Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography (Norton Paperback)

Craig L. Symonds

Language: English

Pages: 464

ISBN: 0393311309

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"Riveting. . . . A thoughtful biography." ―New York Times Book Review

General Joseph E. Johnston was in command of Confederate forces at the South's first victory―Manassas in July 1861―and at its last―Bentonville in April 1965. Many of his contemporaries considered him the greatest southern field commander of the war; others ranked him second only to Robert E. Lee.

But Johnston was an enigmatic man. His battlefield victories were never decisive. He failed to save Confederate forces under siege by Grant at Vicksburg, and he retreated into Georgia in the face of Sherman's march. His intense feud with Jefferson Davis ensured the collapse of the Confederacy's western campaign in 1864 and made Johnston the focus of a political schism within the government.

Now in this rousing narrative of Johnston's dramatic career, Craig L. Symonds gives us the first rounded portrait of the general as a public and private man.

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from one end of the land to the other that you alone can bring back the old soldiers to their colors or engage others to join.” Indeed, he reported that “soldiers are inveigling the deserters to their colors by telling them that you have joined the Army of Tennessee. . . . It may be fanaticism with me, but I have never faltered in my faith that you would have to finish this war and be the savior of our independence so rashly jeopardized as nearly lost.”2 This outcry from the public and the ranks

. . From Omaha I shall go to San Francisco—in some ten days.” He was moved by the size and beauty of the country. “Much that is grand was to be seen in the mountains,” he told a niece, “and a great deal that is beautiful in the country beyond.” Of course it was more than a scenic tour. Although he had intended to stop in Abingdon on the way home, delays on the trip forced him to return directly to Washington to write his report. “The want of liberty that an office inflicts upon one is an

Southern Historical Collection, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill USMA United States Military Academy, West Point, New York W&M Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia WRHS Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio PART ONE Chapter 1 1. Information about Johnston’s youth is very sparse, and much of what does exist is unreliable. Johnston did not write about his childhood except for brief responses to the enquires of

from Davis assigning him to the command of Harpers Ferry and the troops defending it. Jackson read the order without comment, but the next day when Johnston asked him to copy and distribute it to the troops, he politely refused. Jackson explained that he held his commission from the state of Virginia, not the Confederate government at Montgomery, and he was unwilling to surrender his command without authorization from Governor Letcher. Rather than confront Jackson personally, Johnston sent

to the general. Johnston was so pleased he gave the young man one of the pistols.29 After Johnston was borne away, the fighting at Fair Oaks sputtered on until nightfall. Although no one knew it at the time, the battle was already over. As next in command, G. W. Smith tried to renew the fight the following morning, but with little success; that afternoon, Robert E. Lee, who assumed command of the army at Davis’s request, decided that there was nothing more to be gained and ordered the army to

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