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Albert Sidney Johnston
[[Image:250px|center|200px|border]]Albert Sidney Johnston
photo between 1860 and 1862
Personal Information
Born: February 2, 1803(1803-02-02)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: April 6, 1862 (aged 59)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: 22x20px United States of America
Template:Country data Texas Republic of Texas
22x20px Confederate States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Brevet Brigadier General (USA)
Brigadier General (Texas)
General (CSA)
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Commands: Department of the Pacific (USA)
Army of Mississippi (CSA)
Battles: Black Hawk War

Texas Revolution
Mexican-American War

  • Battle of Monterrey
  • Battle of Buena Vista

Utah War
American Civil War

Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

Albert Sidney Johnston (February 2, 1803 – April 6, 1862) was a career United States Army officer, a Texas Army general, and a Confederate States general. He saw extensive combat during his military career, fighting actions in the Texas War of Independence, the Mexican-American War, the Utah War, as well as the American Civil War.

Considered by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to be the finest general officer in the Confederacy before the emergence of Robert E. Lee, he was killed early in the Civil War at the Battle of Shiloh and was the highest ranking officer, Union or Confederate, killed during the entire war.[1] Davis believed the loss of Johnston "was the turning point of our fate"[2]

Early life[]

Johnston was born in Washington, Kentucky, the youngest son of Dr. John and Abigail Harris Johnston. His father was a native of Salisbury, Connecticut. Although Albert Johnston was born in Kentucky, he lived much of his life in Texas, which he considered his home. He was first educated at Transylvania University in Lexington, where he met fellow student Jefferson Davis. Both were appointed to the United States Military Academy, Davis two years behind Johnston.[3] In 1826 Johnston graduated eighth of 41 cadets in his class from West Point with a commission as a brevet second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Infantry.[1]

Johnston was assigned to posts in New York and Missouri and served in the Black Hawk War in 1832 as chief of staff to Bvt. Brig. Gen. Henry Atkinson. In 1829 he married Henrietta Preston, sister of Kentucky politician and future civil war general William Preston. He resigned his commission in 1834 to return to Kentucky to care for his dying wife, who succumbed two years later to tuberculosis.[3] They had one son, Col. William Preston Johnston, who would also serve in the Confederate Army.[4]

Texas Army[]

In April 1834, Johnston took up farming in Texas, but enlisted as a private in the Texas Army during the Texas War of Independence against the Republic of Mexico in 1836. One month later, Johnston was promoted to major and the position of aide-de-camp to General Sam Houston. He was named Adjutant General as a colonel in the Republic of Texas Army on August 5, 1836. On January 31, 1837, he became senior brigadier general in command of the Texas Army.

On February 7, 1837, he fought in a duel with Texas Brig. Gen. Felix Huston, challenging each other for the command of the Texas Army; Johnston refused to fire on Huston and lost the position after he was wounded in the pelvis. The second president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, appointed him Secretary of War on December 22, 1838. Johnston was to provide the defense of the Texas border against Mexican invasion, and in 1839 conducted a campaign against Indians in northern Texas. In February 1840, he resigned and returned to Kentucky, where he married Eliza Griffin in 1843. They settled on a large plantation he named China Grove in Brazoria County, Texas.

U.S. Army[]

File:Albert S Johnston.jpg

Albert S. Johnston

Johnston returned to the Texas Army during the Mexican-American War under General Zachary Taylor as a colonel of the 1st Texas Rifle Volunteers. The enlistments of his volunteers ran out just before the Battle of Monterrey. Johnston managed to convince a few volunteers to stay and fight as he himself served as the inspector general of volunteers and fought at the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista. Johnston remained on his plantation after the war until he was appointed by President Taylor to the U.S. Army as a major and was made a paymaster in December 1849. He served in that role for more than five years, making six tours, and traveling more than 4,000 miles annually on the Indian frontier of Texas. He served on the Texas frontier and elsewhere in the West. In 1855 President Franklin Pierce appointed him colonel of the new 2nd U.S. Cavalry (the unit that preceded the modern 5th U.S.), a new regiment, which he organized. As a key figure in the Utah War, he led U.S. troops who established a non-Mormon government in the formerly Mormon territory. He received a brevet promotion to brigadier general in 1857 for his service in Utah. He spent 1860 in Kentucky until December 21, when he sailed for California to take command of the Department of the Pacific.

Civil War[]

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Johnston was the commander of the U.S. Army Department of the Pacific in California. In early spring, 1861, while commander of the defenses of San Francisco, he was approached by some Californians who urged him to order the troops stationed in Fort Point (just completed and armed with a few cannon)to have the garrison leave for a few hours so they could take control of the Fort and declare California for the CSA or at least, make it a neutral state (like Kentucky at the time). He threatened to arrest them and place them in the dugeons of Ft Alcatraz if they approached him again while he wore the uniform of the Union.

When word leaked out to Washington City (DC)that A. S. Johnston was approached by civilians, an order for him to report to Washington was issued. In early 1861, many Federal (Union) forts were surrendered by their southern commanders without a fight. Washington did have to worry about loosing San Francisco to a southern born officer. Southern feelings in San Francisco was so high, the garrison at Fort Point turned the few mounted cannons to face the road leading to the fort (and of course, pointing right at the heart of San Francisco).

On February 1, 1861, Texas joined the Confederate States of America (The final tally for secession was 166-7, a vote whose legality was upheld by the Texas Legislature on February 7). He resigned soon after Texas (his home state) left the Union and he moved to Los Angeles where he had family and remained there until May when, suspected by local Union authorities, he evaded arrest and joined the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles as a private, leaving Warner's Ranch May 27. He participated in their trek across the southwestern deserts to Texas, crossing the Colorado River into the Confederate Territory of Arizona on July 4, 1861. He reached Richmond, Virginia, on or about September 1, 1861. There Johnston was appointed a full general by his friend, Jefferson Davis. On May 30, 1861,[5] Johnston became the second highest ranking Confederate general (after the little-known Samuel Cooper) as commander of the Western Department. He raised the Army of Mississippi to defend Confederate lines from the Mississippi River to Kentucky and the Allegheny Mountains.

Although the Confederate States Army won a morale-boosting victory at First Battle of Bull Run in the East in 1861, matters in the West turned ugly by early 1862. Johnston's subordinate generals lost Fort Henry on February 6, 1862, and Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862, to Union Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Johnston has been faulted for poor judgment in selecting Brig. Gens. Lloyd Tilghman and John B. Floyd for those crucial positions and for not supervising adequate construction of the forts. Union Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell subsequently captured the vital city of Nashville, Tennessee. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was sent west to join Johnston and they organized their forces at Corinth, Mississippi, planning to ambush Grant's forces at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee.


File:Johnston Shiloh Monument.jpg

Monument to Johnston at the Shiloh National Military Park.

Johnston concentrated many of his forces from around the theater and launched a massive surprise attack against Grant at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862. As the Confederate forces overran the Union camps, Johnston seemed to be everywhere, personally leading and rallying troops up and down the line. At about 2:30 p.m., while leading one of those charges, he was wounded, taking a bullet behind his right knee. He did not think the wound serious at the time, and sent his personal physician to attend to some wounded Union soldiers instead. The bullet had in fact clipped his popliteal artery and his boot was filling up with blood. Within a few minutes Johnston was observed by his staff to be nearly fainting off his horse, and asked him if he was wounded, to which he replied "Yes, and I fear seriously." It is possible that Johnston's duel in 1837 had caused nerve damage or numbness to that leg and that he did not feel the wound to his leg as a result.[6] Johnston was taken to a small ravine, where he bled to death in minutes.

It is probable that a Confederate soldier fired the fatal round. No Union soldiers were observed to have ever gotten behind Johnston during the fatal charge, while it is known that many Confederates were firing at the Union lines while Johnston charged well in advance of his soldiers.

Johnson was the highest-ranking casualty of the war on either side, and his death was a strong blow to the morale of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis considered him the best general in the country; this was two months before the emergence of Robert E. Lee as the pre-eminent general of the Confederacy.


File:Albert Sidney Johnston Tomb.jpg

Johnston's tomb in the Texas State Cemetery.

Johnston was buried in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1866, a joint resolution of the Texas Legislature was passed to have his body reinterred to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin The re-interment occurred in 1867. Forty years later, the state appointed Elisabet Ney to design a monument and sculpture of him to be erected at his gravesite.

The Texas Historical Commission has erected a historical marker near the entrance of what was once his plantation. An adjacent marker was erected by the San Jacinto Chapter of the Daughters of The Republic of Texas and the Lee, Roberts, and Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederate States of America.

The University of Texas at Austin has also recognized Johnston with a statue on the South Mall.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Eicher, p. 322.
  2. Dupuy, p. 378.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Woodworth, p. 46.
  4. W.P. Johnston biography.
  5. Eicher, p. 807. From General Command Line List.
  6. Albert Sidney Johnston biography on Georgia' Blue and Gray Trail website.

See also[]

32x28px United States Army portal
32x28px American Civil War portal


  • Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, and Bongard, David L., Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography, Castle Books, 1992, 1st Ed., ISBN 0-7858-0437-4.
  • Eicher, John H.; Eicher, David J. (2001). Civil War High Commands. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804736411. OCLC 45917117. 
  • Woodworth, Steven E. (1990). Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 9780700604616. OCLC 20594089. 

Further reading[]

External links[]


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