The Joseph Hoag Johnston Civil War Papers (1855-1936)

Finding Aid Completed by Eric Roth, December 29, 1998
Last revised August 12, 2005
Volume: 0.5 cu. ft.
Acquisition: Unknown.
Access: Unrestricted.
Copyright: Request for permission to publish materials from these records should be discussed with the Archivist and Director of the Huguenot Historical Society.

Biographical Note

Joseph Hoag Johnston was born to David Johnston and Letita Clark in the town of Plattekill, Ulster County, New York in 1844. The family belonged to the Friends’ (Quaker) Church, where Joseph’s father served as minister. Joseph enlisted in the Union Army and joined the 124th Regiment of the New York State Volunteers at Newburgh, New York on August 13, 1862. In September he joined the Army of the Potomac and took up station at Miner’s Hill, Virginia, near Washington D. C., where it remained until October 16. During his military career, Joseph spent some time at Carver Hospital in Washington, D.C., and fought at Beverly’s Ford and Gettysburg. Johnston was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness in early May of 1864 [1].

Collection Description

The collection is divided into two series: 1) Military Papers and 2) Johnston Family Papers.  The papers mainly document the activities of the Army of the Potomac, particularly the Headquarters of the Provost Marshall General.  Subjects include supply requests and deliveries; transportation requests; promotions and appointments; and punishments of soldiers.  Other military papers contain lists of officers and regiments, certificates, and signatures of officers extracted from the original documents (these signatures may have originally come from a the collection currently known as the Isaac N. Hammond Civil War Collection). Much of the military papers do not pertain to the military career of Joseph H. Johnston and it is unknown how the papers came to be part of this collection.

The main strength of the collection is found in the eighty letters written between soldier Joseph H. Johnston and his family and friends back in Ulster County, New York, most notably his sister, Hannah, who later became a leading member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Other correspondents include nurse Lizzie Garrettson, M. L. Walton, Levi Cartwright and George A. Donaldson. In the letters, Joseph and his fellow correspondents discuss aspects of military life such as battle tactics and outcomes, the changing state of the war, treatment of prisoners, stays in hospitals; as well as family matters at home (illnesses, births, deaths, farm work, etc.) and news of relatives and friends serving elsewhere in the Civil War.

Other items include newspaper clippings concerning childhood education and World War I; a pamphlet entitled The Nurnberg Stove by Louise de la Rame (1893); an undated political poster; a scrapbook of news clippings and event programs kept by Henrietta M. Johnston concerning history and tourism in Europe, Quakers, and the Farmington School in Maine (1884-1887); and sympathy cards to Ettie Camp and Carrie Johnston of New Paltz from Julia A. Coutant and Mrs. M.K. Coutant (1936). 

Major weaknesses in the collection are the lack of a more comprehensive collection of personal papers of the Johnston family, and the unfortunate occurrence of signatures extracted from the original documents.

Within the two series, the papers are organized at the folder level alphabetically by subject and thereunder by date. Oversize documents are filed separately. All correspondence is filed chronologically. The papers are generally in good condition, showing only minor evidence of damage from tearing, fading and brittleness.

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Military Papers (1862-1865)
Papers include subject files such as military correspondence, lists of officers and regiments, supply lists and requests, receipts, orders, certificates, letters of recommendation and appointment, and signatures of Union Army officers.

Series 2: Johnston Family Papers (1855-1936)
Papers include the Civil War letters between Joseph H. Johnston and his family and friends, newspaper clippings, one pamphlet, one political poster and two sympathy cards.

Box and Folder List

Series 1: Military Papers (1862-1865)

Correspondence, Military (Dec. 1863-1865)
Miscellaneous, Military (Dec. 1863-1865)
Miscellaneous, Military (1863-1864) - oversize
Officer and Regiment Lists (1864)
Signature Collection (ca. 1862-1864)
Supply Lists and Requests (1862, 1864-1865)

Series 2: Johnston Family Papers (1855-1936)

Correspondence, Personal:
(1855, Nov. 1861-1863)
Miscellaneous, Personal (1893-1936) - oversize


[1] Biographical information excerpted from The Civil War Letters of Joseph Johnston, edited by, and with an introduction by Albert E. Langlitz. This report contains transcriptions of the a large portion of the eighty letters written between Joseph H. Johnston and his family back in Ulster County.