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.