Civil War & Stephens County, OK (17)

Johnson, Moses (1839-1907)

Moses Johnson served as a wagoneer with Company H of the USA, 98th Illinois Mounted Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. As a teamster, he drove a wagon that carried the company’s essential supplies (food, equipment, ammunition, spare parts, baggage, etc.). He had to have some mechanical skills to maintain the wagon and keep it ready for service at all times and in all sorts of conditions as well as have no small amount of patience in the care and keeping of the horses or mules that pulled the wagon. A wagoneer had to be good at a number of things; something of a patient, jack-of-all-trades sort of person, if you please. It was hard, endless work that not just anyone would have been cut out to do well. While he would not normally have been one to serve in combat in a line of battle, it would not at all have been beyond request for him to do so should the need have arisen, and from the biography that follows below (which was penned in the mid to late 1890’s) we know Moses was involved in such.

“Moses Johnson, a retired farmer and prominent citizen residing in Olney, is a native of Richland County. He was born on the 24th of May, 1839, in Decker Township, and is a son of Moses and Sarah (Mason) Johnson, the former born in Kentucky in 1799, and the latter in Pennsylvania in 1805. When young people they came to Richland County, where their marriage was celebrated [on December 23, 1869]. Mr. Johnson was one of the earliest pioneers, locating here in 1815. For many years he engaged in farming and stock-raising upon a farm which he developed and improved. His death occurred August 13, 1849. His wife long survived him and died at the home of her son Andy in 1887. Mr. Johnson started out in life poor, but became the possessor of a handsome property as a result of his diligence and industry. He took quite a prominent part in public affairs and was a leading citizen of the community. In politics, he was a Democrat, and was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Johnson family numbered eight children. Thomas, who served as a Captain in the Ninety-eighth Illinois infantry, is now deceased; Jane died in this county; Polly and Elizabeth are both deceased; A. V. is a prominent farmer of Decker Township; Permelia has also passed away; Moses is the next younger, and Celia, deceased, completes the family.

“The boyhood days of our subject were spent upon a new farm, and he was early inured to the arduous labors of developing the raw prairie. He conned his lessons in a log schoolhouse, which was four miles distant from his home. When ten years of age he began plowing with oxen. He early learned to swing the scythe and cradle, and in all departments of farm work he became proficient. He remained at home until 1862, when he enlisted [on September 3, 1862] in Olney as … [an original] member of Company H, 98th Illinois Infantry [Regiment], of which his brother [Thomas] was Captain. The regiment was assembled at Centralia and started for Louisville, Kentucky. The train was wrecked at Bridgeport by rebel sympathizers, and seven men were killed and seventy-five wounded. Mr. Johnson afterward went to Nashville and from there to Murfreesboro. He participated in the battles of Chickamauga, Atlanta, Lookout Mountain and Resaca, and was for one hundred days under fire while on the way to Atlanta. He started to the sea with Sherman, but returned to Louisville, where he was put in a cavalry corps and took part in the famous raid under Gen. Wilson. With his regiment he charged the works at Selma, Alabama, and after the capture of that place went to Macon, Georgia. In 1865 he was honorably discharged and on the 7th day of July of that year reached his home. The regiment lost heavily, about two-thirds never returning. Mr. Johnson was wounded in the service, but he proved himself a faithful soldier and was always found at his post of duty [until he was mustered out on June 27, 1865].

“In 1869 our subject married Miss Margaret Porterfield [b. July 3, 1846 in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania; d. October 16, 1932 in Duncan, OK], a native of Pennsylvania, and unto them have been born the following children: Mary P., James Allen, Sarah A., Idella, William Herbert, and Laura [and two more who died at an early age]. After his marriage, Mr. Johnson began farming and stock-feeding. He owned one hundred and twenty acres of land, a part of the old homestead, and for many years he successfully carried on business, but in 1892 he laid aside all cares and removed to Olney, where he is now living a retired life. Socially, Mr. Johnson is a member of the Grand Army Post of Olney, the Masonic lodge of Mt. Erie, and the Independent Order of Mutual Aid. With the Methodist Episcopal Church he holds membership, and to its support he contributes liberally. The duties of citizenship are by him faithfully discharged with the same fidelity which he manifested when in his country’s hour of peril he aided in the defense of the Stars and Stripes.” (Source: History of Wayne County)

The 98th Illinois was part of a rather famous brigade, Col. John T. Wilder’s “Lightning Brigade.” Wilder’s Brigade was among the first of Union brigades to be equipped with the new Spencer repeating carbines, an armament that greatly increased a regiment’s available firepower over that of its foes. Since the Spencer provided literally a seven to ten fold increase in sustained rate of fire, it’s no guess as to the genesis of the brigade’s nickname of “Lightning.” The 98th Illinois received their Spencers on May 31, 1863 and a look at the regiment’s record of service will tell you that they stayed hot. Hoover’s Gap (June 24-26, 1863), Chickamauga (September 19-21, 1863), Resaca (May 13-15, 1864), the siege of Atlanta (July 22-August 25, 1864), Rome (October 12-13, 1864), and a famous charge that resulted in the defeat of Nathan Bedford Forrest‘s men at Selma, Alabama (April 2, 1865) are just some of the better known instances of the 98th Illinois’ exploits during the war, with their action at Chickamauga being the most significant.

When exactly Moses came to Oklahoma from Illinois, I do not know. I know several of his children moved to the Duncan area prior to his death and one of them struck it rich in Oklahoma with an oil well. One of his sons, James Allen Johnson, was also one of the earliest businessmen in Lawton, OK, served as a Captain during the Spanish-American War, served as the school superintendent for Comanche County from 1915-1924, and went on to be elected twice to serve as an Oklahoma state representative in the early 1930’s.

Moses Johnson died on Monday, January 7, 1907 and is buried in the Duncan Municipal Cemetery (block 7, space 6) in Duncan, Oklahoma. His black gravestone proudly gives testimony to his service in the 98th Illinois Infantry.

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