Joseph E. Johnston


Joseph E. Johnston, the most underrated Confederate commander in either theater of the war, and the only man to command armies in both, was born at Farmville, Virginia, in 1807. A classmate of Robert E. Lee at West Point, Johnston rose to the rank of brevet brigadier general in the U.S. Army before resigning in April 1861, to join the Confederate forces.

Johnston was made a brigadier general and given the command of Harper's Ferry, Virginia. From there, Johnston moved his command by rail to Manassas, where he won the first major battle of the Civil War. Promoted to full general, Johnston commanded the army in Virginia during the Seven Days battles. Though outnumbered, his army halted General George McClellan's advance on Richmond. Johnston was wounded during the battle of Seven Pines. While he convalesced, Davis replaced him as commander of the Virginia army with Robert E. Lee.

When he returned to duty, Johnston received the command of the western military department.

After Gen. Braxton Bragg's fiascoes in Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Georgia, Johnston was given command of the Army of Tennessee. In contrast to Bragg's strict discipline, Johnston's relaxed, gentle character instantly won the respect and confidence of the Tennessee soldiers. In the Atlanta campaign, Johnston held the trust of his army despite its desperate campaign against overwhelming odds. Some critics viewed Johnston as unaggressive for his decision to fight from entrenched defensive positions rather than grant his opponent, General William T. Sherman, the choice of battleground. Johnston was relieved of his command and replaced by John Bell Hood.

After Hood's near destruction of the army during his late 1864 campaign in Tennessee, Johnston again assumed command. From February to April 1865, Johnston led the remnants of the Army of Tennessee to North Carolina, where he successfully blocked his old antagonist Sherman from combining forces with Grant against Lee. On April 26, 1865, two weeks after Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, Johnston capitulated to Sherman at Greensborough, North Carolina.

  • Highly underrated, he was the only man to command armies in both theaters of the war.
  • Won the first major battle of the war at Manassas, Va.
  • Commanded the Army of Tennessee after Bragg's fiascoes in Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia.