John Johnson

John Johnson
Hamilton County, IL
Soldier of the Revolution
by Les Johnson


The military involvement of family has always interested me, probably because of my father's service in World War II, and my brother's service in Vietnam.  One of the attractions of studying family history is the opportunity to view history through an ancestor's involvement.  Where was that person during that time in history, and was his or her role?

This monograph is an attempt to outline the role of John Johnson, (1763-1853), of Hamilton County, IL in the Revolutionary War.  While experts have not verified the facts of his service, I believe this monograph is as accurate as the extant historical record allows.

The history of the Revolution in the South is one of the most fascinating and heroic struggles in American history.  The small number of men involved lends importance to the participation of each individual.

One thing is clear-these people were made of stern stock.  The Battle of Eutaw Springs was considered by the overall Commander General Nathaniel Green to have been the most ferocious of his experience.  Study of this battle can only lead to admiration of those who participated.

The same admiration and respect held for the descendents of John Johnson who served in most of the conflicts of this nation in the last 200 years.

This small study simply tries to follow one common man during his service to his country, who like my father and brother, and many other Americans, answered the call when their country needed them most.


How do we know that John Johnson of Hamilton County IL, born 1763, served in the Revolutionary  War?   Well-- he said he did.  Through the years after the Revolution, Congress passed various pension laws to the benefit the aging soldiers.  The applications for those pensions are windows to the past.  The words in those applications must be considered carefully and placed in context.

Besides the pension application John Johnson made in 1834, there are Rosters of Soldiers from North Carolina, Army Accounts of Payment for North Carolina, and payment records for South Carolina, which assist in finding a soldier.  Some of these documents are highly detailed and point clearly to one person in history.  Other records are less detailed and with a common name like John Johnson, interpretation can be problematic.  

The part of John Johnson's pension file included here is the application and the interrogatory statement. Following that are the enlistment records from the Roster and payment records from South Carolina and North Carolina, with a discussion placing that information in historical context.

Some knowledge of the history of the Revolution in the South is helpful, but is beyond the scope of this monograph. 

Pension Application of John Johnson


State of Illinois Hamilton County  


On this 27th day of November, 1834, personage  appeared in open court before William Allen, a member of the County Commission in and of in and the county and state aforesaid John Johnson, a resident of the county and state aforesaid, aged 71 years, who being just duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June 7,1832.


That he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers, and served as hear in stated-in the year 1781 or 1782 he was drafted for six months butt from his advanced age and the consequences of loss of memory, declares he does not remember his captain’s name butt recollects he was commanded by Col. Wm. Washington for the first three months and that he was at Rugeleys Mill at the time the British surrendered and after serving three months under Washington, he was then transferred to the Brigade of and under the command of Gen. Marion, and that he was employed in ranging and scouting after the British and Tories in the State of South Carolina until he fully completed another three months’ tour of duty,


He hereby relinqueshes every claim what was to a pension or bounty escsept to the present and he declares that his name is not on the pension role of any agency in any state.


Sworn to me subscribed to this day and year afforesaid John Johnson

We, William Henson and Isaac Johnson residing in the County of Hamilton, State of Illinois hereby certify that we are well acquainted with the soldier.



Where and what year were you born? Answer: 1763.


Have you any record of your age? Answer: No.


Where were you living when you came into the service? Answer: North Carolina, Bladen County.


How were you eacces into service? Answer: I was drafted.


Where have you lived since the Revolutionary War from North Carolina? Answer: I moved to the state of Tennessee, from there to the state of Kentucky, from there to the state of Illinois, Hamilton, where I now live.


In testimony whereof I hear can to

        his ___mark

John Johnson

Roster of North Carolina Solders

In The Revolution


Enlistment records of the North Carolina Continental Line in this time period show two John Johnson records as listed below.

Of note also is a record for a Jesse Johnson, written as "Jese" in the above roster, (no apparent relation), shown next to the blue dot in the center, who entered and left the service on the same dates as the second John Johnson above (14 June 1781 —June 1782), in Donoho's Company of the 10th regiment.

Perusal of John Johnson’s pension application (RW5635), the above enlistment records, Jesse Johnson’s pension application, and the references noted below are helpful in making an evaluation of the Revolutionary War service record of John Johnson of Hamilton County IL (1763-1853).

Jesse Johnson made his pension application (S38884) from Wilson County Tennessee in 1824 at age 61. His memory was clearly better than John Johnson of Hamilton County was, as he named Col. Dixon and Capt. Donoho (under Col. Wm. Washington, Lt. Col. Henry Dixon, and Capt. Thomas Donoho).

Jesse Johnson noted that after three months he was transferred to service in Capt. Michael Randolph's (Rudolph), Col. Lee’s regiment (“Light Horse” Harry Lee of Lee’s Legion).  Jesse stated that he was in the Battle of Eutaw Springs (9/8/1781).  Jesse was discharged at Ashley River, South Carolina on 14 June 1781 along with many others who entered the 10th regiment.

Evaluation of the historical record shows that Col. Rugeley and his 100 Tories surrendered his mill to Col. William Washington at Clermont, South Carolina on 4 December 1780 in the famous Pine Log or "Quaker" Cannon incident.

The Eutaw Springs battle occurred 8 September 1781. In this battle, Col. William Washington’s Cavalrymen were ordered to turn the British Major Marjoribanks right flank. Washington charged but failed — bringing him and his men under deadly fire. A marksman killed Washington’s horse; Washington got a bayonet wound and was captured and subsequently interred for the duration of the war.

Gen. Nathaniel Green retired with his forces to the High Hills of Santee arriving 15 September 1781, (three months after the June l4th enlistment).

Gen. Cornwallis of the British was ultimately cornered at Yorktown and surrendered 19 October 1781. The news of the Yorktown battle where “the British surrendered”, (as it is written in the historical record repeatedly and in the terminology of that time), came to the High Hills of Santee on 9 November 1781.

John Johnson of Hamilton County, IL stated that he was at Rugeley’s Mill “at the time the British surrendered”.  This means that on the date of Yorktown, or at least on November 9, 1781 when Greene's army heard the news about Yorktown, John Johnson was at Rugeley’s Mill.  He was not at Rugeley’s Mill during the surrender of the 100 Tories on 4 December 1780.

From the above discussion it can be seen that John Johnson of Hamilton County, Illinois, born 1763 in Bladen County, North Carolina, was drafted into the North Carolina Continental Line and enlisted on 14 June 1781 and probably discharged at the Ashley River in June 1782 as a Sergeant.

He served under Col. Dixon, Captain Donoho, and Col. Wm. Washington for three months, until Washington was wounded and captured at Eutaw Springs. John Johnson was at Rugeley’s Mill, South Carolina when the British surrendered at Yorktown 19 October 1781 or at least when the word reached the High Hills of Santee, South Carolina on 9 November of 1781.

Payment records for the North Carolina Continental Line and Militia show at least two John Johns(t)on records, but without further information it is difficult to tell which record refers to John Johnson of Hamilton County, IL. 

John Johnson's pension application stated that he was with Washington's cavalry for three months, and then served under Marion who was a General in the South Carolina Militia.  Looking at South Carolina records reaps considerable information.

From the State of South Carolina Archives-Stub Entries to Indents
No. 129 Lib. V, July 22, 1785
John Johnston, 177 days in Militia as Sergeant of Foot and Horse 
in 1781 and 1782.  Charged 18:14.7
18 pounds, 16 shillings 3 farthing sterling. Ex. J. McAly

State of South Carolina to John Johnston.

1781   42 days Sergeant of horse on an expedition to the Congaree  Gen. Sumpter’s Brigade.

1782   60 days Sergeant of foot in this Brigade on an expedition to Orangeburg.

           40 days ditto on an expedition to the Four Holes.

           35 days ditto on an Edisto and Four Holes said Brigade.

Appeared John Johnston and made oath that the above act. is just and true.

Sworn to before me the 24th July 1784                Thomas Baker JP
I do certify the above act to be just and true 25th July 84    Richard Winn.  

These indents were promises by the State of South Carolina to later pay soldiers who served South Carolina in the Revolution at a time when the state could not pay them.  Indents were arranged in Books named alphabetically, then each Indent numbered in these books.

Bobby Moss, in his book "Roster of South Carolina Patriiots in the Revolution, attempted to name every soldier on record who served South Carolina in the Revolution from all sources.  He used  pension applications, the above indents, and other records including Boddies' "Marions Men", which lists 2500 men who served with Frances Marion throughout the Revolution.

July 25, 1784

I have received this day from Gen. Richard Winn the full value of my account against the public, now lying in the auditor’s office for auditing, and afterwards to get on an Indent for the same, from the Treasury of the State of South Carolina to make out the Indent, for the same, with the interest pursuant to the request of the legislature in that case to him the said Richard Winn, and to accept this as a receipt in full against the 
public, for the said account.



John Johnston

If the owner of this indent was the John Johnson who made a pension application from Hamilton County, Illinois in 1834, what evidence is available to support this?

The historical record shows that after Eutaw Springs General Nathaniel Greene retired to the High Hills of the Santee until 19 November 1781 when he moved his army southward (42 days to the end of 1781 as listed in Indent V-129).

The Indent shows John Johnston as a member of Gen. Thomas Sumter’s brigade, however Col. Wm. Henderson commanded this brigade at Eutaw Springs as Sumter was not present.  At that time Sumter had gone to North Carolina to try to get horses,supplies and raise troops.  In addition he was still ill from battle wounds.  After his return, he was ordered by General Greene to go to Orangeburg, South Carolina on 5 November, 1781. Sumter was at Orangeburg 11 November, 1781 per communicat to Gen. Greene. Later, Sumter was elected to the State Assembly of South Carolina which began 8 January, 1782. He resigned his commission in February of 1782 but had left his brigade at the end of 1781.   So, though the Indent shows this as "Sumpter’s Brigade", Gen. Sumter was no longer in command.

Many of the pension applications and Indents from other soldiers show that men had served under both Marion and Sumter at various times. The Indent V-129 is the only one that is consistent with John Johnson’s RW5635 pension application from Hamilton County, Illinois, the North Carolina State enlistment records, and the historical record.

So, if John Johnson of Hamilton County was in Donoho’s company of the l0th Regiment of the North Carolina Continental Line, joining 14 June 1781 and fought under Wm. Washington at Eutaw Springs, how did he end up in the South Carolina Militia? This transfer was very different than Jesse Johnson's, who was transferred to Light Horse Harry Lee's regiment. The pension application of John Chaney gives a likely explanation.  Casualties were very high in Washington’s Cavalry at Eutaw Springs. Washington had about 70 men under his command and at least half were killed or wounded. Whether the severity of the battle or the loss of memory over the years alone could account for the small amount of information in John Johnson’s pension application is difficult to tell. It is unlikely that dementia was severe enough in 1834 to allow John Johnson to live another 19 years

JOHN CHANEY (b. 1757) was born in Randolph County, North Carolina, and served two tours in the latter part of the war as a volunteer in the South Carolina infrantry.  He was wounded with a broadsword in ahdn-to-hand combat in a skirmish with Rawdon's army on the road to Ninety Six and wounded again, while serviing in William Washington's cavalry, in the Battle of Eutaw Springs (September 1781).  Unlike Washington, he escaped capture.  Chaney moved to Tennessee in 1801 and to Indiana in 1824 and was living in Greene County, Indiana, when he submitted this application in 1833 and was granted a pension.  (From John C. Dann, "The Revolution Remembered")

Within a few days after the expiration of his said year’s service voluntarily entered, he enlisted in a corps of troops raised by the state of South Carolina by a call from Congress to serve with Col. William Washington in the company, the name of the captain of which he cannot recollect, to serve for the period of one year at least. At this encampment of the army, which was on the north side of the Congaree and at said ferry, the name of any town, or county, or place near or there he does not know, he was opposite and not far from the British army lying on the south side of the said river. The British moved down to Orangeburg and thence to the Eutaw Springs. The Americans, including Colonel Washing­ton’s command and Colonel Henderson’s, moved down to the Eutaw Springs, and the battle there ensued, as well as the fight at the potato patch, two or three miles from the springs. This appli­cant was in the rear of Washington’s troops in the heat of said battle. The British, after giving way, rallied at the brick house and planted some fieldpieces. Washington attacked these pieces, sup­ported by some of Lee’s footmen. Washington jumped his horse into the midst of the enemy and was suddenly taken prisoner. A British soldier appearing to be in the posture of attempting to stab Colonel Washington, one of his men rushed forward and cut him down at one blow. Washington being a prisoner, and his men mingled in confusion with the enemy, and not knowing what else to do, this applicant with about twenty-five retreated and left the field. Afterwards they were joined by five of Washington’s other soldiers, stating that they only escaped out of a great many who attempted to charge through the enemy’s lines, they having suc­ceeded by flight after penetrating through. Said twenty-five hav­ing no officers and being joined by said five men, they marched from the High Hills of Santee up to the other state troops and joined them at Brown’s Old Fields.

Said Washington’s troops were entirely broken up. After the Battle of the Eutaw Springs, he was taken sick and was at Colonel Middleton’s house about three weeks. John Toles was sick with him. Speaking of his wish to go to the state troops, Colonel Mid­dleton’s overseer advised him on account of the Tories to go a near route and pathway, in which he was, owing to sickness and fatigue, very near perishing before he reached the camp, when Adjutant Weathers took him in his arms and, carrying him to a shade, gave him brandy and cheese, etc., and he was there sick about a month. The state troops crossed the Congaree about this time. John Toles, who was sick with him at Colonel Middleton’s house, was about this time (being on his way to Ninety Six) hung by the Tories. After being sick about said month, he seemed bet­ter and, when the state troops marched, marched with them but soon relapsed and continued sick probably something near a month, not positive

Washington’s troops were never collected and reorganized within his knowledge after the Battle of Eutaw Springs. There being no officers, and the Negroes or Tories having stolen his horse while he was sick, he considered himself at liberty to return home and done so to North Carolina, having served in said last period of service about four months from the time of his enlist­ment to the time of quitting the service as above stated. He states that he quit the service as above with the advice of his friends who were officers in the state troops, and one reason for his doing so and their advice was his feeble state of health, having suffered greatly from sickness and fatigue and being completely worn out. The time of his quitting the service as above he thinks was in the latter part of summer on in the fall of the year 1781 or 1782.

Of the 26 John John(t)on names listed in the book " Roster of South Carolina Patriots" by Moss, this is the only John Johnson (from Indent V-129) consistent with the RW-5635 pension application and the Roster of the North Carolina Continental Line.

Comparing signature marks is by no means scientific, but may be helpful. The signature marks made by men named John Johns(t)on, who did not sign their names, (the others wrote their signatures), when compared to the signature mark on the 1834 Hamilton County Pension application shows that the only similar mark is from Indent V 129. Indeed the other marks by other men named John Johnson on the other Indents are very different.  This does not mean that John Johnson could not sign his name.  It was common for a signature mark to be used on a document even when a man could sign his name.

1834 Mark 1

1785 Mark

1834 Mark 2

There are other possible explanations for John Johnson’s transfer to the South Carolina Militia. During the Eutaw Springs battle, Col. Wm. Henderson was wounded while commanding about seventy infantrymen, mostly North Carolinians, of the South Carolina State Troops.  He was in overall charge on the American left where William Washington’s Cavalry later attacked Marjoribanks on the British right.

After both Henderson and Washington were wounded, command of the brigade fell to Col. Wade Hampton who had been in charge of the South Carolina State Calvary. This small section of Hampton's South Carolina State Cavalry, also of about 70 men, had previously been under the command of Gen. Sumter. Hampton rallied what was left of Washington’s Cavalry with his own men to be Gen. Greene’s rear guard on the retreat from Eutaw Springs. With the approximately 30 men of Washington’s command who are mentioned in John Chaney’s pension application, the remainder of Washington’s decimated command, they and perhaps 10 or 15 men apparently joined Wade Hampton. John Johnson may have fallen in with Hampton’s cavalry at this time.  Some accounts refer to some of Washington's men joining Lee's Legion, as Jesse Johnson did.

Subsequently, Hampton’s cavalry of then about 50 men was used for communication between Greene and Marion after 19 November 1781, and while nominally in Sumter’s Brigade, they would have been under the command of Gen. Marion. 

At the start of 1782, many horsemen were made footmen due to the difficulty in finding horses and forage for the horses. This is consistent with the Indent in January of 1782.

Sumter withdrew in disgust from his command, and it is very likely that men later naturally gravitated to claiming the popular Marion as their commander.  Controversy surrounded Sumter at the time of his withdrawal from the service, (and he was weak and ill from previous wounds). “Sumters Law”, which was the enlisting of men for ten months for the promise of higher pay from plunder of loyalists, was declared void by South Carolina Governor Rutledge, and Sumter’s troops were made infantry. These actions enraged Sumter, and he left Orangeburg January 2, 1782 before going on to Jacksonborough, South Carolina for the Assembly to which he had been elected. The Indent V-129 clearly states John Johnson serving “177 days in the militia as Sergeant”. At first glance this would seem unlikely considering his youth (in November 1781, at most 18 years old). 

However, considering the fact that he had three months training in the North Carolina Continental Line before Eutaw Springs and the average life span was only about 45-years-old at the time, it is perhaps not so unusual. In addition, Col. William Washington himself was only 31-years-old at the time of his capture.

John Johnson may have especially been likely to claim Francis Marion as his commander because of the prevailing attitude of disgust by the Continentals toward the undisciplined militia. The Continentals also disapproved of the lust for plunder common in the partisans and the fact that as above, Marion became the senior Brigadier of the South Carolina troops under Green after Sumter’s withdrawal.

Another contributing factor to John Johnson’s difficulty at naming his Captain and Colonel, was that during the period after Eutaw Springs, which was the last major battle of the war in the South, the mid and lower level partisan commanders came and went as the war drew to a close.

Bitterness and atrocity was the rule during the partisan war between Whig and Tory in South Carolina during 1782, and like men of other wars, suppression of these memories in later years is not uncommon.  A significant percentage of the number of killed and wounded in the two year period of 1780-81 occurred in South Carolina.  

Clearly the John Johnson of Indent V-129 left the High Hills of Santee with Greene’s army 19 November 1781. Since Sumter was already in Orangeburg, Johnson was not under the command of Sumter. Based on location descriptions from the Indent it is clear that John Johnson's part of "Sumpter’s Brigade” was never under Sumter’s command after 5 November 1781. Col. Henderson was not made a Brigadier General until after Sumter relinquished his commission in February of 1782.  

Boddie's “Marion’s men” references a John Johnson, but this is in regard to an Indent signed by Marion himself from the 1779 service of a John Johnson who supplied lumber for the defense of Charleston.  

It is possible that John Johnson was assigned to Col. Hezekiah Maham or Col. Peter Horry under Francis Marion after Eutaw Springs, but if so, there has been no identifiable record found to date to confirm this. Horry and Maham led elements of Marion’s Brigade in Marion’s assigned task after November 1781 to protect the main army’s left flank in South Carolina. Lee’s legion was assigned the right flank.

The V-129 indent is consistent with John Johnson’s claim of “ranging after British and Tories", rather than service with Greene’s main army which after leaving the High Hills of Santee on 19 November 1781 was led by Lt. Col. Otho Williams to slowly arrive at Round O, a savanna south of the Edisto River and west of Jacksonborough.

Greene took a small force of Cavalry from the High Hills of Santee at that time to attack Dorcester, South Carolina in early December and John Johnson was almost certainly in that skirmish.

The National Archives records a John Johnson of Bladen County, North Carolina, "on the list of Lieutenant Wilk. Co, February 19, 1782”. This may be the John Johnson who enlisted 1 January 1782 with Mills' Company, very likely under Lieutenant Reuben Wilkinson. There was a Lieutenant Wilkins listed with Boddies' “Marion’s men” who was in the South Carolina militia, but there were no surviving records of the State Troops or the militia. The phrase "on the list of" may have been just been a reference to where John Johnson of Hamilton County was assigned by record, not where he was actively serving.  The John Johnson who enlisted in the North Carolina Continental Line January 1782 would never have served in Washington’s cavalry since Washington was captured in September of 1781, and his unit disbanded.

The summarized list of stub entries to Indents records that Indent V-129 lists John Johnson as “Sergeant and Adjutant”. This may have been a misreading of the misspelled word “Sergeant” on the Indent when the stub entry was created. A Sergeant John Johnson would, however, make a reasonable Adjutant for the militia from the Continental Line after the experience of the Battle of Eutaw Springs where even simple survival was commendable.  There were no decorations at the time, but one may speculate that promotion to Sergeant might indicate that he distinguished himself in some manner.

Moss' “Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the Revolution” and pension application records have not to date shown others who served under William Washington and subsequently served with the South Carolina Militia. With all but two of Washington’s officers, including Colonel Dixon and Captain Donoho wounded at Eutaw Springs, it was a highly unique situation in which a continental soldier subsequently served in the South Carolina militia and this only after his unit was destroyed. No records have been found of continental soldiers transferring from Washington’s command to the South Carolina militia at any other time during Washington’s service in the South.

John Johnson’s memory of the end of three months under Washington would likely be prominent due to the events, and his memory of the length of time after Eutaw Springs could understandably be flawed due to the nature of his service. As can be seen from John Chaney’s application, time periods and even the memory of the year of service can be difficult without some sentinel event to herald the period.

Many of the men in the pension applications remembered where they were “when the British surrendered” October 19, 1781 at Yorktown or at least when they heard about it in early November. These memories are comparable to contemporary memories of people who remember where they were when they heard about the assassination of President Kennedy or the shooting of President Reagan. Yorktown was highly celebrated and heralded as portending the end of the war.

General Richard Winn certified John Johnson’s claim of service on Indent V-129. Winn served as Captain under Francis Marion early in the war, but later served as one of Sumter’s Colonels’s, thus must have had contact with Johnson during his service. Thomas Baker, like Winn, is listed in Boddie's “Marion’s Men”.

John Johnson was given the Indent for his service to South Carolina for 177 days of service. The Indent was then apparently sold to Richard Winn personally and subsequently to E. Trescot, then to John Boomer. Both Trescot and Boomer were later in the Charleston District of South Carolina on the 1800 census. It is likely that Indents such as V-129 were sold at less than face value to speculators who were less short of funds than the soldiers, and who were not going to be out of the state when South Carolina finally paid these interest bearing accounts. Many of these Indents were in fact used as legal tender in a currency deprived economy.

The money John Johnson received for his service likely was spent to help him later acquire a Land Patent in TN, along with the expenses of getting married and living expenses while getting reestablished in Bladen County.

The payment for 177 days of service in the South Carolina Militia also points to payment records for John Johnson's service with the North Carolina Continental Line.  Payment of about 18 pounds for 177 days of service would seem to indicate that he would have received 8 or 9 pounds for the 3 months service under Washington.

Consistent with that assumption is the Record of Army Accounts from North Carolina above showing payment of 8 pounds.

One of these payment records is clearly for an officer named John Johnson, considering the higher amount paid.  This is a John Johnson whose enlistment recorded earlier in the war in 1778 for two and one-half  years of service.  The record does not show payment of the other John Johnson who enlisted for a year in Mills Company in Jan 1782.


June 1781-June 1782 was an eventful year for a young nation and a young soldier named John Johnson.  While he only played a small role in the events, the events likely played a large part in the formation of his character. 

He survived the war to migrate to TN, then to Kentucky where he and his wife spent over 20 years in Christian County rearing eleven children.  At last they arrived in Hamilton County IL where John apparently spent most of his remaining years before his death in 1853.

The fortitude to survive at Eutaw Springs served him well as he and his family faced the hardships of pioneer life as he lived to the rare age of 90.  John Johnson seemed to have taken to heart General Nathaniel Greene's words, "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again."

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