Bushwhacker Johnston LbNA # 59366
|Placed Date||Aug 22 2011|
|Location||Huntsville, Alabama, United States, Huntsville, AL|
Alabama History Preserved: Hiking the Trough Springs Trail is a visit to an historic Madison County landmark. It is the site of surrender of Lt. Col. “Bushwhacker” Johnston and approximately 150 Confederate soldiers to Union troops one month after General Rebert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
“Bushwhacker” Johnston’s story…
In April, 1862, Union soldiers under Brigadier General Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel seized Huntsville and severed the strategic Memphis & Charleston Railroad – a key component in the Union army taking Chattanooga and using it as a base for the push to Atlanta.
Area citizens responded to the Union occupation by cutting telegraph lines, railroad tracks and picking off Mitchel’s men. In return, the occupying army began destroying property of Confederate sympathizers, especially those of Captain Frank B. Gurley’s “irritating” cavalry company. Much of Madison and Jackson Counties were put to the torch. Huntsville was spared as it housed the Union army. The invaders left after four months, but the pattern of destruction had been set. When they returned nearly a year later the brutal policies resumed. The Confederate soldiers generally stayed south of the Tennessee River, but crossed for supply runs, raids and skirmishes with small groups of the Union Army. Captain Gurley was captured, but another young Confederate officer was proving just as troublesome. Colonel Lemuel Green Mead, a lawyer from Paint Rock, had returned to North Alabama with his “Paint Rock Rifles” after the battle of Shiloh. He recruited more men from inside Union-held North Alabama. However, the Union soldiers did not recognize these men as regular Confederate soldiers and labeled them “bushwhackers.” A bushwhacker was considered to be a non-regular soldier, who fought in unconventional ways – a sort of guerilla fighter. Every attack on the Union soldiers by Mead’s “bushwhackers” was met with violence against Southern citizens. The Union army drove off livestock, burned homes and barns, shot innocent people, abused women, and raided for provisions. Rev. Milus Eddings Johnston was a Methodist minister in charge of the Tennessee-based Fayetteville circuit. The Civil War found him working from Fayetteville to Madison and Jackson Counties in Alabama. By riding and preaching in this area, Johnston learned North Alabama geography and knew many of the citizens. In 1862 on their way to take Huntsville, General Mitchel and his Union solders proclaimed marshal law in Fayetteville and began to arrest “suspect” citizens. Even the peaceful minister was arrested. Though he was soon released, Johnston realized that his preaching would be limited and decided that he and his wife would sit out the war working his father-in-law’s farm near Vienna (now New Hope in Madison County.) In the late fall of 1863, Union troops burned Rev. Johnston’s father-in-law’s house in retaliation for an attack by Mead’s men. Johnston’s family then moved into the out buildings. A few weeks later, Union troops returned and burned the remaining buildings just as winter approached. The Union soldiers returned a third time to capture Johnston himself – even stealing his boots. (He had in-laws that were in the Confederate army and the Union army deemed him a criminal.) They chased him into the forest, intending to arrest him, but Johnston escaped. The patient minister had finally had enough. He traveled across the Tennessee River to join the Confederate army. He was sworn into Confederate service in January 1864, and was told to report to Colonel Mead. He quickly rose to the rank of Major, played a leading role in the partisan struggle, and commanded a squadron of several companies. He was promoted to Lt. Col. on March 27, 1865, but never officially received his commission. When he surrendered at Trough Springs on May 11, 1865, Johnston stated his rank as Major. The surrender by he and his men marked the end of the Civil War in North Alabama. In an interesting note, it is said that, before surrendering, Johnston told his men to hide all their good weapons in the surrounding rocks and caves so they could retrieve them later. They then gathered up the oldest and most beat-up guns they could find and surrendered them to the Union troops. An official report of the surrender makes a note that the Rebs turned in the most pitifully sorry guns that he had ever seen. Johnston continued to preach for another 30 years. (Information from the North Alabama Land Trust).
Directions: This box is located on the Trough Springs Trail near Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Alabama. From Governor’s Drive, turn onto Monte Sano Blvd. Trailhead parking lot is on the right, across the boulevard from Burritt on the Mountain entrance. Park there. Be sure to read the historical marker.
To the box: Find the trailhead sign and take the trail to the 3nd bench (don’t count the one at the trailhead sign). Sit on the bench and take a bearing of 215 degrees. Looking in that direction you will see two large round-topped boulders (beehive shaped). Go to the nearest one, about 30 steps away and go around the rock clockwise about 1/2 way. Facing the rock, look left and down to a pile of small rocks in a crevice of the larger one. Remove the rocks carefully until you find the letterbox. Replace the rocks to cover the box so that it can’t be seen and is secure. Watch for critters, large and small; some can be dangerous, as you know.