Thirty four Members attended the ceremonies at Ft. Devens on October 12, 2002. This was something that we will probably never see again. A very moving Military funeral was held for Engineer Edward J. K. Johnstonfrom the CSN Raider Atlanta. It all started with Research by Joe Geden and the determined fellow up by Bob Hall. It was picked up by the SCV who donated the time and money to make the move to Florida possible. The entire event was outstanding. Joe Geden, our long time Confederate Navy Researcher, stated that "this was a magnificent tribute". Many groups worked to make this an impressive day --- and --- they were sucessful. Member Bob Hall, resplendent in his Confederate Captain's uniform, made this Ceremony one that we will long remember. (A tape is being made of the event and will be for sale within the next month.)
The bus trip was great --- Jack Flynn and Joe Doherty handled most of the duties. Jack Zeletsky spoke about Engineer Johnston on the way up. Joe Geden acted as our Guide. Nationwide media coverage were given to the event. Following the event, we adjourned to the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, MA for lunch. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and most said we should probably do this more often (Yes --- but someone will have to take charge).
At the luncheon, Member Joe Geden rose and offered the following toast:
"Edward Johnston, CSN"
I don't know what I can add other than this was a very nice day --- Bob Hall and Joe Ciano went to Florida for the Funeral on October 26, 2002. Jack Zeletsky took the Johnston Family members on a tour of Ft. Warren on October 13, 2002. On 10/26/2002, Olde Colony Members/Researchers Zeletsky & Geden held their own Memorial Service in Stoughton, MA --- attending Mass and offering a prayer for Engineer Johnston, and Joe Geden's Great Grandfather who went down with the CSN Atlanta. Following Mass both went to breakfast and discussed --- what else --- their research projects.
For approximately 40 members of the Olde Colony Civil War Round Table and several others, the repatriation of Confederate POW First Assistant Engineer Edward Johnston to his native state of Florida provided a rare moment in history most people will never know. Thanks to a generous invitation from the Metropolitan District Commission staff of Georges Island, I was blessed with the opportunity to guide descendants of Engineer Johnston on a journey of personal discovery as they toured Fort Warren the day following his disinterment ceremony at the Fort Devens Cemetry.
Sunday morning (October 13, 2002) brought mariner's weather with rain and mist veiling Boston Harbor. Still that did not dampen the spirits of Ben Korby; his wife, Mary Gene; his sisters, Brooke Nicotra and Frances Korbly Cantor; Ben. Jr.; his wife; his sister and her boy friend. Gathered around a table on the main deck of the M/V Baystate enroute to Georges Island, a family circle hoped to find answers to many long-pondered questions: What was life like for "Johnny" (Johnston's family nickname) at Fort Warren? How was he treated as a POW? Why did it take so long for Mrs. Johnston to learn of her husband's death?
Although I knew a few facts about Engineer Johnston, I realized the only way I could even begin to answer these questions would be to draw Ben Korbly and his family into an appreciation of the people and events that "Johnny" would have known at Fort Warren in the summer and fall of 1863.
I "introduced" the Korblys to Colonel Justin Dimick with the help of a period photograph and spoke of his character. I let them know that all prisoners under Dimick's charge were treated humanely and compassionately. I explained that his sole surviving son had died at Chancellorsville in May of 1863 and that Dimick never sought to take revenge for that and misfortune among the prisoners at Fort Warren.
On arriving Georges Island we paused to pay our respects at the monument honoring the thirteen prisoners (including Johnston) who died while confined at Fort Warren. I then outlined a plan to visits spaces that might have been familiar to "Johnny".
The hospital in Bastion D was our first stop where the Korblys learned that garrison soldiers and prisoners were treated alike by a skilled post Surgeon. From there we moved on to the casemate where the crew of the Atlanta had been quartered. A few of us ventured over a fence and down the granite steps to the basement level of Front III where Ben, his son and daughter were photographed at the front door of "Johnny's" quarters. Returning to parade ground level, we visited the room directly above Johnston's where family members paced off the floor space to visualize the accommodations "Johnny" would have had his quarters.
We explored the bakery and commissary department where a prisoner's daily ration of flour was converted into a one-pound loaf of bread. climbing to the ramparts we spotted Lovell's Island where a crewmate of Johnston's, Joseph Alexander, had stolen a small sailboat and briefly escaped.
We finished our tour in the vincinity of where Johnston's first grave would most likely have been situated. Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stphens recorded in his prison journal that he visited Johnston's grave on August 2, 1865. Lieutenant Woodman, the garrison officer in charge of prisoners, told Stephens that Johnston had died of kidney disease. As Korbly family took all this in, I concluded our tour ny sharing a passage written by Joshua Chamblain for the dedication of the monument honoring the 20th Maine Regiment at Gettysburg:
"In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays; forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger to consecrate a vision-place for souls. And reverent men and women from afar --- generations that knew us not, and that we know not of, will be heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them -----"
Our reverie became all the more poignant when we realized that we were gathered on Georges Island on the very day (October 13) Edward Johnston had died 139 years ago.
We were privileged to witness the events at the Fort Devens cemetery and at Fort Warren during Columbus Day week-end 2002 owe the descendants of Edward Johnston a sincere debt of thanks for their willingness to share a deeply personal family journey with all of us.
May Edward J. K. Johnston rest in peace.
c.2002 Jack Zeletsky
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.