Pvt. Baxter C. Johnson
Co. I, 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry
My great-grandfather, Baxter C. Johnson, was a twice-wounded Civil War veteran, a post-war soldier in the regular Untied States Army, a farmer, and the father of six sons. In the 84 years of his eventful life he was also a circus wagon driver, a worker in the cod fishing industry in Massachusetts, a brickyard worker in Missouri and Ohio, and was employed in saw mills along the Mississippi River.
A month before Baxter’s birth it was learned that his father, who had gone west in the pre-1849 gold rush days to seek his fortune, had died. Hi mother passed away about a month after Baxter’s birth, and he was taken in to be raised by neighbors.
In January 1864, having reached the age of eligibility for military service, Baxter and a friend are said to have “tossed their dinner pails into a snow bank” and headed off to Monroe, Michigan, to enlist. The then seventeen-year-old Baxter was assigned to Company I of the 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry.
In May, less than four months after his enlistment, Baxter received his first combat wound.
While his unit was fighting at the Battle of the Wilderness, Baxter received a head wound. According to official medical documents he was “found missing and supposed killed or badly wounded.” As a result of the wound, Baxter was taken to Chestnut Hill Hospital in the District of Columbia, and was expected to die. However, after a few days he began to regain his strength and was eligibleto rejoin his company two months later.
Baxter Johnson was wounded a second time at the Battle of Deep Bottom, having had two toes shot off his left foot. Sent back to Washington, this time to Emory Hospital, he had the honor of being one of the wounded veterans, many of them on crutches, who passed by the remains of the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
At the end of the war, Baxter promptly re-enlisted, this time in the regular army. His unit, Company F, of the Twenty-eighth U.S. Regulars, was sent to Arkansas to assist in registering newly emancipated former slaves for their first opportunity to vote. They also stood guard over the ballot boxes, to prevent fraud at the election.
It was at this time that Baxter had his third near-death experience. A destitute man, attempting to steal food from him, shot twice. He first shot missed its mark. The gun jammed on the second attempt, allowing Baxter to escape .
Eventually, he returned to Monroe, Michigan, where he married and raised six sons. He was an active member of the Jos. R. Smith Post 256, Grand Army of the Republic. It is said that he seldom missed a Memorial Day program. One of the last surviving veterans of the Civil War, Private Baxter C. Johnson died May 12, 1931.