Charles Johnson of Endicott - Part 1


When the great war of ‘61 was declared between the North and South, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Johnson were living peacefully in a little farm house just outside of our present Endicott.

Company K, of the 179th Regiment, New York Volunteers was organized at Elmira on September 15, 1864, Mr. Johnson joined their forces and was attached to the company commanded by Captain Van Benshoten. He was twenty-four years of age when he entered the service.

Shortly after joining the company, Mr. Johnson with the other comrades were sent from Elmira to Baltimore and thence to Washington. “We had our guns for a period of three to four days, when we were put right into the firing line. Some of us had never handled a gun before,” said Mr. Johnson. “The third morning after our arrival we were placed in line. Our regiment holding ground at Poplar Springs Church, Virginia, Our position was guarded by earthworks on one side, while ahead of us were the woods. Just a mile away lay the rebels.

Our skirmish line was drawn up and sent ahead to gain some knowledge of the lay of the land. Our line of battle following them up caused the rebels to disperse, many of them who had made the charge upon us sat down, allowing our line to pass them. After it was all over and we came out of the woods the ground was literally strewn with dead men, blankets, and etc. Having but very little time, the dead were wrapped in their blankets and placed in holes.

For a time we lay in the woods, but not long before the rebels began firing upon us, letting the shot and shell into that woods until it was just about torn to pieces. We could see our comrades killed and dying all about us. That night we were pushed on a


little farther, coming into contact with the rebels once again. They had earthworks, one right after another. After a tussle our line succeeded in going over the hill; their line of battle breaking and falling back with us. That night was intensely dark and the rain falling very heavily. In some way or other we became mixed up with some Pennsylvania fellows. Soon we were unable to distinguish friend from foe. Cavalry was heard coming, in the distance, coming nearer and nearer until we found ourselves surrounded and captured by rebels. About four or five hundred of us were taken to the detention camp at Belle Island, where we stayed but one night. The next day we were taken to the

famous Rebel Libby prison. The prison was at Richmond, Virginia, located on the James River. Here we found the rations and water to be of better quality than any other place we afterwards struck. We were held in this camp for about three weeks. During our stay at Libby prison, a rebel officer came through and made a speech for our benefit. He told us if we would give him our money, it would be given back to us, when we were paroled; and if we didn’t give they would search us and take it anyway and would not give it back to us. Some of the fellows gave as much as $1,000 in gold while others of us paid very little attention to it. They did search us. One officer going on one side and another on the other side of our line. There was every possible effort and trick made to save our money. Some put green backs in a plug of tobacco. Then others placed them in a pipe of tobacco and would be puffing on the pipe while being searched. Still others placed their bills in the tops of their large brass buttons, by unscrewing the tops off the buttons. I by chance happened to be some distance from the end they started from, so as I watched them performing their work of robbing our men, I had it all studied out. My fortune consisted of

Source: E.- J. WORKERS’ REVIEW (August 20, 1919), page 20. STORY OF A CIVIL WAR VETERAN By A. B.

Submitted by Debbie Barnes



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