John E. Johnson Frock Coat
I was made on an Alabama farm during the Civil War. Johnny’s beautiful young wife sewed every stitch of me by hand. The jean cloth she bought from the mill almost wasn’t enough to finish me— she had to piece together scraps to make my right arm. And to show how much she loved Johnny, she embroidered his initials - “JEJ” in blue thread right over his chest.
Johnny was wearing me that hot, steamy, July afternoon when they attacked the Yanks just north of Atlanta. At first Johnny cheered and shouted as they broke through the Yankee line. But they walked into a trap. The Yanks caught Johnny and the boys in a deep ravine and were shooting down on them from two sides. The bullets flew through the air like raindrops in a thunderstorm. Two bullets ripped through me. Then all of a sudden, I felt Johnny leap backwards. He fell on the ground, grabbing his throat. I felt his warm blood all over. He never made a sound. And the battle went right on as if nothing happened.
That war- that war was a widow-maker.
Who am I? And who was Johnny? I’ll leave that one for the historians.
This coat is one of the most interesting artifacts in the Atlanta History Center’s collection. It came to them in a box through the mail from a man in Texas who wrote that he was the last of his ancestry line and the coat belonged to his ancestor who was killed at the Battle of Peachtree Creek.
His ancestor whose name was John E. Johnson was a member of the 29th Alabama (regiment) and was shot at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. He was taken to a hospital and there he died.
The story is that his wife and infant son, whom he’d never seen were coming from Alabama to see him and bring him a new set of clothes. When they got to Atlanta, they found out that Johnson had been shot. Miraculously, Johnson’s wife was able to find him among the thousands of wounded soldiers that were in the area hospitals just before he died. He passed away dying of the wounds inflicted upon him at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. It was at that time they were able to retrieve the coat and bring it home; otherwise, he would have been buried in it. And that is how the coat was saved.
The Atlanta History Center investigated this story and discovered that there was a John E. Johnson. He was in the 29th Alabama. He died on August 9, 1864 and his regiment was in the ravine at the base of (what is now) Bobby Jones Golf course where it crosses Northside Drive. The bullet holes in the frock coat are consistent with bullets that were fired from above to below. Therefore the Atlanta History Center is confident that this is probably the case with this frock coat.
Research and background provided by
Atlanta History Center
130 West Paces Ferry Road, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30305
Contact: Hillary Hardwick, Public Relations Manager