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Joseph E. Johnston

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  • Dick Weeks
    Since the discussion group is a little slow, I thought I would throw out a couple of thoughts. Recently, while looking for something in an entirely different
    Message 1 of 68 , Aug 2 9:14 AM
      Since the discussion group is a little slow, I thought I would throw out a couple of thoughts.  Recently, while looking for something in an entirely different area I was going through some of my CW magazines when I came on article by Jeffry Wert in the September 07 issue of Civil War times.  It concerned the Western Theater so I decided to read it since I had not done so when I received the magazine.  The article concerned the "feud" or perhaps just hard feelings between Davis and Joe Johnston.  Apparently this thing got its start in March 1861 when the Confederate Congress in Montgomery authorized the appointment of five officers to the rank of brigadier general.  The appointments were based on the rank held in the United States Army.  Under this act Joseph Johnston, Samuel Cooper, and Robert E. Lee were appointed to brigadier.  Then May 16, the Confederate legislature created the rank of full general.  Now here is where the dust up came.  Davis recommended four men for the new rank, assigning seniority by date---Cooper (May 16),  A. S. Johnston (May 30), Lee (June 14), and  Joe Johnston (July 4).  Apparently neither Davis nor the War Department bothered to publish the dates to the public.  Joe Johnston, since he had been a brigadier (albeit it a staff position) in the U.S. Army and the other three were colonels in the same army, naturally assumed he was the ranking general.  In July when Lee assigned an officer to his  staff it irritated Johnston and he wrote to Cooper, then the Confederacy adjutant general complaining about this.  Davis saw the letter but did not respond,  he simply wrote on the letter "insubordinate".  Five days later Lee wrote another directive and Johnston made his feelings known to the president.  Again, Davis just wrote on the letter "insubordinate" and filed it.  Then in September Johnston found out about the seniority structure and wrote quite a long and terse letter to the president.  Davis responded with "It's language is, as you say, unusual, its arguments and statement utterly one-sided; and its insinuations as unfounded as they are unbecoming."  Even though this ended the correspondence between the two on this subject, apparently neither was about to forgive and forget.
      I knew that there was no love lost between Davis and Johnston but had never looked in the reason(s) why.  Wert titled his article "A Feud That Helped Doom the South" and was under the area Turning Points.  Was this truly a turning point and was it as important as Wert's title seems to imply?  Since I found this article very interesting I looked up the correspondence that Wert referenced.  Especially the long letter from Johnston to Davis.  Needless to say this was not a letter that I think a really intelligent individual would have sent to the president.  Just my opinion of course :-)  This letter is in the ORs and when I find the time I will put it on my website for those that don't have the ORs and might be interested.  Just some thoughts that I thought some might be interested in.  I am not a huge fan of Johnston but I know that some in the group are.
      I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
      Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)
    • Dick Weeks
      Carl, feel free to make comparisons between the eastern and western theaters. They were clearly two different theaters of operation and lend themselves to
      Message 68 of 68 , Sep 4, 2008
        Carl, feel free to make comparisons between the eastern and western
        theaters. They were clearly two different theaters of operation and lend
        themselves to comparison. What I don't want to happen is have the
        discussion centered on the east and then after about 20-30 posts look around
        and wonder how in the heck we got into a discussion on Gettysburg. This is
        a very easy trap to fall into.

        In my own mind I often make comparisons between east and west. While I live
        in the battlefield country of Northern Virginia (about 25 west of
        Washington, D.C.) and have devoted most of my studies to the war in the
        east, I found myself wondering about the war in the west. That is why I
        started this discussion group. Before the group I often wondered why Lee
        was so successful in the east and the western generals such as Johnston
        weren't as good in their theater of operation. As the discussions in the
        group progressed over the years I think I know, at least in my own mind,

        The war in the east covered territory that was about 100 miles wide by about
        150 miles long. This lent itself to Lee's style of fighting. That is,
        maneuver for position, consolidate the army, and attack when the opportunity
        presented itself. I am not so sure Lee could have done as well in the west.
        There was just too much territory to cover. The west was more campaigns
        than battles. The two campaigns that Lee conducted, the Maryland Campaign
        in September 1862 and the Gettysburg Campaign June/July 1863, were both
        failures. Lee was extremely adapt at identifying the enemy's mistakes and
        capitalizing on them, such as Chancellorsville. Johnston on the other hand
        could maneuver his army but couldn't seem to identify the time nor place
        where to attack and destroy his opponent's army.

        The bottom line is, to make a football analogy, I think Joe Johnston was
        playing not to lose. He was not playing to win. Whereas Lee was playing to
        win all the time. Johnston's style will get you through several mediocre
        seasons, but it will never get you to the Super Bowl. Having said that, I
        think had Lee been in the west, the war would probably not have lasted as
        long as it did. Lee, in my personal opinion, was every bit as lucky as he
        was good. He was facing inept commanders in the Union army most of the
        time. This might not have been true in the west. Just something to ponder
        and just my personal opinion..

        I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
        Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Carl Williams" <carlw4514@...>
        To: <civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2008 9:16 AM
        Subject: [civilwarwest] Re: Joseph E. Johnston

        > Perhaps we will be allowed to mention eastern theater on a 'comparison
        > to the west' basis.
        > Tom, surely it is valid to include battles in 1861 and 1862? If
        > including such CSA generals were pretty impressive... well, maybe not
        > in the western theater [g]. That's just the problem, the South just
        > kept losing in the West. As far as the East, you can find some battles
        > after Antietam that the CSA won, you know, The Wilderness and Cold
        > Harbor come to mind quickly.
        > If you look at battles rather than campaigns, some other battles were
        > won by the CS side in the west... Sherman lost a few I'm thinking, our
        > boy JEJ handed it to him at Kennesaw Mountain for example... but the
        > US always won the campaigns.
        > --- In civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com, "Tom Mix" <tmix@...> wrote:
        >> Beginning with Antietam, where did this great job take place outside of
        >> Chancellorsville? Longstreet was great at Chickamauga but the others
        > were
        >> fairly well stopped, not across the board but it was Pete's break
        > through,
        >> allowed by a Union foul up, that won there. So, where did this
        > "great job"
        >> take place? Gettysburg? Vicksburg? Chattanooga? Atlanta? Franklin?
        >> Tom
        > ------------------------------------
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