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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: DEDICATION TO THE CAUSE

Saturday, July 20, 2013


By Bob Hurst

On April 19, 1861, there was a clash in Baltimore between Union troops and pro-Southern civilians. This came to be known as the "Baltimore Riot" and resulted in what is generally considered to be the occasion of the first bloodshed of the Great War of 1861-65.

Before the conflict occurred, anti-Union sentiment was strong in Maryland and Baltimore was a hotbed of pro-Southern support. Baltimore's mayor and police chief were known supporters of the Southern Cause. In fact, before his inauguration in March 1861, Abraham Lincoln had had to sneak through Baltimore on his way to Washington, D.C. because of rumors of an assassination plot. The hostilities that had begun at Fort Sumter on April 12 only increased the tension in Baltimore between Union and Confederate sympathizers.

When troops from Massachusetts, who were answering Lincoln's call for volunteers, arrived in Baltimore on April 19, they had to be taken through the city by horse-drawn carriages because the rail lines that had brought them there did not go through the city itself. An angry crowd of Southern sympathizers had gathered along the streets carrying the yankee troops and began blocking the carriages and forcing the troops out of them.

This contingent of secessionists along the route began throwing rocks at the Union troops who, in return, began firing into the crowd with their rifles. This resulted in total chaos and the police were called in to hold back the crowd and allow the troops to reach the train terminal on the west side of town and proceed to Washington. During this encounter, four Union soldiers and twelve civilians were killed with many others being wounded.

Maryland officials were outraged at this happening and demanded that no more Union troops be sent through the state. Baltimore's mayor and police chief even authorized the destruction of several rail bridges to prevent northern troops from entering the city.

Northern newspapers and the Lincoln Administration were outraged at these events. Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York TRIBUNE newspaper, even called for Baltimore to be burned to the ground.

Lincoln soon ordered a large contingent of Union forces into the city and marshal law was declared. The police chief, George P. Kane, city commissioners and other elected officials and some private citizens were arrested. Also arrested were a number of state legislators who had been identified by Lincoln spies as favoring secession and also newspapers publishers and owners who were known to favor secession.

The roles played by Baltimore Police Chief George P. Kane and Maryland Governor Enoch Louis Lowe in working to keep Union troops out of Baltimore and Maryland is well-recorded and well-known. What is less well known is that there was a third party intimately involved in this plot to keep Union troops from passing through Maryland. He was an outstanding individual who was truly dedicated to the Cause and eventually reached the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate Army. His name was Bradley Tyler Johnson.

Bradley Johnson came from a prominent and very interesting family. One grandfather had fought in the Revolutionary War and was the brother of a Maryland governor. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney was a relative as was Francis Scott Key. One of his cousins married John Quincy Adams who would become the sixth president of the United States.

Johnson graduated from Princeton and then Harvard Law School. He became a respected attorney and eventually the state's attorney for Frederick County, Maryland. He married a lovely woman who was the daughter of a prominent North Carolina congressman and also a close friend of Empress Eugenie of France. The marriage of Bradley Johnson and Jane Saunders proved to be the proverbial "match made in heaven" as she played a major role in both his legal career and his military career.

The day after the riot in Baltimore, Chief Kane sent Johnson a telegram requesting that he bring to Baltimore a unit of troops that he had raised to ensure that there would be Confederate troops on hand should more Union forces attempt to enter the city. On May 8, 1861, Bradley Johnson, now with the rank of colonel, took his troops across the Potomac River and into Virginia and reported to the commander of the Virginia militia at Harper's Ferry. The day before he left, Jane Johnson had turned over their house in Frederick to a secessionist delegation that was meeting with the Maryland legislature. She then went to Virginia to await his arrival. They would never again live in the house in Frederick and, because of Lincoln's imprisonment of Confederate-friendly legislators and others, Maryland would never secede.

While this act of devotion on Jane's part was exemplary, she soon performed in a manner that is almost indescribable.

Although Colonel Johnson's troops had uniforms that he had paid for himself, their only equipment was what they had of their own. This meant few replacement weapons and very little ammunition. Since Maryland had fallen under the control of Federal troops there was no governmental help forthcoming from that source and Virginia was pushed to supply its own wants with weapons, ammunition and other necessities.

Facing this dilemma, Jane Johnson went into action. Boy, did she ever!

She first went by train to Raleigh, North Carolina. There, at the capitol with her congressman father at her side, she addressed the North Carolina Legislature with an impassioned plea for weapons and munitions for her husband's unit. The legislature came through with weapons and ammunition sufficient for 500 troops - far more than Colonel Johnson had in his command.

To ensure the safe delivery of the supplies to her husband's unit, she rode in the train car carrying the weapons and supplies rather than a passenger coach. She also found time to approach the citizens of Petersburg and Richmond for monetary donations (which proved to be substantial) to purchase tents for the unit. When I say that this woman was something, I mean that she was REALLY something!

For all that she had accomplished for her husband's unit, the 1st Maryland, Jane Johnson received the personal thanks of the new Confederate commander in the Shenandoah Valley - a young colonel named Jackson. He would later march into immortality as "Stonewall".

Her husband was soon to make quite a name for himself, also.

By late May of 1862, Colonel Bradley Johnson and his 1st Maryland Regiment had performed well for Major General Thomas Jackson's Army of the Valley for a full year and many of the troops were ready for a change. Their enlistments had expired for about half the unit and many of these soldiers had requested a transfer to the cavalry. These requests, however, were denied by the Confederate government. This greatly angered these troops so they demanded discharges which were denied by Colonel Johnson.

Noting their anger, Johnson confiscated their weapons and placed them in the custody of the other troops who were remaining steadfast. Being unaware of this situation, General Jackson ordered the 1st Maryland to the front as his army approached Front Royal.

What followed was one of the finest motivational speeches given during that war or any war.

Colonel Bradley Johnson brought all his troops together and called them to "attention". He then read the orders from General Jackson. He then explained very carefully to the unit that this meant that he would have to return the orders to General Jackson with the explanation that his troops would not be able to fight because they were demoralized since some transfers had been denied and that some of his troops were just tired and wanted to go home. He then ended his speech by telling his troops that he was now ashamed of being a Marylander and saying to the assembled troops, "Go Home...boast of it when you meet your fathers, brothers, sisters and sweethearts. Tell them it was you who, when brought face to face with the enemy, proved be cowards."

My, did his tactic work! Shades of General Patton, his troops, unwilling to be considered "cowards", began clamoring for the return of their weapons. They then marched to the front of Jackson's forces and proved to be an amazing fighting machine as they led the Army of the Valley to victory at Front Royal and again days later at Winchester.

To show how inexplicable political actions can be, after the Valley Campaign the 1st Maryland Regiment was dissolved by the Confederate government for political reasons. General Robert E. Lee, however, appointed Colonel Bradley Johnson to command a brigade of four Virginia regiments. His new unit performed admirably at Second Manassas and Sharpsburg and General Jackson was so impressed that he recommended Johnson for promotion to brigadier general. In one of those hard-to-understand instances where politics takes precedence over performance, he was not approved for promotion - ostensibly because he was from Maryland rather than Virginia.

Bradley Johnson's greatest triumph came on March 1, 1864, when his small unit was able to stop the advance on Richmond of the Union forces of Kilpatrick and Dahlgren and force their retreat even though his forces were outnumbered more than 50 to 1. For this amazing feat he was lauded as "the savior of Richmond" and was presented with a commemorative saber by General Wade Hampton. Despite the accolades, he did not receive a promotion to brigadier general.

Finally, four months later, Colonel Bradley Johnson received his long-deserved promotion to brigadier general and took command of a cavalry brigade in General Jubal Early's army in the Shenandoah Valley. He was also with Early on his raid into Maryland. Later, General Johnson was involved in a controversial action near Moorefield, West Virginia, where troops of General Johnson and General John McCausland were defeated by Union forces in a surprise attack. General Johnson blamed General McCausland for the defeat and McCausland blamed Johnson. Johnson requested an investigation but one was never held and General Early sided with McCausland in the matter, possibly because of the Virginia connection.

General Lee, based on Early's decision, removed Bradley Johnson from field command and for the last few months of the war he served as commander of Salisbury Prison in North Carolina.

When the war ended, Bradley Johnson returned to the practice of law - first in Richmond for 14 years and then in Baltimore for 20 years. While in Richmond he served as President of the Richmond City Council and also served in the Virginia Senate. Throughout his after-war years he worked toward founding and supporting Confederate veterans organizations and retirement homes for veterans.

In December 1899 his beloved Jane passed away and he never recovered. He died less than four years later at his son's home in Virginia. His coffin was draped with a Battle Flag of the 1st Maryland Cavalry.

Even though he experienced disappointments during the War because of the delayed promotions and because of General Early siding with General McCausland, Bradley Johnson remained dedicated to the Cause of Southern Independence and remained true to his beloved Confederacy until the very end.


Bob Hurst is a true Son of the South who has special interests in the Confederacy and the antebellum architecture of the South. He is Commander of Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and also 2nd Lt. Commander of the Florida Division, SCV.


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