Saturday, September 8, 2012

Albert Sidney Johnston

JOHNSTON, Albert Sidney, soldier, b. in Washington, Mason co., Ky., 3 Feb., 1803; d. near Pittsburg Landing. Tenn., 6 April, 1862. He was the youngest son of Dr. John Johnston, a country physician, a native of Salisbury, Conn. Albert Sidney was graduated at the U. S. military academy, eighth in his class, in 1826, and was assigned to the 2d infantry, in which he served as adjutant until his resignation, 24 April, 1834. In 1820 he married Henrietta Preston, who died in August, 1835. During the Black Hawk war in 1832 Lieut. Johnston was chief of staff to Gen. Henry Atkinson. His journals furnish an original and accurate account of that campaign. After his wife's death he was a farmer for a short time near St. Louis, Mo., but in August, 1836, joined the Texas patriots, devoted himself to the service of that state, and by his personal qualities, physical and mental, soon attained notice. He was specially admired for his fine horsemanship, and his feats of daring, one of which was the killing of a puma with his clubbed rifle. He had entered the ranks as a private, but rapidly rose through all the grades to the command of the army. He was not allowed to assume this, however, until he had encountered his competitor, Gen. Felix Huston, in a duel, in which he received a dangerous wound. In 1838 President Mirabeau B. Lamar made him secretary of war, in which office he provided for the defence of the border against Mexican invasion, and in 1839 conducted a campaign against the intruding U. S. Indians in northern Texas, and in two battles, at the Salines of the Neches, expelled them from the country. In 1843 he married Miss Eliza Griffin, and engaged in planting in Brazoria county, Texas: but when the Mexican war began he joined the army, under (Gen. Zachary Taylor, on the Rio Grande. His regiment, the 1st Texas rifles, was soon disbanded, but he continued in service, and was inspector-general of Butler's division at the battle of Monterey. All his superiors recommended him as a brigadier-general, but he was set aside by the president for political reasons, and retired to his farm. Gen. Taylor said he was “the best soldier he ever commanded.” Gen. Johnston remained on his plantation in poverty and neglect until, without solicitation, he was appointed a paymaster in the U. S. army by President Taylor in 1849. He served as paymaster for more than five years, making six tours, and travelling more than 4,000 miles annually on the Indian frontier of Texas. In 1855 President Pierce appointed him colonel of the 2d (now 5th) cavalry, a new regiment, which he organized.  Robert E. Lee was lieutenant-colonel, and George H. Thomas and William J. Hardee were the majors. Gen. Scott called Gen. Johnston's appointment “a god-send to the army and the country.” He remained in command of his regiment and the Department of Texas until ordered, in 1857, to the command of the expedition to restore order among the Mormons in Utah, who were in open revolt against the National government. In his conduct of affairs there he won great reputation for energy and wisdom. By a forced march of 920 miles in twenty-seven days, over bad roads, he reached his little army of 1,100 men, to find it lost in the defiles of the Rocky mountains, with the snow a foot deep and the thermometer 16° below zero, their supplies cut off by the hostile Mormons, their starving teams their sole food, and sage-brush their only fuel. By an extraordinary display of vigor and prudence he got the army safely into winter-quarters, and before spring had virtually put an end to the rebellion without actual collision, solely by the exercise of moral force. Col. Johnston was brevetted brigadier-general, and was retained in command in Utah until 29 Feb., 1860. He spent 1860 in Kentucky until 21 Dec, when he sailed for California, to take command of the Department of the Pacific.

Gen. Johnston witnessed the culmination of “the irrepressible conflict” in secession, and the prospect of war, with unalloyed grief. He was a Union man from both principle and interest, and the highest posts in the United States army were within easy reach of his ambition. He believed the south had a grievance, but did not believe secession was the remedy. Still, his heart was with his state, and he resigned his commission, 9 April, 1861, as soon as he heard of the secession of Texas. Regarding his command as a sacred trust, he concealed his resignation until he could be relieved. He remained in California until June. After a rapid march through the deserts of Arizona and Texas, he reached Richmond about 1 Sept., and was appointed at once to the command of all the country west of the Atlantic states and north of the Gulf states. When he arrived at Nashville, 14 Sept., 1861, he found only 21,000 available troops east of the Mississippi. Gen. Leonidas Polk had 11,000 at Columbus, Ky., Gen. Felix K. Zollicoffer had about 4,000 raw levies at Cumberland gap, and there were 4,000 armed men in camps of instruction in middle Tennessee. Tennessee was open to an advance by the National forces, and, for both military and political reasons, Gen. Johnston resolved on a bold course, and occupied Bowling Green, Ky., with his 4,000 available troops, under Gen. Simon B. Buckner. This place he strongly fortified, and vainly appealed to the Confederate government and state governments for troops and arms. Ho was enabled to hold the National army in check until January, 1802, during which time a single engagement of note occurred, the battle of Belmont, in which Gen. Grant suffered a reverse by the Confederates under Gens. Polk and Pillow. On 19 Jan., Gen. Crittenden, commanding the small army defending east Tennessee, contrary to his instructions, attacked the National forces, under Gen. George H. Thomas, at Fishing creek. His repulse was converted into a route, and Johnston’s right flank was thus turned. Gen. Johnston wrote to his government: “To suppose, with the facilities of movement by water which the well-filled rivers of the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee give for active operations, that they [the National forces] will suspend them in Tennessee and Kentucky during the winter months, is a delusion. All the resources of the Confederacy are now needed for the defence of Tennessee.” As he had to take the risk somewhere, and these were positions less immediately vital than Bowling Green and Columbus, he took it there. On 6 Feb., 1862, Gen. Grant and Flag-Officer Andrew H. Foote moved upon Fort Henry on the Tennessee, and, after a few hours’ fighting, the fort was surrendered. The Confederate troops, about 4.000, retired to Fort Donelson. The Tennessee river was now open for the National navy and armies to Gen. Johnston's left flank and rear, and he began a retreat, intending to cover Nashville and the line of the Cumberland if possible, and if not, then to fall back behind the line of the Tennessee. He determined to defend Nashville at Donelson, and placed 17,000 troops there under Gens. Floyd, Pillow, and Buckner, to meet Grant's impending attack. For himself he reserved the more difficult task of covering Nashville. He was cheered on the arrival of the rear of his army at Nashville on 15 Feb, by a telegram from his generals at Donelson announcing a brilliant victory, but before daylight next morning he was informed that the fort would be surrendered. (See Grant, Ulysses S.) Amid the utmost popular demoralization and rage, a blind fury directed against himself, Gen. Johnston preserved his equanimity and fell back to Murfreesboro, where he reorganized his troops. He had given Gen. Beauregard the command of west Tennessee when Fort Henry fell, with large discretionary power, and had advised him of his plan to unite their forces when possible. He now sent his stores and munitions by the railroad, and marched to Decatur, Ala., and thence moved by rail to Corinth, Miss. This was the key of the defence of the railroad system in the Mississippi valley, and the Confederate government re-enforced him with Bragg's army from Pensacola, 10,000 strong, and 5,000 men from Louisiana, so that on 24 March he had concentrated 50,000 men at Corinth, 40,000 of whom were effectives. It was Gen. Johnston’s purpose to attack Grant’s forces in detail. He was delayed some time reorganizing Beauregard’s forces, but held himself ready to attack as soon as he should hear of Buell’s approach. This intelligence reached him late at night on 2 April, and he began his march next day, hoping to assail Grant unprepared. Heavy rains delayed the inarch of his troops over twenty miles of bad roads, through a wooded and unknown country, so that, instead of being in position to attack on Friday afternoon, a full day was lost, and his troops were not up until the afternoon of the 5th. Then, in an informal council of war, his second in command, Gen. Beauregard, strenuously protested against an attack, and urged a retreat to Corinth. Gen. Johnston listened, and replied: “Gentlemen, we will attack at daylight.” Turning to his staff officer, he said: “I would fight them if they were a million.” Gen. Beauregard twice renewed his protests, but Gen. Johnston, on Sunday morning, as he was mounting his horse to ride forward, gave this final reply: “The battle has opened. It is now too late to change our dispositions.” Gen. Johnston said to a soldier friend early in the battle: “We must this day conquer or perish”; and to all about him: “To-night we will water our horses in the Tennessee river.”  His plan was to mass his force against the National left, turn it, and crowd it into the angle of Snake creek and the Tennessee river, where it must surrender, and as long as he lived the battle was fought exactly as he planned. The struggle began before dawn on Sunday, 6 April. The Confederates attacked in three lines of battle under Gens. Hardee, Bragg, Polk, and Breckinridge. The National army was surprised, and Prentiss’s division was broken and driven back. It rallied on its supports, and a tremendous conflict ensued. The struggle lasted all day, and at half-past two o’clock, in leading the final charge, which crushed the left wing of the National army, Gen. Johnston received a mortal wound. His death was concealed, and his body borne from the field. (For the subsequent conduct of this battle, see articles Beauregard and Grant.) Gen. Johnston's body was first carried to New Orleans, and was finally buried at Austin, Tex. See his life, by his son (New York, 1878). — His son, William Preston, educator, b. in Louisville, Ky., 5 Jan., 1831, was graduated at Yale in 1852. He became a colonel in the. Confederate army at the beginning of the civil war, and served on the staff of Jefferson Davis. After the war he was a professor in Washington and Lee university till November, 1880, when he became president of the Louisiana state university. On the foundation of Tulane university in New Orleans in 1884, he became its first president. Besides fugitive pieces and addresses, he has published a “Life of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston” (New York, 1878).

Albert Sidney's half-brother, Josiah Stoddard, b. in Salisbury, Conn., 24 Nov., 1784; d. on Red river. La., 19 May, 1833. He was taken by his father to Washington, Mason co., Ky., in 1788, and when he was twelve years old was sent to New Haven, Conn., to school. He was graduated at Transylvania university in 1805, studied law in the office of George Nicholas, and he emigrated to the territory of Louisiana, then lately acquired from the French, settling at Alexandria, Rapides parish, a frontier village. He won rapid success at the bar, was elected to the territorial legislature, and remained a member until Louisiana became a state in [1812]. He held the post of district judge from 1812 till 1821, and also raised a regiment of volunteers late in the war with Great Britain, but it saw no active service. In 1820 he was elected to congress as a Clay Democrat, and in 1823 to the U. S. senate, to fill a vacancy. He was re-elected in 1825, and in 1831 was again chosen by a legislature that was politically opposed to him. He was killed by the explosion of the steamboat "Lion" on Red river. In the senate he was chairman of the committee on commerce, and a member of the committee on finance. He gave an independent support to the administration of John Quincy Adams, and was on terms of intimacy with Gen. Winfield Scott, but his closest personal and political association was with Henry Clay, for whom he acted as second in the duel with John Randolph. He opposed nullification, and favored a closely guarded protective tariff. His study of constitutional and international law was close, and he strenuously advocated a mitigation of the laws of maritime war, and that the neutral flag should protect the goods on board, without regard to ownership, and that contraband of war should be limited to the fewest articles possible. He was the author of an able report on the British colonial trade question, and of several pamphlets, including one on the effect of the repeal of the duty on sugar. — Albert Sidney's nephew, Josiah Stoddard, journalist, son of John Harris Johnston, b. in Rapides parish. La., 10 Feb., 1833, became an orphan early, and was brought up in Kentucky. He was graduated at Yale in 1853, and was a planter in Louisiana before the civil war. During the war he served on the staffs of Gen. Braxton Bragg and Gen. Simon B. Buckner, and as chief of staff to Gen. John C. Breckinridge, and shared in over twenty battles. He was with the party that escorted Jefferson Davis in his flight from Richmond, Va., to Charlotte, N. C. After the war he was editor of the “Kentucky Yeoman,” at Frankfort. Ky., for nearly twenty years. During the most of this time he has also been secretary or chairman of the Democratic state central committee, and has been noted for the moderation and tact of his party rulings. He was adjutant-general of Kentucky in 1870-l, and held the office of secretary of state for the commonwealth for nearly ten years. In 1870 he became president of the Kentucky press association.

SOURCE: James Grant Wilson & John Fiske, Editors, Appleton's Cyclopædia Of American Biography, Volume 3, p. 454-6

No comments: