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Elbert M. Johnson
Papers, 1864-1897


Quantity: 1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift:, James W. Carson, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, May 2002
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections, May 2002

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Biographical Note:

Elbert M. Johnson, Civil War soldier and professional photographer, was born May 9, 1844, in Whiting, Vermont. He was the eldest son of Isaac and Mary Johnson. The family moved to a farm at Wadhams Mills, near Westport, New York, some time before 1850. He was educated at the district school and worked on the family farm. Military records indicate he enlisted and mustered in on August 25, 1864, as a private in Company E of the 2nd New York Cavalry Regiment. He mustered out with his company on June 5, 1865.

After the war Johnson returned to Westport, where he learned the art and business of photography. Eventually, he settled and opened a photography studio in Crown Point, New York. He was active in the local Grand Army of the Republic post and other fraternal organizations. He died April 7, 1910.

Scope and Content Note:

The papers include a bound notebook titled "E. M. Johnson's Reminiscences of the War," which contains transcripts of letters he sent to his family while serving in the army during the Civil War. The letters tend to be carefully worded accounts of some of his experiences: waiting for his marching orders; dreading picket duty; foraging for food. He also asks his folks to send cake and good boots or gloves, and expresses joy when he receives packages and letters from home. Little is mentioned of battles and skirmishes, although he participated in engagements at Cedar Creek, Waynesboro, Ashland Station, and Five Forks. He does mention being present with his regiment when they witnessed the surrender of Confederate troops at Appomattox. Other papers include several original Civil War-era letters that were not transcribed into the notebook.

Related Resource:

A transcription of "E. M. Johnson's Reminiscences of the War" with notes by his grand-daughter, Janet Carson, is available in A Cavalryman under Custer '64-'65: Reminiscences of the Civil War ([Eau Claire, Wis.?]: Janet Carson, 2005) New York State Library call number: A,973.781,J661,211-736

Inventory of Documents:

Box Folder Item Description
1 1   Notebook: "E. M. Johnson's Reminiscences of the War," compiled ca. 1897; 1 v. 224 p. 22 cm.
1 2   Letters of E.M. Johnson, ca. 1861-1865 (The letters are somewhat difficult to decipher since he often resorted to hatching to conserve paper)
1 2 1 To folks, Plattsburg Barracks, September 2, [1864]
1 2 2 To folks, Hart Island? September 11 , 1864
1 2 3 To folks, United States Hotel, October 30, 1864
1 2 4 To father and mother, Camp near Winchester, Va., 12/1864
1 2 5 To Mother, Camp in the mud near Winchester, Va., December 20, [1864]
1 2 6 To son, Wadham's Mills, [N.Y.], December 17, [186-?]
1 2 7 To folks at home, Camp Experation [sic], December 30, 1864
1 2 8 To father, [?]. Va., January 23, 1865
1 2 9 To father, [?], Va. February 13, 1865
1 2   Fragments of letters (5 items)
Last Updated: February 18, 2022