Confederate Sailor 3

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Continue on Lieutenant Edward J. Johnston, CSN

On Lieutenant Edward J. Johnston, CSN

Subj: TREATMENT for a documentary film
Date: 5/14/2002 11:46:52 PM Eastern Daylight Time
To: Gordonkwok

Gordon: Attached is a documentary film treatment I've prepared for submission to several grant makers and film producers to see if I can get the necessary funding to do a Documentary about Lt. Johnston and the CSS Atlanta. Bob Hall


For a proposed documentary about the return in October, 2002 of a Confederate POW to the South.

In 1862, the Scottish ship Fingal ran the Union blockade into Savannah with a load of arms for the Confederacy. After delivering its cargo, the foreign blockade-runner was bottled up in the harbor by Union gunboats. Unable to escape, the ship was commandeered by the Confederate Navy and converted into the ironclad warship the CSS Atlanta. It was hoped that this sister ship of the CSS Virginia (the Merrimac) could fight its way out into the Atlantic and join the rest of the Confederate fleet. A crew was assembled, among them Edward J. Johnston. He enlisted in the Confederate Navy and was commissioned a Lieutenant and the Atlanta's Assistant Engineer. Although born in Dublin, Ireland he had come to St. Augustine as a baby and at this time was a resident of Fernandina, Florida, age 35, married and the father of five children.

(Still photographs of Savannah during the Civil War, blockade-runners, the CSS Atlanta, newspaper articles, etc. are available and can be interspersed with modern day film of the scenic Savannah and Fernandina areas).

When the Atlanta attempted to break out into the Atlantic, she was attacked and overwhelmed by Union gunboats. The crew was taken prisoner and the officers were eventually interred at the prisoner of war compound established at Fort Warren on George's Island in Boston Harbor. The ship itself was taken over by the United States Navy. Her battle damage was repaired and she joined the Union fleet as the USS Atlanta and served out the balance of the war...ironically blockading southern ports against English and Confederate blockade runners.

(A wealth of photographs, artists' renderings, and newspaper drawings and articles about the Union blockade and the ships involved can be found in various State and Federal Government archives.)

Lieutenant Johnston died of pneumonia on October 14, 1863 while imprisoned at Fort Warren and was buried in the Fort's graveyard. Uniquely, it appears from the records that he was buried in a lead coffin inside a wooden box and his shipmates paid $75 to have a Boston stonecutter make a massive granite gravestone to cover the entire top of the grave. Before he died, Lieutenant Johnston requested "that he be buried with his face to the South." This dying request was carried out when he was first buried at Fort Warren. However, the expansion of military facilities on the Boston Harbor islands required first the removal of his remains from George's Island to be reburied on Governor's Island without regard to where he faced. This was followed by removal from Governor's Island to being reburied on Deer Island. Finally, in 1939, his remains were once again removed and he became the first to be buried in the new post cemetery at Fort Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts. Today, we do not know if his face is to the South, but the graveyard where Lieutenant Johnston rests also became the resting-place for the remains of 22 WW II German POWs and two Italian POWs.

(Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, the Harbor Islands, and the Fort Devens' cemetery provide scenic locations for filming while still photographs of Lieutenant Johnston and the crew of the CSS Atlanta imprisoned at Fort Warren and other materials including 1863 documents for the purchase of his gravestone are available.)

To the best of our knowledge, Lieutenant Johnston is the only Confederate POW still buried in New England. Following the end of the Civil War, it appears that the remains of all other Confederate POWs who had died while imprisoned in New England were returned to their southern homes. Lieutenant Johnston was the one exception...perhaps because of the costs his family would have had to incur to move a lead coffin and a 1,000-lb. gravestone from Massachusetts to Florida. When an article in the Old Colony Civil War Round Table's newsletter was brought to the attention of Tom Kelley, Massachusetts Commissioner of Veterans Services, about the presence of a Confederate POW here in Massachusetts, he commissioned his Special Assistant, Bob Hall, to see if he could make arrangements to return Lieutenant Johnston to his home. At that time, it was thought the Lieutenant was a native of Georgia as that State was named on the gravestone. We all know that the USA is making every possible effort to return home the remains of American POWs and MIAs from Korea and Vietnam so it seemed only proper to Commissioner Kelley that we should do the same for a Confederate POW.

(There are many existing films of America's efforts in Vietnam to recover POW remains plus other pictorial materials that could be incorporated as well as interviews with Bob Hall and Commissioner Kelley, a Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient, about the project and how it came about.)

In order to get permission from the US Army to move Lieutenant Johnston's remains, it was necessary to first find the Lieutenant's closest living relative and to determine Johnston's original state and town, and where a final resting place would be most appropriate for him. This was accomplished through the power of the Internet. Through a "Confederate" website, Edward Johnston's great-great grandson was located. He was in favor of moving his great-great grandfather's remains and was aware of the family gravesite in Bosque Bello Cemetery in Fernandina, Florida where - amazingly - an empty grave at his wife's feet has been awaiting the return of Lieutenant Johnston for 139 years. The Georgia and Florida Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy have agreed to pay all costs involved and are making all the necessary arrangements to bring Lieutenant Johnston home to the South in October 2002.

(Fernandina, Florida and the Bosque Bello Cemetery are highly scenic and the sites lend themselves to dramatic and colorful film coverage.)

On Friday, October 11, 2002 an undertaker from Georgia and the reenactment crew of the CSS Jackson in Confederate Navy uniform will arrive at Fort Devens cemetery, remove the 1,000- lb. gravestone, pack it for shipment and place it in a truck. Then, assisted by the Army gravedigger, they will locate and disinter the remains (thought to be in a lead box), place the remains in a casket, and decorously arrange the area for the following day's disinterment ceremony. In addition to the US flag, the only other flag displayed will be a replica of the Confederate Navy flag that flew on the CSS Atlanta. On Saturday, October 12, a US Navy chaplain will lead appropriate prayers, Commissioner Kelley will present Lieutenant Johnston's great-great grandson with the Governor's official pardon from the Lieutenant's imprisonment in Massachusetts. Next, US Senator John Kerry will read a Presidential citation returning Lieutenant Johnston's citizenship. Honors will be paid to the remains by both US military and Confederate reenactor honor guards. Then the casket (covered by the Confederate Navy flag) will be placed in the hearse where it and cars with the accompanying Confederate Navy crew will be escorted to the New York State line by Massachusetts State Police. It is hoped that those charged with the planning can arrange to have similar escorts whenever the cortege passes through each State until it reaches Florida. It is also anticipated that UDC, SCV, Confederate re-enactors, and veterans' organizations will honor the passage of the cortege by standing by the roadside at attention and saluting as the cortege passes.

(It's probable that the cortege will drive around the clock until they reach Jacksonville, Florida as there will be a number of drivers available to spell each other.)

(The photo opportunities presented are obvious. Both still and action filming should be planned.)

Lieutenant Johnston's casket will then be placed on the CSS Bell - a replica Confederate warship - which is based in Jacksonville. The Bell will sail up the St. John's River to Fernandina. There the casket will be removed and carried to the Bosque Bello Cemetery where (insofar as possible) an authentic Confederate military burial ceremony according to the official Confederate military manual will take place. It is expected that US Senator Graham will participate in the burial ceremonies.

(Again, the photo opportunities presented are obvious. Both still and action filming should be planned.)

There is a postscript to the story of Lieutenant Johnston's ship, the CSS Atlanta, that might be mentioned in this documentary or could possibly be the subject of another.

The United States government sold the Atlanta following the end of the Civil War. The buyer in turn sold the Atlanta in 1869 to the government of Haiti that needed a warship to put down a rebellion. In December 1869, the Atlanta steamed out of the mouth of the Delaware Bay near Cape Henlopen in the face of a blizzard and was lost somewhere off the coast between Cape Henlopen and Cape Charles that it is surmised was her next refueling stop. Because she was an ironclad with a complement of cannon and possibly gold and silver coinage to pay for refueling and other possible purchases, and because she probably hugged the coast before sinking, the Atlanta should be relatively easy for a salvager to find and recover. Indeed, an underwater salvager from Massachusetts has already indicated a possible interest in seeking her out.

(A possible closing scene following Lieutenant Johnston's final burial might be shot from a helicopter flying along the coast and focusing on the great number of shipwrecks lying in the shoals between the two Capes.)


Prepared by: Robert D. Hall, Jr.
(Special Assistant to the Commissioner)
51 Ware Road
Needham, MA 02492

Latest firm date (Oct 12, 2002) for Lt. Johnston's disinterment at Ft. Deven, Mass.

Subj: Re: Lt. Johnston Firm Dates
Date: 6/14/2002 9:00:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time
To: Dave Kenney, Gordon Kwok, Bill Bernache
After going back and forth between the Southrons and other concerned parties, we now have a concensus (subject of course to changes due to acts of God and man). The date that the Georgians will arrive and begin the disinterment will be Thursday, October 10 at which time they wil remove the stone and begin probing for the casket/remains. On locating the remains they will probably need another day for the actual disinterment so that will continue on Friday, October 11. The official ceremony will then take place on Saturday, October 12 at 11 AM. Will someone please advise Joe Geden and anyone else who should be alerted to put these dates on their calendars? Bob Hall

Preservation of the record

Ft. Warren researcher, Jack Zeletsky and Confederate Admiral, Joe Geden drove to Ft. Deven on 06/01/2002 and took lots of photos of Lt. Johnston grave stone. Joe also traced the exact wordings of the grave stone on a large piece of tracing paper with grahphite. Joe and Jack showed me their work and keep it as a record. For after Oct 2002, Johnston's 1,000 lbs grave stone will be moved to Fernandina, FL.

Subj: Bus for Oct. 12 to Ft Devens
Date: 6/30/2002 10:45:54 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: dave kenney
Ladies/Gents, Some Input please --- As you know the Engineer Johnston CSN Ceremony will take place at Fort Devens on Saturday October 12th at 11:30 a.m. Olde Colony instigated this entire affair with a story in the Campaign by Member Joe Geden (Stoughton) and followups by Member Bob Hall (Needham) Mr. Hall has informed us that Senator John Kerry, Governor Jane Swift and others will be attending this Ceremony and TV Coverage is expected. We have talked about having a bus take Olde Colony members to Ft Devens and return. Possibly meeting somewhere in Dedham and taking the Bus. At the E-Board Meeting the other night Jack Flynn was given the task of contacting a bus Company re; Fee etc. The E-Board agreed that the only way we cold do it is have commitments with a payment from those wishing to participate. Jack did contact A Norwood Bus Co. and the fee for a 45 passenger bus is $450.00. However the day we want it is just about the busiest day of the year for bus hiring due to "leaf peepers", so we have to commit ourselves and make a payment now in order to get the bus. ---------------

Bob Hall sent me these article to be inserted in this web page.

Southern Heritage News & Views


He was born in Dublin, Ireland, in October, 1827. His family emigrated to America when he was about 3 years old. Apparently they came to St. Augustine as he was christened in the St. Augustine Cathedral. As a young man he settled in Fernandina, Florida. There, on July 7, 1851 he married Virginia Papy. In early 1863 he enlisted in the Confederate Navy at Jacksonville, Fla. He was sent to Savannah, Georgia and assigned to the CSS Atlanta. He left behind in Fernandina his wife Virginia and several children..

According to the records at Ft. Warren, Georges Island, (Boston), Mass., his family was never informed of his death on October 13, 1863. Apparently he was well liked by friend and foe alike as at a cost of $75, his Confederate shipmates and Union guards bought and had a large granite gravestone put over the grave in his memory. At their release, the Confederate officers and men returned South but failed to contact Johnston's family so they were unaware of where he was buried. Over the years the US government saw fit (because of post closings) to move the remains from Ft. Warren to Deer Island, then to Governor's Island, and, in 1939, to the post cemetery at Ft Devens. After the Civil War ended, one of Johnston's daughters began searching the federal records for her father's file and found he had died while a prisoner of war in Massachusetts.

In 1937, a granddaughter, Mrs. Gaskins, contacted Mrs. Roscoe H. Chesley (the founder of the Boston Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy) and asked for help in finding her father's grave. Mrs. Chesley told her she had been taking flowers to the grave on Governor's Island every Memorial Day for 17 years. At that time, the family looked into moving the remains to Florida and decided it was too costly especially in those Depression years.

In 1993 Mrs. Debbie Mattee (a Massachusetts native, now living in Georgia) was taking part in the yearly living history at Ft. Warren. While there, she paid her respects at a marker at the Fort with Johnston's name on it. Upon returning home she told Mrs. Dana Chapman (then a member of the Georgia Civil War Commission) the story. They decided to try to bring the remains South, but had no luck in locating the family. They tabled the matter when the base Commander at Ft. Devens told them he could not release the remains except to family members.

In the January issue of the Old Colony Civil War Round Table newsletter, member Joe Geden placed an article about Lt. Johnston and that he was still buried in Massachusetts. Joe wondered if something could be done to return the remains to his home state. Bob Hall, a member of the OCCWRT and Special Assistant to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Veterans Services asked for and received permission from Commissioner Tom Kelley to attempt to return the Confederate POW to his home. At that time it was thought he was from Georgia as his gravestone so indicated. Bob went on the internet to attempt to locate a descendent of Lt. Johnston. As luck would have it, he made contact with Mrs. Chapman in Georgia. A Mrs. Sally Raburn of Florida also contacted Mr. Hall. She had been researching Lt. Johnston's family tree and was in contact with several descendents. Between Mrs. Chapman and Mrs. Raburn, Mr. Hall was put in touch with Mr. Ben Korbly, Lt. Johnston's great-great grandson. Mr. Hall guided Mr. Korbly through the proper channels and routines necessary to get permission to move Lt. Johnston's body from Fort Devens, Massachusetts to Fernandina, Florida. Members of the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans, in the Albany area offered their assistance, including providing the necessary financing. Mr. George Hagan, Jr. of the Georgia SCV is donating time and money for the move. He is a CS Navy reenactor with the CSS Jackson. Matthews Funeral Home is providing the vehicles and the expertise in the physical moving of both the enormous gravestone and of Lt. Johnston's remains. The Florida Division Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy are working with Mrs. Chapman who Mr. Korbly has appointed the Johnston-family liaison to all involved in this move to bring Edward Johnston to his final resting place.

Following are excerpts taken from "The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion" series I volumes 13 and 14, series II, volumes 1 and 2, showing Mr. Johnston's military record and the record in brief of the CSS Atlanta.

The Confederate Navy reported the following about CSS Atlanta: acquisition - "formerly the English blockade-running steamer Fingal. It was converted September, 1862, into an ironclad gunboat and ram at Savannah, Ga., by Messers. N. and A. F. Taft. Captured in Wassaw Sound, Ga., at 5:30 a. m. by US Weehawken and Nahant. At the time of her capture there were on board 21 officers, 124 men, including marines. She had 16 men wounded and 1 killed."

June 1, 1863 the following order was issued by Commander Webb of the CSS Atlanta, to First Assistant Engineer Johnston, C. S. Navy to proceed on special duty to Columbus, Ga., "Sir: You will proceed forthwith to Columbus, Ga., and have the main steam valve of the engine made anew at the naval works, using all dispatch. As soon as it is completed you will return to this steamer. Respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. A.Webb Commanding Naval Squadron

First Assistant Engineer E. J. Johnston Steamer Atlanta, {St.} Augustine Creek, Thunderbolt, Ga."

In a report written by Rear-Admiral S. F. Du Pont to U. S. Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Wells, dated June 17, 1863, "I have received further details of the capture of the Atlanta, sent through the kindness of Colonel Barton by telegraph from Fort Pulaski. The Atlanta, Captain William Webb, came down this morning via Wilmington River to attack our vessels in Wassaw, accompanied by two wooden steamers, filled, it is said, with persons as spectators. The Weehawken, Captain John Rodgers, at once engaged her, firing in all five shots, three of which took effect, penetrating her armor and killing or wounding the crews of two guns. Two or three of the pilots were also badly wounded and the pilothouse broken up, whereupon the vessel grounded and immediately after surrendered. The Weehawken was not hit. The armament of the Atlanta was two 7-inch and two 6-inch Brooke guns. She was but slightly injured."

June 18, 1863, the following report was filed by Captain John Rodgers and Commander John Downes of the Weehawken: "The Atlanta was first discovered at early dawn, about 3 miles distant, standing toward us, coming from the Wilmington River, and rapidly approaching. At first she was mistaken for a steamer that had reconnoitered us daily at about this hour; but a few moments sufficed to show us the true character of the vessel, and ..............The Weehawken, slipping her cable, passed us, standing out seaward,at about 4:45 a. m., clearing ship for action, and in a few moments, our anchor being weighed, we followed in her wake. At this time the Atlanta fired first shot, which came close to our pilothouse. "

One June 19, 1863, the officers and men able to be moved were placed on the Cimarron and Oleander, among the officers listed, Captain William A. Webb, G. K. (Edward J. K.) Johnson, first engineer and 143 other officers and crew including marines.

The Olde Colony July/Aug 2002 Newsletter reported that Board member Bob Hall and Vice President Joe Ciano will attend Lt. Jonston's burial ceremony in Fernandina, FL.

Member Jim Barrett informed us on 2 websites from Jacksonville, FL reporting on Lt. Johnston.

Lt. Johnston1, Jacksonville FL

LT. Johnston2, Jacksonville FL This one included a picture of the grave of Johnston's wife in Fernandina.

News release for all CW Round Tables and CW Newspapers
By Bob Hall


ATTENTION ALL CIVIL WAR BUFFS and ALL NEWS MEDIA! On Saturday, October 12, 2002 in Massachusetts and again on Saturday, October 26, 2002 in Florida two not-to-be-missed, once-in-a-lifetime Civil War events will take place!! The remains of New England's last known Civil War POW, Lieutenant Edward J.K. Johnston, CSN, will be disinterred from his grave at Fort Devens Army cemetery and reburied at his wife's feet in his family's cemetery in Fernandina, Florida. Because Lieutenant Johnston is New England's last POW, never again in this century or the next will such an event take place.

Lt. Johnston was the Assistant Engineer on the CSS Atlanta, which was captured by the Union. He and his fellow officers were imprisoned at Fort Warren on George's Island in Boston Harbor. Johnston died of pneumonia on October 13, 1863 and was buried on George's Island with his face either to the sea or to the south as he had requested before he died. His remains were later dug up and he was reburied on Governor's Island. Then, again, he was disinterred and reburied on Deer Island. Finally, in 1939, his remains were sent to the Post Cemetery at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. It is not known if he continues to face either the south or the sea in that grave.

Through the Office of Commissioner Tom Kelley of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services, a search began to see if we could arrange to return this POW back home just as we are attempting to return our POWs/MIAs from Vietnam and Korea. We had learned of Lt. Johnston's presence in Massachusetts through an article in the Joseph Geden in the Old Colony Civil War Round Table newsletter. Through contacts made on the Internet with the Georgia and Florida Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy, arrangements have been completed to bring Lieutenant Johnston back home. All are invited to participate in these historic ceremonies. On Saturday, October 12, at 11 AM, appropriate military ceremonies will be conducted following which Lt. Johnston's remains will be placed in a hearse by the pall bearers - Confederate Navy reenactors and members of the crew of the CSS Jackson. State Police will escort the hearse and any vehicles joining in the procession down Route 2 to Route 95 to the RI border. There, if arrangements can be made, another police escort will lead the procession through Rhode Island and on its way to Fernandina. It is expected that escorts will be provided at each state border crossed on the way down to Florida. In each town, city, and state along the route many new vehicles are expected to join the procession replacing those who have left. The procession's route and anticipated times of arrival will be posted so Civil War buffs can either join in the cortege or stand at the side of the road in their city or town and salute the cortege as it passes by. On Saturday, October 26, 2002 in Fernandina, Florida, Lt. Johnston will be buried with a Confederate Officer's Military Funeral duplicating insofar as possible the actual ceremony used by the Confederates during the Civil War.

Further details about the ceremonies and for the schedule and routes the cortege will follow will be posted on the Internet and provided to the press. For information about the October 12 ceremony in Ayer, Massachusetts contact Bob Hall at For information about the Fernandina ceremony on October 26, contact Dana Chapman at For information on dates, times, and routes for the funeral cortege (which are still in the formative stages at this date) contact George Hagan at

Bob Hall 8/19/02


Olde Colony Civil War Round Table and its members played a role in assisting Edward J. Johnston to go home (from Massachusetts to Florida). When friends who knew of Johnston, from the South and Nationwide sent in information on Johnston, we placed them in the internet to tell the story for the benefit of the readers. Olde Colony CWRT is not responsible on the 100% accuracy of the information sent to us. Let the reader be aware. Thank you.