Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/359

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General Joseph E. Johnston. 353

was captured which was in Johnston's custody; nothing defeated which he led.

During this summer Johnston received a letter from the Confederate President, criticising his conduct and conclusions, in terms, which were hardly those to win a hero's assent. To this Johnston replied with that invincible clearness of which, as of the art of war, he was the master. There would seem to be ground for the dilemma, afterwards interposed by Johnston, that, if the criticisms of him were deserved, the further retention of him in command was indefensible. And his services were to be retained. Unhappily thereafter upon terms of mutual distrust between him and the authority to which he reported.

It was on the i8th of December, 1863, that Johnston was ordered to assume command of the Army of Tennessee. The instructions which awaited him at Dalton advised him, that he would probably find the army there disheartened by late events, and deprived of ord- nance and materials ; that it was hoped his presence would do much to re-establish hope, restore discipline, and inspire confidence.

Johnston succeeded to Bragg upon an unenviable throne. Whether justly or unjustly, the experiences of the preceding year had alienated the allegiance without which it was incoherent and discredited. The battle of Missionary Ridge was the greatest disaster sustained by the Confederate arms in pitched battle during the whole war. Nearly one- half the guns, caissons and munitions of the defeated army had been abandoned. Dalton had not been selected because of its defensive strength, but simply because the retreat from Missionary Ridge had ceased at that point. Johnston was sent to repair disaster. The army he now commanded was the same which, under Bragg, had been routed at Missionary Ridge. Sherman's army was the one which had routed it. The defeated army had been depleted since the battle. The successful one had been augmented. Johnston so reorganized and reassured his dispirited force, that, when the cam- paign opened in the spring, the poorest regiment he had was supe- rior in effectiveness and drill to the best when he took command. The change was swift and permanent. Thenceforth, no army in the Confederacy excelled, if any equaled it, in drill and discipline. The whole army felt that a lofty gentleman was in command, animated by a noble and pervading justice, which no favor could bias and no incom- petence mislead. The genius for rapid organization could not be more splendidly evinced. Wherever his hand was laid, a life of dis- 23