Robert Johnson Henderson
Robert Johnson Henderson was born
on November 12, 1822, in Newton County, Georgia, the son of Isaac P. and Ruth
Shepherd (Johnson) Henderson. His father, a Maryland native, was a wealthy
planter and state representative. Young Henderson graduated from Franklin
College (later the University of Georgia) in 1843. He had a varied antebellum
career as a lawyer, judge, mill owner, and planter. From 1859 to 1860 Henderson
served as a state representative. At the start of the war he was a wealthy
planter and slaveowner in Covington, Newton County.
Henderson was not one of the first Georgians to spring to arms. However, after the first year of the war, he felt it his duty to join the army. On March 20, 1862, he was appointed colonel of the 42nd Georgia Infantry, a regiment he helped raise. He led the 42nd, part of a Georgia brigade known variously as Barton's and Stovall's, at the Battle of Champion's Hill and the siege of Vicksburg. At the latter he was captured and paroled. In the 1864 Atlanta campaign he was wounded at the Battle of Resaca. Recovering, he led the 42nd throughout the 1865 Carolinas campaign. It was said of Henderson that "he was one of the bravest soldiers Georgia ever sent out." A fellow soldier remembered him as "a strict disciplinarian ... a fine drill master . . . was brave in battle but not rash, and was remarkably expert in managing his command on the field of battle.... In short, he was a superb soldier, of splendid appearance, and a magnificent horseman." At the Battle of Bentonville he led Stovall's consolidated brigade as colonel, leading his tiny unit in a charge to restore the Confederate flank and winning the special commendation of the army commander.
After the war Henderson returned to Covington, finding his farm and properties in ruins. Rebuilding his life, he became again a millowner and planter in Newton County. General Henderson died at his daughter's Atlanta home on February 3, 1891, and is buried in a family cemetery in Covington.
SHSP and CV list him as a general. CMH mentions him as a general in the body of that work, but his biography is not included in CMH's biographies of Georgia generals. The omission is curious, given that his general's rank clearly shows in the OR. His obituary states that he was made a general on the battlefield of Bentonville "by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who witnessed a desperate charge the general led."' If so, this indicates that his was a promotion by army, not civil, authority. Henderson himself stated (on his pardon application) that he was recommended for promotion in March, 1865, but never received his commission. At the suggestion of his divisional commander, Henderson was induced to sign his parole as brigadier general.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.