- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

BOSTON (UPI) At long last, Confederate Navy Lt. Edward J. Johnston will be making his final voyage, home to a hero's welcome.
Johnston is believed to be the last Confederate prisoner of war buried in New England.
But thanks to the efforts of veterans groups and Civil War re-enactors in the North and South, his remains are to be moved from Massachusetts to Florida for reburial this month with full Confederate military honors, 139 years after his death.
Johnston's new grave will be beside his wife and children in Fernandina Beach, Fla.
"There's an empty grave at his wife's feet waiting for him," said Bob Hall, a Massachusetts veteran who was instrumental in taking up the cause to return Johnston home. "He'll be buried there."
Some 500 people plan to take part in ceremonies when Johnston's body is exhumed Oct. 12 at Fort Devens, Mass.
On Oct. 26, his remains will be reburied with his wife, Virginia, at Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island near the Florida-Georgia border.
Some 1,500 people including 25 to 50 of Johnston's 200 living descendants are expected at the Florida ceremonies, said Dana Chapman, a founding member of the Georgia Civil War Commission who is coordinating the events.
"They are coming from all over the country," she said, adding that it will be a "hero's homecoming."
She said Johnston's family had been trying for 70 years to have the body returned, but never could afford the expense.
Miss Chapman had high praise for the "wonderful example" of cooperation among veterans groups in Massachusetts, Georgia and Florida.
Georgia became involved because it initially was believed Johnston came from that state, but it later was determined his home was in Florida.
Mr. Hall, an official with the Olde Colony Civil War Round Table, said there had been talk about moving Johnston's remains to a new veterans cemetery in Agawam, Mass. But he argued for returning the Confederate sailor to Dixie.
"He belongs back home," Mr. Hall said.
Using the Internet, Mr. Hall was able to locate some of Johnston's living relatives and, as Miss Chapman put it, the effort "just purely snowballed."
Born in 1827 in Dublin to Scottish parents, Johnston sailed to Florida with his parents when he was 3. He went to sea at 14 and became an engineer. After returning to Ireland for several years, he sailed back to Florida and in 1853 met and married his wife. They had five children.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Johnston, being a sailor, joined the Confederate Navy and was made a lieutenant. He was aboard the blockade-runner CSS Atlanta when it was captured by the USS Weehawken off Savannah, Ga., on June 17, 1863.
Johnston and other ship's officers were imprisoned at Fort Warren on George's Island in Boston Harbor. On Oct. 13, 1863, he died at the fort, most likely from a combination of pneumonia, dysentery and diarrhea. He was about 39.
Union guards and other prisoners collected $75 to buy a 1,500-pound granite stone marker for his grave. That marker will follow Johnston's remains on the journey to Florida.
Johnston's return is "historically significant because it'll never happen again," Mr. Hall said. "There's no possibility of any more Confederate prisoners of war still being buried in New England. He's the only one. It'll be the last time we will be sending a prisoner of war home."
This year, a member of the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans, George Hagan Jr., called Miss Chapman after learning of the effort to repatriate Johnston's remains.
Miss Chapman recalled that Mr. Hagan told her: "The bill is paid to move him home." Informed it would cost $10,000 or more, Mr. Hagan was undeterred: "I am picking up the tab."
The procession carrying Johnston's casket will be escorted by state troopers and greeted along the route by musket salutes by re-enactors for the three-day drive down Interstate 95 to Florida.
Draping the casket will be a replica of the flag from the CSS Atlanta, and the Bonnie Blue flag from the casket of Johnston's granddaughter, a former president of the Florida United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide