George Washington Johnson was born May 27th 1811 near Georgetown, Scott, Kentucky the son of William and Betsey (Payne) Johnson. His father died shortly after his birth and he was raised by his stepfather John Allen. Johnson was sent to Transylvania University where he graduated in 1833 with three degrees. He practiced law in Georgetown, before deciding he liked farming better. He owned two plantations one near Georgetown and one in Arkansas. In 1838 Johnson was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives. He headed the Committee of Sixty in August 1845 that seized the printing press belonging to abolitionist Cassius M Clay.
As the Confederate States of America were forming, Johnson advocated for Kentucky to join the Confederacy, he thought the two sides would be evenly matched and that a trade agreement could be negotiated. When the Union took control of Kentucky Johnson fled with other Southern sympathizers, traveling to Tennessee he volunteered as an aid to Confederate General Simon B Buckner. On November 18th 1861 at Russellville, Kentucky 116 men representing 68 Kentucky counties met to establish a Confederate government. They unanimously chose Johnson to be the Governor of the new Confederate state. Kentucky was admitted on December 10th 1861. When Confederate General Albert Sydney Johnston withdrew from Bowling Green, Kentucky in February 1862, Johnson moved the government to Tennessee.
When General Johnston attacked the Union army at Shiloh, Tennessee Johnson served as an aide to General Breckinridge. He had his horse shot out from under him, and then insisted on being sworn in as a Private in Company E of the 4th Kentucky Infantry. In the fight the next day Johnson was wounded in the abdomen and right thigh, he was left on the battlefield overnight. The next day Union General Alexander M McCook recognized him and had Johnson taken aboard a Union hospital ship where despite medical care he died April 8th 1862.
Members of the Union army had Johnson’s body shipped to Georgetown, Kentucky for burial, in the Georgetown Cemetery.