Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Civil War Rewind, Part Seventeen: The Luckiest Shot Ever Fired Against the South in the Civil War..

Army of the Potomac General Joseph E. Johnston Is Wounded at Seven Pines, Which Gets Robert E. Lee Away From His Desk - And Onto the Battlefield!

    Welcome to the latest installment of our Civil War Rewind series, where we mark important, and not so important events from the War Between the States.  It's Summertime now, so get ready, because the posts will be coming fast and furiously for a while! 

    History is an odd thing.. Sometimes, we see the huge events often as they happen before our eyes, and we can recognize it as it occurs.  But more often, the big change is preceded by an innocuous, minor event.  Simply put, if Event A never happened, would Event B have occurred? Who knows... Today, we're going to focus on one of the more interesting generals in the Civil War: Joseph E. Johnston.

    Johnston was, like most Union and Confederate leaders, a graduate of West Point, and at the time of his defection to the South, was the highest ranking general to side with his Virginia homeland.  Very often for Johnston, the War was frustrating for him.. He led the troops at Bull Run (Manassas), but more credit is given to PGT Beauregard at that battle.  Soon afterwards, Jefferson Davis realigned the leadership of the Army, and Johnston soon was ranked number four of the five commanders.  Like us, he wasn't in good with the bosses. 

     Still, Johnston was an effective defender, and his Army of the Potomac was head to head with Northern General McClellan during his famed, yet faulted Peninsula Campaign.  bad as it was, McClellan had the numbers, and after two slow months, he was at last near Richmond.  Despite everything, McClellan was on the verge of a major victory. On May 31, 1862 at Seven Pines all of that changed - not with a Union or Confederate victory, but with a single shot...

     While Seven Pines was a draw, Johnston was wounded during the battle.  It wasn't life threatening, but bad enough to require Johnston to give up his command.  To succeed him, Jefferson Davis chose the man who had spent most of the war at a desk as Davis' military advisor - Gen. Robert E. Lee... The rest is history, but we'll mention Lee once or twice along the war.  While most generals would be furious with losing their post, Johnston took it in stride.  He is quoted as saying 'The bullet that hit me was the luckiest shot ever fired for The South, for I had no confidence from my superiors, and was replaced by some who did.'   Talk about taking it all well....

     Johnston was too talented to sit out for long, and soon was involved in what he is most well-known for: his battles with General Sherman in the West.  Outmanned and outgunned, Johnston was an effective defender, but again Davis grew tired with his lack of aggressiveness (how do you attack with no army?), and replaced him with John Bell Hood, who managed to destroy the Army of the West in short order. 

    Johnston eventually took command of what was left to slow down Sherman's advance North from Savannah and keep him from joining Ulysses S. Grant in destroying Lee in Virginia.  He succeeded, but by then, it was too late.  Johnston soon surrendered his troops to Sherman in North Carolina in an event every bit as cordial as Lee and Grant at appomattoc Court House.  In fact, the two became very good friends over the years...

    After the war, Johnston became a US Congressman before retiring, and in one of those poignant stories, was a pallbearer at Sherman's funeral, where he refused to wear a hat in his friend's honor. He soon caught pneumonia and died ten days later...  Quite a story indeed.  We hoped you like today's entry, and come back soon. After all, Robert E. Lee didn't wait long to get to work on McClellan!  Thanks for reading, and have a great day!



Katherine said...

Thanks! I love history - reading this was a quick break from the campaign!

Mike Reino said...

You're welcome! I forgot that you're a History professor... Yes, even the bloggers have to take a little break from the politics!