|Joseph E. Johnston
Some Consider Him the Greatest of All
As ranking Confederate field officer, Joseph E.
Johnston gets credit for the South’s first
victory at Bull Run. Some scholars consider him
“the South’s greatest strategist.” Union
commander, U.S. Grant said, “General Johnston
was the ablest of Confederate Generals.”
Eggleston Johnston was born February 3, 1807, at
Farmville, Virginia. His grandfather, Peter
Johnston, emigrated from Scotland to Virginia in
1727. His mother was Mary Wood, a niece of
Patrick Henry, whose father John Henry was born
in Aberdeen. Johnston was graduated from West
Point in 1828. He was wounded and cited for
bravery in the Indian and Mexican Wars.
■ As a top
Confederate officer, Johnston reasoned early
that in view of the overwhelming superiority of
the North in firepower, manpower and industrial
might, his best course was to follow the
strategy of Fabianism. Named for the Roman
general Fabius Maximus, this calls for delay,
retreat, harassment, and counterattack.
strategy was used effectively as Johnston
retreated to Atlanta before the armies of
General Sherman. In the last desperate days,
Johnston never panicked in spite of the rapid
deterioration of his position. The Encyclopedia
Britannica said, "Johnston's strategy was
generally sound and more advanced in design than
that of most Confederate generals."
critical of General Johnston, President
Jefferson Davis insisted that he stand fast and
slug it out. Johnston considered that suicidal
and refused. Davis replaced him with General
Hood, who stood fast in three battles. He lost
all three. Hood's army was destroyed.
served in Congress, engaged in business, and
wrote his memoirs. He died March 21, 1891, in
Washington, D.C., loved and respected by the
South as "Old Joe."
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546