Saturday, May 4, 2013

Notes on Peter Carr Johnston, 1793-1877

Peter Carr Johnston (1793-1877) was most assuredly named after Peter Carr (1770-1815), nephew*** of Thomas Jefferson.

Born: February 24, 1793, Longwood, Prince Edward County, Virginia
Died: March 2, 1877, at "Eggleston," Southwest Virginia.
Buried in Abingdon, Washington County, Virginia, on the former grounds of the Panicello/Panecillo estate.

Home schooled and tutored; possibly also attended Hampden-Sydney College, 1810-ca. 1813 (class of 1814). There is a Peter "Johnson" listed for that period. Records are incomplete for 1792-1819. See General Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Hampden-Sidney* College, Virginia, 1776-1906 (ca. 1908), p. 53. *Spelling as in original.

Third lieutenant, Twelfth United States Infantry (regulars), March 29, 1813; second lieutenant, November 14,** 1813; first lieutenant, November 1814. Disbanded in June 1815.
Regimental depot (or dépôt): Staunton, Virginia. The regiment served on the Northern (Canadian) front and in Maryland. Regimental battles included Frenchman's Creek (November 28, 1812);  Crysler's Field (November 11, 1813); engagements in Lower Canada (1814); a detachment at Bladensburg, Maryland (August 24, 1814); and Fort McHenry (September 13, 1814).

**William A. Gordon, A Compilation of Registers of the Army of the United States, from 1815 to 1837, inclusive. To which is appended a list of officers on whom brevets were conferred by the President of the United States, for gallant conduct or meritorious services during the war with Great Britain. (Washington: James C. Dunn, 1837), p. 25:

Charles K. Gardner, A Dictionary of All Officers who have been Commissioned, or have been Appointed and Served, in the Army of the United States, since the Inauguration of their First President in 1789, to the first January, 1853 : with every Commission of each, including the Distinguished Officers of the Volunteers and Militia of the States, who have Served in any Campaign or Conflict with an Enemy since that Date, and of the Navy and Marine Corps, who have Served with the Land Forces : Indicating the Battle in which every such Officer has been Killed or Wounded, and the Special Words of every Brevet Commission (New York : G.P. Putnam and Co., 1853), p. 254.

Clerk of the Circuit Court of Smyth County, Virginia, from its inception in 1832 until he resigned in May, 1836.

Addressed in correspondence as "Major" and "General" in the 1830s.

First Board of Visitors, the Virginia Military Institute, 1839. (See also allied Preston family members).

Lynchburg and Tennessee Railroad. Valuable and Interesting Letters from General Peter C. Johnston, and C. H. Halkett, Esq., Giving an Account of the Mineral Resources, etc. of Southwestern Virginia. Richmond, Printed by Shepherd & Colin, 1849.

Retired as General commanding 17th Brigade of Virginia Militia in 1852.

Journal of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia for the adjourned session, 1852-3, Richmond, 1852, p. 235; Barbour appoints replacement.

U.S. Census record, August 28, 1860. Age: 67. Occupation: Attorney at Law. Real Estate: $100. Personal Estate: $2,000. Residence: Western District, Lee County, (Southwest -- in red on map) Virginia. Checked slave schedules -- no slaves for any Johnston or Johnson listed. Attached household: Elijah Hill (farmer), Eliza E. Hill, Jane B. Hill, Caledony[?] J. Hill, N.E. Beaty.

Delegate to Virginia secession convention, 1861. Representing both Scott and Lee Counties.
April 4, 1861: Voted Against Secession.
April 17, 1861: Voted For Secession (after Fort Sumter).
Signed Ordinances of Secession in April and June, 1861.

Letter, August 23, 1861, from Walter Preston, Richmond, Virginia, to General P. C. Johnston, regarding procuring a military appointment for a friend and work in [Confederate] Congress. Includes a typed transcript -- Accession 42555 -- 1 leaf and 2 pages. Library of  Virginia

Listed at Jonesville, Lee County, (Southwest) Virginia, in U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918. District 8; Annual Lists; May 1868. National Archives Series M793.

U.S. Census record, June 30, 1870. Age: 77. Ocupation: Lawyer. Residence: Jonesville, Lee County, (Southwest) Virginia. Value of Real Estate: 0. Value of Personal Estate: $825.00.  Listed immediately next to William Sullivan, Hotel Keeper, and family.

Headstone inscription, Panicello/Panecillo (spelling varies) grounds, Johnston family plot, Abingdon, Virginia:


***Peter Carr was a justice of the peace for Albemarle County, a representative to the House of Delegates (1801–1804, 1807–1808), an educator, and a founding trustee of Albemarle Academy, which later evolved into the University of Virginia. He was also the nephew of Thomas Jefferson and lived at Monticello as a young man. Carr is perhaps best known for the assertion, made by Thomas Jefferson Randolph after Carr's death, that he or his brother Samuel Carr had fathered at least six children with Sally Hemings, Jefferson's enslaved house servant, between 1795 and 1808. For this reason, Peter Carr was often accepted as the likely father of Hemings's children until the publication of Annette Gordon-Reed's monograph Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997), which made a strong case for Jefferson's paternity, and the 1998 DNA test that concluded that a Jefferson male, not Carr or his brother, had fathered Eston Hemings, the youngest son of Sally Hemings -- J. Jefferson Looney, "Peter Carr (1770-1815)," Encyclopedia of Virginia. Link:

If you know of any additional information about Peter Carr Johnston, please leave a comment here or email me at


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