He Helped Care for a Massive Influx of Gettysburg Casualties

Born near Pittsburgh, Pa., John Milton Johnston lived in Michigan when the Civil War began. He returned to his home state and enlisted as a private in Company B of the 52nd Infantry in late 1861. A year later, following his regiment’s participation in the Peninsula Campaign, he ended up as a patient in the U.S.A. General Hospital at York, Pa.

Here, in August 1863, Johnston accepted a commission as hospital steward in the regular army and reported to the chief surgeon in charge at York, Dr. Henry Palmer of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry. The timing of Johnston’s promotion is noteworthy, as a massive influx of wounded from the recent engagement at Gettysburg inundated the hospital. Johnston served as a hospital steward until July 1864, when he left to join the 186th Pennsylvania Infantry as second lieutenant of Company I. The regiment spent the rest of the war stationed in the defenses of Philadelphia, Pa.

After mustering out in 1865, Johnston made his way to the West, ultimately settling into life as a grocer in Los Angeles, Calif. He died in 1916 at age 71. He outlived his wife, Abbie, and a son, and was survived by a daughter.

Carte de visite by Evans & Prince of York, Pa.

Ron Coddington, Military Images magazine.