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Feb. 2: Birthday of Albert Sidney Johnston

Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, born February 2, 1803, was the Confederate General who commanded at the Battle of Shiloh until his death on that same battlefield.

Born in Washington Co., Kentucky, Johnston attended West Point where he became acquainted with both Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Davis admired Johnston and considered him the Confederacy’s best general. When the armies of the Confederacy were being organized, Davis called upon Johnston to take command of the forces in Tennessee. Johnston made an arduous and dangerous journey from his home in Texas to take over his assignment.

Great difficulties faced Johnston in Tennessee, where widely scattered Confederate forces struggled against the Union Army driving southward. Johnston finally managed to assemble a force strong enough to check the Union advance, led  by Ulysses Grant and William T. Sherman, at Pittsburg Landing, TN, where small Shiloh Church would give the battle its name. 

On the morning of April 6, 1862, Johnston launched a furious surprise attack against Grant’s encamped army.  The Confederates stormed over the Yankees and nearly routed them, but at the height of the battle, Johnston, in the midst of the fighting, was mortally wounded and bled to death. Without a commander, the Confederate advance stalled.  The next day, the reinforced Yankees drove the exhausted Confederates from the field.

Whether or not the Confederates could have prevailed at Shiloh if Johnston had lived remains an unresolved question. Regardless, Albert Sidney Johnston was a brave and resourceful warrior who fought at the battle line and not from a headquarters tent.