Johnston, Joseph Eggleston

Johnston, Joseph Eggleston

Johnston, Joseph Eggleston, 1807–91, Confederate general, b. Prince Edward co., Va., grad. West Point, 1829. He served against the Seminole in Florida and with distinction under Winfield Scott in the Mexican War. Johnston was quartermaster general with the rank of brigadier general when he resigned (Apr., 1861) to fight for the Confederacy. In May he was made a brigadier general and assigned to command at Harpers Ferry. He evaded the Union army under Gen. Robert Patterson and marched to the aid of General Beauregard at Bull Run, where his part in the Confederate victory won him a generalcy and the command of the Army of Northern Virginia (July). Johnston opposed General McClellan in the Peninsular campaign until he was wounded at Fair Oaks in May, 1862. Upon resuming service in November, he was assigned to command the Dept. of the West. Although it seems certain that President Davis intended him to give orders to John Clifford Pemberton at Vicksburg and Braxton Bragg in Tennessee, Johnston chose to interpret his position as merely nominal. When he finally did take command in the Vicksburg campaign, it was too late to save Pemberton. Johnston, placed in command of the Army of the Tennessee (Dec., 1863), adopted the policy of strategic retreat against William Tecumseh Sherman in the Atlanta campaign—a policy that did not suit Davis, who appointed John Bell Hood to succeed him. He was restored to command in Feb., 1865, by Lee, now commander in chief. He obstructed General Sherman's advance through North Carolina, but upon hearing of Lee's surrender to General Grant, he capitulated to Sherman on Apr. 26. After the war Johnston served (1879–81) in the House of Representatives from Richmond, Va., and by appointment of President Cleveland, was (1885–91) federal commissioner of railroads. Cautious as he was, Johnston was not a brilliant offensive commander but was probably the peer of Lee in defensive generalship. Davis's hostility to Johnston was widely known and seriously disrupted Confederate military organization.

Bibliography

See Johnston's Narrative of Military Operations (1874; new ed. 1959, repr. 1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Johnston, Joseph Eggleston

(1807–91) soldier; born in Prince Edward County, Va. An 1829 West Pointe graduate, he fought in the Mexican War and was the army's quartermaster general when the Civil War broke out. He resigned when Virginia seceded, and commanded a wing of the Confederate army at 1st Bull Run; but he had feuded with Jefferson Davis and did not obtain the position he felt he deserved. Wounded on the Virginia Peninsula in June 1862, he had the distinction of being succeeded by Robert E. Lee. During the long months that followed, he held a series of senior commands but failed to win a major battle, and during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign, Johnston was effectively in retreat; he surrendered to Sherman in North Carolina on April 26, 1865. After the war, he went into the insurance business and then served in the U.S. House of Representatives (Dem., Va.; 1879–81) and as commissioner of U.S. railroads (1885–91). He died of pneumonia brought on by standing hatless in the rain at the funeral of Gen. Sherman.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.