The Tale of Col. Lemuel Green Mead, Lt. Col. Milus E. “Bushwacker” Johnston and the 25th AL Cav Btn

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Aug 23, 2015
In April, 1862, Union soldiers under Brigadier General Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel seized Huntsville, Alabama and severed the strategic Memphis & Charleston Railroad - a key component in the Union army taking Chattanooga and using it as a base for the push to Atlanta.

Area citizens responded to the Union occupation by cutting telegraph lines, railroad tracks and picking off Mitchel’s men. In return, the occupying army began destroying property of Confederate sympathizers. Much of Madison and Jackson Counties were put to the torch. Huntsville was spared as it housed the Union army.

The invaders left after four months, but the pattern of destruction had been set. When they returned nearly a year later the brutal policies resumed. The Confederate soldiers generally stayed south of the Tennessee River, but crossed for supply runs, raids and skirmishes with small groups of the Union Army.

Colonel Lemuel Green Mead, a local lawyer and Mason lodge master from Paint Rock, returned to North Alabama with his “Paint Rock Rifles” company after the battle of Shiloh. He'd served as Captain of the company which became Company C, 26th-50th Alabama Infantry Regiment at Shiloh but resigned his commission soon after to return to his home county to fight when he'd heard of the invasion. He recruited more men from inside Union-held North Alabama and was commissioned again as a Captain of Partisan Rangers.

However, the Union soldiers did not recognize these men as regular Confederate soldiers and labeled them “bushwhackers.” A bushwhacker was considered to be a non-regular soldier, who fought in unconventional ways - a sort of guerrilla fighter. Every attack on the Union soldiers by Mead’s “bushwhackers” was met with violence against Southern citizens. The Union army drove off livestock, burned homes and barns, shot innocent people, abused women, and raided for provisions.

Rev. Milus Eddings Johnston was a Methodist minister in charge of the Tennessee-based Fayetteville circuit. The Civil War found him working from Fayetteville to Madison and Jackson Counties in Alabama. By riding and preaching in this area, Johnston learned North Alabama geography and knew many of the citizens.

In 1862 on their way to take Huntsville, General Mitchel and his Union soldiers proclaimed marshal law in Fayetteville, Tennessee and began to arrest “suspect” citizens. Even the peaceful minister was arrested. Though he was soon released, Johnston realized that his preaching would be limited and decided that he and his wife would sit out the war working his father-in-law’s farm near Vienna (now New Hope in Madison County, Alabama.)

In the late fall of 1863, Union troops burned Rev. Johnston’s father-in-law’s house in retaliation for an attack by Mead’s men. Johnston’s family then moved into the out buildings. A few weeks later, Union troops returned and burned the remaining buildings just as winter approached. The Union soldiers returned a third time to capture Johnston himself - even stealing his boots. (He had in-laws that were in the Confederate army and the Union army deemed him a criminal.) They chased him into the forest, intending to arrest him, but Johnston escaped.

The patient minister had finally had enough. He traveled across the Tennessee River to join the Confederate army. He was sworn into Confederate service in January 1864, and was told to report to now full Colonel Mead and what would be known as the 25th Alabama Partisan Ranger Battalion. He quickly rose to the rank of Major and played a leading role in the partisan struggle and meanwhile gaining the nickname “Bushwacker Johnston” while commanding a detachment of several companies. (He was promoted to Lt. Col. on March 27, 1865, but never officially received his commission.)

In May 1865, Lt. Col. Milus E. “Bushwacker” Johnston surrendered at Trough Springs, Madison County, Alabama. Colonel Mead, however, refused demands for his surrender, replying that he “saw no military necessity to do so.” Mead swam his horse across the Tennessee River and held out for a short time longer on Brindley Mountain, in Marshall County, Alabama. He finally took the Oath of Allegiance in September 1865, at Montgomery, Alabama.

Aftermath and Reconstruction Period

Lt. Col. Milus E. Johnston returned to preaching just as he did before the war for another 30 years before passing away in 1915.

Col. Lemuel Green Mead moved his law practice to Scottsboro, Alabama where he prospered.

Unfortunately, Colonel Mead was murdered in the town of Gurley, Alabama in 1878 while walking with his friend Captain Frank B. Gurley, late of (Russell's) 4th Alabama Cavalry. The killer approached Mead and shot him once with a shotgun. As Mead lay on the ground, the killer then emptied the other barrel into him. The cause of the shooting was a dispute over sharecropping, allegedly involving just one bale of cotton. The killer fled to Texas, but years later was located and returned for trial.

The gunman was found not guilty, since the defense attorney (no less than Leroy Pope Walker, former Confederate Secretary of War) argued self-defense, since Col. Mead had been carrying a pistol at the time! (Walker is also famous for winning an acquittal on robbery charges in Huntsville, Alabama for Missouri outlaw, Frank James).

Thus ends The Tale of Col. Lemuel G. Mead, Lt. Col. Milus E. "Bushwacker" Johnston and the 25th Alabama Partisan Ranger Battalion.

Below from L-R are pictures of Col. Mead and Lt. Col. Milus E. Johnston.


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