Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807–1891) was a career military officer and one of the prominent Confederate commanders during the American Civil War. Born on February 3, 1807, in Virginia, Johnston graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1829. He served in the U.S. Army, participating in the Black Hawk War and the Mexican-American War.
When the Civil War erupted, Johnston resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and joined the Confederate forces. He played a significant role in various battles, including the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas), where he earned recognition for his leadership. Johnston’s defensive strategies and tactical acumen earned him the respect of both his troops and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
He served as a general in the Confederate Army under Robert E. Lee in Virginia, leading his troops in significant battles like the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles. However, he was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, leading to his temporary replacement by Robert E. Lee. Johnston’s most famous campaign was his defense of Atlanta in 1864 against General William Tecumseh Sherman’s forces. Despite initial successes, Johnston’s cautious approach and the fall of Atlanta led to his replacement by John Bell Hood.
After the war, Johnston pursued various endeavors, including serving as U.S. Commissioner of Railroads. He authored his memoir, “Narrative of Military Operations,” offering insights into his experiences during the Civil War. Joseph E. Johnston died on March 21, 1891, in Washington, D.C. He remains a significant figure in Civil War history, known for his military skill and his role in leading Confederate forces during critical moments of the conflict.
If you are interested to know more about Joseph Johnston, it’s a good idea to look at these 30 interesting facts about Joseph E. Johnston
- Joseph Eggleston Johnston was born on February 3, 1807, near Farmville, Virginia.
- He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1829, ranking 13th in a class of 46.
- Johnston served in the U.S. Army during the Black Hawk War and the Mexican-American War.
- He received two brevet promotions for his actions in the Mexican-American War.
- Johnston developed a friendship with fellow officer Robert E. Lee during their time in the U.S. Army.
- He served as an instructor of tactics at West Point for a brief period.
- Johnston’s early military career saw him stationed at various posts across the United States.
- He resigned from the U.S. Army on May 3, 1861, following the secession of his home state, Virginia.
- Johnston’s first major command in the Confederate Army was the Army of the Shenandoah.
- He played a significant role in the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) in 1861, leading Confederate forces.
- Johnston was known for his tactical skills and defensive strategies on the battlefield.
- He commanded Confederate forces in the Western Theater during the early years of the Civil War.
- Johnston’s leadership in the Vicksburg Campaign was marked by a series of strategic withdrawals.
- He was criticized for not reinforcing General Pemberton’s forces at Vicksburg, which eventually led to its surrender.
- Johnston’s disagreements with Confederate President Jefferson Davis over military strategy led to tensions between them.
- He was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) in 1862 and temporarily replaced by Robert E. Lee.
- Johnston returned to command after recovering from his wounds and led Confederate forces in the Northern Virginia Campaign.
- His cautious approach and withdrawal at the Battle of Seven Pines led to the Confederate retreat from the outskirts of Richmond.
- Johnston commanded the Army of Tennessee in 1863 and played a role in the Chattanooga Campaign.
- His defensive tactics at the Battle of Missionary Ridge contributed to Confederate losses.
- Johnston was replaced by John Bell Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee in 1864.
- He was assigned to defend Atlanta against General William Tecumseh Sherman’s forces.
- Johnston’s Fabian strategy in the Atlanta Campaign aimed at wearing down Sherman’s forces through defensive maneuvers.
- However, Confederate leadership, including President Davis, grew impatient with Johnston’s approach, leading to his removal.
- Johnston was replaced by General John Bell Hood in July 1864, just before the Battle of Atlanta.
- After his removal from command, Johnston held various positions in the Confederate Army, including overseeing the Department of the South.
- He surrendered his forces to General William Tecumseh Sherman near Durham Station, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865.
- Johnston’s surrender marked one of the last major surrenders of Confederate forces and effectively ended his military career.
- After the war, Johnston pursued various occupations, including working for the U.S. Department of War and as a railroad executive.
- He passed away on March 21, 1891, in Washington, D.C., and was buried at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.
Joseph E. Johnston’s name is forever etched into the annals of American history as a commander whose strategies, decisions, and leadership echoed across the battlefields of the Civil War. His cautious yet effective approach, marked by tactical acumen and defensive prowess, shaped critical moments in the conflict’s narrative. Though his disagreements with Confederate authorities at times overshadowed his achievements, Johnston’s legacy remains a testament to the complex challenges faced by military leaders during times of upheaval. Through triumphs and setbacks, his name stands as a reminder of the complexities of wartime leadership and the enduring impact of those who stood on the front lines of history.