Thursday, July 17, 2014

Joseph Johnston Removed from Command

One of the longest lasting Confederate generals in the American Civil War was Joseph E. Johnston. He was in command at Manassas, the first great battle of the war, and at the Bennett Place, the largest surrender of Confederate troops at the end of the war. He did not, however, have a good relationship with President Jefferson Davis. It was 150 years ago today that Davis removed him from command, frustrated with his defensive strategy in the face of Sherman's advance southward towards Atlanta.

For months Sherman and Johnston had maneuvered. Johnston took up strong defensive positions, trying to lure Sherman into wrecking his army against them. Time and again the Federals frustrated his plans by simply outflanking the Confederate line, and forcing Johnston to order a retreat. In this way, time after time, Johnston retreated through northern Georgia until he was at the gates of Atlanta. Sherman had attacked him once, at Kennesaw Mountain, and had received a serious bloodying from it. But the Federal general just returned back to his old outflanking ways. Johnston's plan was simply not working.

Jefferson Davis had long wished to relieve Johnston of command, but he did not have a good replacement for him. Finally he decided to replace him with John Bell Hood. It was a dangerous time to do it, with the army engaged with the enemy in front of Atlanta, but Davis believed if he waited, Johnston might abandon the city without a struggle. When the President asked Lee's advice on the change, he answered:
It is a grievous thing to change commander of an army situated as is that of the Tennessee. Still if necessary it ought to be done. I know nothing of the necessity. I had hoped that Johnston was strong enough to deliver battle.... Hood is a good fighter, very industrious on the battle field, careless off, & I have had no opportunity of judging of his action, when the whole responsibility rested upon him. I have a high opinion of his gallantry, earnestness & zeal. 
Davis made the decision and Johnston replaced Hood 150 years ago today. This change of commanders would rapidly alter the course of the campaign. Hood would move quickly and zealously to implement a very different strategy than that of Joseph E. Johnston.


Post a Comment