There can be no greater honor or privilege than to conscientiously serve
one's country during its days of peril. It requires something more than
patriotic zeal for a man to forsake home, business, the pleasures of social
or public life and voluntarily assume the hardships of the camp and the
field, much less risk one's life in the brunt of battle, and the younger
generation of today are apt to not give the respect due the brave "boys in
blue" who saved the nation's integrity and who did so much for them. The
subject of this sketch is one of those whose name is to be found on the
scroll of honor in this connection.
Capt. William T. Johnson was born in Scott county, Indiana, October 29, 1841, the son of Stephen and Levina (Williams) Johnson, the former having been born in Lexington, Indiana, in 1815 when Lexington was the county seat of Scott county. The subject's paternal grandfather secured land in Scott county just as the Indians were leaving there. Elijah English also secured land nearby at the same time, which land is owned at present by Capt. W. E. English, of Indianapolis. The father of the subject was a cabinetmaker, a preacher and a farmer, and quite a prominent man of that time. He was a great admirer of Millard Fillmore. He turned to the Republican party late in life, but never sought political office. He was called to his rest in 1870. Levina Williams Johnson, mother of our subject, was born in the memorable year of 1812. Her uncle was an Indian fighter for many years and was with Lewis and Clark in their raid through Indiana. Her uncle's name appears on a monument in the West where the last raid was made on the Indians in the battle of Tippecanoe. She had four brothers and four sisters. The parents of the subject married in 1835. Eight children were born to them, all living at this writing, namely: Sarah, William T., our subject; Caroline, John and David, twins; Martha, Mary and James.
The subject's paternal grandfather was a "minute man" under Washington.
William T. Johnson was educated in the public schools of his native community. However, his schooling was somewhat limited. He worked about the home place until the time he enlisted in the army. He came to Marion county, Illinois, in 1870, to engage in farming and has lived in Patoka township ever since. He was for several years in the dairy and stock raising business, having made a pronounced success of whatever he undertook, being a man of great industry and rare soundness of judgment. He always kept his farm in first class condition and it was well tilled and produced excellent crops. For the past eleven years Mr. Johnson has lived in quiet retirement in a beautiful and comfortable home in Vernon.
Mr. Johnson was first married to Samantha Gray in the year 1866. There are no living children from this union. Mr. Johnson's second wife was Addie Gray, daughter of Thomas and Amanda (Carroll) Gray. Amanda Carroll was a distant relative of Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The second wife of Mr. Johnson was the fifth child in a family of twelve. One girl and one boy have been born to the subject and wife: Tina, who married Warren Murfin; Biness, the son, is single and living at home.
As intimated above our subject was one of the gallat defenders of the flag during the dark days of the sixties, having enlisted in 1861 in Company C, Thirty-Eighth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, under command of Colonel Schribner, and was sent at once to General Sherman's command. Walter Q. Gresham was in line with the subject as a private at the organization of the regiment. He engaged in a skirmish lasting thirty days before the battle of Stone River, in which great battle our subject was wounded. At the battle of Chickamauga our subject was under the command of Colonel Thomas in the One Hundred and Forty-Ninth Regiment. He was captured at Chickamauga and sent to Libby prison for six months, but he was one of the six men who dug out of that prison and escaped. Twenty men made the effort, but the others failed. They worked in relays of five men and tunneled under the wall from the basement of the old warehouse where they were confined. They had nothing but an old chisel to work with. Those who escaped were, beside our subject, Charles Vaughn, Thomas A. Morrison, Alex Lorington, T. McVey and D. Laporte. They spent seventeen days and nights digging their way to freedom. The subject was thirty-six days and nights getting back to the Union lines. He remained in hiding during the day and traveled at night. He came out of the army in October, 1865, a captain and acting adjutant at the time. He is said by his comrades to have been a most gallant soldier and never flinched from duty.
Our subject was captain of Company D, in Pittinger's Provisional Regiment, during the Spanish-American war.
The above is a record of which anyone should be proud. Captain Johnson has been Justice of the Peace since living in Vernon and his court has been a popular one, his decisions being fair on all matters submitted to him. He is a loyal Republican and is known to all classes for his honesty, integrity, public spirit and good natured personality, which makes him one of the most highly esteemed men in Patoka township.
Extracted 27 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 472-474.