Eber Johnson and the Effects of War (52 Ancestors #7)

This is not Eber Johnson. (I wish I had a photo of him!) But this photo makes me think about what life was like after the war. (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.)

This is not Eber Johnson. (I wish I had a photo of him!) But this photo makes me think about what life was like after the war. (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.)

Eber Johnson was not a rich man. Sober and industrious, he was a veteran of the 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery. Though he served in the Civil War for less than a year, those months took a toll on him. According to John Murnahan’s affidavit in Eber’s pension application, “Since his return from the U.S. service he is still a sober man but unable to perform any manual labor to amount to anything.”

Eber, my great-great-grandfather, was a farmer, which means that the 1860 and 1870 agricultural schedules can shed some light on how Eber made his living before and after the Civil War.

In 1860, Eber primarily raised Indian corn, oats, and wheat. He didn’t have much livestock: 2 horses, 2 cows, 4 sheep and 11 swine. Compared to his immediate neighbors1)Compared to 3 households on either side of him in the agriculture census., he was just about average.

By 1870, things had changed. He had more cattle (7 heads of “other”), more sheep (up to 18), and a brand new crop: $150 worth of orchard goods. His value of “homemade manufacturers” went up as well; it was $10 in 1860, but $70 in 1870.

Could this shift toward more reliance on livestock and homemade products be a result of being disabled in the war? Were orchard goods grown because they would be easier — less physically demanding — to raise year after year?

Eber Johnson died January 25 18942)Per his Civil War pension file. and is buried in Locust Grove Cemetery in Lawrence County, Ohio3)FindAGrave memorial. Also have personally visited his grave. You can read more about his experiences in the Civil War here.

1860 agriculture schedule

Part of the header of the left-hand page of the 1860 agriculture schedule.

References   [ + ]

1. Compared to 3 households on either side of him in the agriculture census.
2. Per his Civil War pension file.
3. FindAGrave memorial. Also have personally visited his grave.

4 thoughts on “Eber Johnson and the Effects of War (52 Ancestors #7)

  1. Mike

    Important post. I spent several weekends this past fall at the National Archives and came across several ancestors broken by the war like Eber. Sad really and that lasting impact is often forgotten.

    Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Thanks, Mike. I think people tend to romanticize the Civil War veteran. They think of the old codger with the long beard who goes on and on about the war. In reality, these men suffered every bit as much as combat veterans of today — perhaps even more, because there wasn’t any psychiatric care to help heal their invisible wounds. Instead, they often turned to self-medicating with alcohol or drugs or began a cycle of destructive behavior. We shouldn’t forget that it was Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman who said, “War is hell.”

      Reply
  2. ellen32

    A thought pops into my mind; was he a “revenuer” or distiller? Down in Tennessee and Kentucky these “crops” were not uncommon and did bring in a bit of money. This is not disparagement, just realistic possibility.

    Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      No offense taken! With as many ancestors as I have from southern Ohio, I’m well acquainted with the possibility of moonshiners in the family :)

      Reply

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