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 conflict. Davis believed the loss of Johnston "was the turning point of our fate
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.
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. Tilghman and Floyd for those crucial positions and for not supervising adequate construction of the forts. And Union Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell 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.
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. 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. He 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.
The date of Johnston's death, Sunday, April 6, 1862, was coincidentally the 32nd anniversary of the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons), against whom he led United States forces in 1856 during the Utah War, in which cause the Mormons were deemed by the Buchanan Administration to be in rebellion against the United States. At his death, it was Johnston who was similarly deemed to be in rebellion against the United States as a commanding officer in the Confederate Army, this time by the Lincoln Administration. 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.
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