Who Was Merritt Johnson?
Merritt Johnson is the 3x great grandfather of Kiora Johnson, the Founder and Executive Director of God’s Blessings Plan, and was born a free man in Surrey County, Virginia. He fought in the Civil War for the 23rd Colored Infantry Regiment, Company A. He was drafted, in Washington D.C., as an ambulance driver on December 5th 1863 for a term of 3 years at the age of 29 years old. The men of the 23rd were trained at Camp Casey in Virginia, which is located near the area where the Pentagon is today. The 23rd Colored Infantry were the first colored troops to engage in “directed combat” against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on May 15th 1864. The combat occurred at the intersection of the Catharpin and Old Plank Roads in Virginia under the direction of General Edward Ferrero.
Two months later, on July 30th, 1864, Mr. Johnson was wounded in the right shoulder by a minie ball at The Battle of the Crater, which was a part of the Seige of Petersburg. The Battle of the Crater was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Union forces exploded a mine in General Burnside’s IX Corps sector, blowing a gap in the Confederate defenses of Petersburg. Due to a last minute change by General Meade, the black soldiers were the last to enter the battle, instead of the first. Three white divisions of the IX Corps, did not follow General Burnside’s plan and delayed the attack. This resulted in mass confusion for black Union soldiers as unit after unit charged into and around the bottom of the “crater” in a disastrously failed attempt to gain ground over the Confederate soldiers. The black troops sustained the worst casualties of which the 23rd suffered the most.
After recovering from his injuries, Mr. Johnson and the rest of the regiment went on to fight on April 9th, 1865 at the Battle of Appomattox Court House when General Lee, commander of all Confederate forces, surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, concluding the last major battle of the war and signaling it’s end. Mr. Johnson remained in active duty at Brownsville and along the Rio Grande River in Texas until he was mustered out on November 30th, 1865 in Brazos Santiago, Texas.
Upon being honorably discharged from the military, Merritt Johnson married Clara Tuttle and moved to Huntington, Long Island where they started their family and became major figures in the Town of Huntington and within Bethel AME Church. Bethel AME is currently the oldest African American church in the Town of Huntington. He was elected trustee of the church and opened his home and extended his hospitality to visiting pastors. He owned a farm, free and clear without a mortgage, on Oakwood Road to support his wife and five (5) children. He frequently traveled to Brooklyn and Washington D.C. to reconnect with his fellow Civil War veterans and participate in his local Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R) events. Through membership in the William Lloyd G.A.R Post 270, he joined the largest Union Army veteran’s organization supporting voting rights for black veterans, being a source of charity for Civil War veterans in need, lobbying Congress to establish regular veterans’ pensions and establishing the first Memorial Day.
Merritt Johnson departed this earth on November 2nd, 1922 and is buried at Huntington Rural Cemetery on New York Ave in Huntington along with this wife and children. He was in an unmarked grave until February 4th, 2015 when God’s Blessings Plan’s Founder was able to get his Civil War headstone shipped and installed. His name is listed at the African American Civil War Memorial wall in Washington D.C. along with many of his veteran friends that he fought side by side with during the war. Though he was not able to read and write he was able to overcome numerous obstacles throughout his life. His family continues to live in and near the Town of Huntington to this day.
In honor of his service and accomplishments, we will be presenting a $1,000 scholarship to one (1) African American high school senior that is a resident of Suffolk County, has been accepted to either a college or vocational school, has a minimum of a 2.5 GPA and is making a positive change in their town, within their family or faith community. The deadline for applications to be submitted is May 31st, 2024.
It is our goal to expand this scholarship annually and recognize the talented and dedicated African American youth of Suffolk County that follow in Merritt Johnson’s example of community, family, faith and justice!
We are currently raising funds for the 2024 Juneteenth Merritt Johnson Scholarship
Are you passionate about keeping history alive? Let us know! We are always looking for volunteers to help us keep the memory and achievements of Merritt Johnson at the forefront of The Town of Huntington. We’ll help you find a way to volunteer that best suits you. We’re excited to have you join the team!
Currently our team is looking to secure volunteers for the following positions:
Logistics Staff Member
Events Staff Members
Social Media Manager