Heroic Death of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston: Severe Blow to the Confederacy
History acknowledges Robert E. Lee as the Confederacy’s greatest general, the man whose military strategy and inspiring presence maintained the Army of Northern Virginia as a coherent, effective fighting force long after the odds against it seemed hopeless. During the first year of the Civil War, however, the South was led by a man whose military and leadership abilities placed him above all others, especially in the eyes of his friend Confederate President Jefferson Davis. That man was General Albert Sidney Johnston, who died at the Battle of Shiloh leading a charge into a peach orchard on April 6, 1862. Historians recognize his loss as one of the greatest blows affecting the South’s fortunes during the war.
Article continues after this newspaper image from the April 14, 1862, issue of the Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
One of the intriguing questions of the Civil War is: what motivated Johnston to put himself in the exposed position that led to his death? The other high-ranking Confederate officer at the Battle of Shiloh, General P.G.T. Beauregard, took the more accustomed position of directing the fighting from the rear. Johnston, by contrast, was at the front, furiously galloping on horseback ahead of his men right into the teeth of enemy fire. He was the highest-ranking officer, on either side, to be killed in the Civil War. Was his fatal charge sheer courage, daring leadership, foolish recklessness—or was it a desperate act of atonement for the string of losses the Confederacy suffered in the Western Theater in the spring of 1862?
From 1826 until his death in 1862 at the age of 59, Albert Sidney Johnston had a remarkable military career, almost without parallel, after graduating with honors from West Point. He served as a general for three countries: the United States of America, the Republic of Texas, and the Confederate States of America. He fought in the Black Hawk War, the Texas Revolution, the Mexican-American War, the Utah War, and the American Civil War. Along with his extensive military experience as a field commander, he served the Republic of Texas as secretary of war for two years.
Born in Kentucky, Johnston spent most of his life in his adopted home state of Texas. After the Lone Star State seceded from the Union on Feb. 1, 1861, Johnston resigned his U.S. Army commission to join the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis appointed Johnston a general in the Confederate Army and commander of the Western Department.
Although events started off well for the Confederacy in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War, where Southern forces won the war’s first engagement (the attack on Fort Sumter) and the war’s first major battle (the First Battle of Bull Run, or Manassas), fortunes in the Western Theater turned against the Confederates in the spring of 1862. Threatened by larger Union armies, Johnston pulled two armies out of their fortified positions in Bowling Green and Columbus, Kentucky, fearing they would be cut off by the advancing Union forces. The losses of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River opened up the interior of the Confederacy to invasion. Johnston further infuriated his critics when he abandoned Nashville without firing a shot in its defense, and that vital city became the first Confederate state capital to fall when it was occupied by Union troops on Feb. 23, 1862. With the Confederate loss at the Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) in northern Arkansas, the South had lost the key border states of Kentucky and Missouri and seemed on the verge of losing Tennessee. A proud man, Johnston was stung by the severe criticism the Southern press, public and politicians hurled at him when his plan for defense in the West came undone.
Two newspapers in New Orleans contributed to the scorn heaped upon Johnston, their remarks picked up by other papers. The following comments were reprinted by the Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) on the front page of its March 8, 1862, issue:
Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston Sharply Criticized
The New Orleans Delta says:
General A. S. Johnston may be a profound strategist; but profound as his strategy may have been, it does not seem to have embraced the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in its scope.
The New Orleans Crescent, commenting on the above, says:
Just so. General Johnston no doubt fortified Bowling Green scientifically. No doubt he evacuated that town scientifically. Very likely he displayed masterly science in his retreat. Quite possibly everything was done in strict accordance with the rules laid down at West Point. But, while he was fortifying a post only to evacuate it when the enemy made certain movements, it does seem to us that he might have displayed a little common sense, and obstructed the channel of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, all of which could have been thoroughly done by one-fifth of the labor worse than wasted at Bowling Green.
We care not what Gen. Johnston’s strategy may have been. He left the main artery to the heart of the Confederacy open to the enemy; and the other, though desperately defended, comparatively helpless. Fort Henry could not withstand the rise in a river, and Fort Donelson fell into the hands of the enemy after a protracted conflict. What he should have protected he left unprotected, and what he did attempt to defend he had to abandon. His sins of omission are so great and glaring that a series of brilliant victories would not reinstate him in the confidence of his countrymen, at least not until the time arrives when maps are not consulted.
The Richmond Examiner blamed Johnston for the loss of Fort Donelson; its remarks were reprinted by the Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.) on March 19, 1862:
The Richmond Examiner severely criticizes Gen. Pillow’s report of the surrender of Fort Donelson…In view of the statements of Gen. Pillow the Examiner says: “Why Gen. Johnston, instead of lying idle at Bowling Green, did not reinforce the fort with part of his troops, or come to it with his whole army, which he might have done as well as go to Nashville, remains the great mystery of the day.”
The Atlanta Intelligencer also sharply questioned Johnston’s abilities; its remarks were reprinted by the Daily Columbus Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia) on March 20, 1862:
Gen. A. S. Johnston
Much has been said of the inefficiency of Gen. A. S. Johnston; and of his conduct at Nashville and Bowling Green. We fear that there is too much truth in the charges made against him, of neglect, inefficiency, and lack of military skill. We notice, however, that some of our exchanges have come to his defence. From any one of them we should like to hear a reason for that General’s neglect to place in position for the defence of Nashville, or the Cumberland river, the twelve 32-pounder rifle cannon, that some time before he evacuated Bowling Green, had been delivered through the State Road at Nashville, and which, we are credibly informed, lay in the mud on one of the wharves there, when the city was evacuated? We are advised that the cannon referred to could have defended the river at any point, and could have saved Nashville. What was Gen. Johnston doing that these cannon were not used?
This Southern editorial noted the criticism of Johnston, but insisted the blame lay with the military planners in Richmond. It was printed by the Daily True Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana) on Feb. 21, 1862, just two days before the occupation of Nashville:
Tardy, but Not Too Late
The sleepers at Richmond have at length been awakened to their duty and a full sense of the difficulties of the situation. Their adulators and apologists promptly broke ground in their defense when the rapidly retrograde movement from Bowling Green was made by General Johnston, by accusing that capable and gallant soldier of incompetency because he did not successfully hurl his small force against five or six times their number and provoke an attack against Nashville, which he was not in a condition to hold, and cause its destruction, the loss of thousands of lives and the ruin of hundreds of families. Johnston is ready, as he always has been, to meet and fight the enemy when he is in a condition to do so without the certainty of annihilation staring him and his brave associates in arms in the face; and if the government at Richmond will only, at this late hour, send him the reinforcements needed, and which the telegraph announces are on the way; we are persuaded Buell’s anticipated junction with Burnside will never be effected. It now can no longer be concealed or denied that the number of our troops in Tennessee never was such as to inspire our military commanders with any confidence in the result, when Buell and McClernand were in a state to put their large armies in motion; therefore, it may well be asked why reinforcements were not dispatched from Richmond, where regiments well disciplined, inured to camp life and familiar with every description of field duty, were literally rotting themselves in inaction, before the enemy was flushed by the triumphs he has obtained? Even after the fall of Fort Henry there was time for troops to have been sent west of Nashville before our misfortunes at Donelson and the retreat from Bowling Green startled the country and frightened the somnolent officials at Richmond; but they did not come, and now we shall at a heavy loss of valuable men be compelled to do at great disadvantage what, if earlier undertaken, could have been so easy of accomplishment.
…Instead then of complaints of our generals and criminations often upon insufficient grounds, let us give our commanders every possible assistance, and in every available shape, for we must not expect bricks when we give no straw, nor to obtain signal successes from any general, however able and distinguished, who is left with an insufficient force or is charged with impossible duties. We believe General Johnston did all that it was humanly possible, under the circumstances in which he was placed, for man to do; that he failed in opposing the advance of Buell when he was without the means of undertaking with any earthly chance of success such an enterprise, is no proof of want of energy, capacity or courage, and the facts, in our opinion, furnish his complete and satisfactory vindication.
Johnston’s vindication was also the theme of remarks printed by the Memphis Avalanche, reprinted by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on the front page of its March 12, 1862, issue:
Gen. A. S. Johnston
The Memphis Avalanche of the 4th says:
We indulged a few days ago in some strictures upon the military movements of General Johnston. We have since been placed in possession of facts, before unknown to us, and still unknown to the public, that cannot fail to greatly relieve Gen. J. from the popular judgment which has loudly and generally condemned his move in the West.
The Bayou Sara Ledger stated that other newspapers’ harsh criticism would not crush Johnston’s spirit; its remarks were reprinted by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) on March 13, 1862:
Gen. Sidney Johnston’s Iron Will
The Bayou Sara Ledger notices, “with much pleasure, that the editors of the New Orleans Picayune, Bee, and Bulletin, have refrained from censuring Gen. A. S. Johnston,” and to show how little the General can be driven by threats, tells the following incident in his life:
We recollect that, many years ago, while General Johnston was living in Texas, Gen. Felix Huston undertook to make him leave the State; but he did not leave; he came to Texas to stay as long as he pleased, and stay he would. Huston challenged him. Johnston accepted the challenge, fought and shot him. The result was, if we remember rightly, Gen. Huston left Texas and settled in this State. We mention this little incident in no disparagement to Gen. Huston, for we know the man well, personally and by character, and we can truly say that we never knew a braver man nor a cleverer gentleman, and we are satisfied, if such a man as Gen. Huston could not make Gen. Johnston travel, such men as now cry out against him have no kind of business with him.
Johnston may well have had an iron will, but the loss of Nashville shocked the Confederacy and further weakened the public’s trust in him—lost trust that the Atlanta Commonwealth editorialized “will require, however, some master stroke of strategy, or some brilliant exploit on his part to recover entirely the favor of the public.” Its remarks were reprinted by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on the front page of its March 17, 1862, issue:
Latest from Nashville—Direct
We had the pleasure of an interview yesterday evening, with a gentleman who left Nashville on last Sunday. From him we learn many very interesting particulars…The city is dull and gloomy, nearly all business being suspended—a few retail stores, here and there, being all that are doing anything…The Union sentiment is quite weak, and the Lincolnites are very much disappointed. They meet with far less sympathy and support than they expected…Gen. Johnston has, to a considerable extent, lost the confidence of the people along his line of march, but the dissatisfaction is less general than the public has been made to believe. It will require, however, some master stroke of strategy, or some brilliant exploit on his part, to recover entirely the favor of the public.
From another source we learn that he addressed his officers after their arrival at Murfreesboro, when he is reported to have said that “in however low esteem he might now be held as a military commander, he would in a short time retrieve his lost ground, and demonstrate the military value of his movements.”
The failure to defend Nashville incensed the Tennessee Legislature, and they called loudly for Johnston’s removal from command of the Western Department. President Jefferson Davis indignantly replied: “If Sidney Johnston is not a general…we have no generals.” This article was printed by the Daily Columbus Enquirer (Columbus, Georgia) on March 12, 1862:
Progress and Events of the War
Richmond, 10th.—Congress discussed the operations of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in Tennessee in a warm and lengthy debate. Mr. Adkins said that nearly every member of the Tennessee Legislature signed a petition for the removal of Johnston from the Tennessee Department. The petition has been presented to the President.
News of the Tennessee Legislature’s displeasure spread quickly, even reaching the West Coast. This notice was printed by the Evening Bulletin (San Francisco, California) on the front page of its March 17, 1862, issue:
News of Wednesday, March 12
In the rebel Congress yesterday, the operations of Gen. Sidney Johnston in Tennessee were discussed, and nearly every member of the Legislature of that State there signed a petition for his removal from that department.
Details of that “warm and lengthy debate” in the Confederate Congress about Johnston’s abilities were printed by the Daily True Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana) on the front page of its March 18, 1862, issue:
The Confederate Congress
Investigation into Our Late Reverses in Tennessee
Mr. Currin, of Tennessee, offered a resolution touching the management of the Quartermaster’s Department in the State of Tennessee, and especially with regard to the recent disasters to our arms at Ford Donelson and elsewhere; and more particularly with reference to the action of the quartermaster, Major B. K. Stern, of that service, before the surrender of the city of Nashville…Mr. Currin said that hitherto he had opposed all resolutions with reference to general investigation made of the conduct of officers, and he had also opposed the investigation of the disaster at Nashville hitherto; but now he was convinced that there was need of investigation. Judging from what he had heard he was sure that there was fault somewhere…He was fully convinced now, that although the patriotism of the soldiers of Tennessee was unbounded, and he knew that they had done their duty—private soldiers as well as officers—yet, from the surrender of Nashville and the immense stores, there was a stain upon her escutcheon forever.
…Mr. Adkins arose for the purpose of supporting the resolution. It was known that the people of Tennessee had lost confidence in General Albert Sidney Johnston. He did not think that these things should be kept from the public ear. It had come through private letters and through official correspondence, and he should be recreant to the trust which he owed to his constituency if he did not give his support and material aid in favor of the passage of this resolution.
…Mr. Adkins said that, while investigations were being made, they should also be made into the conduct of General Johnston. General Johnston had command of the entire army of the West until General Beauregard was sent to Columbus. He knew that the Cumberland river, when swollen, would afford entrance into every part of Tennessee. He knew that the Tennessee river, at high tide, would conduct the enemy’s vessels into the very heart of the Southern Confederacy. He knew that it would let the enemy upon his rear. But General Johnston had but one idea—a single idea—to make a stand at Bowling Green. It was his great idea. Now, he would not impeach the patriotism and chivalry of General Albert Sidney Johnston, but it would be well enough if we took pattern from Lincoln’s Government, and whenever a general lost a battle remove him, unless there was some sufficiently strong reason and justifiable cause for his failure.
When Gen. Johnston fell back from Bowling Green he had between ten and fifteen thousand troops. Before he had entered Nashville he had determined to surrender it—before he reached the confines of that proud city of Tennessee, the capital of a State whose citizens never turned their back upon the foe. During the three days of the terrible struggle at Fort Donelson, when men stood a foot deep in blood and snow, the citizens of Tennessee showed as much gallantry as any State in the Confederacy.
General Johnston had been desired to make a stand at Nashville, but he declined doing it. The speaker had heard that the president had a very high opinion of General Albert Sidney Johnston. If such was the case he was sorry to differ with him. The people, the army under General Johnston’s command, and the people of Tennessee, had lost confidence in the military capacity of General Johnston.
…Mr. Moore, of Kentucky, defended General Johnston. He wished to give a wide scope to investigations. It was only until of late that General Johnston had as many as twenty-five thousand efficient men in the field. He was asked for no reinforcements during the battle at Fort Donelson. He could not reinforce that point, for on the instant that he moved his army from the point at which he was stationed the large force of the enemy, amounting to one hundred thousand men, would have marched on Nashville, and thus the whole army, instead of a portion of it, would have been captured and General Johnston would now have been, where the gallant General Buckner is, in exile. General Johnston had no power to prevent the passage of gunboats up the Tennessee river. Five steamers were lying off Nashville, and had been for six months past, and the most that he knew to work on them at one time was five men. He (the speaker) wanted the investigation to fall where it properly belongs. What would have been the consequence of making a stand at Nashville? That beautiful city, instead of now standing, and in a condition still to be the pride of the South if she is retaken, would, in all probability, have been in ashes. Why did not the people of Nashville themselves fortify the city?
Mr. Foote said that General Johnston had called for 1000 or 1500 slaves to work on the fortifications, and that the call had been fully answered when Nashville was surrendered. General Johnston had been importuned time and again to fortify Nashville, but he had failed to do it. The people of Nashville had surrendered every arm that they had—shotguns and everything else of that sort—those that were there had nothing to fight with. He understood that some vile slanderer had styled them as cowards, and had asked why did not the women and children go out and fight the foe? When the armed soldiery was flying fast, when Generals Pillow and Floyd would not remain in it. When armed forces considered it impolitic and unsafe, someone asks the question why did not the women and children fight? It was the most contemptible and foul slander that ever appeared in the columns of a newspaper, in the city of Richmond or elsewhere, and the man who perpetrated it was worthy of a place upon the scaffold.
…Mr. Adkins said he did not assail the patriotism of Gen. Johnston. He distinctly said that no one doubted the patriotism of that officer. But as to his popularity and the want of confidence exhibited by the people and the army, there was no doubt; and such was the impression made upon the delegation from that State in both branches of Congress, by letters and other information of undoubted reliability, that a petition had been sent to President Davis, signed by every member, both senators and members of the House, from Tennessee, with the exception of the member from the Knoxville district, Mr. Swan, importuning the president to remove A. Sidney Johnston from the command of the Department of Tennessee.
This editorial expressed the hope that Johnston would yet redeem himself. It was printed by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on the front page of its March 19, 1862, issue:
Gen. Sidney Johnston
A friend showed us, a day or two since, in a bound volume of Harper’s Weekly for 1858, a biographical sketch of Gen. Sidney Johnston, which wound up with an anecdote of the late Gen. Wm. J. Worth, whose eminent military abilities and intelligence no man will question. It was stated that on a certain occasion, not long before his death, he was asked who, in his opinion, was the best military man of the age, and he replied, without hesitation, “Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston.” Upon such a testimonial as this from a man every inch a soldier, coupled with the almost unanimous opinion of all the army officers in respect to his preeminent capacity, when a selection was made to command the expedition to Utah, we cannot permit ourselves hastily to reverse the high opinions entertained of Gen. Johnston’s ability, when he first took command of the Confederate forces in Tennessee. We must yet look forward with hope to the time when he will vindicate his military reputation by results worthy of it.
The opportunity for that vindication came on April 6, 1862, the first day of the Battle of Shiloh. This fiercely fought two-day engagement was a desperate gambit by the Confederacy to stem their losses in the Western Theater of the war and regain Tennessee. For Johnston personally, it was a chance to silence his critics, and fulfill the vow he made to his officers at Murfreesboro that “in however low esteem he might now be held as a military commander, he would in a short time retrieve his lost ground, and demonstrate the military value of his movements.” The masterful surprise attack he led that day was exactly the sort of bold move the Atlanta Commonwealth’s editorial had called for: “It will require, however, some master stroke of strategy, or some brilliant exploit on his part, to recover entirely the favor of the public.”
The Confederate attack at Shiloh was a daring attempt to destroy Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s army before it was reinforced by 35,000 men from General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio, who were marching 122 miles from Nashville to strengthen Grant’s position at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. The Southerners’ wildest dreams were almost realized when their dawn surprise attack caught Grant’s army napping, driving the Federal troops out of their camps and pushing them back several miles.
As the sun was setting after the battle’s first day, the exhausted, starving Confederate soldiers stopped fighting to roam the captured Northern camps seeking rest and food. They were convinced they had won a great victory and only needed to mop up the shattered remnants of Grant’s whipped army in the morning, well ahead of the arrival of Buell’s army. (Little did they know that Buell’s men would arrive overnight, and on the battle’s second day the Union army would drive the Confederates from the field.) On that first, triumphant night, a confident General Beauregard telegrammed his superiors that he had won “a complete victory.”
The Confederates' only sorrow was the loss of General Johnston, killed while leading a charge in a peach orchard around 2:30 in the afternoon. He received a bullet wound in the back of his leg while leading his men, and his boot filled with blood as he bled to death. His medical team was not there to save him because, earlier, he had insisted they leave him to care for some wounded Union soldiers. Ironically, since he was shot from behind while well in front of the men he was rallying, it is likely that Johnston was accidentally killed by one of his own men. The loss of the Battle of Shiloh was bad enough for the Confederacy, but the loss of Johnston may have been the greater blow. Revisionist historians continue to speculate how the Confederacy’s outcome may have differed in the Civil War if Johnston had not been killed.
The loss of Johnston dimmed the South’s joy after the successful first day of Shiloh. This article was printed by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on April 8, 1862:
Sidney Johnston Killed
This mournful intelligence abates our joy over the signal and most important victory we chronicle today; and our regret over the fate of this gallant officer is increased by the fact that it was probably due in part to the unjust and unreasonable clamor of the press against him after the fall of Donelson. It cannot be doubted that a proud and sensitive officer like Johnston was stung to his inmost soul by these hasty and inconsiderate censures, and they probably goaded him to a degree of self exposure which was needless in the Commander-in-Chief of a great army. This great man, the pride of the old Federal army—conscious of the character, skill and ability he brought to our cause—but left by the government without the slightest material ability to maintain his original position at Bowling Green—no doubt saw with grief and shame, hardly appreciable by us, his old subalterns, like Buell and Grant, breaking his defences and overrunning the country. But when to this grief was added the denunciations of the Southern press, and he saw himself held up as an imbecile or a traitor, the bitterness of his mortification, who can comprehend! No doubt he then determined that the next fight should effectually redeem his fame, or shroud it in the oblivion of the grave. It was this feeling that put him at the head of attacking columns, exposing himself recklessly to danger, and ending in the extinguishment of the brightest military light on the Continent. His death affects us sorely. How careful ought the newspapers to be in assailing the conduct of our officers, both civil and military. For our own part we hardly believe there is a functionary in either department who is not doing what he thinks to be his duty and his best for the government and country; but a number of our newspapers are down upon almost the whole of them as if they were sheer traitors or the most stupid blockheads in existence.
This article was printed by the Daily Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana) on April 8, 1862:
The Victory in Tennessee
…Upon this list no name will shine more brightly or purely than that of Albert Sidney Johnston , the Commanding General, who fell in the very hour of victory. His last thoughts, as the bullet which slew him left him but an instant for that inconceivable flood of thoughts which precedes the passage of the soul from the body into the realms of infinite knowledge, must have been ineffably consoled by the conviction that he was leaving a name from which all clouds were dispersed.
This article was printed by the Daily Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana) on April 10, 1862:
The Conduct of Gen. Johnston on the Field
Our community has been considerably exercised since the death of the heroic Johnston on the field of battle, as to the motive which impelled him to the display of impetuous personal valor bordering on seeming recklessness. It is the opinion of some that, stung to the quick by loudmouthed public clamor, and soured by the injustice and reproaches of his countrymen, he sought his fate in the depths of the carnage, and flung his precious life away as if it were a burden and a curse. We have it in our power to correct this morbidly and hastily conceived impression, from a source entitled to the highest consideration. Through all the odium attached to his name and fame as a military commander, our informant states that his bearing was exalted and magnanimous. He felt that, though the people are apt to condemn with alacrity, they are equally prompt at reparation. Conscious of the purity of his patriotism and the wisdom of his strategy, he stood superior to injustice, and patiently awaited the development of retributive time. On the eventful battle day, he felt that the cloud which had hung over his reputation should be rolled away. Thus animated, thus inspired, his soul was magnified to the greatness of the occasion, and he led his battalions against the foe like a Paladin of old days. His spirit was lifted up with the serene hope of triumph, and not by the rage of desperation. In a critical moment of the conflict, when the solid columns of the enemy refused to yield to the fierce onset of our troops; when the mere ripple of wavering seemed to pass along their lines, he knew the force and energy of example, and hence “encouraging, animating all,” he placed himself in the van and restored the trembling balance of success. Thus fell the heroic Albert Sidney Johnston, as the soldier has ever craved to die, on the quick field of honor, and not by the slow and torturing process of decay.
This article was printed by the Daily True Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana) on the front page of its April 11, 1862, issue:
…When some days before the great conflict commenced [i.e., Battle of Shiloh], and when it was imminent, the command-in-chief was tendered him [Beauregard] by the gallant Johnston, now no more, whom base calumniators drove almost mad, our noble and generous Creole soldier declined it, confidently believing and hoping that the deceased soldier [Johnston] would soon have the opportunity he eagerly sought for retrieving the ground an imbecile military department in Richmond forced him to lose, and thereby to tarnish his professional reputation.
The Northern press, also, noted Johnston’s loss. This article was printed by the Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts) on April 11, 1862:
We find that there is apparently some confusion as to the two rebel generals named Johnston. Albert Sidney Johnston, who is reported to have been killed at Pittsburg Landing [i.e., Battle of Shiloh], was at the date of his resignation in May last, Colonel of the Second Cavalry, a regiment raised and officered by Jefferson Davis when [he was] Secretary of War, and of which the rebel general Robert E. Lee was Lieut. Colonel, and Van Dorn, Major. The only loyal field officer was Major Thomas, a Virginian, who resisted all temptation and is the General Thomas now serving well under Buell. Johnston was a Kentuckian by birth, a graduate of West Point, and in the Texan war of independence left our army and was made Commander-in-Chief of Texas. He entered our service as a volunteer officer in the Mexican war, in 1849 was made a paymaster in the regular army, in 1855 was commissioned as colonel, and afterward brigadier general by brevet. He commanded the Utah expedition in 1857, and was in that part of the country when the war broke out. Gen. Sumner being sent out to look after his proceedings, Johnston failed in some of his treasonable schemes on the Pacific, came to the Atlantic States and was put in command of operations in the West by the rebels. He lost much of their confidence when Bowling Green and Nashville were lost, and was probably killed in good time for himself, for various reasons.
This article was printed by another Northern paper, the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts) on April 12, 1862:
Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, killed at Pittsburg Landing, was one of the five rebel generals, the other four being Beauregard, Lee, Cooper and Joe Johnston. He was 60 years of age, a native of Kentucky, and graduated at West Point in 1826. He was engaged in the Black Hawk war, in the Texan war of independence, in the Mexican war, and in the war against the Mormons. He was brigade general in command of the military district of Utah, and at the opening of the rebellion was in command of the department of the Pacific. Shortly after the rebellion got under way, his loyalty was suspected, and Gen. Sumner was sent out to supersede him. He was considered by military men the ablest general for command, in the rebel service, and his loss will be a severe blow to the tottering rebellion.
The loss of Albert Sidney Johnston hit President Davis especially hard; they had been friends since both attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. Davis’s moving address to the Confederate Congress was printed by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on April 12, 1862:
Congress—Message of the President
The most interesting portion of the proceedings of Congress, Tuesday, 8th, was that occupied in the reading of the touchingly appropriate message of President Davis to the two Houses on the great victory in Tennessee. We publish below the message in full, and deem it entirely unnecessary to present any comments. Indeed, any such would be ill timed and out of place. The message is a document that does honor to the head that conceived and the heart that prompted it:
“To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate States of America;
“…But an all-wise Creator has been pleased, while vouchsafing to us His countenance in battle, to afflict us with a severe dispensation, to which we must bow in humble submission. The last lingering hope has disappeared, and it is but too true that General Albert Sidney Johnston is no more…My long and close friendship with this departed chieftain and patriot, forbid me to trust myself in giving vent to the feelings which this sad intelligence has evoked. Without doing injustice to the living, it may be safely asserted that our loss is irreparable, and that among the shining hosts of the great and the good who now cluster around the banner of our country, there exists no purer spirit, no more heroic soul, than that of the illustrious man whose death I join you in lamenting.
“In his death he has illustrated the character for which through life he was conspicuous—that of singleness of purpose and devotion to duty. With his whole energies bent on attaining the victory which he deemed essential to his country’s cause, he rode on to the accomplishment of his object, forgetful of self while his very life blood was fast ebbing away. His last breath cheered his comrades to victory. The last sound he heard was their shout of triumph. His last thought was his country’s, and long and deeply will his country mourn his loss.”
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