Letters, George B. Johnston to Lane (November 1862-July 15, 1863)

[NOTE:  Johnston served as Lane's first Adjutant, but was taken ill and eventually resigned his commission.  These are letters Johnston wrote to Lane, as a subordinate and friend, about brigade news and his own physical condition.]

Raleigh, Nov. 19th, 1862

Gen'l Jas. H. Lane
Comdg 4th Brigade

My very dear Gen'l,

You can not imagine my pride and delight when yesterday saw confirmed your appointment to the Brigadier Generalcy; and I felt still prouder when I saw coupled with the announcement the remark that "Col. Lane especially had won his promotion by hard fighting." I rejoice in it far more than I could in any advancement for myself; my ambition is simply to discharge faithfully the duties of a citizen soldier, while this great struggle is pending, but yours must be for well-merited promotion in the profession of your choice. But in the midst of my gladness and pride for you, comes the sense of loss and [deprivation] for myself; I can not expect Gen'l Lane to be as much mine as my beloved Col. was. What will our regt do without you? As an officer with an earnest love for my men, and as a man with warm and sincere love for my ever kind and considerate friend; I feel that I (selfishly) am the loser by your gain. I won't grumble though, if you will let me call at Head Quarters occasionally, and if you now and then drop in at old Co. G. My wife says she is almost tempted to be jealous of you, especially as you are not married; I tell her perhaps that difficulty may be removed some day. I am still lingering & dwindling away; a perfect skeleton, my bones almost poking through my skin; I have fever almost incessantly - am confined to the house and much of the time to my room, but, with God's help, I'll try to weather it. I feel despondent some times and fear
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my days of soldiering & every thing else are numbered; but I don't believe their [there] is any reason for it. Give much love for Gabe, Morrow & all friends. This is my third letter since my return. God ever bless & keep you & grant that I may soon be able to join you is the heartfelt prayer of your earnest friend
Geo. B. Johnston.
Mrs. Johnston sends her kindest regards to you. Could you write me a line?

Raleigh April 15th 1863

Remember us to Messrs Augerman & Hoffstelter

Dear General,

Many thanks for your kind letter, and also for enclosing my wife's to me. I would have written you sooner but have been unable to do so. I have been confined to the house most of the time since my arrival here, suffering from incessant fever and cough. I do not know when I will be able to go to Chapel Hill, but intend going as soon as I get the Doctor's permission. Please look in my valisse and send me the copy of my letter to Lieut. Bryan which you will find there. Tell Lieut Bryan I think it would be best to send a copy of the correspondence to Miss Sue Branch at once. If I do not see Thompson soon I will write to him. Please let me know, either yourself or through others, of any movement on the part of our Brigade. Mrs Johnston joins me in kindest regards to yourself, [Rooker] & Major Carraway. Please remember me particularly to Oscar, Lieut Bryan and the Doctor, also to the officers of Co G. when you see them. Our love to Gabe. I will write again soon and a longer letter.
Most affectionately yours-

Geo. B. Johnston

Raleigh, May 8th 1863

My dear General,

My heart is filled with mingled emotions of thankfulness and grief, of thankfulness, at the providential escape of yourself and others of my friends from such imminent danger; of deep and abiding grief at the loss of one so endeared to you and yours by natural ties, and to all with whom he was thrown by the many lovely traits of his character. I am utterly unable to express my earnest sympathy with yourself and all your family in this great grief that has come upon you; I knew and loved him, for he was ever to me as kind and gentle as an affectionate brother; and I taught my wife to love him by telling her how gentle and considerate he was to me in my sickness. Our grief must be far less than that of those so near to him, whose pride and darling he was; but I feel assured you will not reject our heartfelt sympathy - May God, in His mercy, let this sad blow fall as softly as can be on the hearts of his stricken parents and of all who loved him. He died a patriot soldier's death, and, if it be my destiny to die during
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this war, my prayer is "May my last end be like his." You do not know what anxiety and suspense have preyed upon me, since the late battles began; I would have gone to you at the first rumor, but, alas my feeble health would not allow it. I was then exhausted by a short carriage ride. My first information was a telegram from Gabe dated Richmond May 6th, telling me of the safety of yourself and staff and the officers of Co. G.; last night I received another from him conveying the sad tidings I have spoken of. God grant that I may never be absent from you in another battle, as long as I survive! I suppose that ere this you have rec'd my application for an extension of my furlough and the accompanying certificate, also a long letter written since, telling you of my narrow escape from death. My shoulder is almost entirely well, and I am slowly getting better; at the very earliest moment the Dr. will permit, I will be with you. I would, my dear friend, that I could write you more, could fitly say all that my heart so deeply feels; but, I can not, I can only tell you of our grief for your Brother whom we loved, and of our deep sympathy for yourself and family, especially your parents in their great loss. We are not "unacquainted with grief " ourselves, and our hearts are drawn to those who mourn.

Mrs. J- sends her regards and assurances of her sympathy to Lt. Lane & yourself; give my love to him.

Ever your affectionate friend,
Geo. B. Johnston

Raleigh May 18th, 1863

My dear General,

I rec'd your most welcome letter this morning and am truly grateful for it. It was so kind of you to think of my anxiety at such a time as this. I trust that ere this you have rec'd my last letter, written since the battle. I did indeed know your dear Brother, and no one, that I ever saw in my life, won so much of my heart in so short a time. May God comfort the stricken father, mother, sister and all the loved ones of my dear young friend! I am glad to say that I am at last improving; the Dr. says if I get better as fast as I have done lately, I shall be able to return at the expiration of the extension asked for in his certificate, sent you about the 27th of last month. My cough is very harrassing and does not improve at all; but I have had no fever for three days past and am getting stronger. I hope to be with you again about the 26th of this month. I can not write you a letter to night, my dear General for
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I am too tired; ere long, God willing, we will meet and have long talks over many subjects of deep interest to us both. With you I mourn the heavy loss in our noble Brigade, especially of such gallant officers as Cols Purdie and Hill. Col. Haywood has reached here safely; I do not believe his wounds are considered mortal. I see from your report that Graham Morrow was wounded and, also, our most worthy friend Col. Speer; I trust that their wounds are very slight and that they may soon recover. I will have the list of casualties published at once and as extensively as possible - I am glad Lt. Bryan has gotten the letters you spoke of; perhaps Blount's intentions were good. He never had noticed me at all, until a Sunday or two ago; I went to Church for a few moments, as it was "Communion Sunday"; he met me as I came out, - approached me most cordially and kindly, and, since then, has been to see me. I knew he must have seen "our correspondence." Master Joseph Englehard, I hear, has lost all influence and standing here; I think I shall have a clincher ready for him by the time we meet - Mrs. Johnston is not at all well - joins me in best wishes
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for yourself and my Brother officers of the staff. I wish that I could write much more, but I can not,
Yours most affectionately & truly
Geo. B. Johnston
Please give our love to Gabe & tell him his sister wrote him a long letter not long ago. Remember me to Angerman.

Chapel Hill, June 1st 1863

My dear General,

I rec'd your kind letter of the 24th ult. yesterday, and was delighted to hear from you again; it is indeed very good in you to write me such nice, long letters while I am able to send only such wretched scrawls in reply. I have been here two weeks, have not improved as fast as I had hoped. Just one week ago I had my first copious hemorrhage, which prostrated me for several days; I am improving again, will leave in a day or two for Raleigh, and join you as soon as feasible. I do not know what Dr. Johnson will think of my condition, but if his opinion be that it will be long before I can return to my duties, I shall deem it my duty to tender my resignation; I am loathe to hold an office which I can not fill. It would grieve me much to quit the service now, but most of all to leave you. I trust I may not be forced to do so. I wish to ask a favor of you. A young cousin of mine (distant) wishes a position in the army; his Gr. Mother & my Gr. Aunt, a venerable old lady of more than eighty years, widow of the late Chief Justice Nash of this State, wrote me on the subject the other day. Fred Nash, the young man in question bears his Gr. Father's name & inherits much of his ability; he is just eighteen, has finished his first year in
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the University, taking the highest honors in his class. At the breaking out of hostilities he enlisted and served as a private some time in Clingman's Regt. His health became so bad that he was discharged; it is now, however, entirely restored. He has a Brother now dying of disease contracted while in the army. From all that I have seen of Fred (very little, I confess) and from what I have learned of him from the best sources, I feel perfectly convinced that he will make a valuable officer wherever placed. His conduct is unexceptionable in morals and gentlemanly deportment. Could you recommend him on the above for a position as Lieutenant in our Brigade? If there is a vacancy in John Barry's regt. which he can at all influence, I know he would exert himself in favor of young Nash, who is a "clubmate of ours." Will you be so kind as to mention this to Col. Barry and tell him Nash is a true "Delta Psi"? Mrs. Johnston is quite well, is much obliged to you for the signatures of Jackson you sent her; we very often think and talk of you, and of your family, especially do we feel most deeply for your Parents in their great distress. We feel as if we knew all of your family intimately for we have thought and spoken to each other of them so often. May God in His mercy comfort their sorrow; He, only, can do it. I can not write a long letter, it fatigues me so much & makes my head-ache. My wife joins me in kindest regards to yourself, Oscar, Majors Thompson & Carraway, & Lt Bryan; also to Graham Morrow & McCauley. Please give our love to Gabe & ask him whether he rec'd his sister's letter. I am much obliged to you for all the items about the Brigade & the army generally each was noted & will be commented on when I am able. I will write again, as soon as I reach Raleigh. You have spoiled me now, so you must write me again before long.
Most affctly. yrs.
Geo. B. Johnston


Raleigh, July 6th, 1863

Gen'l Jas. H. Lane Jr.
Comdg Brigade Pender's Division

My dear General,

With this I send you a formal resignation of my position on your Staff. Although it may seem uncalled for, I cannot resist the temptation to write you more fully on the subject.

After three months struggle with disease, in the vain hope of rejoining you and sharing with you the toils & dangers of this Campaign, I am told by my physician that I am utterly unfit for duty now; and that I can not hope to return to my post while warm weather lasts. In accordance with the views expressed to you in a former letter, nothing is left me but to resign.

The principle of duty is the only one which has guided my action in this matter. Duty to the service demands my resignation; for, in this her life & death struggle, our Country needs that every one of her of-

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fices should be efficiently filled, that every officer should at least be at his front, ready to do his best; he [ ] who holds one of these offices and from sickness or any other cause is unable to discharge its duties, must give way to a better man. Such is my situation.

My duty to you, as to my comdg officer and my personal friend requires it; for the last four months you have been without the services of an Ajutant General and doubtless have been compelled to perform my duties for me; besides your enemies in the Brigade will make my continued absence a handle against you, speaking of me with slanderous tongues & lying hearts that they may wound your feelings and lessen your influence.

Finally my duty to my family & myself requires my resignation; if I should retain my position, and, after spending the whole active campaign in my sick room, should be able to re-

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sume my duties at its close, when the army had quit the field for the camp, this would afford a coincidence too unfortunate not to be immediately siezed upon by the tooth of Calumny; indeed few men's reputations could stand such a test. Rather than do so, I would then resign and go again into the ranks.

I need not tell you, my dear General, with what reluctance I take this step, how, hoping against hope, I have put off the evil day, until, I fear, I have taxed too sorely even your friendly patience. Your military family was a happy one, such kindliness and genial courtesy and mutual confidence dwelt among us, and the ties of personal friendship, binding me so strongly to yourself, were beginning to take in also and to draw very close to me all of my brother officers of your Staff. It causes me no slight pain to sever those ties, to take to my heart the

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thought that I am no longer of [ ].

My constant prayer will be May God protect and bless you all; since my heart will be with you in the future rejoicing at every brave deed done and at every new laurel won, full of earnest sympathy with all your fortunes, whether good or ill. Please remember me most particularly to my brother officers of the Staff, the officers of Co. G, Cols. Lowe, Speer & Major Stowe, Cols. Avery, Barbour & Barry, - in a word all of my personal friends.

Give much love to Gabe for us; tell him his sister wrote him a long letter some months ago to which we have rec'd no reply. Mrs. Johnston joins me in kindest regards to Oscar & yourself. If God should ever give me strength to take the field again, you may expect to see me somewhere in the old 4th, if it be in the ranks with a musket on my shoulder.

Yours most truly
Geo. B. Johnston

Raleigh July 15th/63

My dear General,

Filled with anxiety about yourself and my friends, I have waited in vain for one word of intelligence; Col Avery's death is the only item I have heard. I am satisfied however that you are as yet safe, else the news of your disaster would have reached me. Forced by sickness to give up a position I could not fill, I have sent by mail to you my formal resignation accompanied by a surgeon's certificate and an explanatory letter. My health does not improve that I can see. With this letter I enclose the sketch promised so long ago, I intended sending it direct to the Editor, but have such an
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excellent opportunity of communicating with you through Genl Hoke, that I send it to you. It is not by any manner of means what I would like it to be, but it is the best that I can do in my present condition. If there be the slightest objection to it in point of fact or execution, please do not hesitate a moment to destroy it, and I transfer the commission to some one whose health may adorn his work with richer beauties, but whose heart could not be actuated by tenderer friendship.

Do not give me up now but write to me. I have written you often but do not know whether you have received my letters. We are friends, and if God spare our lives I hope yet to see you with the charming

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Mrs Lane entertained by us at our own happy little house. We went to see Mrs Branch last week for the first time; she was very cordial and kind in her bearing to me, and exhibited great interest in every thing concerning the brigade. I think the poison so artfully instilled into her [mind] has received its antidote. Major Blount also has been very polite to me, and shows a strong inclination to cultivate my acquaintance but my continued sickness prevents much intercourse.

I say that I am anxious to hear from you all yet I shall tremble to hear the first news, for many of my friends must have fallen in these bloody battles. About Gabe, I do not feel so very uneasy, but still we await tidings from him with great eagerness. Our family

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has been made to mourn a great loss in both branches. My father's cousin Capt Campbell T. Iredell of the 47th N.C.T. and my mother's Col H. K. Burgsoyn of the 26th were both mortally wounded in the battle of the 1st July. Capt Iredell was connected to us by still closer ties being the husband of my wife's sister. Col Burgsoyn was my roommate at college & my familiar friend.

Remember me most affectionately to all of my friends of the brigade, alas I know not how many may survive (or rather how few) to receive my message. Do not think that I have lost my spirit, because I do not say that I am panting and fretting to be with you for you see that I have a scribe who will allow no such language on my part. If there be any article among my possessions left behind which you desire

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keep it as a souvenir of me, then when perfectly convenient send them on to me, after giving Gabe the blanket with the exception of the small black one. If he does not want them tell him to give them to any member of Co G who may need them. Rufus has resigned also, and sends the same message to Adam with the exception that he strictly charges him not to keep any thing
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behind especially the blankets. Again I ask you to write me if only a line while in the saddle. Do not trouble yourself with any other request of mine if to perform it would give you trouble. Mrs Johnston joins me in love to Oscar & yourself & in kindest regards to Major Carranay & Lt Bryan.

Remember us to Messrs Angerman, Barringer & Huffstellter

Your true friend
Geo. B Johnston

--Transcribed by Terri Stout-Stevens of Pfafftown, NC, August 1, 1999.  Edited and posted to the web by Marty Olliff, Assistant Archivist, Auburn University, who takes responsibility for any errors.