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From the Summer 2005 issue of Texas Hill Country Magazine

Thunder From a Clear Sky"

New book chronicles adventures of Marble Falls founder


       Ray Mulesky of Evansville, Indiana, wasn't planning to write a book about the Texas Hill Country. In fact, his early objective was simply to research the history of his wife's great great grandfather, who had enlisted in the Union Army in 1862.
       He soon found that there had been a flood of new volunteers in Indiana that year, and started asking, "Why?" The reason was Adam Rankin Johnson, Burnet County's all-time most influential citizen and founder of Marble Falls, a genuine Texas hero whose daring raid on a federal arsenal in Newburgh, Indiana, sent shock-waves around the world (and especially Indiana) in July 1862.
       As Mulesky researched the events of that epic summer, he became a real admirer of the intrepid young Confederate leader, and his well-written book (called
Thunder From a Clear Sky from an article in the Evansville newspaper at the time of the raid) reflects that new-found admiration. Mulesky provides a vivid background for the week's adventures, then tells how thirty ragged soldiers invaded the North, captured a town with its federal arsenal and more than one hundred Union soldiers, then escaped back to Kentucky with three boatloads of looted weapons and supplies, all without suffering a scratch. Johnson's trump card, which gave him the nickname "Stovepipe Johnson," was a faked artillery battery across the river from Newburgh. Before the invasion, Johnson had his men construct two menacing-looking cannons from a stovepipe, a charred log, and some wagon wheels. The threat of shelling prevented the townsfolk from mounting a counter-attack, and gave Johnson and his men time to make good their escape.
       The bold attack made headlines in Europe and America, and forced the Union Army to fortify the length of the Ohio River for the rest of the war, but it also turned up the heat on Johnson's "Partisan Rangers" in western Kentucky, which was overrun with Union troops seeking revenge. Johnson himself was blinded by a friendly-fire incident later in the war, but his accomplishments in civilian life here in Texas prove that his success at Newburgh was no fluke.
       It is a great honor to have such a book published, especially by an Indiana man, and I found
Thunder From a Clear Sky to be a fascinating read. Since I am acquainted with some of General Johnson's descendants, I requested autographed copies for them, and Mr. Mulesky cheerfully obliged. He has since consented to visit Burnet County on the weekend of Fort Croghan Days (October 8) for a book signing.
       I think that anyone interested in Texas history would enjoy this book, which is available online at,,, and for order at other book retailers. I hope many of you will take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about a great Texas hero.