Biography of

Dr. William P. Johnson

Regimental Surgeon

Dr.William Parker Johnson********* Julia Johnson*********Adela Johnson*****

Dr. William Parker Johnson was born on the Hockhocking River near Athens, Ohio in 1824. His father, John Johnson, a prosperous farmer, was frugal, but had a benevolent nature. His mother, Sarah Wyatt, kept the farmstead and raised the children. Upon nearing manhood, Park, as he preferred, attended Ohio University and the University of Louisville. He studied medicine under Dr. William P. Blackstone, a country doctor in Athens County. Dr. Blackstone's daughter, Julia, and Dr. Johnson developed a relationship and were soon married. Together they were blessed with seven children but five of them died in childhood. At the time of the Civil War, Dr. Johnson was practicing medicine and a member of the city council in Athens, Ohio.

Serving as a medical officer, Dr. Johnson was the regimental surgeon for the 18th Ohio Volunteers and oversaw all details of the health of the regiment. In addition, for periods of time, he was also the brigade surgeon for the 29th Brigade (Stanley's) or more commonly referred to by its later name as the 2nd Brigade. After the Battle of Stones River, he was placed in charge of several hospitals with over 1000 men under his care. Gathering the wounded from the recent battle together in one place, he is reported to say that the men were "most clamorous to get treatment in my hospital. Reluctantly, he was placed in charge of one hospital that was very unsanitary. He tried to refuse on the grounds that it was dirty and he did not have the time, but was told that was the exact reason why he was given the extra duty.

During the war, he suffered constantly with diarrhea. At times his diet consisted of farina, crackers, rice, tea and toast. He took a pill composed of 1/2 of a grain of nitrate of silver ipecac and opium every four hours. He was forced to terminate his military career before his 3 year enlistment was over. Returning to Athens, he devoted himself in the practice of treating sick and being involved in civic affairs. He was the first president of the Athens Medical Society and elected as Trustee for Ohio University in 1866.

Moving to Indianapolis, Indiana in 1870, he went into practice "treating and correcting deformities." Oddly enough, he was reported to use steel pins in reconstructing broken bones long before it became a common practice. Even this well-schooled Doctor could not stop the ravages of time, however. In 1872, he lost his beloved, Julia, while she was in her early forties. Dr. Johnson's death came in 1889.


(Information and photos from Alden Library, Athens University via Charles Latham Jr., Indianapolis Literary Club.)