Joseph Johnston was born on February 3, 1807 near Farmville, Virginia. Johnston was educated at the United States Military Academy and came from a military family. His father fought in the Revolutionary War and even named his son after Major Joseph Eggleston. Joseph Johnston first made a name for himself in the military community when he fought in the Mexican-American War.
Johnston was one of the highest ranking general officers in the Confederate Army at the onset of war. He served as Confederate commander in the first Battle of Bull Run and during part of Union General McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, however, was highly critical of Johnston’s command and believed he was too passive in battle. Johnston was relieved of his command on several occasions during the Civil War.
In 1862, Johnston was wounded by an artillery shell in the chest and shoulder at the Battle of Seven Pines as part of Union General McClellan’s Peninsula campaign. Although the battle was considered a draw, Jefferson Davis replaced him with General Robert E. Lee, who commanded the main branch of the Confederate Army for the remainder of the war, and became a legendary figure in the South. Johnston was given command of smaller armies for the duration of the war until his final surrender to Union Major General William Sherman at Durham Station in North Carolina. Johnston’s army was one of the last to surrender and was considered the last hope for the Confederacy after Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.
After the war was over, Joseph Johnston became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Virginia. Johnston was also appointed Commissioner of Railroads by U.S. President Grover Cleveland. Like several other Confederate generals, Johnston would become close friends with Union generals Grant and Sherman. At the age of 84, Johnston died of pneumonia in Washington D.C. after serving as a pall bearer at Sherman’s funeral. Johnston is now buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.