CAPT. BENJAMIN SQUIBB JOHNSON

by: Morris D. Johnson

Below photograph, Capt. Ben S. Johnson and his wife, Susan Townley Johns Johnson. Probably taken in McKinney, Texas in 1873 or 1874 during the time that he was city marshal.  Johnson was born June 11,1836 and died February 2, 1875.

  My great-grandfather, Capt. Benjamin S. Johnson, was city marshal of Mckinney, Texas when he died in 1875 at the age of 39. Since he died before the end of the "Reconstruction" period, and before Confederate veterans from southwestern Missouri could safely engage in reunion activities, not much information about him was passed down to my generation or written down.
  He was born in Tennessee and was a fourteen year-old boy living in the household of his widowed mother, Jane Squibb Johnson in 1850 in Greene County, Tennessee (his father, James Johnson had died the year before). 
Sometime during the next five years he and his mother moved to Greene County, Missouri, where other Johnson and Squibb relatives were already settled. As a nineteen year-old he married Susan Townley Johns October 14, 1855.

 After several years of research by members of my family and me we now know that in 1860 he was a 24 year-old farmer in Center Township, Greene County, Missouri with a wife and two young sons, ages 2 and 1 (the younger being my grandfather). At the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted as a private in Co. "A", 3rd Missouri Infantry June 22, 1861. The Battle of Wilson's Creek , August 11, 1861, occurred about 15 miles from his homestead on the day his mother was buried in John's Chapel cemetery (a family member in later years said they could hear the guns). I am sure that his unit of the Missouri State Guard (McBride's Division) was involved in the battle. The Missouri State Archives record shows that he was discharged December 11, 1861 and was paid $89.40 on April 28, 1862.

  The next official record of him I have found so far was his enlistment August 1, 1862 in Capt. A. Don Brown's Company, Greene's Regiment, Missouri Volunteers as a private at Rolling Prairie, Carroll County, Arkansas. He then appeared on the Company "A", 3rd Regiment, Missouri Cavalry Muster Roll August 1, to December 31, 1862, and is shown as "Transferred by promotion to Senior 2nd Lieutenant, Company "H" (Capt. James F. Wyatt's Company), Greene's Regiment (Col. Colton Greene) October 3, 1862 at Pocahontas, Arkansas, The Official Record history of his unit indicates that it was involved almost constantly in battles, skirmishes and raids in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri during 1863 and 1864. Lt. Col. Leonidas C. Campbell, Mustering Officer wrote: " Detachments from this company ( "H") were engaged in actions November 8, 1862 at Fort Stevenson, Douglas County, Missouri, December 4, 1862 near Hartville, Missouri, and December 24, 1862 near Van Buren, Missouri." " In all of these actions they were victorious, and bore themselves gallantly.: " They have marched in various scouts and and against the enemy 1,130 miles.." "They have been constantly on duty in front of the enemy on the border." " This company is efficient in action, arms poor, private guns of various kinds, and no equipments (sic.)." "The property in its possession was mostly captured."

  In January and February, 1864 the Company Muster Roll lists him as Capt. Benjamin S. Johnson, Company "H", 3rd Regiment Missouri Cavalry at Jacksonport, Arkansas. On February 26, 1864 he was listed as "absent with leave." We know from family tradition that his wife and children had left Missouri during the war for safety -- probably during late 1862 or early 1863 -- and moved down into safer territory in Arkansas (I haven't found them yet, but I think it was probably at or near Camden, Arkansas).

  During General Sterling Price's last Missouri raid in the Fall of 1864, Capt. Benjamin S. Johnson was promoted in the field by Col. Colton Greene to command the 3rd Missouri Cavalry Regiment temporarily October 23, 1864. Col. Greene reported: " Here the injuries and wound received at Blue Mills the day before became so painful that I was compelled to turn my regiment over to Capt. B. S. Johnson, whose report of an action on the 23rd of October is herewith annexed, and to whom much commendation is due for uniform skill and courage while in command."

Captain Johnson's subsequent report of the action appears in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion as follows:

Report of Capt. Benjamin S. Johnson, Third Missouri Cavalry:

CAMP ON RED RIVER ARK., December 8, 1864

MAJOR: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by this regiment in the action of the 23rd of October at Big Blue River:

  I assumed command of the regiment the evening of the 22nd of October, Colonel Greene being disabled from injuries received at the battle of Little Blue on the 21st of October. I was ordered to form the regiment at sunrise on the bank of Big Blue River as infantry. After being in position about half and hour the enemy appeared in sight and opened fire on us from small-arms, compelling us, owing to the formation of the creek, to leave our position, they being enabled to fire on us from the right flank and rear. We fell back one mile and a half in good order to a skirt of timber at the edge of a small prairie, and were ordered to form to support Pratt's artillery. The enemy appeared in sight and opened heavily upon us. We replied, compelling them to fall back to the shelter of some houses on the prairie. They again advanced at a charge to take our battery. We opened fire on them while Company G, under the command of First Sergeant Woolsey, dashed gallantly forward and hauled the guns off by hand, the balance of the regiment keeping a steady fire upon the enemy. We remained in our position until every gun was discharged and every cartridge expended. Ordered by General Clark to fall back to our horses, which we did in good order. Our loss was 3 killed and 7 wounded.

The whole regiment acted very gallantly. Particular praise is due to Sergeant Woolsey, of Company G, for his gallant conduct.

I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

B. S. JOHNSON,

Captain, Commanding Regiment.

Maj. F. S. Robertson,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Marmaduke's Brigage.

 A biography of Colonel Colton Green (which can be found at: http://www.sterlingprice145.org/greene.htm) states that at the end of the war "...After a brief stay in Mexico, Greene returned to the U.S. and settled in Memphis, Tennessee. In partnership with other Missouri exiles, he started an insurance agency and in a remarkably short time rebuilt his fortune."

I don't know whether or not my great-grandfather, Benjamin S. Johnson went with his Colonel Greene to Mexico or not, as others did with Col. Jo Shelby to offer their services to Maximillian. I do know that he (Capt. Ben S. Johnson) showed up in McKinney, Collin County, Texas a couple of years later. A November, 1869 voter registration stated that he had lived in the county two years. According to his widow ( who lived until 1914) the family stayed in Arkansas for some period of time before moving to Collin County, Texas.

Capt. Johnson's friend and former army surgeon in the 3rd Missouri Cavalry, Dr. Andrew Gullett, also settled in McKinney, Texas about the same time (1867) and became a prominent physician and member of the County Democratic Committee. I suspect that Dr. Gullett might have had some influence in my great-grandfather's election (or appointment) as city marshal of Mckinney, Texas in 1872 or 1873. Unfortunately, the municipal records of the city of McKinney prior to 1881 have been lost. However, we have been able to confirm that he was city marshal from an obituary notice in the DALLAS DAILY HERALD, which mentioned his February 2, 1875 death as follows: "McKinney has lost its city marshal, Capt. Ben S. Johnson, one of "Pap" Price's veterans."

Capt. Ben S. Johnson is buried in Pecan Grove Cemetery, McKinney, Texas near his friend, Dr. Andrew Gullet, who died in 1903. One of his sons was named Andrew Gullett Johnson and was called "Doc" as a nickname.

 

 Morris D. Johnson

3815 Hillbrook Drive, Austin, Texas 78731

Email: mdjred@juno.com


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