- Publisher: Univ of Texas Pr (July 1, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0292703996
- ISBN-13: 978-0292703995
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,227,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics Paperback – July 1, 1987
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With a new foreword by Gary W. Gallagher Selected as one of the best one hundred books ever written on the Civil War by Civil War Times Illustrated and by Civil War: The Magazine of the Civil War Society A new, revised edition of the only full-scale biography of the Confederacy's top-ranking field general during the opening campaigns of the Civil War.
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Finally I understand the truth underlying the lofty esteem with which Johnston was regarded by friend and foe alike. Other authors' treatments of him would have us believe that he was admired merely for his fine looks and stature and bearing. Perhaps this misconception is compounded by a conclusion that came to me after reading this book: that Johnston was a breed of man not found in modern times. I realize now that his reputation was based not upon image, but character, and his primary impulse arose not from self-interest, but duty, generosity and sacrifice. A fine book which fittingly conveys the greatness of a man who did not crave credit or attention, but quietly uplifted and inspired generals and common soldiers alike.
Albert Sidney Johnston was born in Kentucky in 1803, the son of a practicing doctor who originally hailed from New England. Despite these Yankee roots, Johnston would become a thoroughly southern man. Johnston initially enrolled at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and he later attended West Point. Johnston counted future Confederate President Jefferson Davis as one of his close friends while at the military academy. Johnston was a good student and finished eighth overall, requesting a commission in the infantry. Johnston seemed to be attracted to the most active areas all his life, first participating in the Black Hawk War in 1832, then moving on to the newly created Republic of Texas in the 1830's. Johnston became a General an d commanded Texas' main army after she had won her independence from Mexico. While in Texas, Johnston eventually found himself in a feud with prominent Texan Sam Houston, a situation which would endure even after Texas joined the United States. From Texas, Johnston also participated in the 1846-48 War with Mexico, first as a Colonel of volunteers and then as an honorary aide. After the Mexican War, Johnston became chief paymaster of the Department of Texas, and also unsuccessfully ran a plantation in that state. His job entailed long, lonely journeys away from his family, a situation that finally ended when Johnston was placed in command of the famed 2nd United States Cavalry. While in this position, Johnston commanded an expedition to Utah to possibly fight a war with the Mormons in 1857. Johnston's treatment of the Mormons was impeccable, though he disagreed with their way of life. Later, Johnston became commander of the Department of California, and was at this post when the Civil War broke out. Johnston, who identified strongly with Texas, decided to join the Confederacy as soon as the Lone Star state seceded.
Johnston was soon appointed as one of the five senior generals of the Confederacy, and his experience was so extensive that his personal friendship with Jefferson Davis never even factored into the equation. Davis considered Johnston to be the finest general he had available, and assigned him to command the entire western theater from eastern Kentucky to western Arkansas. What Davis didn't give Johnston enough of was men and materiel. He was expected to cover this massive amount of territory with less than 60,000 men initially, facing over twice that number in Union troops. Johnston's attempts to defend the easter expanse of this department failed when one of his strong points at Forts Henry and Donelson was taken. Not only did Johnston fail to hold the forts, but he also lost 15,000 badly needed men in the process. Roland rightly criticizes Johnston's actions during this time frame. To Johnston's credit, he managed to hold together his army through a long and demoralizing retreat which saw the loss of all of Kentucky and most of Tennessee including Nashville. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard now called in reinforcements from across the Confederacy in an attempt to overwhelm Grant's Army of the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing. At the height of the attack, Johnston was hit and his boot heel torn partially from the boot. Johnston seemed fine, but in reality an artery had been nicked and the general bled to death in a short while. Johnston was never given the chance to achieve greatness, argues Roland, so we cannot honestly say what might have been regarding his development. Men such as Grant learned from their early mistakes; whether or not Johnston would have done the same is open for speculation.
Johnston spent most of his adult life in and around the military in one form or another, so this biography is naturally enough concerned with a lot of military matters. Roland moves equally well in military and non-military discussions of Johnston's life. His portrayal of Johnston's family and the general's inability to house all of his children in one home due to his financial situation was especially touching. That Roland's book still stands as the standard account of Johnston's life testifies to his mastery of the subject. From Johnston's days as a cadet at West Point to the various campaigns for different countries Johnston found himself in, Roland covers all aspects of Johnston's life in a consistently fair manner, giving the man's failures (mainly financial) and successes (mainly military) equal attention. Roland ultimately concludes that Johnston handled his military commands with aplomb throughout the antebellum years, and he was possibly on his way to this same success in the Civil War before his life was cut short at Shiloh.
The maps in this book were standard for their time (1964), and I was actually pleasantly surprised by most of them. They serve their intended role of familiarizing the reader with the situation without being too vague or too few in number to make a difference. Roland uses the footnote method at the bottom of each page, a process which works better for me in terms of actually looking through the notes at the pertinent point in the text rather than at the end of a chapter or at the end of the book. Roland's bibliography is extensive and uses quite a few manuscript collections as the foundation of his research. Johnston's letters to and from family, friends, and acquaintances are used to especially good effect. The index is functional and serves its intended purpose quite well.
Charles P. Roland's biography of Albert Sidney Johnston continues to stand as the only modern work of the general. The quality of the book will insure that it stays this way for the foreseeable future. Those readers interested in biographical works on the Civil War's leaders would do well to have a copy of Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics on their shelves. No portion of Johnston's life, from his military and personal affairs, his financial failures and military successes, is left uncovered. This biography of Johnston can also be seen as a microcosm of the difficult choices facing men who had previously or were then serving in the United States Army in 1860. For many of these men, their state was more important to them than their country. This biography was also mentioned in several Civil War periodicals as one of the 100 best books written on the Civil War, a sentiment which is pretty close to the mark. Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics will appeal to students of antebellum America almost as much as students of the Civil war, for most of Johnston's life was spent in those pre-war years. Considering the relatively low price and solid account of Johnston's life, this biography belongs in every Civil War buff's collection.
(Note: Special thanks goes to The University Press of Kentucky.)
Born in Washington, Kentucky, in 1803, Johnston was a West Pointer who gained broad experience in military command. In 1832 he participated in the Black Hawk War as adjutant to the commander. In 1834 he resigned his commission and two years later moved to the new Republic of Texas, where he soon became the ranking military official. He served in the Texan army for several years and later as the Texas Secretary of War. When the Mexican War arose in 1846, Johnston raised a regiment of Texas volunteers and commanded it until his men's enlistments expired.
After the Mexican-American War, Johnston remained in the U.S. Army and by 1855 had attained the rank of colonel. In 1857 when President James Buchanan named new officials to Utah Territory, reports from U.S. officials there declared the Mormons in rebellion against the government. To counter the situation, Buchanan sent a military expedition to Utah to quell the Mormons and install the appointed territorial governor, Alfred Cumming. Departing in July 1857, 2,500 troops marched from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Utah, at first under the command of General William S. Harney but within a month Johnston was named as his replacement. During the two year period that Johnston headed this expedition, negotiations were conducted that eventually led to a peaceful settlement of the controversy and the installation of federal officers in Utah. His success in handling this crisis led to Johnston's promotion to brevet brigadier general and his appointment in 1860 to command the Department of the Pacific.
Johnston commanded the Pacific Department at the time of the secession of the lower south in the winter of 1860-1861 and it led to a difficult career choice. Since his strongest loyalties rested with Texas, Johnston resigned his commission when Texas seceded although he was never an advocate of secession. In June 1861 he and a company of other southerners marched cross-country to offer military service to the Confederacy. As one of the most experiences military officers available, Johnston was immediately appointed by a personal friend, Jefferson Davis, a general in the Confederate army with command of the western theater.
Johnston immediately set about to prepare for war. Outnumbered and outgunned, his army's first real test came in the battles of Forts Henry and Donelson, in Kentucky, which fell to Union forces in February 1862. This defeat prompted a southern outcry against Johnston, but Jefferson Davis defended his friend as the best commander the South could muster. The next test came in April 1862 when Johnston gathered many of his troops around Corinth, Mississippi, from which he attacked Union forces under Ulysses S. Grant near the Shiloh church. Nearly successful in crushing the Federals the first day of the battle of Shiloh, April 6, Johnston was fatally wounded late in the day and his second in command, P.G.T. Beauregard, halted the attack until the next morning. This gave Grant time to reorganize his forces and bring in reinforcements. The next day Union troops drove the Confederates back to Corinth.
Since Johnston was killed so early in the Civil War it is difficult to assess his abilities as a commander of large numbers of troops, but Roland takes on this task. He notes that Johnston demonstrated caution early in the war, but showed tactical brilliance while commanding at Shiloh. The effect of his death has been a point of endless controversy ever since Shiloh. J.F.C. Fuller, the well-known British military analyst, called Johnston "brave but stupid," but others such as Charles Roland have assigned Johnston a place somewhere in the middle, neither brilliant nor stupid in his command decisions. One conclusion is appropriate, and Charles Roland makes this case well in his biography of this soldier, Johnston was a capable military officer. He was successful in every position of command he ever held, and at least in his handling of the Shiloh battle, he showed real ability to lead a large army to victory.