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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 333

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This is the grave of Joseph Johnston.

Born in 1807 in a plantation house near Farmville, Virginia to Virginia elite, Johnston attended West Point where he did well and graduated in 1829. He stayed in the military only until 1837, but then he worked for the military as a civilian engineer and was nearly killed by the Seminoles in Florida in 1838. He married the daughter of Louis McLane, who was both Secretary of the Treasury and then Secretary of State under Andrew Jackson, so his permanent status among the southern elite was assured. Johnston rejoined the military by the time of the Mexican War and served under Winfield Scott at Veracruz and was heavily involved in the unjust and brutal conquest of Mexico that included many atrocities against Mexicans in order to steal half of that nation to expand slavery. He remained in the Army through the 1850s, including attacking the Sioux and being in Kansas as the Civil War went through its trial run as the South tried to force it into the nation as a slave state against the will of its residents.

When the South committed treason in defense of slavery, so did Johnston. But he had a bad relationship with Jefferson Davis and since Davis constantly played favorites with his generals, this limited Johnston’s rise in the treasonous military. He was involved in many battles during the war, too many for me to go into detail on, largely because I don’t care. But he was blamed by Davis for the fall of Vicksburg, which was probably unfair. He was a cautious general which did not please the head of the traitors and Vicksburg was pretty much a lost cause by the time Johnston arrived. He was the head of the Army of Tennessee when the war ended and he surrendered to William Tecumseh Sherman. Both men respected each other and they remained lifelong friends.

After the war, Johnston genuinely struggled financially, as did many pre-war southern elites who found their property, i.e., their slaves, taken away without compensation. Sad. So he worked for a railroad for awhile, but he and his wife really didn’t have much money. Johnston also was probably less of a Lost Cause fanatic than nearly every other general in the Confederacy, not only diehard lunatics like Jubal Early, but really everyone. Bitter about his treatment from Davis, he ground that axe for the rest of his life, publishing a book about how it which no one cared about. He got involved in transportation projects and was in Congress for a term from 1879-81. Somewhat close to Grover Cleveland, he was named commissioner of railroads under his administration. He died when he caught a cold at Sherman’s funeral in 1891, where he was a pallbearer. He was 84 years old.

Joseph Johnston is buried at Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife.

This grave visit was supported by LGM reader contributions, for which I am tremendously grateful. This was from a trip I took this spring, not the one I just was on this weekend, when your contributions allowed me to present at the Baltimore Book Festival and visit a whole bunch more graves that will being to appear soon. That whole trip was pretty awesome, I met quite a few of you, and I hope a good time was had by all. If you would like this series to visit more treasonous generals, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Albert Sidney Johnston is in Austin, for example. Lucky for me, I have a conference in San Antonio coming up, so you can definitely help me get there. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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