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Archival Collections of the Littlejohn Collection

The W.E. Johnson Papers:


The collection consists of 23 letters and a pocket diary from Confederate Army (i.e. C.S.A.) Lieutenant W.E. Johnson to his wife, father and other persons. Lt. Johnson and his wife appear to have been residents of Liberty Hill, Kershaw County, South Carolina. At the time of his writing these letters, Johnson and Ann, his wife, had two sons. All of the letters date from 1864 -- Johnson was in his late 30's when he wrote them. He was a private, then an officer in a South Carolina unit (Co. K, 7th SC Cavalry Regiment) and was captured in combat on May 30, 1864 at Cold Harbor, Virginia. He remained a prisoner-of-war until the end of the conflict (i.e., spring of 1865). As a prisoner-of-war, Johnson had the unfortunate honor of being a member of the group that has come to be known as the "Immortal Six Hundred," a group of about 600 captured Confederate officers. The Six Hundred were, by order of U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, transferred to and held in a prison camp on Morris Island exposed to Confederate artillery fire (due to the camp's proximity to Federal batteries). The camp on Morris Island was subject to shelling by Confederate occupied Fort Sumter (directly to the north of the island, in the harbor's mouth). The deliberate placement of the Confederate prisoners-of-war in harm's way was an act of retaliation by the Federal administration, who viewed the placement of Federal POWs in Charleston (ostensibly unduly exposed to Federal fire) as highly improper.