Joseph E. Johnston

Joseph E. Johnston served as a brigadier general in the US Army until he joined the Confederation troops at the start of the American Civil War, becoming one of the highest-ranking officers there. He was considered one of the most able commanders of the southern states, but also one of the most controversial due to his defensive tactics.



Origin and teenage years:

Joseph Eggleston Johnston was born on February 3, 1803 at Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia, on the Cherry Grove family estate, the son of Peter and Mary Johnston. Already his father fought in the American Revolutionary War and then moved to the Parliament of Virginia.




Beginning of the military service:

Johnston, like many other well-known officers, also attended the West Point Military Academy in New York, where he graduated in 1829. Among his classmates also included the later Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Upon graduation, he was promoted to lieutenant and transferred to an artillery unit, where he also participated in the Black Hawk War and fought against the Indians east of the Mississippi River.

During the Mexican-American War, he was subordinate to the staff of General Winfield Scott. After the war he was transferred to Texas and Kansas. In 1855 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and regimental commander of the 1st US Cavalry Regiment in Texas. In 1860, the promotion to Brigadier General, with whom he then took over the post of General Quartermaster of the US Army.




The American Civil War:

With the onset of the Civil War, Johnston was undecided on which side to switch. Only when his home region of Virginia broke from the Union and joined the Confederacy, he returned his officer's patent and joined the Southern Army.

Johnston took command of the Confederate forces, which were located in the virgin Shenandoahtal. On July 21, 1861, he supported with his troops General Beauregard in the first battle on Bull Run and was able to avert a defeat by his intervention.


General Joseph E. Johnston

General Joseph E. Johnston


In the winter months of 1861 to 1862 he was commissioned to set up the Northern Virginia Army. When the Northern Potomac Army began its campaign on the Virginia Peninsula, Johnston was able to compensate for the numerical superiority of the enemy by tactical retreats, but had to repeatedly surrender terrain. At the insistence of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Johnston was forced to launch an attack on Maj. McClellan's Northern Army on May 31, 1862. At the Battle of Seven Pines Johnston was badly wounded and the command to General Robert E. Lee cede.

When Johnston recovered from his wounds in late 1862, he was transferred to the Western Front by President Davis and given overall command of the Tennessee Army by General Braxton Braggs and the Mississippi Army by Lieutenant-General John C. Pembertons. These troops he had to send against the invasion of Ulysses S. Grant and his soldiers, where he lost the army of Pemberton on 4 July 1863, when they were encircled by Union troops in Vicksburgs and had to capitulate. Johnston then attempted to lure the Union forces of William T. Sherman into an attack on the well-fortified city of Jackson and thus prevent a breakthrough of the northern states into the East. But Sherman began to surround the city and besiege and so Johnston had to retire again.

On December 27, 1863 Johnston took over the leadership of the Tennessee Army, which was at that time in a completely demoralized state. The intervention of Johnston made the army capable of fighting again and was sent east to ward off the advance of Major General Sherman's Union forces on Atlanta. In June 1864, Johnston had fortifications raised on Kennesaw Mountain to stop the Union Army. Although the Union troops were repulsed with about 3,000 dead and injured, the campaign could not be stopped alone by the superiority of soldiers of the northern states. When Johnston suggested to President Davis that he should leave the defense of Atlanta to the local militia and spare his soldiers for an open battle, he was replaced by Hood. As a result of this exchange, Hood lost nearly all of his soldiers during an offensive in Nashville, Tennessee.

Only in February 1865 Johnston should take command of the soldiers east of the Mississippi and stop the advance of Sherman. But in this balance of power, the northern states had already 60,000 soldiers, while Johnston only had about 20,000. In March, the two armies met at Bentonville, North Carolina. Although Johnston could once again inflict heavy losses on the Union, he had to retreat due to the overwhelming majority. From the east, the North Virginia Army, under the leadership of General Lee, was attempting to persuade Petersburg and Richmond to unite with Johnston's army. The Union troops, however, surrounded Lee's army and so capitulated on April 9 at Appomattox Court House. Johnston, who wanted to avoid the complete destruction of his troops and a guerilla war, capitulated on April 26, 1865 at Bennett Place, near Durham, North Carolina.




The End of Life by Joseph Eggleston Johnston:

After the Civil War, Johnston embarked on a career in politics. From 1879 to 1881 he sat for the Democratic Party of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, then he was from 1887 to 1891 he was Federal Commissioner for the railways.

He also wrote several books, in Narrative of Military Operations in 1874, he read about the former president of the Confederation Davis openly.

In the following years he accompanied some funerals of former opponents, including the generals McClellan and Grant. In February 1891, he also accompanied the funeral of General William T. Sherman, although his health was already weakened. In this he contracted pneumonia, died a little later.


Denkmal Joseph E. Johnstons in Dalton, Georgia

Joseph E. Johnston's memorial in Dalton, Georgia






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