General Joseph Eggleston Johnston
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General Joseph Eggleston Johnston

BORN: 1807 in Prince Edward County, Virginia

DIED:March 21, 1891

He is given much of the credit for the Confederate victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. As commander of Confederate forces along the Mississippi River in 1863 however, he lost the Vicksburg Campaign to General Ulysses S. Grant and failed to stop General William T. Sherman from taking Atlanta in 1864.

He was a Union soldier before the war.

He held a seat in the House of Representatives for the State of Virginia from 1879 until 1881.

He was appointed to Railroad Commissioner from 1887 until 1891 by President Cleveland.

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was wounded twice in late August of 1862. Although he might have continued in command of the Department of the Potomac, his injuries provided Jefferson Davis with an excuse to relieve him. It was one thing for the Confederate president to take his command from an officer with whom he had quarrelled bitterly; it was another thing to choose a successor. Davis turned to the leader of the Virginia state forces and decided to replace Johnston with a comrade who had never directed a battle. Having been put in command as a result of Johnston's wounds at Fair Oaks or Seven Pines, Robert E. Lee renamed his forces and immediately led the Army of Northern Virginia on the offensive.

He died of pnuemonia after attending a lengthy funeral service. He was there to mourn the passing of Union Maj. General William T. Sherman, to whom he surrendered his army in 1865. He is buried Green Mount Cemetery, area VV, lot 28-30, Baltimore, Maryland.

Gen. Johnston may have been the only officer of top rank on either side to comment on the phenomenon of acoustic shadow in an official report. In October of 1862, Federal forces moved to a battlefield made famous during the Peninsular campaign. Union sources identify the clash that followed as Fair Oaks, while Confederate reports list it as Seven Pines. There Confederate Maj. Gen. Gustavus W. Smith waited anxiously for sounds of battle on the Williamsburg Road. During about three hours he and his aides heard "occasional firing of cannon," but little musketry. Hence they concluded---mistakenly---that "no real attack was likely to be made that day." About noon on May 31, Johnston moved his headquarters to a site near Old Tavern and waited to hear the sounds of battle. Gen. Robert E. Lee paid him a visit at 3:00pm and commented that he believed he detected musketry in the distance. Johnston seems to have responded, rather casually, that Lee must have mistaken an exchange of cannon fire for volleys from small arms. Not until a courier arrived an hour later did the Confederate commander learn positively that a battle was raging. He and his aides, inside a small house, had heard nothing. This despite the fact that staff officers waiting nearby were sure they heard the sounds of full-scale battle not simply an artillery duel. In his June 24 official report (delayed because of an injury) Johnston gave what to him seemed to be a plausible explanation of his actions that day: "I had placed myself on the left of the force employed in this attack [upon troops led by U.S. Brig. Gen. Erasmus Keyes], that I might be on a part of the field where I could observe and be ready to meet any counter-movements which the enemy might make against our center or left. Owing to some peculiar condition of the atmosphere the sound of musketry did not reach us. I consequently deferred giving the signal for General Smith's advance until about 4:00 o'clock, at which time Maj. Jasper S. Whiting returned, reporting that it[the conflict]was pressing on with vigor." How much acoustic shadow contributed to the large number of casualties at Seven Pines---more than 11,000---no one knows.

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