R. L. Johnson Medical Record Book, 1863–1864, 1867-1883 Finding Aid

Accession #: 2017.020

R.L. Johnson Medical Journal, [page 8]
Beaufort District Collection

Biographical Note:

Richard Love Johnson (1841-1913) was born on January 8, 1841 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Rev. William Johnson an Episcopalian Minister originally from South Carolina and Flora Lee Love of Virginia. He married Isabella Mackay around 1864. Five of their children would survive to adulthood.

An ardent Confederate, Johnson enlisted for duty in York County, South Carolina on April 13, 1861, the first day of the Fort Sumter bombardment. For one month during 1861, Johnson served in the Moultrie Guards on Wadmalaw Island. He subsequently served as a hospital steward first in McPhersonville, Beaufort District, SC and then in Georgetown, SC. In May of 1862, Johnson was examined and was appointed Assistant Surgeon. His first assignment as a physician was to the Palmetto Sharpshooters in 1862. Johnson was transferred to the 15th SC Regiment in winter 1863, the 60th Alabama Regiment in 1864, the 1st Regiment VA Reserves in 1864, and finally the Howard Grove’s Hospital in Richmond, Virginia where he served until May of 1865.

Following the Civil War, Johnson and his family resided on Edisto Island for several years where he turned to practicing obstetrics most often at John Wright’s Seaside Plantation and Dr. William M. Bailey’s Maxcy’s Plantation. Johnson would later practice medicine in Louisiana and Missouri. He updated the journal several times adding notes about medical journal articles and updates regarding some of his patients seen in other circumstances. The latest note with a date was done in 1883. Johnson died and was buried in Rolla, Phelps County, Missouri on March 5, 1913.  

Scope and Content Note:

This collection consists of one record book that contains handwritten entries and notes about three phases of his life: his time as an Assistant Surgeon during the Civil War; his work in obstetrics from 1867 – 1879; and his unsuccessful attempt at growing cotton with free labor on Edisto Island in 1867 and includes three miscellaneous topics in its final pages. His Civil War cases, mostly relating to bullet wounds and amputations, document surgical and patient recovery processes, prescribed medicines, prognoses, and deaths. Many of his patients came from the 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 15th South Carolina Infantries. His handwritten entries contain the names and units of his patients, notes on their wounds, treatments, surgeries and outcomes from 1863 to 1864. 

At the end of the Civil War, Johnson relocated to Edisto Island, SC turning his medical skills to delivering babies. He also documents two veterinary cases in this journal: a cat giving birth and the removal of a tumor from a donkey’s eye.

The last section of the journal contains daily entries about field work and workers on a cotton farm as well as payment entries, and to whom, for field work in 1867.

Miscellaneous topics include the entry on [page 226] referring to the “Number of Turtle Eggs found on Eding’s Bay by our family in Summer 1866 beginning at about the 20th of May;” a hand-written copy of an obituary for Dr. William J. Miller, and the poem “Little Ned” by Robert Buchanan.

This journal is significant because Johnson’s depictions give a firsthand view of medical practices during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras when prescribing whiskey, eggs, and opium were standard treatments. The medical cases and farm accounts typically include the names of the individuals involved and thus may be useful for genealogical purposes.

Subject Headings: Johnson, Richard Love, 1841 – 1913; Medical care — Confederate States of America; Medicine – Practice; United States–History–Civil War, 1861-1865–Medical aspects; Delivery (Obstetrics); Childbirth; Edisto Island (S.C.); Physicians — South Carolina; African Americans – South Carolina — Edisto Island

Provenance:  Grace (Mrs. Earl) Moulder gave a collection of family papers to St. Helena Episcopal Church in 1975. Almost immediately, the Church gave the materials to the Beaufort County Library. In 1983 the Beaufort County Library transferred the bulk of the collection to the South Carolina Historical Society with the approval of the original donor. However, the R.L. Johnson Medical Journal and three manuscript letters (William Johnson to Richard Love Johnson, 10 November 1878; Dr. Simon Baruch to Dr. Richard Love Johnson, August 22, 1889; Dr. Simon Baruch to Dr. Richard Love Johnson, 12 September 1905) remain the property of Beaufort County Library.

Preservation Activities Performed:

The journal was brushed carefully to remove surface debris. Some of the entries are quite faded. The medical log book was transcribed and digitized for the Lowcountry Digital Library during 2017 and 2018 to capture the content.

Collection Inventory

The collection is comprised of 1 medical record book and 1 transcription (57 pages). 

Box Inventory

Box 1:  R.L. Johnson Medical Record Book 1863-1864, 1867-1883

Related materials:

  • Johnson letters, Beaufort District Collection
  •  Verdier Family Chart ascribed to Sarah Fickling, circa 1873, Beaufort District Collection
  • Johnson Family Papers, 1813-1973, South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston.

R. L. Johnson Medical Record Book, 1863–1864, 1867-1883

Volume: 1 manuscript journal

Processed:  Carol Holland, 2000-2005 ; Amanda Forbes, 2017-2018

Citation Form:  R.L. Johnson Medical Record Book, Beaufort District Collection, Beaufort County Library, SC

Researchers may review these materials in the Beaufort District Collection Research Room during our regular hours of operation.

Copyright: Copyright undetermined  

Contact the Beaufort District Collection at 843-255-6468 or e-mail bdc@bcgov.net for additional information about the specific contents of this collection and our local history and archival holdings relating to the people, places, and themes of the history, culture, and natural environment of Beaufort County, Jasper County and Hampton County, South Carolina. Current hours of operation are listed on the Beaufort County Library website.

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