With the outbreak of the Civil War Johnson returned to Kentucky and enlisted as a scout under Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was one of the few members of the Fort Donelson garrison who escaped capture by evacuating the fort with Gen. John B. Floyd. His subsequent exploits as commander of the Texas Partisan Rangers within the federal lines in Kentucky earned him a colonel's commission in August 1862 and a promotion to brigadier general on June 1, 1864. One of his most remarkable feats was the capture of Newburgh, Indiana, from a sizable Union garrison with only twelve men and two joints of stovepipe mounted on the running gear of an abandoned wagon. This episode won him his nickname. When Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his men were surrounded on Buffington's Island during Morgan's famous raid, Johnson and his men escaped by swimming the Ohio River. On August 21, 1864, Johnson attacked a federal encampment at Grubbs Crossroads, near Canton in Caldwell County, Kentucky, before daylight; he was accidentally shot by his own men and became totally blind. After capture by the federals he was imprisoned at Fort Warren until the end of the war.
Upon his release he returned to Texas, where he lived for his remaining sixty years and founded the town of Marble Falls, "the blind man's town." He worked to develop the water power of the Colorado River, founded the Texas Mining Improvement Company, and served as a contractor for the Overland Mail. General Johnson died at Burnet on October 20, 1922. His funeral services were held in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol in Austin, and he was buried in the State Cemetery there.
30° 15.912, -097° 43.613
Texas State Cemetery