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Peter Johnston

JOHNSTON, Peter, jurist, born in Osborne's Landing, Virginia, 6 , January, 1763; died near Abingdon, Washington County, Virginia, 8 December, 1841. His father, Peter Johnston, came to this country from Scotland in 1727 and settled on James river, Virginia Subsequently he removed to Prince Edward county, and gave to the trustees of Hampden Sidney college the land on which that institution was afterward erected. The son was sent to college to prepare for the church, but, preferring to enlist in the Revolutionary army, he joined Lee's legion at the age of sixteen, without the knowledge of his father. He led the forlorn hope at the storming of Fort Watson, and was publicly thanked, in the presence of the army, for his conduct. After the war he studied law, and resided near the town of Farmville, Virginia He represented Prince Edward county in the general assembly of Virginia, and was speaker of that body at the time of the passage of the resolutions of 1798-'9. In 1809 he removed to Washington county, Virginia, having been elected judge of a new judicial circuit, and resided there till his death. He married Mary Wood, a niece of Patrick Henry.--His son, Joseph Eggleston, soldier, born in Longwood, near Farmville, Virginia, 3 February, 1809, was graduated at the United States military academy in 1829 in the same class with Robert E. Lee, and was commissioned 2d lieutenant in the 4th artillery. He served in garrison at Fort Columbus, New York, in 1830-'1, at Fort Monroe, Virginia, in 1831-'2, was in the Black Hawk expedition in 1832, in garrison at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1832-'3, at Fort Monroe in 1833-'4, at Fort Madison, North Carolina, in 1834, and on topographical duty in 1834-'5. He was made 1st lieutenant, 4th artillery, 31 July, 1836, aide-de-camp to General Winfield Scott in the Seminole war in 1836-'8, and resigned on 31 May, 1837. He was a civil engineer in 1837-'8, and was appointed 1st lieutenant in the corps of topographical engineers, 7 July, 1838, and brevetted captain for gallantry in the war with the Florida Indians. On one occasion, having been sent under the escort of a party of infantry and sailors to make a survey or reconnoissance of a region around a lake, and having crossed the lake in boats, the party fell into an ambuscade, and nearly all its officers were killed or disabled at the first fire. The men were thrown into confusion, but Lieutenant Johnston took command, subdued what was fast becoming a panic, and conducted the retreat for seven miles. A ball struck him above the forehead, and ranged backward, grazing the skull the whole distance The troops repelled the enemy, and carried off their wounded in safety to the boats. The uniform worn by Lieutenant Johnston on this occasion was long preserved by a friend as a curiosity, being perforated by thirty bullets. He was in charge of the Black river improvement, New York, in 1838-'9, of the Sault Ste. Marie in 1840, the boundary between Texas and the United States in 1841, the harbors on Lake Erie in 1841, and the topographical bureau at Washington in 1841-'2. He served in the Florida war of 1842-'3, and as acting assistant adjutant-general in 1842-'3, on the survey of the boundary between the United States and the British provinces in 1843-'4, on the coast survey in 1844-'6, and became captain in the corps of topographical engineers, 21 September, 1846. In the war with Mexico he participated in the siege of Vera Cruz and the battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, Chapultepee, and the assault on the city of Mexico, and was brevetted major, lieutenant-colonel, and colonel, 12 April, 1847, for gallant and meritorious conduct on reconnotring duty at Cerro Gordo. He was severely wounded at Cerro Gordo, and again at Chapultepee, 13 September, 1847, where he led a detachment of the storming party, and General Scott reported that he was the first to plant a regimental color on the ramparts of the fortress. He was mustered out as lieutenant-colonel of volunteers, 28 August, 1848, but was reinstated by act of congress with his original rank as captain of topographical engineers, to date from 21 September, 1846. He served as chief of topographical engineers of the Department of Texas in 1852-'3, was in charge of western river improvements in 1853-'5, and was acting inspector-general on the Utah expedition of 1858. On 28 Junk, 1860, he was commissioned quarter-master-general of the United States army, which post he resigned on 22 April, 1861, to enter the Confederate service He was commissioned major-general of volunteers in the Army of Virginia, and with General Robert E. Lee organized the volunteers of that state, who were pouring into Richmond. On being summoned to Montgomery, the capital of the Confederate states, he was appointed one of the four brigadier-generals then commissioned, and was assigned to the command of Harper's Ferry. General Robert Patterson, at the head of a National force, was then approaching from the north of the Potomac, and General Johnston withdrew from the cul-de-sac at Harper's Ferry and took position at Winchester with his army, which was called the Army of the Shenandoah. When Gun. Beauregard was attacked at Manassas by the National army under General McDowell, 18 July, 1861, Johnston, covering his movement with Stuart's cavalry, left Patterson in the valley and rapidly marched to the assistance of Beauregard. On reaching the field he left Beauregard, whom he ranked, in tactical command of the field, and assumed responsibility and charge of the battle then about to be fought. (See BEAUREGARD.) General Johnston remained in command of the consolidated forces until the spring of 1862, when, finding McClellan about to advance, he withdrew to the Rappahannock, whence he moved to meet McClellan. He was wounded at Seven Pines, 31 May, 1862, and incapacitated for duty until the following autumn. On 16 May, 1861, the brigadier-generals Johnston, Cooper, and Lee were created generals by act of the Confederate congress in the order named. On 31 August, 1861, Johnston was appointed one of the five full generals authorized by this act, who were commissioned in the following order: Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and G. T. Beauregard. This assignment of rank was directly contrary to the act of the Confederate congress, which required that when officers resigned from the United States army the rank of such officers, when commissioned in the army of the Confederate states, should be determined by their former commissions in the United States army. The order of rank thus established by law was Joseph E. Johnston, brigadier-general; Samuel Cooper, colonel; Albert S. Johnston, colonel; Robert E. Lee, lieutenant-colonel; Pierre G. T. Beauregard, captain. General Johnston protested against this illegal action, and his protest is believed to have been the beginning and cause of Mr. Davis's hostility, which was exhibited throughout the war. When General Johnston was ordered to the peninsula to oppose McClellan, he asked to be re-enforced with the troops from the sea coast, to enable him to crush McClellan; but this was not done. On 24 March, 1863, he was assigned to the command of the southwest, including the troops of Generals Bragg, Kirby Smith, and Pemberton. He at once addressed a letter to the secretary of war, Mr. Randolph, and urged that General Holmes's army, 55,000 strong, then at Little Rock. should be ordered to him, to enable him to defeat Grant. Sec. Randolph had actually issued such an order before Johnston's communication was received, but Mr. Davis countermanded it, and Randolph resigned. In May, 1863, General Grant crossed the Mississippi to attack Vicksburg in the rear, and General Johnston was ordered to take command of all the Confederate forces in Mississippi. Going there at once, he endeavored to withdraw Pemberton from Vicksburg and re-enforce him from Bragg's army, but failed by reason of Pemberton's disobedience of orders, and Vicksburg was taken by Grant. On 18 December, 1863, he was transferred to the command of the Army of Tennessee, with headquarters at Dalton, Georgia During the winter of 1863-'4 he was occupied in restoring and reorganizing this force, which had been broken by the defeat of Missionary Ridge. By May, 1864, he had collected 43,000 men of all arms (exclusive of officers, musicians, teamsters, etc.), and a week later he was re-enforced by General Polk's corps. (For an account of the campaign that followed. Johnston's army slowly retreating toward Atlanta, followed closely by Sherman's, see SHERMAN, WILLIAM TECUMSEH.) On 17 July, 1864, the Richmond authorities, dissatisfied with Johnston's movements, relieved him of the command, and directed him to turn it over to General John B. Hood On 23 February, 1865, Gen. Johnston was ordered by General Lee, then commander-in-chief of all the armies of the Confederate states, to assume command of the Army of Tennessee, and all troops in South Carolina. Georgia, and Florida. "to concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman." The available forces were 5,000 men of the Army of Tennessee, near Charlotte, North Carolina, and 11,000 scattered from Charleston through South Carolina. Sherman had 60,000 men. An inspection of the railroad depots in North Carolina showed that there were then collected in them four and one half months' provisions for 60,000 men; but these Johnston was ordered not to touch, as they were for the use of Lee's army, so that the difficulty of collecting provisions was added to the other difficulties of his position. General Johnston urged General Lee to withdraw from Richmond, unite with him, and beat Sherman before Grant could join him; but Lee replied that it was impossible for him to leave Virginia. Collecting such troops as could be got together, Johnston threw himself before Sherman, and on 19-21 March attacked the head of his column at Bentonville, south of Goldsboro, and captured four pieces of artillery and 900 prisoners. Then Johnston retired before Sherman to Raleigh, and thence toward Greensboro. In the mean time Richmond had been evacuated, and on 9 April, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant. Johnston thereupon assumed the responsibility of advising Mr. Davis, whom he found at Greensboro, that, the war having been decided against them, it was their duty to end it, arguing that further continuation of war would be murder. Mr. Davis agreed that he should make terms with Sherman, and, on 18 April, 1865, Johnston and Sherman entered into a military convention, by which it was stipulated that the Confederate armies should be disbanded and conducted to their state capitals, to deposit their arms and public property in the state arsenals; the soldiers to execute an agreement to abstain from acts of war, and to abide the action of the state and National authorities" that the several state governments should be recognized by the executive of the United States upon their officers and legislatures taking the oath prescribed by the constitution of the United States; the people and inhabitants of the states to be guaranteed all their rights under the Federal and state constitutions; general amnesty for all acts in the late war; war to cease and peace to be restored. This agreement was rejected by the National government, and, on 26 April, Generals Johnston and Sherman signed another, surrendering the Confederate army on the terms of the agreement between Grant and Lee. After the war General Johnston was president of a railroad in Arkansas, president of the National express company in Virginia, agent for the London, Liverpool, and Globe insurance company, and for the New York life insurance company in Savannah, Georgia in 1877 he was elected to represent the Richmond district of Virginia in congress. He is now (1887) commissioner of railroads of the United States, appointed by President Cleveland. The difference of opinion as to the strategy and policy of the war between Mr. Davis and General Johnston exhibited itself at an early date, and from it may be deduced many of the disasters that befell the Confederate arms and the final fall of the Confederate states. Mr. Davis was convinced that the whole territory of the seceded states ought to be protected from invasion by the National forces. Hence the sea coast was fortified and garrisoned as far as possible, and lines along the frontier were held. General Johnston, on the other hand, was fixed in the opinion, and persistent in urging it, that there should be no defence of positions or of lines" that if any part of the country was given up to invasion by withdrawal of troops provided for its defence, so as to re-enforce armies in the field, the destruction or repulse of the invading army would recover the territory so abandoned. Early in the war General Johnston advised the concentration of his Army of the Shenandoah with Beauregard's Army of the Potomac, for the purpose of fighting McDowell. This was attempted when it was too late, and only part of Johnston's army was engaged in the first battle of Bull Run. When McClellan transferred his operations to the peninsula, Johnston insisted on abandoning Yorktown so as to draw McClellan further into the interior, re-enforcing the Confederates with the troops from the sea-coast of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, thus giving him an equality, if not a preponderance, of force over McClellan; but Mr. Davis refused to do this, although it was partly done after Johnston was wounded at Seven Pines. When Grant's army was scattered from Mississippi to Memphis, Johnston argued that General Bragg should be re-enforced from South Carolina, Georgia, and Mobile, and fall upon Grant and beat him in detachments. And he opposed Bragg's march into Kentucky as leading to no decisive result. General Johnston was wounded in the Indian war in Florida, in the Mexican war, and in the civil war--ten times in all. Early in life he married Lydia McLane, daughter o£ Louis McLane (q. v.). She died in 1886 without issue. He has published a "Narrative of Military Operations directed during the Late War between the States" (New York, 1874).--Peter's grandson, John Warfield, senator, born in Abingdon, Virginia, 9 September, 1818, was educated at the College of South Carolina, studied law at the University of Virginia, and practised until 1839, when he became judge of the 10th judicial district of Virginia. He was state senator in 1847-'8, and president of the Northwestern bank at Jeffersonville in 1850-'9. He was elected in 1870 to the United States senate as a Conservative, and by re-elections served till 1883.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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