Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stovepipe: The Story of A Civil War Hero

Adam Rankin "Stovepipe" Johnson

       I recently finished the book Thunder From A Clear Sky by Ray Mulesky. I ordered the book online and when it first arrived, I flipped through the pages and thought it looked dull. The saying that you can't judge a book by its cover proved true in this case. Once I started the book, I found I couldn't put it down. Adam Rankin Johnson is one of the best kept stories of the Civil War. I've read enough books on Nathan Bedford Forrest to burn a wet mule, but then I learn there was another Confederate Brigadier General just like him. A master at the game of bluff. 
       Mr. Mulesky does a great job telling the story of General Johnson who is the star of the book. Johnson was from Kentucky, but lived across the Ohio River from Newburgh, Indiana. Johnson often found himself in tight places only to bluff his way out. He once came upon some Federal soldiers against his three men and told them they were surrounded and would all be killed if they didn't surrender. They surrendered to Johnson and his three men. 
       He earned the nickname "Stovepipe" from the fact that when he and about twenty men raided Newburgh, Indiana, he used an old stovepipe mounted on wagon wheels to appear as if he had a cannon aimed at the town. As proved so often in the case of Stovepipe Johnson, the bluff worked. He took three men and double barreled shotguns and attacked an entire company of artillery during the night. By shifting positions, he made the company believe they were surrounded by several thousand men. His men fired on the Federals for ten minutes and disappeared, but the Federal soldiers returned fire for another four hours thinking they were about to all be captured. 

Stovepipe Johnston following his wounding

         Tragically, he was accidently shot in the head by one of his own troopers. He was said to have been blinded by the fire, but he wore some strange glasses until his death that suggests that he didn't totally lose his vision. Following the wounding he continued to serve until the end of the war. He was thirty years old at the close of the war. 

A postwar photograph of Stovepipe Johnson

       Following the war, Johnson moved to Texas and led quite an active life for a disabled man. He founded a town, along with various other enterprises and died there in 1922. He rests today in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas.

Adam Rankin Stovepipe Johnson

The resting place of Stovepipe Johnson and his wife

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