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Types of Successful Men of Texas by Lewis E. Daniell

Types of Successful Men of Texas
Lewis E. Daniell

General Adam Rankin Johnson.

It will be impossible, in a brief sketch, to do justice to the merits of the distinguished civilian and soldier, General A. R. Johnson; for if there is one man more than another whose memory should be perpetuated for an example to the youth of Texas, it is the subject of this biography.
Adam Rankin Johnson was born in Henderson, Kentucky, on the 8th day of February, 1834, and received a primary education at the male academy of that city.
His father, a well known physician of Henderson, was Dr. Thomas Jefferson Johnson. He was born in Franklin county, Kentucky. He married Juliet Rankin, of Henderson, and from that union there were seven children, to-wit: Ben., Bettie, Mary, Adam R., Thos. J., William S. and Campbell H. Ben., who was the First Lieutenant in Wilkie's Battery, Confederate States Army, died at Corpus Christi, Texas. Thomas, who was at first a Sergeant in the same battery, and afterwards Commissary on his brother, General A. R. Johnson's staff, died at Burnet, Texas, 1872. Bettie married Peter Rives, and lives in Kentucky. Mary died young. William S., who was a Lieutenant in the Federal army, is now a druggist in Henderson, Kentucky. Campbell was a Second Lieutenant in the latter army, but upon the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, they both resigned. Campbell is a very distinguished Mason, having filled all the offices in the Lodges, and is now a leading Mason in Kentucky.
At twelve years of age, Adam R. Johnson quit school, and commenced to learn the drug business in Delano's drug store, in his native place. He remained in that business for three years, when he engaged in the tobacco business with Burbank & Barret, with whom he remained for four years.
In 1854, he came to Texas, and settled in the town of Burnet, Burnet county, and engaged in surveying and the real estate business, where he still resides, engaged in farming, stock raising and real estate, and where he has been connected with every leading enterprise and the development and growth of the county and town of Burnet.
On the first day of January, 1861, he was married to Miss Josephine Eastland, a native of Eastland, Fayette county, Texas, but at the time of her marriage a resident with her father's family, of Burnet. They have had nine children, to-wit: Bettie, Robert E., Juliet, Adam R., Fannie, Lucy, William, Ethel and Mary.
Bettie married W. H. Badger, son of Captain B. Badger, formerly of Gonzales, but now of Burnet; Robert E. married Miss Lew Williams; Juliet married George Christian. The others are yet single, and reside with their father and mother at their beautiful homestead, in the immediate vicinity of the town of Burnet.
When General Johnson settled in the town of Burnet, it was a border county, subject to frequent forages from the Indians, and he has been engaged in many Indian fights in sight of his peaceful home.
As a surveyor and land agent, he has been specially active in inviting and obtaining a sturdy and intelligent population to the county. He soon ascertained its wonderful resources of granite, iron, and other ores, and was the originator of the Marble Falls enterprise, where, in connection with Messrs. Holloway, Holland, Badger and Ramsdell, forming with him a company known as the Texas Mining Improvement Company, they laid off and have in the course of construction a manufacturing city. 
The Marble Falls on the Colorado at this point, offers to enterprise one of the finest and most reliable water powers on the continent. The solid rock dams the stream, and collects above it a beautiful lake, and the flow over the falls is steady and unvarying. It is granite over which the vast volume of water pours, and it has never worn the rock a particle. Nor is this water power subject to overflow or diminution. It is true and safe to say that this is the finest known water power as yet discovered.
The city of Marble Falls has already a number of manufacturing establishments, and many handsome residences and business houses, generally built of granite. The Big Rock, from which the granite was quarried for the material for building the Texas Capitol, is within two miles of the city, and quite near are numerous other granite quarries of equal extent. Iron ore yielding a large percent., and also coal, has been developed near. It is connected with the world by the Northwestern railroad, connecting with the trunk lines of Texas roads at Austin.
General Johnson is President of the company which built the railroad from Marble Falls to Austin. He also gave the Northwestern Railroad Company seven miles of right of way, and seven hundred dollars in money. He is also one of the directors of the Burnet Publishing Company, and the Telegraph and Telephone Company connecting Austin with Burnet and Marble Falls, and thence to Larnpasas.
One of the most praiseworthy and commendable efforts of General Johnson, was that of building Burnet High School, which was completed in 1886. He has built a number of houses in the town of Burnet, and opened up a number of farms in that and adjacent counties. He is a man of fine intelligence and indomitable will and energy, and it is impossible to measure the extent of his usefulness to his county and State. He is six feet in height, and weighs now about 145 pounds. Before the war he weighed 160 pounds. He is, perhaps, to-day, the most active and thorough business man of a community of good business men, and although totally blind, both eyes having been shot out in battle, he is at his office regularly, and its vast volume of business flows on with as much ease as if he was fully endowed with his lost sense. His memory and ear are very remarkable for tenacity and distinction of sound. He will address a casual acquaintance he meets on the street,  when he hears his or her voice, as readily as if he saw. There is a long, uncarpeted hall leading to his office. He knows the footfall of every citizen of the town and county, as it sounds through this hall.
At the close of the war he had nothing of any importance, and although blind, he has accumulated a large fortune. His residence, near Burnet, is a very handsome home, built in cottage style, and he owns all the broad valley sweeping out in his front fifteen hundred acres in one body and he is also the owner of many other farms and ranches.
He belongs to no society or order of any nature, but is one of the best informed men on politics, general literature or business, that one will meet with anywhere.
As noted and distinguished as he has become in peace, he was more notable and distinguished in war. Paladin of old was not more daring and heroic than this Southern knight in the field of battle.
General Johnson's training as a soldier was received in Indian fights in Texas, and the peculiar character of warfare with the Indians when he was a contractor of the Government carrying the mails on the overland route from the Staked Plains Station and El Paso, gave character to the kind of guerrilla warfare he waged so successfully, and from which he gained such celebrity in the civil war. In his early manhood he distinguished himself for bravery and strategy upon the Texas border, and in defense of his home at Burnet. On one occasion, with only a few reliable men, by his cool courage and superior strategy, he outwitted and escaped from a large force of Indians. He had just closed his contracts with the government and returned with his young bride to his home in Burnet, in 1861, when the civil war of 1861-5 startled the land from Maine to the Rio Grande. Great excitement prevailed at every village and hamlet in the State of Texas. Johnson resisted the natural impulses of his birth and education, and attempted to stay at home, at least until he could get his business in a condition to leave it, but the fever increased too rapidly. Ben. and Thomas, his two brothers, had joined an artillery company, the first as Lieutenant and the second as Sergeant, and had gone to the coast. He found that it would take too much time to arrange his business affairs satisfactorily, and in company with Judge Vontrice, he started for his native State, Kentucky. Arriving at Bowling Green, he found a number of old Henderson friends, who urged him to remain with them, but believing he could be of more service in a country with which he was more familiar, he went to Hopkinsville, and there finding General Forrest, he offered his services to him, which were readily accepted, and he proved to be Forrest's right-hand man. Forrest discovered that Johnson was highly endowed with courage, prudence and judgment, and associating with him another young man of the same stamp, Bob Martin, he used them as scouts. It were impossible to follow these two scouts through their adventures and wonderful escapes, but when it is known that they hovered along the line of march with the enemy, and often spent the night within a few feet of the Federal soldiers, sometimes in the same house, each playing to perfection all the different characters, and they were never captured, it will be readily concluded that Forrest was wise in his choice, and that he received from them the valuable information that enabled him to make his name a terror to the enemy, and that the story of their adventures would read more like a romance, only that romance would not venture to tell facts that really did occur, because seemingly too marvelous for belief.
One incident will show that truth is stranger than fiction: When Johnson and Martin had been ordered, after the battle of Shiloh, to return to Kentucky, raise troops, and harass the garrisons of Federals and home guards, after capturing Henderson, Kentucky, with a few hundred men, he determined to capture Newberg, Indiana, on the opposite shore of the Ohio river, and just above the mouth of Green river where it empties into the Ohio. Arriving, with about thirty men, opposite the place in the night, they hid their horses in the thick woods of the bottom, and upon the wheels and axeltree of an old wagon they mounted a log painted like a ten-pound gun, and stationed it on the bank. Martin crossed, with about twenty men, half a mile above the town. Johnson got in a skiff, and with two men to row him, crossed in the open front of the town. He had been informed where a number of guns, and ammunition, was stored, and deliberately walking with these two men to the storehouse, he found it filled with guns and ammunition. Leaving his two men to guard it, he walked on up to the tavern and entered the bar-room, to find thirty men leveling thirty guns at him. Stepping rapidly forward, he ordered them to surrender, declaring his troops were already in possession of the town, and his battery was trained upon it from the other side, as they could see from the window, and if so much as a gun was fired his battery would shell the town, and his troops would commence an indiscriminate slaughter; announcing, too, that he was Captain Adam R. Johnson, whom they had pictured as the devil with horns. They stacked their arms, and were paroled by Johnson, who got the guns and ammunition across the river to the Kentucky side in the face of a transport filled with Federal troops coming to the rescue, protected by a gun boat. This incident is told by a Federal officer, who was acquainted with all the facts.
Johnson and Martin acted as scouts for General Forrest until after the battle at Shiloh, and were the two men who discovered a way through the swamp by which Forrest escaped with his command the night before the surrender of Fort Donelson, when they were ordered to report, one to General Floyd and the other to General Pillow, to pilot those officers with their staffs to Nashville. It will be remembered that a Confederate transport arrived at Fort Donelson that night, and that General Floyd took possession of it, and with his Virginia troops made his way to Nashville; Johnson had reported to him, and on the way to Nashville, General Floyd offered Johnson a position on his staff, which he declined.
After the disaster at Shiloh, Johnson and Martin were ordered to report to General Breckeuridge for special duty; before the completion of this duty, Breckenridge ordered them to Kentucky to raise troops and annoy the garrisons.
They first enlisted one man on their arrival in Kentucky, and these three men crept into Henderson, and got behind a fence, across the street from the Federal garrison, who in the summer
evening were cooling themselves under the shade of trees on the sidewalk. Johnson gave the command, and the three opened fire, producing the most dire confusion and dismay, the Federals who were not killed or wounded, rushing into the house and barricading it. They then went to the rear of the building, and finding one sentinel posted, Martin shot him, and the others rushing out to his aid, were met with a volley that drove them back in confusion.
This bold stroke noised abroad the fame of Johnson, and as there were hundreds of young men in Kentucky anxious to do battle in the Southern cause, and only wanted a leader upon whom they could rely, they flocked to Johnson's standard, and he soon found himself in command of a regiment, with the gallant Bob Martin as L,ieutenant-Colonel, and after the capture of the arms and ammunition at Newberg, Indiana, they were well organized, and assumed the dignity of an army.
The capture by a small band of Confederates of a small city like Henderson, Kentucky, and a village like Newberg, Indiana, may seem but a small and insignificant matter, while the armies of the Union were sweeping South, but it was mentioned in the London Times and other foreign papers as an evidence of the resuscitating power of the South in organizing new armies and achieving victories in a county supposed to have been conquered by the Federal forces, and it must be remembered that the Southern Confederacy was seeking recognition at that time, and the importance of securing that recognition cannot be over estimated. No man in the Southern army, however high his rank, displayed more military skill and intrepidity than General Adam R. Johnson. Hundreds of miles in the rear of regular Confederate armies, in a territory occupied by the enemy and on a river swept by his gunboats, and in the face of orders subjecting all persons who attempted to recruit for the Confederate army in the State, or who were found with arms in their hands, to a trial by drum-head court martial and a summary execution, he organized a gallant body of troops, captured Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Clarksville, Tennessee, with arms and supplies, and many other smaller towns, occupying at his pleasure any town south of Green river as his headquarters, to which he boldly and publicly invited recruits, and by swift movements engaging in battle and defeating Federal detachments of superior force before they were able to concentrate. He was literally the swamp fox of Kentucky. His forces were daily increasing in numbers and efficiency, and he was daily enlarging the area of his operations, when unfortunately in fa battle in Southern Kentucky, he received the serious wound that blinded him for life and put an end to his usefulness as a Confederate partisan ranger. The ball was fired from a covert, to which he presented a side shot, and striking one eye passed under the bridge of the nose, destroying the other in its course.
The people of that section of the State regarded him with the highest admiration and most generous affection, and as the news of the loss of his eyes spread over the country, they were filled with despondency and personal grief for their champion, for he had made it unsafe in that section of the country for the Federals to domineer and hector over Confederate sympathisers, and had enforced upon the enemy the rules of civilized warfare. 
One important object was to open up Kentucky to a free and open communication with the Southern army in which the sons of its citizens were serving. General Johnson after having recruited about seven hundred men, conceived the plan of capturing Hopkinsville, on the line of the route to the South, and which was heavily garrisoned, and in that way effect a junction with Colonel Thomas Woodward, another gallant partisan ranger operating along the Tennessee and Kentucky line, and after the combination attack and capture the important city of Clarksville, Tennessee, on the Cumberland river. By a forced march from his headquarters at Madisonville of forty-five miles, he arrived at Hopkinsville just before day, immediately charged the camp of the Federals and dispersed them in utter rout, and holding Hopkinsville he was joined by Colonel Woodward. The two commands moved on Clarksville and captured that place with a large number of stands of arms, ammunition, provisions and a field piece, then hearing by courier that Colonel Shackelford, of the Federal army, was preparing to attack his reserve and headquarters at Madisonville, he detached several companies of his command to accompany, and hastened back to meet Shackelford, whom he met with a superior force near Madisonville and utterly routed him, although the Federal commander was a brave and gallant Kentuckian and a resident of Madisonville. The other companies of his command he placed in charge of Lt. Colonel Martin, who with Woodward in command of the whole, designed the capture of Fort Donelson, which project failed on account of the too great confidence of Woodward.
Johnson's plan was to surprise the garrison and storm the works, but Col. Woodward moved up to the fort and demanded its surrender. The commandant asked for an hour to consider. His men at the time were nearly all bathing in the Cumberland river. He improved the hour by getting together his men, manning his works and sending a fleet courier to Fort Henry for reenforcements, and at the end of the hour defiantly refused to surrender, and although the works were gallantly stormed, the shower of grape and cannister proved too hot and destructive to the assailants. Had General Johnson's plan of surprise and assault been adopted, there can be no doubt that Fort Donelson would have again fallen into the hands of the Confederates, and no matter whether they could have held it or not against the gunboats of the enemy, the eclat gained would have gone far to formulate the opinion of foreign governments in favor ot a recognition of the Southern Confederacy.
However this may be, General Johnson carried out his secret orders to the entire satisfaction of the authorities, and played as gallant a part in warfare as any hero in an army of heroes. To most men the loss of sight at his then age, would have been most disheartening, and so discouraging as to encourage inaction and loss of interest in the affairs of life. Not so with Gen. Johnson. At the close of hostilities he returned to his home in Burnet; not the fine residence with thousands of acres of land he now possesses, but an humble home, and commenced most vigorously in repairing his broken fortune, and no man has succeeded more eminently than he has in accumulating fortune, and of having been all along of the greatest importance and the main factor in developing the different material interests of Burnet county; and perhaps no man has led a more cheerful and happy life. His friends in Henderson bewailed the misfortune more on the ground of its deprivation to him of all happiness, but he has demonstrated the fact that he possesses a character so governed by the philosophy of life that a physical deprivation of one of his senses has never clouded his mind with gloom or destroyed the joyousness of his spirits. As he enters into the business affairs of life, he enters into its social pleasures, and is one of the best informed and agreeable conversationalists one will meet with anywhere. In fact he does as other men, and much better than most men even, under his sad deprivation of sight.
He now, in 1890, seems to be in the full vigor and meridian of life, full of energy, enterprise and action, with a promise before him of many useful years to his family and his country.

L. E. Daniell, Types of Successful Men of Texas (Austin: Eugene Vox Boeckmaxx, Printer & Bookbinder, 1890), 135-144.


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