Johns, Edward W. (1827–1892)

By: William V. Scott

Type: Biography

Published: December 15, 2020

Updated: December 16, 2020

Edward W. Johns, United States Army officer and surgeon, was born in Maryland in 1827. He was the son of Reverend Leonard Hollyday Johns and Henrietta (Geiger) Johns. Johns was a trained medical doctor who was commissioned an assistant surgeon in the U. S. Army on June 29, 1849.

Soon after his military appointment he was sent to Fort Columbus, New York, where he was stationed from July to August 1849. Johns was then transferred to Fort Gates, Texas, located in present-day Coryell County, where he served from November 16, 1849, through February 26, 1852. The 1850 federal census listed Edward W. Johns as a twenty-three-year-old surgeon stationed at a frontier garrison. On February 26, 1852, he was transferred to the temporary outpost (Camp Joseph E. Johnston) on the North Concho River and by fall of that year joined a garrison in South Texas. Johns was transferred to Fort Ewell, Texas, on August 1, 1852, and served at this post through May 1854. There, he worked closely with his predecessor Richard French Simpson who was sent to Fort Merrill, and periodically returned to Fort Ewell; the two surgeons swapped between the two forts. In late January and early February 1853, Johns was joined temporarily at Fort Ewell by Assistant Surgeon Basil Norris until he was transferred to Fort Clark.

During the inspection of Fort Ewell by Lt. Col. William G. Freeman on June 11 and 12, 1853, Freeman noted that the medical department at this post was under the supervision of Assistant Surgeon Richard French Simpson and his associate Edward W. Johns. Freeman mentioned Johns only once in the report of the post’s medical department, as Freeman’s information seems to have been reported by Simpson. The surgeons at Fort Ewell mainly dealt with dysentery, diarrhea, fevers, and respiratory illnesses, which were all blamed on the climate and geography of the fort. The soldiers at Fort Ewell also dealt with bouts of scurvy due to their diet. Soon after Freeman’s inspection, Johns was temporarily transferred to Fort Merrill on June 18, 1853. Johns returned to Fort Ewell, where he served temporarily as acting post commander in April 1854 with a garrison of more than 200 soldiers. The following month, May 1854, when he was relieved at Fort Ewell by Assistant Surgeon John F. Head, Johns was transferred to Washington, D. C.

On December 19, 1854, Edward W. Johns married Sarah A. P. Lovell, of Washington, D. C. in New York City. Edward and Sarah Johns had two children—Sarah Lovell Johns and Edward Lovell Johns, both born in Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War.

In October 1855 Johns returned to service at Fort Dallas, Florida, where he was stationed until December 1857. He was transferred to the western frontier where he was stationed at Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory, from April 20, 1858, through November 1859. At the time of the 1860 census, Johns was reported in residence at the Fort Laramie Reservation. On February 7, 1861, he joined the garrison at Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he served until he resigned from the United States Army on April 22, 1861.

Edward W. Johns was commissioned as the rank of surgeon in the Confederate States Army. On May 24, 1861, he was appointed medical purveyor and assigned to Richmond, Virginia. He held this position from June 5, 1861, through August 1864. As medical purveyor and serving as chief purveyor for nearly two years, Johns issued fifty-four treasury warrants for medical supplies equaling more than $4 million. This supplied the medical departments in the field and at hospitals with everything from tents, supplies, pans, basins and instruments—even though most surgeons, including medical director Lafayette Guild, scalded at the poor quality of Confederate-made medical instruments that were being issued. In late 1864 and 1865 Johns failed to obtain instruments for the Richmond district due to supply shortages. He was paroled from service in the Confederate States Army on May 1, 1865, in Greensboro, North Carolina, by U. S. Gen. William Hartsuff, where he was under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.

After the war, Johns lived in Baltimore, Maryland, where he operated a private medical practice. In the 1880 census, Johns and his family resided in Franklin County, Tennessee, where he was listed with the illness of Bright’s Disease, a disease of the kidneys, which had him unemployed for the previous year. Edward W. Johns died at age sixty-five, on June 12, 1892, in Richmond, Virginia.

Harvey E. Brown, ed., The Medical Department of the United States Army from 1775 to 1873 (Washington D. C.: Surgeon General’s Office, 1873). M. L. Crimmins, ed., “W.G. Freeman’s Report on the Eighth Military Department,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Vol. 51 (January 1948). H. H. Cunningham, Doctors in Gray: The Confederate Medical Service (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986). Carol C. Green, Chimborazo: The Confederacy’s Largest Hospital. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004. Francis B Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, From Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1903). Post Return of Fort Dallas, Florida (February 1838–May 1858); Post Return of Fort Ewell, Texas (May 1852–September 1854); Post Return of Fort Gates, Texas, (October 1849–February 1852); Post Return of Fort Jay, New York (January 1840–December 1859); Post Return of Fort Laramie, Wyoming (June 1849–December 1860); Post Return of Fort Merrill, Texas (March 1850–November 1855); Post Return of Fort Monroe, Virginia (January 1854–December 1870), National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D. C. Richard F. Simpson, and Edward W. Johns, Commissioned Officers, present and absent, accounted for by Name (Fort Ewell, May 1852–September 1854), National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D. C.

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Military Physicians and Surgeons and Military Nurses
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Central Texas
  • South Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

William V. Scott, “Johns, Edward W.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 15, 2020
December 16, 2020

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