1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Johnston, Joseph Eggleston
JOHNSTON, JOSEPH EGGLESTON (1807–1891), American Confederate general in the Civil War, was born near Farmville, Prince Edward county, Virginia, on the 3rd of February 1807. His father, Peter Johnston (1763–1841), a Virginian of Scottish descent, served in the War of Independence, and afterwards became a distinguished jurist; his mother was a niece of Patrick Henry. He graduated at West Point, in the same class with Robert E. Lee, and was made brevet second lieutenant, 4th Artillery, in 1829. He served in the Black Hawk and Seminole wars, and left the army in 1837 to become a civil engineer, but a year afterwards he was reappointed to the army as first lieutenant, Topographical Engineers, and breveted captain for his conduct in the Seminole war. During the Mexican war he was twice severely wounded in a reconnaissance at Cerro Gordo, 1847, was engaged in the siege of Vera Cruz, the battles of Contreras, Churubusco, and Molino del Rey, the storming of Chapultepec, and the assault on the city of Mexico, and received three brevets for gallant and meritorious service. From 1853 to 1855 he was employed on Western river improvements, and in 1855 he became lieut.-colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry. In 1860 he was made quartermaster-general, with the rank of brigadier-general. In April 1861 he resigned from the United States army and entered the Confederate service. He was commissioned major-general of volunteers in the Army of Virginia, and assisted in organizing the volunteers. He was later appointed a general officer of the Confederacy, and assigned to the command of the Army of the Shenandoah, being opposed by the Federal army under Patterson. When McDowell advanced upon the Confederate forces under Beauregard at Manassas, Johnston moved from the Shenandoah Valley with great rapidity to Beauregard’s assistance. As senior officer he took command on the field, and at Bull Run (Manassas) (q.v.) won the first important Confederate victory. In August 1861 he was made one of the five full generals of the Confederacy, remaining in command of the main army in Virginia. He commanded in the battle of Fair Oaks (May 31, 1862), and was so severely wounded as to be incapacitated for several months. In March 1863, still troubled by his wound, he was assigned to the command of the south-west, and in May was ordered to take immediate command of all the Confederate forces in Mississippi, then threatened by Grant’s movement on Vicksburg. When Pemberton’s army was besieged in Vicksburg by Grant, Johnston used every effort to relieve it, but his force was inadequate. Later in 1863, when the battle of Chattanooga brought the Federals to the borders of Georgia, Johnston was assigned to command the Army of Tennessee at Dalton, and in the early days of May 1864 the combined armies of the North under Sherman advanced against his lines. For the main outlines of the famous campaign between Sherman and Johnston see American Civil War (§ 29). From the 9th of May to the 17th of July there were skirmishes, actions and combats almost daily. The great numerical superiority of the Federals enabled Sherman to press back the Confederates without a pitched battle, but the severity of the skirmishing may be judged from the casualties of the two armies (Sherman’s about 26,000 men, Johnston’s over 10,000), and the obstinate steadiness of Johnston by the fact that his opponent hardly progressed more than one mile a day. But a Fabian policy is never acceptable to an eager people, and when Johnston had been driven back to Atlanta he was superseded by Hood with orders to fight a battle. The wisdom of Johnston’s plan was soon abundantly clear, and the Confederate cause was already lost when Lee reinstated him on the 23rd of February 1865. With a handful of men he opposed Sherman’s march through the Carolinas, and at Bentonville, N.C., fought and almost won a most gallant and skilful battle against heavy odds. But the Union troops steadily advanced, growing in strength as they went, and a few days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Johnston advised President Davis that it was in his opinion wrong and useless to continue the conflict, and he was authorized to make terms with Sherman. The terms entered into between these generals, on the 18th of April, having been rejected by the United States government, another agreement was signed on the 26th of April, the new terms being similar to those of the surrender of Lee. After the close of the war Johnston engaged in civil pursuits. In 1874 he published a Narrative of Military Operations during the Civil War. In 1877 he was elected to represent the Richmond district of Virginia in Congress. In 1887 he was appointed by President Cleveland U.S. commissioner of railroads. Johnston was married in early life to Louisa (d. 1886), daughter of Louis M‘Lane. He died at Washington, D.C., on the 21st of March 1891, leaving no children.
It was not the good fortune of Johnston to acquire the prestige which so much assisted Lee and Jackson, nor indeed did he possess the power of enforcing his will on others in the same degree, but his methods were exact, his strategy calm and balanced, and, if he showed himself less daring than his comrades, he was unsurpassed in steadiness. The duel of Sherman and Johnston is almost as personal a contest between two great captains as were the campaigns of Turenne and Montecucculi. To Montecucculi, indeed, both in his military character and in the incidents of his career, Joseph Johnston bears a striking resemblance.
See Hughes, General Johnston, in “Great Commanders Series” (1893).