Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library

Henry F.C. Johnson Civil War Letters

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Johnson, Henry F.C.
Title: Henry F.C. Johnson Civil War Letters
Dates: 1853-1918
Accession No.: MA83-19
Quantity: .45 cubic feet
Language: The records are in English.
Repository: Texas/Dallas History & Archives, Dallas Public Library 1515 Young St Dallas, TX 75201

Biography and Content Note

Before the Civil War, Henry F.C. Johnson lived as a rancher and farmer, moving from his native Kentucky to Indiana; Mount Sterling, Illinois; and finally to Dallas County, Texas in the area just north of Lancaster. His ranching flourished and he became a slave owning farmer and businessman on a large scale. Johnson expanded his interest to become an oxcart trader in Lancaster and traveled fairly widely, making at least one trip to Mexico City, in which he exchanged cotton for coffee and gold.

During Johnson's earlier time at Mount Sterling, his first wife Sidney Brown dies, leaving six children including J. Roll Johnson, a successful farmer and businessman who eventually became Sheriff of Dallas. After Henry Johnson's move to Texas, he remarried in 1858. His second wife was Delilah ('Lilah') Hall, widow of Thomas A. Burks and John Warren Hall, a Texas Veteran of the War of 1812.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Johnson enlisted in the Confederate Army as a first lieutenant in Captain Guy's Company, Stone's Regiment, Sul Ross Brigade, and served with his company in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. He fought in the battles of Corinth, Tupelo, Holly Springs, and Pea Ridge. The core of the Henry F.C. Johnson Collection in the Dallas Public Library is a series of letters written by him to his wife Delilah before and during the war, from the various camps through which Guy's Company passed. The earliest letter is dated April 11, 1859 and the latest March 20, 1865 9the year of Henry Johnson's death.)Also in the personal letter collection is one reply from Delilah to her husband and one letter from Johnson to an unnamed friend.

The two common threads running through Johnson's correspondence are loneliness caused by his enforced separation from wife and family, and anxiety for his stock and business. These business worries lead to frequent recriminations, often in the same letter as the affectionate messages. For example, an April 10, 1863 Johnson writes, "My dear Wife and Children...I was glad to heare (sic) you was all well but...much displeased to heare (sic)of the trouble in that County and to heare (sic) of the loss of my stock. I supposed you had feed sufficient to have fed all of my stock but in place of that I am literally (sic) ruined and have nothing to hope for." In July 1864, after three pages of detailed criticisms of Delilah's shortcomings ('...you had been selling them nails which is worth 10 dollars per pound and which I did not want sold and I know you knew you was doing wrong when you don it') Johnson closed the letter "In Providence frowns on me for ever...may God smile on your undertakings, that you may lead a happy and prosperous life...is the prayer of your affectionate husband." On October 27, 1861, he says, "We married under peculiar circumstances but I hope it may turn out for the best." The nature of these circumstances is not made clear in the one-sided correspondence in the collection. Delilah Johnson's one letter (a fragment) is full of hurt indignation ("so did it green (sic) me to think I have been deeply....wronged and that you place no more confidence in me than you do" and she signs herself "your devoted Wif (sic) until death."

Johnson briefly survived the Civil War conflict, only to die in a duel over a horse with one Captain Coffee in August, 1865. Apparently, the widowed Delilah Johnson was left without means, despite her already mentioned stepson J. Roll Johnson who prospered after the war. Mrs. Johnson, however, lived on for many years without record. There is one letter in the file from a self-styled collection agent offering to obtain a war widow's pension for her in return for half the proceeds. Her answer, if any, is unrecorded.

In 1899, 34 years after Henry Johnson's death, Delilah successfully applied for a Confederate widow's pension, stating in the interview with the state official concerned that she was in poor health and was without means of support. At the same time, Mrs. Johnson was 65 years old. Eventually she died on March 12, 1918, aged 85. The cause was listed as senility on the certificate, and the death itself was reported by Charles Groves, a Church of Christ minister who had married Henry and Delilah Johnson's daughter, Anna Laura, in 1875. This daughter is the only child of Johnson's second marriage recorded in the collection.

The information on the Johnson family is sketchy apart from that provided by the letters themselves, and this is naturally one-sided since only part of one letter from Delilah to Henry Johnson survives. The military and political events of the Civil War rate only a passing mention. Nevertheless, what remains does give a vivid account of the disruption and hardship caused to business and domestic life by the Civil War.

Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Johnson, Henry F.C.
Johnson, Delilah
Family Names:
Dallas (Tex.)
Civil War
Henry F.C. Johnson Civil War Letters

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

MA83-19 Henry F.C. Johnson Civil War Letters, Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library

Processing Information

Processed by Margaret Monroe. Edited by Cindy Smolovik, Archivist

Detailed Description of the Collection

Box Folder
1 1 Letter from HFC Johnson to wife Delilah Johnson, April 11, 1859

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1 2 Letter from HFC Johnson to wife Delilah Johnson, September 23, 1861. On reverse, letter from Delilah Johnson to HFC Johnson, August 11, 1864

Box Folder
1 3 Letter from HFC Johnson, Newton Co., MO., to wife Delilah Johnson October 15, 1861

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1 4 Letter from HFC Johnson, Camp David, Ark., to wife Delilah Johnson, October 24, 1861

Box Folder
1 5 Letter from HFC Johnson, Camp David, Ark., to wife Delilah Johnson, October 27, 1861

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1 6 Letter from HFC Johnson, Millican, to wife Delilah Johnson, April 10, 1863

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1 7 Letter from HFC Johnson, Millican, to wife Delilah Johnson, May 1864

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1 8 Letter from HFC Johnson, to wife Delilah Johnson, July 1964

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1 9 Letter from HFC Johnson, Rancken Davis, to wife Delilah Johnson, September 30, 1864

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1 10 Letter from HFC Johnson, Rancken Davis, to unnamed friend, September 30, 1864

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1 11 Letter from HFC Johnson, Brownsville, TX, to wife Delilah Johnson, November 27, 1864

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1 12 Letter from HFC Johnson, Millican, to wife Delilah Johnson, March 20, 1865

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1 13 Letter from (E) A. Daniel, collection agent, Duncanville, Tx to Delilah Johnson, Garrett, Ellis Co., TX, September 17, 1876

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1 14 Certified copies of Marriage Papers
Box Folder
Thomas A. Burks and Delilah Hall, Dallas, Texas, July 10, 1853
HFC Johnson and Delilah Hall, Dallas, Texas, August 7, 1858
Charles T. Grove and Anna Laura Johnson, Dallas, Texas, November 4, 1875

Box Folder
1 15 Military sick report for 1st Lt. HFC Johnson, Co. F, 6th Regt, TC, Col. B Warren Stone comdg. Returned to company April 27, 1862; sick in quarters February 28 to April 30, 1862. (Photocopy)

Box Folder
1 16 Cotton Export License for Capt. Thomas F. Lockett, Shreveport, April 12th, 1864.(Included with Johnson collection but no visible connection with the other papers)

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1 17 Church of Christ ordination papers for Charles T. Grove. May 20, 1911

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1 18
Box Folder
Documentation concerning Delilah Johnson's application for a Confederate widow's pension in 1899
Entry from War of 1812 Veterans in Texas, pp.138-139, for John Warren Hall (Relative of Delilah Johnson). (Photocopies)
Delilah Johnson's application for Confederate widow's pension, July 13, 1899. (Five Photocopied Pages)
County Commissioner's certificate granting Delilah Johnson pension, August 18, 1899 (Photocopy)

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1 19
Box Folder
Death and Burial papers for Henry and Delilah Johnson. (All Photocopies)
Paragraph from Dallas Herald, August 18, 1865, describing death of HFC Johnson of Pleasant Run, Dallas County, in a duel with Capt. Coffee.
Letter from C.T. Grove, Garrett, TX, to Commissioner of Confederate Pensions, Austin, TX, May 24, 1918, asking for an application form for mortuary warrant for his mother in law Delilah Johnson.
Reply from Commissioner of Pensions, May 25, 1918
Application for mortuary warrant by C.T. Groves for Delilah Johnson, giving date of death as March 12, 1918

Box Folder
1 20 Death Certificate for Delilah Johnson, March 13, 1918. (Certified Copy)

Box Folder
1 21 From A History of Texas and Texans Vol V. Photocopies of pg. 2568-2569 giving short biography and photograph of J. Roll Johnson (born 1848), sheriff of Dallas and son of HFC Johnson and Sidney Brown Johnson. Includes some information upon the life of HFC Johnson.

Box Folder
1 22 Photocopies of originals listed above in other folders. (36 Sheets).