Lt. Johnston's journey started when he immigrated to this country from Ireland when he was 3. While as a young man he held various jobs and settled in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1852 he married Virginia Papi in the Cathedral in St. Augustine. In 1861 he joined the Confederate Navy, leaving a wife and 4 children behind. He was a Lieutenant on the CSS Atlanta and was the assistant engineer, the third in command. While trying to run the Union blockade, to bring in much needed supplies, the ship was run aground and captured by Federal forces at Savannah harbor on June 17, 1863. He was sent to a Federal prison where he died from pneumonia on Oct. 13, 1863 and was buried outside the prison gates. He was so well liked by the fellow prisoners and prison staff that they raised 75 dollars for a 1500 pound gravestone for him. He is believed to be the only Confederate prisoner to receive such an honor. Base closings forced the government to move him 3 times to end up at Ft. Devins in Massachusetts. His widow was never informed of his death and never remarried after 50 years.
Then the process of bringing him home began. Ms. Dana Chapman, of the Georgia Civil War Commission and former member of the UDC, started her quest 9 years ago to have Lt. Johnston brought home to be buried with his family at the family plot. After all those long years of hard work and dedication, her labor of love was rewarded in the huge turnout to honor to last Confederate prisoner buried in New England. Ms. Chapman made the reproduction CSS Atlanta flag which covered the gravestone which was the original one and had been brought down with Lt. Johnston's remains. She even made a uniform for one of his ancestors. The casket was draped in the Bonnie Blue Flag that had been used to cover his grand daughters casket, who had been president of the UDC. When it came time for Ms. Chapman to speak at the service, as she had done at the exhumation at Ft. Devins, tears rolled down her cheeks as did many of those present who heard her emotional address.
Among the many dignitaries and family members present was great great grandson retired USMC Lt. Col. Henry Bond, who spoke of the life of Lt. Johnston, while dressed in a Confederate naval uniform.
One of the most sought after dignitaries present, for autographs and photo opportunities, was Mr. Nelson W. Winbush, an African-American, whose ancestor served in the Confederate Army. He is a life member of the SCV, Jacob Summerlin Camp 1516. Mr. Winbush proudly wore his SCV medals, spoke of his love of his Southern Heritage and his Confederate ancestor and gladly posed for numerous photos with civilians and reenactors and the Confederate Battle Flag.
The funeral procession had started at Tiger Point Marina, where Lt. Johnston's casket had been taken off the CSS Belle by a CSA Naval honor guard, transferred to a CSA army honor guard and placed upon a hand drawn wagon. With honor guard, family members, dignitaries and civilians following, the procession was led by a lone Confederate soldier followed by a bagpiper, Dan Bray of Perry, Georgia who played Going Home. The detail marched the one half mile to the cemetery where the services began at 2 pm. During the services Mr. Bray also played Amazing Grace and Dixie. Further music was provided by the 3rd. Florida Regimental Band, who played various hymns, and at the end of the service played the Confederate National Anthem, God Save the South, and a stirring rendition of Dixie. Lt. Johnston was laid to rest at the foot of his wife's grave, with 4 of his children.
Of the many reenactor portrayals there where two notables. One of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, and Al Stone whose protrayal of Gen. Robert E. Lee is simply uncanny.
At the end of the service, a rifleman honor guard fired a salute 3 times, which was followed by eight artillery pieces, who fired singularly, then one final salute in which they all fired at the same time.
From all over the South various reenactment groups and organizations came to pay their respects. I humbly represented the 37th Texas Cavalry.
The end of the service turned unto a joyous occasion, with many admiration's paid on the job well done and the authenticity of the service. But most of all, they were happy to see that one of our own was finally home.
Ms. Dana Chapman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Al Stone as Gen. Lee at http://re_lee_stone.tripod.com
If you want to see photos of the funeral, see these websites:
Lt. Johnston's Funeral
Lt. Johnston's Funeral Photos