Brenda Perrott Williamson has written a number of articles and recently her first mystery short story was published in Kings River Life Magazine. Brenda was first reader/editor on her husband’s books, including his first book, THE THIRD BATTALION MISSISSIPPI INFANTRY AND THE 45TH MISSISSIPPI REGIMENT: A CIVIL WAR HISTORY. That book answers the questions her father had about what his great-grandfather Pvt. William B. Johnston did in the war. Pvt. William B. Johnston is pictured on the back cover of the book, posing in his uniform with his “Arkansas toothpick.” Brenda lives in Mississippi with her husband, Civil War author David Williamson, and their cat, Wilde Oscar. Brenda will be tweeting occasionally on the subject of CJD and her father via @CJDandmyfather and @BrendaPerrott and @WildeOscarCat.
Lelia, I much appreciate your having me as a guest on your always interesting blog and giving me the opportunity to memorialize and write about my dad (whose disease we all need to worry about) as the 30thanniversary of his death approaches.
First, I would like to share a bit about the book that my dad would have loved to have seen, which my husband wrote many years later. Knowing my interest in family history and that I was working at a university at the time, he once asked me to find out all that I could about what his maternal great grandfather, Pvt. William B. Johnston, had done during the Civil War. I thought it would take forever—but over the years I did make three to four efforts to track Grandpa Johnston’s Civil War record, finally requesting my husband’s help. He told me we would need to know the name of his unit before we could proceed any farther and for two years in a row we trekked into the woods at Johnston Station, Mississippi (founded by William B. Johnston’s father, James B. Johnston), finally finding his tombstone which named the 3rd Battalion Mississippi Inf., Co. E as his Civil War unit.
That confirmed that we had indeed found the right unit and David took the research from there, expanding what he found into a most interesting book that showed that my dad and I (and lots of other William B. and Samantha McEwen Johnston descendants) were fortunate to have ever been alive because before his marriage William B. Johnston was hit in the head twice with spent bullets in one week while on picket at Kennesaw Mountain for the Third Battalion Miss. Inf. (This also answered who I had inherited my thick skull from since the ER doctor who had treated me said that I was exceedingly lucky to have survived my bicycle accident without a concussion.)
We also learned that when “Grandpa Wiggins” (William B. Johnston’s oldest son) told my dad only that his dad had been in “the bloodiest battle of the Civil War,” he was referring to the 30 November 1864 Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, which many modern historians recognize as the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. David and I learned so much during our research on THE THIRD BATTALION MISSISSIPPI INFANTRY AND THE 45THMISSISSIPPI REGIMENT: A CIVIL WAR HISTORY, I only wish my father could have been there to see it evolve, to help and to read it. Grandpa Johnston, a yeoman farmer and non-slave owner, had even written his reason for going to war, something my dad had long been curious about. It turned out that, with all the talk of secession, he had originally volunteered to fight for an independent Mississippi, not necessarily for the right to own slaves.
The development of a book is a very interesting process to watch and be part of, including the Xerox copying of old and delicate letters before the author transcribes them and inserts them in the appropriate spot in the historical narrative. William B. Johnston’s sister Nan wrote him letters on thick blue-ribbed Rook brand stationery that (thick though it was) after 135+ years had holes in it. In one letter, she advised her little brother to put down his “war utensils” and come home and get a real job, pointing out the slaveholders’ sons were already long since at home.
Another thing we learned in answer to the question of what all Grandpa Johnston did in the Civil War was that during the bloody Battle of Franklin, he was shooting almost directly at David’s great-great-grandfather, Pvt. Ferdinand Kirkbride, whose 104th Ohio was defending the breastworks at the Carter cotton gin. Fortunately for us, both of those young farmers (who happened to have shared September birthdays) survived the war and went on to raise responsible families and live out their lives, one in Mississippi and one in Ohio, though both died younger than they likely would have had they not participated in the Civil War; William B. Johnston going to his death at age 48, three days after hearing a popping noise in his stomach, perhaps due to the poor diet Confederate soldiers endured and Ferdinand Kirkbride being hit by a train in 1897, whose noise he would likely have heard had his hearing not been damaged by all of the gunfire and cannon noise he had endured during the war.
To be continued tomorrow…
Brenda’s husband’s books are:
THE THIRD BATTALION MISSISSIPPI INFANTRY AND THE 45th MISSISSIPPI REGIMENT: A CIVIL WAR HISTORY, McFarland& Co., Inc., 2003 (2009)
THE 47th INDIANA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY: A CIVIL WAR HISTORY, McFarland & Co., Inc., 2012.
SLACK’S WAR: SELECTED CIVIL WAR LETTERS OF GENERAL JAMES R. SLACK, 47th INDIANA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY, TO HIS WIFE ANN, 1862 – 1865, Kindle ebooks and Createspace Paperback Books, 2012.
THE 47th INDIANA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY: COURT-MARTIAL CASE FILES, ebooks and CreateSpace Paperback Books, 2012.