Joseph E. Johnston


Who: Joseph Eggleston Johnston

What: One of the most senior generals in the Confederate Army.

Where: Born Farmville, Virginia; died Washington D.C.

Why: His outstanding military career was hampered by a long standing feud with Jefferson Davis

When: Born February 3, 1807; died March 21, 1891

“That shot that struck me down was the best ever fired for the Confederacy” – Joseph E. Johnston, referring to his replacement as Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia by Robert E Lee

Joseph Johnston was the seventh son of Judge Peter Johnston. He was named for Major Joseph Eggleston, Judge Peter’s commander in the American Revolutionary War, in turn subordinate to ‘Light-Horse’ Harry Lee, father of Johnston’s future colleague Robert E Lee. Johnston attended West Point, graduating 13th in the same class as Lee. He served in the Seminole and Mexican-American wars, and as a major general in 1861, became the highest-ranking US Army officer to resign his commission and join the Confederate Army. He helped muster the Army of the Shenandoah and met up with the forces of P.G.T Beauregard in July at the First Battle of Bull Run. When George McClellan began his Peninsula Campaign, Johnston fought defensively eventually attacking in the Battle of Seven Pines. He was hit by an artillery shell, and command was turned over to Robert E Lee, who drove the Federals away from Richmond. After recovering, Johnston moved to the Western Theater, but was powerless against Ulysses S Grant’s ultimately successful Siege of Vicksburg. After Confederate defeat in the Battle of Chattanooga, Johnston was given command of the Army of Tennessee, and masterfully delayed William T Sherman’s advance toward Atlanta. However, his fractious relationship with Jefferson Davis led to him losing command to John Bell Hood, who Sherman soundly defeated. Johnston and the remnants of his army ultimately surrendered to Sherman in April 1865. After the war, Johnston worked in the railroad and insurance businesses, including a term in Congress. He died of pneumonia a little over a month after attending Sherman’s funeral, having refused to wear a hat in the bitter cold out of respect to his former adversary and long-time friend. He was not related to the Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston, who died at the Battle of Shiloh.

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