The Civil War Connections Blog

The War Comes North

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the good ol’ blog! Today’s tidbit about me is: my brother is quite skilled at utilizing our two orange kayaks at the beach near our house, but every time I try and get in I end up flipping into the surf.




150 years ago today, the Civil War was raging. Virginia, Tennessee and the Mississippi River were the primary settings for the conflict. However, small skirmishes and raids could be found all over the central United States, even as far north as… Indiana. That’s right folks, on this day in history Newburgh, Indiana experienced the horrors of war and was subjected to a fearsome Confederate raid. I’m sorry, did I say “horrors of war” and “fearsome Confederate raid?” Well, I misspoke. In fact, the raid was relatively mild and even had an element of rugged cleverness to it.

All due to this man, Albert R. Johnson.


When Confederate raider Albert R. Johnson left Henderson, Kentucky on the evening of July 17th, he only had 35 men. They were poorly armed, to the point that some of his men didn’t have any weapons. Luckily, they had just enough horses for everyone to ride. Johnson was a scout for Confederate cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest, and after concluding his business in Henderson, Johnson led his tiny band of partisans out and began the 16.1 mile journey to Newburgh.

From Mapquest

Ok, so it probably would have been less than 16.1 miles since Johnston crossed the Ohio at Newburgh itself.


They arrived near Newburgh early the next morning, and Johnson did something crafty as all get out: he put two big joints of stovepipe on two fake wooden cannon frames and set them up on the south side of the Ohio River, on bluffs overlooking the town! He left about 8ish men to “man the cannons”, then took the rest of his pack across the Ohio in boats. The town still didn’t know he was coming, and Johnson’s fake cannons would soon come into play!


It sure seems like the Confederates paid a lot more attention to Sun Tzu than the Union did in 1862.


The first thing Johnson did when he got across the river was quickly run over and grab the Union armory. Inside, his party found plenty of small arms like swords and pistols, meaning that the “we-don’t-have-any-weapons” problem they were having was now solved. When the townspeople saw that the armory had been seized, they tried to arm themselves and gathered at the Exchange Hotel in town, where there were over 80 Union soldiers and a Union colonel! Unfortunately for Newburgh, the 80 Union soldiers were all wounded and the Union colonel was a medical officer. The Exchange Hotel was a makeshift hospital, and the soldiers there were in no condition to fight.


On the bright side, that soldier on the left has a VERY manly beard.


Johnson and his newly-well-armed men walked right on up to the hotel and told the wounded men there to surrender. Then, he gave his spyglass to the Union colonel and told him to check out the hill on the south side of the Ohio River – the colonel saw the two cannons and the men manning them, and since they were so far away, they looked just like real cannons! Johnson said that if he did not surrender the town, those cannons would blast it to smithereens: the Union colonel understandably believed him, and surrendered. It was a gigantic bluff, of course, but it worked. In return for their surrender, Johnson paroled all the Union troops in Newburgh and took all the weapons and supplies that he could carry back across the river. Newburgh was the first northern town taken by a Confederate force in the Civil War, and for his use of a fake-cannon-ruse in making the town surrender Johnson came to be known by the nickname “Stovepipe” Johnson.


Yea, that big one could probably look like a cannon from across a river.


Well folks, that just about does it for today. Hope you enjoyed the post, and tune in next time for even more Civil-War-related stuff!