troops. Their fame was his fame; the honor of their record was his honor; and the perpetuation of the story of their privations and the glories of their triumphs was to him the ever- prevailing object of his efforts. To them he gave his loving care, and for them he made the sacrifices of the four years' war. Thus it can be readily understood why, then and since, Bradley T. Johnson has been recognized as the typical Marylander in the Confederate army, and the love and devotion so freely bestowed on the men of the Maryland line have in return followed him to this day, and make glad his declining years.

He was without the great advantages of military education, his early efforts being given to that more prosaic profession, the law. In this he attained a degree of success and was becoming prominently known when the disruption of the Democratic party occurred and the fatal struggle of 1860 was precipitated. When the dire alternative was presented of taking sides against conviction and kindred, or against the Federal government, and the crisis was accentuated by the passage of troops through Baltimore, Johnson, in command of a company of Frederick volunteers, was among the first to unhesitatingly tender his services to defend the city and State. When futility of opposition by the State to the Federal power became apparent he moved his company to Point of Rocks, and declining a commission as lieutenant-colonel in the Virginia service from Governor Letcher, endeavored to organize a distinctively Maryland command. His hopes were realized in the organization of the First regiment, whose record, which cannot be disassociated from the history of his own gallant career. Acting first as major, he became lieutenant-colonel after First Manassas, and colonel in March, 1862. During the famous Valley campaign under Stonewall Jackson the ability of Johnson as a commanding officer was abundantly manifested, and in general orders his name received most honorable mention. On the right flank of McClellan before Richmond he gallantly led his Marylanders to victory at Gaines' Mill, and during the night of terror and apprehension following the fight at Malvern Hill he kept vigil among the dead and dying until dawn revealed that McClellan had withdrawn to the protection of his fleet. Subsequently, while recruiting at Charlottesville, it was deemed expedient by the Confederate war department to disband the gallant regiment, and Colonel Johnson was left without command. He then readily yielded to the invitation of Generals Jackson and Ewell to accompany them in the operations of August, 1862. During Jackson's brilliant movement to the vicinity of Manassas Junction, Colonel Johnson was assigned to the command of the Virginia brigade of Gen. J. R. Jones, temporarily absent by reason of sickness. After the capture of Manassas Junction, while Hill moved in the direction of Centerville, and Ewell held the railroad line at Bristoe station, Johnson took position at Groveton, a few miles south of the famous stone bridge over Bull run, to resist the advance of Pope. This important service he successfully performed until Taliaferro had come up and Jackson's forces were united. The sanguinary battle of the 28th followed, leaving the armies substantially on the old lines of July, 1861, but with positions reversed. On the 29th, after repeated assaults on the Confederate left under Hill, the attack was made on Johnson's line, which connected with Hill's right. Permitting the enemy to enter the edge of the woods in which he was stationed he gave command to fire and then to charge, and hurled the Federals back to their original position, bringing off two pieces of artillery. In this crisis he acted without instruction, the occasion not admitting of delay. The headlong movement was witnessed by General Hood from the hills of Groveton, and the latter impetuous fighter sent an officer over to inquire what command had so magnificently risen to the emergency. On the 30th Johnson advanced his line to the railroad cut before his position, and there his men repulsed charge after charge. After ammunition gave out they used stones with great effect. Finally reinforced by Stafford and aided by Pender, the Federals were swept from the field.

During the Maryland campaign General Jones resumed command of his brigade, but Jackson was anxious that the young Maryland officer should be continued in duty adequate to his talent. He addressed the war department under date of September 4th, as follows: "I respectfully recommend that Col.-Bradley T. Johnson, late colonel of the First Maryland regiment, be appointed brigadier-general. While I was in command at Harper's Ferry, in the early part of the war, Colonel Johnson left his home in Maryland and entered our service, where he continued until his regiment was recently disbanded. I regarded him as a promising officer when he first entered the army, and so fully did he come up to my expectations that when his regiment was disbanded I put him in command of a brigade, and so ably did he discharge his duties in the recent battles near Bull Run as to make it my duty, as well as my pleasure, to recommend him for a brigadier-generalcy. The brilliant service of his brigade in the engagement on Saturday last proved that it was under a superior leader, whose spirit was partaken of by his command. When it is so difficult to procure good general officers, I deem it due the service not to permit an opportunity of securing the services of one of such merit to pass unimproved." Upon the occupation of Frederick by the army of Northern Virginia, Colonel Johnson was appointed provost-marshal, and his knowledge of the country and its people was of value to General Lee, with whom he was in frequent conference. When Jackson moved toward Harper's Ferry, he was sent to Richmond with important dispatches from General Lee. This was the occasion of his appointment as a member of the military court then being organized, with the rank of colonel of cavalry. The recommendation of General Jackson was for the time not acted upon for the reason, creditable to Maryland, that so many general officers had already been appointed from that State.

On February 4, 1863, General Jackson renewed his recommendation for Colonel Johnson's promotion and urged his assignment to command Taliaferro's brigade of the Stonewall division, concluding an earnest appeal with the words, "I do not know of any colonel who, in my opinion, is so well qualified for the position in question." A week later Jackson again urged action upon his recommendation. In a few months came Chancellorsville, and the heroic Jackson was no more.

Though his promotion was still delayed, Johnson, upon the call of the Marylanders in the valley, secured his relief from the military court and reached his comrades at Gettysburg on the morning of July 2nd, intent upon his cherished plan of organizing the Maryland Line, which he had been selected to command. But the exigencies of the Pennsylvania campaign made this for the time impracticable, and his service until after the return to Virginia was as temporary commander again of the brigade of General Jones. In November, 1863, he was ordered to Hanover Junction, and there, as has been related, he finally brought together a considerable Maryland command. Toward the close of February, 1864, operating against Kilpatrick's raid, he had opportunity to render service of great value by the capture at Yellow Tavern of a dispatch from Dahlgren, and promptly acted as the emergency demanded. Gen. Wade Hampton in a letter to General Lee stated that he was convinced that "the enemy could have taken Richmond, and in all probability would have done so, but for the fact that Colonel Johnson intercepted a dispatch from Dahlgren to Kilpatrick, asking what hour the latter had fixed for an attack on the city, so that both attacks might be simultaneous;" and in his report the gallant South Carolinian complimented the Marylander for his gallantry in attacking the enemy at Beaver Dam, with a handful of men, and hanging on their rear, striking them continually, and never losing sight of them until they had passed Tunstall's station. Hampton further expressed his appreciation by presenting Johnson with a saber. This promptly won distinction as a cavalry leader he confirmed by his service against Merritt's division at Pollard's farm, and under Hampton at Trevilian's. June 25, 1864, he received his commission es brigadier-general and was assigned to the command of the cavalry brigade lately led by Gen. William E. Jones, killed at New Hope church. His prime object in the Maryland campaign under Early was the release of the Confederate prisoners at Point Lookout, which had been discussed by General Lee and the President. Regarding the selection of a leader for this hazardous duty, General Lee had written the President: "It will be well he should be a Marylander, and of those connected with the army, I consider Col. Bradley T. Johnson the most suitable. He is bold and intelligent, ardent and true, and yet I am unable to say whether he possesses the requisite qualities. Everything in an expedition of this kind depends upon the leader. " But he was fated not to be permitted to perform this service, being recalled after he made a detour around Baltimore to Beltsville by information from Early that the expedition was about to retire to Virginia. Later in July, 1864, he was associated with General McCausland in command of the expedition to Chambersburg, Pa., and as he occupied the place with his brigade it fell his lot to execute the orders of General Early to burn the town. Justifiable as it was, as a stern and righteous retribution for the outrages in the valley, the work was no less repugnant to him and to the large majority of his command. He announced that no plundering would be permitted; nothing was to be appropriated but boots, shoes and army stores. Before the work of destruction had ceased many of his men were seen to unite with the residents in efforts to suppress the flames or rescue property. At Hancock his indignant protest prevented a similar visitation upon a community that had representatives in the Confederate service. The disaster at Moorefield followed, where General Johnson narrowly escaped capture and was distinguished by his efforts to retrieve the day. That he was not censurable was evidenced by the refusal of General Early to order the investigation demanded by him soon afterward. During the campaign in the valley against Sheridan he did all that a gallant officer could do in the face of overwhelming opposition. At Winchester, September 19th, he fought from dawn to night, and by a headlong charge of his brigade gave Ramseur at a critical moment an opportunitv to reform his lines. When heavy losses made it necessary to reorganize and consolidate commands, Johnson, being junior in rank and not commanding troops from his own State, gave way to others in the field, and in the latter part of November, 1864, was given command of the post at Salisbury, N. C. This had been a Confederate military prison, but on the advance of Sherman through Georgia a large number of Federal prisoners were transferred thither, without adequate preparations for their care. Officers and men were huddled in the overflowing buildings, and boxes and even excavations in the earth were employed for shelter from the rigor of approaching winter. The post was also in danger from the inroads of Federal guerrillas. Under such circumstances General Johnson was called on to take charge, and his active efforts toward restoring order and alleviating distress met with the best of results. He secured the issuing of fuel to the prisoners, and of food identical with that of his own men; through his representations to the Confederate government the Federal government was induced to send supplies by their own officers through the lines; and, through the co-operation of Governor Vance, all that was possible was done to relieve distress. Finally, in the early days of March, 1865, he was enabled to start his charge in the direction of Wilmington for delivery to their friends. Within sixty days the struggle came to an end, and then as is well remembered those who were connected with the prison posts were made the subjects of investigation by military courts. But the archives at Raleigh and Richmond, and the voluntary testimony of those he had guarded, were so eloquent of the humanity of General Johnson that he was promptly relieved of persecution. Finding himself broken in fortune he made his home at Richmond and resumed the practice of his profession. As soon as the restrictive legislation of the reconstruction period admitted, he entered public life, and served in the senate of Virginia with distinction. His heart, however, still yearned for his native State, and in 1878 he removed to Baltimore, where his efforts were at once enlisted in the organization of the Society of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States in Maryland, and in the formation of the Association of the Maryland Line. The perpetuation of the record of Maryland in the armies of the Confederacy, and the relief of needy and disabled Confederates were to him duties paramount to all other obligations. He was at once placed at the front in all movements which represented the Confederate sentiment of the State. He became and still continues the president of the Army and Navy society, and of the Association of the Maryland Line, and he contributed largely in effort and influence to the establishment of the Home for Confederate veterans. Now, in the fullness of honors and in complete assurance of the love of his old comrades, he is living in retirement in his Virginia home. The State holds him in reverence as one of its heroes, worthy of a place with Howard, Smallwood and Gist, of the Revolution, as their honored successor in the "Maryland Line".


Gen. Bradley T. Johnson, the gallant organizer and leader of the Maryland Line, distinguished in many of the battles of the army of Virginia, one of the most brilliant regimental and brigade commanders under Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and for a time in command of division, is the author of the military history of Maryland, a subject which he is eminently qualified to handle. With a facile pen he has traced the history of his State, in so far as it was involved in the Confederate war.

Johnson is the author of Confederate Military History of Maryland

Confederate Military History
Side Confederate
State Maryland
Born September 29, 1829
Died October 5, 1903
Buried Loudon Park Cemetery
Baltimore, Maryland

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