Two-part question about Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston

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#1
Hello everybody, I have a two-part question about Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston:
Civil War; Confederate.commanders- Gen.Albert.Sidney.Johnston.......jpg

1.) Does the fact that Gen. Johnston led very much from the front at the Battle of Shiloh, even personally leading charges and directing regiments (while he left what should have been his own duties to his deputy, the Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard) indicate that he (Johnston) was very much more comfortable commanding a regiment rather than a field army, to such a degree that it impaired his performance as the field army commander at Shiloh? In other words, was he in over his head as a field army commander, out of his depth so to speak?

If the answer to question # 1 is "no" then the following question can be disregarded. However if the answer to # 1 is "yes" then:

2.) If that is the case that he was in over his head as a field army commander, why then did the Confederacy seem to attach such great hopes to his potential leadership of the C.S. forces in the Western Theatre in the future had he not been killed relatively early in the war on 6 April of '62 at Shiloh and express such disappointment over potentially lost opportunities that they feel seemingly vanished with his death?
 

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#2
Hello everybody, I have a two-part question about Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston:
View attachment 175124

1.) Does the fact that Gen. Johnston led very much from the front at the Battle of Shiloh, even personally leading charges and directing regiments (while he left what should have been his own duties to his deputy, the Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard) indicate that he (Johnston) was very much more comfortable commanding a regiment rather than a field army, to such a degree that it impaired his performance as the field army commander at Shiloh? In other words, was he in over his head as a field army commander, out of his depth so to speak?

If the answer to question # 1 is "no" then the following question can be disregarded. However if the answer to # 1 is "yes" then:

2.) If that is the case that he was in over his head as a field army commander, why then did the Confederacy seem to attach such great hopes to his potential leadership of the C.S. forces in the Western Theatre in the future had he not been killed relatively early in the war on 6 April of '62 at Shiloh and express such disappointment over potentially lost opportunities that they feel seemingly vanished with his death?
General Thomas led the Army of the Cumberland for a while and he always led at the front. Thomas was far from the only one. Many generals were killed in the front lines on both sides. So no Johnson was not unusual in leading his army at the front.
President Davis lived Johnson most likely from serving alongside or at least knowing him during the Mexican American War.
One of the great known unknowns as many posters have noted is we simply can't know how well Johnson would of performed as the commander of a Confederate Army.
Leftyhunter
 
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#3
1. A.S. Johnson abrogated his responsibility as an army commander by behaving more like a brigade or regimental commander. I don't know if that made him entirely unsuited for command above the regimental level, but on at least one day at Shiloh he did a poor job as an army commander, and got himself killed in the bargain.

With the benefit of hindsight I never quite understood what all the fuss was about A.S. Johnson. There is nothing in his record that indicates he could have been the West's Robert E. Lee, if only Yankee lead hadn't cut his career short. He didn't look too good in his first & last large battle.

To be fair however, if Grant or Sherman's life had been cut short at Shiloh we might be saying the same. It wasn't the highlight of their careers, either. Maybe Johnston would have improved on the job, much as they did.

2. He was one of the most distinguished officers in the pre-war army. Maybe that had something to do with it. Of course, more than one "star" from the pre-war army came up short once the rounds started flying.
 
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Joshism

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#4
why then did the Confederacy seem to attach such great hopes to his potential leadership of the C.S. forces in the Western Theatre in the future had he not been killed relatively early in the war on 6 April of '62 at Shiloh and express such disappointment over potentially lost opportunities that they feel seemingly vanished with his death?
Johnston was one of the senior officers of the prewar army and personally liked by Davis. After his death, he was elevated by the Lost Cause for his martyrdom.

Like Stonewall Jackson, A. S. Johnston has undergone a reevaluation in modern times and found that, while talented, he was not great as one thought.

Does anyone have examples of what people (other than Davis) said about Johnston during the war?
 
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#5
To be absolutely logical, there is nothing in A.S. Johnston's performance in the Civil War to support an argument that the western Confederate forces would have been measurably "better" had he remained in command following Shiloh. I agree that his alleged superiority over other western generals is simply part of the "lost cause" rhetoric.
 
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#6
To be absolutely logical, there is nothing in A.S. Johnston's performance in the Civil War to support an argument that the western Confederate forces would have been measurably "better" had he remained in command following Shiloh. I agree that his alleged superiority over other western generals is simply part of the "lost cause" rhetoric.
Who knows! I think he may have been an definite improvement over Braxton Bragg and
J. B. Hood though. Of course, the bar is not set very high in the eyes of many historians
in the case of these two aforementioned gentlemen.
 

James N.

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#7
Johnston was the only commander in recent history to have commanded an army in the field when he led the Expedition against the Mormons in 1857. It was generally understood the leaders in the Mexican War like Scott, Twiggs, and Wool were too old to command in the field anymore so in some respects that left Johnston as the most experienced candidate. Joe Johnston was also a general in the "Old Army" but had been a staff officer rather than a department commander like Albert (California) or temporarily Col. R. E. Lee (Texas).
 
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#8
Johnston's alleged statement to Beauregard after the clumsy approach from Corinth to Shiloh that "I would fight them if there were a million." is an indicator that Johnston probably lacked the judgment necessary to successfully lead a large force into battle. His record prior to and during Shiloh ought to disqualify his being considered highly in the pantheon of Confederate general officers.
 

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#9
1.) Does the fact that Gen. Johnston led very much from the front at the Battle of Shiloh, even personally leading charges and directing regiments (while he left what should have been his own duties to his deputy, the Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard) indicate that he (Johnston) was very much more comfortable commanding a regiment rather than a field army, to such a degree that it impaired his performance as the field army commander at Shiloh? In other words, was he in over his head as a field army commander, out of his depth so to speak?
Like many of the earliest battles Shiloh was a particular case unto itself; everything seemed to be going wrong, from the muddy, congested roads to the way the divisions got "stacked up" on them. No doubt, Johnston was more worried about what was going on at the front of his army rather than at the rear. (I might point out that much the same arrangement had been made by Joe Johnston at Manassas, although it was he who directed from the rear, leaving Beauregard to direct the front line action.) Supposedly he and Beauregard differed on how to fight the battle in the first place, with Johnston wanting to cut Grant off from Pittsburg Landing, and Beauregard wanting to drive Grant into the Tennessee River. If that was the case, Johnston had gone to the spot where it was most important that the Confederate drive broke through Hurlbut's lines at the Peach Orchard and then continue on to the landing site in order to isolate the Union right flank and center from the river. It was just unfortunate for him and his plan that he was mortally wounded in the process. This plan likely wouldn'tve worked anyway, due to the ravine and rough terrain of Dill Branch; an assault late in the day by Jackson's and Chalmers' brigades to attempt to carry Grant's Last Line there failed.
 
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Andy Cardinal

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#10
It is of course impossible to say if Albert Sidney Johnston would have ranked as a great general had he lived. I do think it safe to say he was not a great general at the time of his death. Having said that, I also think it's pretty safe to say that no one had become a great general by April 6, 1862, although perhaps Grant & Stonewall Jackson, and possibly Thomas as well, were on their way. Lee, for example, was a relative unknown at this point in time.

The other thing about Johnston worth pointing out, I think, is that he did have an ability to inspire the men under his command. He believed Shiloh was a make or break battle -- he was determined to conquer or die. Unfortunately for him, he did not conquer but did die. I think, though, that this determination probably justifies his decision to lead an attack from the front.
 

Northern Light

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#11
I think it was one of those, "oh if Johnston had only survived" things, similar to "If Jackson had been at Gettysburg"or "If Reynolds hadn't been shot on the 1st day at Gettysburg". Wishful thinking for what might have been, but wasn't and might not have been anyway. Dying early leaves a lot to speculate about.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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#12
Didn't Albert's son write a book about his father? I've heard of it but don't know a thing about it or even its title. So of course I don't know how objective it is.
 

jackt62

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#15
Nothing unusual about AS Johnston leading from the front, something which almost happened in the two famous "Lee to the Rear" incidents. It is true however, that an army commander's place would normally be in rear where he could assert command and control operations more effectively. That being said, AS Johnston's reputation was championed by Jeff Davis, who often overlooked shortcomings in close associates. To be fair, Johnston was given a difficult assignment in defending the Kentucky-Tennessee line with limited resources. Although he failed to secure that line, his concentration of forces at Shiloh was a brilliant move. But his battlefield death and the eventual failure of the confederate assault meant that an objective analysis of his command ability becomes more difficult.
 
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#16
1.) Does the fact that Gen. Johnston led very much from the front at the Battle of Shiloh, even personally leading charges and directing regiments (while he left what should have been his own duties to his deputy, the Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard) indicate that he (Johnston) was very much more comfortable commanding a regiment rather than a field army, to such a degree that it impaired his performance as the field army commander at Shiloh? In other words, was he in over his head as a field army commander, out of his depth so to speak?
No, the idea that Johnston acted purely as a regimental commander rather than as an army commander is simplistic. Johnston was definitely in command of the army.

If you are interested, check out Timothy B. Smith's chapter, "To Conquer or Perish: The Last Hours of Albert Sidney Johnston" in the book, "Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Volume 3". Smith traces Johnston's movements and command decisions during each of hour of the battle of Shiloh.

In addition to Smith's chapter, Charles P. Roland wrote in his biography of Johnston: "Notwithstanding Johnston's location during the battle, Johnston actually made every major Confederate command decision between his arrival in Corinth and his death on the field of Shiloh."

Wiley Sword wrote: "According to Surgeon David W. Yandell, Medical Director, Department No. 2, he was asked that evening [April 5] by Johnston for an opinion on Beauregard's behavior [ie, wanting to cancel the attack]. Yandell stated that Beauregard was as yet a very sick man [throat ailment], and that his opinions should be largely disregarded, implying that the illness had temporarily affected his mind. Beauregard was thereafter relegated by Johnston to a secondary role of remaining behind in the army's rear to send forward reinforcements and directing munitions to the front line."

To further demonstrate the nature of the command relationship, one of Beauregard's aides, Jacob Thompson, reported: "General Beauregard directed me to seek General Johnston, who was in the front, learn from him the condition of things there, and know of him what order he had to give as to the disposition of the reserves commanded by General Breckinridge."

Timothy B. Smith: "Amazingly, the attack worked on almost the entire front, mostly because of Johnston's personal leadership... Beauregard, who was no fan of Johnston, accurately wrote that Johnston 'gave resistless impulsion to his columns at critical moments'".
 

Carronade

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#17
He believed Shiloh was a make or break battle --
He may have been right. Of course the Confederacy struggled on for three more years, but their fortunes were on a steady downward slope that started with the loss of an army at Fort Donelson. Shiloh was their chance to turn it around, including defeating and discrediting the man who had inflicted the disaster on them. They did a remarkable job of concentrating enough troops to have a chance of defeating Grant, which would have dramatically changed the course of the war.
 

David Knight

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#19
April 1862 and all the successful generals were going to be proved to be busts? So AS Johnson could have been anything had he survived Shiloh.

As one or two have already said had the Union been defeated Grant and Sherman would have been posted to anywhere but the front line armies.

What ifs are great but nothing can be proved either way with Albert Sidney Johnson.
 



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