A Line of Survivors
George Washington Johns (1841-1913) was my Great-grandfather. He was born and died in Bachlott, Georgia. His only sojourn of which I am aware was as a soldier in the Confederate Army. Family lore has it that he was wounded and left behind by his compatriots. They leaned him against a large tree next to a split-rail fence with expectations he would soon die.
As the story was passed down, he would state that he shot at a lot of Yankees during the war but he only knew that he hit and killed two of them. Both were killed as he leaned against that tree awaiting his own death. They were apparently scouts on a mission. When they came to the fence a short distance from where George rested. One jumped on top and over the fence and one squeezed through the space beneath the top rail. He shot the jumper first and the one caught in the fence second.
This must have happened near the end of the war when Confederate soldiers were reduced to wearing tattered uniforms because George confiscated some clothing from his dead counterparts. Later, when he reunited with his Southern troops, one of them commented, “Johns, we left you behind for dead and here you show up with a new pair of breeches and a new pair of boots.” He responded, "I’d be wearing a new coat and a new hat too, but I figured you fellas would have shot me.”
There are many ways to interpret this story. It is not the portrait of a hero, but rather one of a survivor. The Johns on my branch of the tree are known for their stubbornness; I prefer to call it steadfastness. We are not quitters; we will stay the course and finish the hard tasks of life. Others may take us for granted or abandon us for their own pleasures, but we will remain true to our commitments. We will keep on fighting when others have given up on us, or as I use to say in my youth “I am going to keep on keeping on until I can’t and then I’m going to die and go to heaven.”