Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

George W. Johnson

(1811-1862)
Kentucky

"George W. Johnson was born near Georgetown, Kentucky. He received bachelor's, master's, and law degrees from Transylvania Universtiy in Lexington. After his marriage to Ann Viley in 1833, Johnson practiced law in Georgetown. The Johnsons later moved to a farm in Scott County. In addition to managing his lands in Kentucky and a large cotton plantation in Arkansas, Johnson served three terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives and was a candidate for democratic elector in 1852 and 1860. He also headed the Committee of Sixty, which seized Cassius M. Clay's emancipationist newspaper, The True American. With the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860 and the formation of the Confederacy by seceeding Southern states in 1861, Johnson, long an advocate of states' rights, believed Kentucky should also leave the Union. He was sent to Richmond, Virginia to request Confederate respect for Kentucky's position of neutrality in 1861. Johnson, along with other Confederate sympathizers, sponsored a States Rights convention in Frankfort after neutrality was abandoned. He soon fled the state for safety behind rebel lines, but returned to Kentucky as a volunteer aide to General Simon Bolivar Buckner in Bowling Green. A sovereignty convention in Russellville in November 1861 denied the authority of the government in Frankfort and declared a revolutionary right to create a provisional government which they viewed as more representative of Kentuckians. Johnson was unanimously elected as the first provisional governor. The new government was soon admitted to the Confederacy, despite misgivings about its legality. Johnson and his council spent less than three months in Bowling Green, the official Confederate capital of Kentucky. The government went into exile when General Albert Sidney Johnston retreated from Kentucky. Governor Johnson was with Johnston's forces at Shiloh in 1862, where both were fatally wounded."

[Bio/History, George W. Johnson Papers, Kentucky State Archives]

The archivist notes to the George W. Johnson Papers notes that Johnson "like to write poetry" and that some of his verse is to found in the Kentucky State Archives collection of papers.

Governor George W. Johnson
Edwin Porter Thompson, History of the First Kentucky Brigade 525-532
(Cincinatti: Caxton Publishing House, 1868)