Colonel William A. Johnson,

4th Alabama "Roddey's/Johnson's" Cavalry

Born 26 Sep 1827, Lauderdale County, Alabama, he was the son of Richard and Katherine Johnson. Before the war he a Steamboat operator making $500 a month. Later he became the owner of a small fleet of vessels that operated on the Tennesseee River. His first service to the Confederacy was to provide supplies to the blockaded forts of Henry and Donelson. After running  the blockade at Paducah, he successfully brought aid to the Confederates forts. On the return trip, Johnson's fleet was pursued by Federal gunboats. When escape was futile, Johnson sacrificed his fortune and burned all the ships, rather than allow them to be captured by Yankees. Without any ships to command, Johnson enlisted in Gen. Sterling Price's army and served honorably as a scout. During an engagement, his valor and leadership skills became apparent and when the 4th Alabama Cavalry was organized in Tuscumbia (October 1862), he was transferred as a Major. Because of his "bravery and success", on 23 April 1863 he made the rank of Lt. Colonel.  With Colonel Philip D. Roddey's promotion to Brigadier General, Johnson was made full Colonel of the regiment. It is reported that under his command, "his regiment did much to give Gen. Forrest his well deserved reputation." Gen. Forrest once stated, regarding Col. Johnson and his regiment, "If I ordered him to go to Washington and take his regiment and brother's company, Hell could not stop him." It was reported that at one battle near Corinth, Mississippi, a charge by "Roddey's 4th Alabama Cavalry" under Col. Johnson, "turned the tide of the battle and gained a victory".


Once during a hand-to-hand fight with a Union Colonel (a Col. Cameron), Johnson was nearly killed as Cameron's sword momentarily pressed near his throat. Johnson quickly caught  Cameron by his hair and nearly yanked him from the saddle.At the same time, Johnson's sword made a fatal blow with the Union Colonel falling backward on his horse. After dismounting, Col. Johnson eased his brave foe to the ground. Col. Cameron's last words, "You are a brave man. I want you to have my horse". Moments later this gallant soldier was dead.

During a battle at Pulaski, Tennessee, Johnson commanded a charge on a superior force (Johnson's men outnumbered ten to one)  of Federals which led to them routing in panic. Gen. Forrest was so impressed with Col. Johnson's courageous leadership that he presented the Colonel with a "magnificent black charger". Johnson, while appreciative of the gift, continued to ride his trusted gray horse. After the  victory at the Battle of Sulphur Trestle in Tennessee, Col. Johnson was badly wounded (September 27, 1856) while charging the enemy near Richland Creek amid the hail of bullets and artillery fire. Gen. Forrest reported, "Colonel Johnson displayed every soldierly virtue. He was prompt in obeying orders I regret to say that while gallantly leading his troops he was severely wounded." After being sent home (Tuscumbia) to recover, he returned to the regiment in time to lead  charges (carrying his crutches at his side) at Chattanooga, Dalton, Montevallo and Selma.

"The Virtual CSA Purple Heart Award"
Issued to: Col. William A. Johnson, of the
4th Alabama "Roddey's" Cavalry, who was wounded in the service of the
Confederate States of America on Sep 27th 1864, near Pulaski, Tennessee.
  (How To receive this award, Get your own medal, or Confederate POW medal)
visit the "Virtual CSA Purple Heart Award" Website.

Col. Johnson at times served as brigade commander when his regiment served under General Nathan Bedford Forrest (such as at the Battle of Tishomingo Creek, alias Brice's Crossroads). At the very end of the war, it is reported he was awarded a Brigadier General commission, but it came "too late to be effective." He was paroled in April 1865 at Selma. He had fought at the following major battles during the war: Shiloh, Corinth, Iuka, Chickamauga, Tupelo, West Point, Brice's Crossroads, Pulaski, Tenn and Athens, Ga. "Three of his brothers were killed in the Confederate Army. After the war, he married Miss Kate Barton  (b. 10 Sep 1844, d. 9 Nov 1920) and resided in Tuscumbia in Colbert County. It took him six years to walk a step without the use of crutches. He was employed as a cotton broker and planter. He died 4 June 1891 in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

His tombstone reads, "Brave, Tender, and True". He is buried next to his wife and brother, Maj. Dick Johnson (b. 18 Oct. 1831; d. 9 July 1864) of the 4th Alabama Cavalry was mortally wounded at a battle at Moulton, Alabama. Another brother, J. E. Johnson (b. 4 Mar 1839, d. 4 Mar 1864) died a POW at Rock Island prison in Illinois and has a memorial marker next to Col. Johnson's grave.

 Grave of the Gallant Col. William A. Johnson, Commander of Roddey's 4th Alabama Cavalry.
"Brave, Tender, and True" (Tuscumbia, Colbert Co., Alabama)
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Thanks to Bruce Allardice, author of book, "More General in Gray" for providing me with information on Col. Johnson. Mr. Allardice is currently working on an upcoming book about Colonels in gray.
General Thomas Jordan and J.P. Pryor, "The Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest"
"Rose of Alabamy" MIDI file thanks to Barry Taylor.