Private Henry Johnson (R12) Clinton and Lycoming Counties 1862-1864
Private Henry Johnson, born June 12, 1819, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, son of Samuel (d.1820) and Rebecca Justina Brodhead Heiner Johnson; primary education, Newton, New Jersey; Princeton College, 1837; read law 1838-1840; admitted New York bar, 1841; moved to Muncy, Pennsylvania, opened law practice; Whig, delegate, presidential electors of Pennsylvania, 1848; married, Margaret Green, 1856, children, Rebecca Justina Johnson Lose, Mary Green Johnson, Ida Josephine Johnson Baldwin; Laura Louise Johnson, Helen Gertrude Johnson, Anna Holstein Johnson Collins, Margaret Green Johnson Collins, Edith Brodhead Johnson; elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1862-1864; private, Company K, Fourteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, 1863; died, August 11, 1895 (aged 76) interment, Muncy Cemetery, Muncy, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.
Read law, with Honorable Whitfield S. Johnson, afterward secretary of state of New Jersey, 1838-1840. Admitted to the bar after examination before the Supreme Court judges of New Jersey, as required by the rules of that state, 1841.
Moved with his mother to Muncy, Pennsylvania; mother acquired a large amount of real estate from her grandfather, General Daniel Brodhead. Opened law practice, June 19, 1841, for fifty plus years.
Private, Company K, Fourteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, General John Fulton Reynolds, 1863. Refused any higher rank than that of private.
Professional titles; business ownership; board memberships; local government; club memberships:
Member, Post No. 66, Grand Army of the Republic, Muncy Lodge, No. 299, Free and Accepted Masons.
Whig, delegate, presidential electors of Pennsylvania, General Zachary Taylor, 1848.
Elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, Clinton and Lycoming Counties, 1862-1864; chairman, Judiciary Committee, 1864.
In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln had good cause to fear defeat against presidential candidate George Brinton McClellan of Philadelphia, the often maligned former commander of the Army of the Potomac whom Lincoln fired after the Battle of Antietam. The president feared, should McClellan win, especially in his home state of Pennsylvania with eleven percent of the country’s electoral votes, the war would immediately end, and the nation would be reduced to half its original size. He expressed his worst fears to General William Tecumseh Sherman, asking him to furlough his Indiana troops during the upcoming general election. Sherman cooperated, putting off his “march to the sea” for three months. Indiana, and all other states except Ohio, did not permit an active duty soldier to vote in the field. In most cases, the troops needed a furlough to return home and vote, like Pennsylvania; or as in the case of New York, send a “vote by proxy” (mail) to the hometown county courthouse – a process highly susceptible to election fraud. Ohio was the only state to permit soldier balloting in the field (1863), but Lincoln direly needed more than the Buckeye state in summer 1864: he desperately needed Pennsylvania.
Johnson and the Senate of Pennsylvania were way ahead of the President. In 1862, Pennsylvania State Senate Judiciary Chairman John Penney introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the constitution. The following year, Judiciary member Johnson added specifics to the (now) joint resolution, to allow suffrage to those “in actual military service,” lowering the voting age to 18. The resolution passed the Senate, 33-0. On its final trip through the Senate in 1864, the opposition attempted to block Johnson’s SR 101, which had passed without incident in March, by pushing the referendum resolution’s effective date to November rather than the desired July. The idea was quashed, and despite an innocuous trip to Finance, all provisions passed by a Republican and War Democrat super-majority. Article III, Section 4 became part of the 1838 Pennsylvania Constitution as well as Henry Johnson’s legacy after its approval in July 1864.
Pennsylvania’s soldiers in the field could now vote at age 18; they did so, and the Commonwealth re-elected the incumbent President. The act made national headlines. Lincoln carried the state by 19,000 votes, with the soldier vote in just the Army of the Potomac amounting to 14,000 of the margin. The other nine Armies contributed over 7,000 – far in excess of Lincoln’s victorious margin. Overall, 78 percent of Pennsylvania’s soldiers voted for President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 – Republicans and Democrats. Henry Johnson saved Pennsylvania for the Union. Returned home to Williamsport at the end of the 1864 Session, for one brief three-year term, his legislative success – just one bill – might have very well changed the course of Commonwealth history.
Wife, Margaret Green, youngest daughter of Enoch Green and Mary Bendelman Green, sister of Honorable Henry Green, judge of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania; at the time of his death chief justice.
Genealogical and Personal History of Lycoming County, John W. Jordan, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1906.