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David E. Johnston (David Emmons), 1845-1917
The Story of a Confederate Boy in the Civil War
Portland, Or.: Glass & Prudhomme Co., c1914.


David Emmons Johnston was born in Giles County, Virginia in 1845. At sixteen, he enlisted in the Seventh Regiment of the Virginia Infantry, C.S.A, and served for four years. When the Civil War ended, he studied law and was admitted to the Giles County Bar, practicing in Pearisburg, Virginia. He then moved to Mercer County, West Virginia, where he was a prosecuting attorney for four years before being elected to the West Virginia Senate in 1878. He resigned to become judge of the 9th Judicial Circuit and was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1899. After serving one term, he moved to Portland, Oregon, where he died in 1917. He published two books: The History of the Middle River Settlements, and Contiguous Territory (1906) and The Story of a Confederate Boy in the Civil War (1914).

In The Story of a Confederate Boy in the Civil War (1914), published by Portland's Glass and Prudhomme Company, Johnston relates his experiences as a youth in the Seventh Regiment of the Virginia Infantry. The work begins with an introduction by Johnston's neighbor and former Union soldier, the Reverend C.E. Cline, who attests to Johnston's moral character. Cline assures readers that Johnston is "thoroughly American," having been both a dedicated statesman and historian in the years following the Civil War. Johnston then begins his story by pointing out Virginia's difficult political and geographic situation in the months before secession. He recalls the agonizing decision to join with the South against the federal government, and the widespread naiveté on the part of Virginians, including himself, regarding the severity of the approaching war. A Virginian above all else, he describes his great love for his birthplace in Giles County and respect for the men who served with him in the Virginia infantry's Seventh Regiment. After explaining his decision to enlist, Johnston provides a chronological account of his experiences as a soldier. He offers details about his battle experiences at Bull Run, Williamsburg, and Seven Pines, as well as his company's movements north through Virginia and Maryland. Throughout the narrative he records his impressions of camp life; religion among soldiers; military leaders, such as Longstreet, Jackson, and Lee; and his emotional reactions to the war. Johnston also describes being held as a wounded military prisoner following the battle at Gettysburg. Paroled and sent home to recover, he rejoined the army in the winter of 1863. Captured once again at the battle of Sailor's Creek near Appomattox, Virginia, Johnston was escorted north to a prison at Point Lookout, Maryland, where he remained until the end of the war. The narrative concludes with a copy of his amnesty oath and an account of his journey home to Giles County.

Work Consulted: Kennedy, Lawrence F., comp., Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1971, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971.

Harris Henderson
Armistead Lemon

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