Sunday, April 4, 2010

Civil War Series on Sunday - Albert Sydney Johnston

In my Thursday Ancestor Approved Award posting I mentioned Confederate General Albert Sydney Johnston in the Civil War. This is, in brief, his story.
He was born in Washington, Kentucky, the youngest son of Dr. John and Abigail Harris Johnston

Johnston was first educated at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, where he met fellow student Jefferson Davis. Both were appointed to the United States Military Academy, Davis two years behind Johnston. Johnston served as an officer in Black Hawk War in 1832. However, he resigned his commission in 1834 to return to Kentucky to care for his dying wife. They had one son, Col. William Preston Johnston, who would also serve in the Confederate Army. After farming for a time, in Texas, Johnston enlisted as a private in the Texas Army during the Texas War of Independence. Later he was promoted through the ranks and in 1837, be became senior brigadier general in command of the Texas Army. He lost that position after a duel, but was appointed Secretary of War by the second president of the Republic of Texas. In Feb 1840, he resigned and returned to Kentucky, where he remarried. They settled on a large plantation he named China Grove in Brazoria County, Texas.

He returned to the Texas Army during the Mexican-American War under General Zachary Taylor as a colonel of the 1st Texas Rifle Volunteers. He returned to his plantation after the war until appointed by President Taylor to the U.S. Army. He became a key figure in the Utah War, leading the U.S. troops who established a non-Mormon government in the formerly Mormon territory. He received brevet promotion to brigadier general in 1857 for his service in Utah. He spent 1860 in Kentucky (see census data, below) until December 21, when he sailed for California to take command of the Department of the Pacific.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was approached to take his Union forces east. However, when he heard of the secession of Texas, he resigned his commission on 9 April 1861. He managed to work his way east, reaching Richmond, Virginia, about the first of September, 1861. There Johnston was appointed a full general by his friend, Jefferson Davis. On May 30, 1861, Johnston became the second highest ranking Confederate general as commander of the Western Department.

Johnston used his concentrated forces to launch a surprise attack against Grant at the Battle of Shiloh on 5 Apr 1862 that resulted in a back and forth across the battlefield with some of the highest casualties for both sides of any battle of the war.  Just after mid-day, as he was personally leading and rallying his troops, Johnston took a bullet behind his right knee. Not thinking it serious, he sent his personal physician off to serve other wounded. The bullet had clipped his popliteal artery and his boot was filling up with blood. It may be that the injury in his earlier duel prevented him from realizing the numbness in his leg. When asked again, if he was injured, he is said to have replied, "Yes, and I fear seriously." Taken to a small ravine, he bled to death in minutes. (*)

*The above information is based mostly on, paraphrased and edited for this presentation.

Johnston was my fourth cousin, twice removed. Albert's mother was Abigail Harris. Her father was Edward Harris. His mother was Abigail Presbury, daughter of Edward Presbury, whose parents were William Prebury and Priscilla Randall the common ancestors. Edward's brother was William Presson who married Mary Raymond. Their son William Preston married Hannah Healey. Their son was William Preston who married Elizabeth Cynthia Lord; they were the parent of William Preston, the Old Sheriff of Williams County, my second great-grandfather. Researching this set of lines, with the many name changes has been a challenge for our family, over a number of years. None of these are the major Preston lines in New England (we had to work around them!) ...  ;-)

1860 U. S. Census on
Name: A S Jonston
[Albert S Johnston] 

Age in 1860: 57
Birth Year: abt 1803
Birthplace: Kentucky
Home in 1860: Louisville Ward 7, Jefferson, Kentucky
Gender: Male
Post Office: Louisville

Household Members:
Name, Age
A S Jonston, 57
Eliza Jonston, 38
A S Jonston, 15
Hancock Jonston, 12
Margrett Jonston, 8
Griffin Jonston, 3
Briggett Barey, 28, servant, born in Ireland

Families are Forever!  ;-)


  1. Thanks for this bit of history. Very interesting.

  2. I marvel that you are able to put this all together and follow through on the various family lines.

  3. You have been awarded (again!) the "Ancestor Approved Award." Please pick it up at: