tv Controversial Generals of the Civil War CSPAN October 21, 2017 10:44am-11:49am EDT
>> all right, everybody, let's get started. if we can get everybody seated. welcome back to our next speaker, our next session. i'm going to go right into an introduction. our next speaker is craig simons. was the retired professor at thehistory department united states naval academy, but he told me his retirement failed.
that he was no good at it. he is now the earnest jk and distinguished professor of maritime history at the college in newport rhode island. written several books about the civil war. his book "lincoln and his admirals" received the lincoln prize in 2009. done a biography of joe johnston. let's welcome craig symonds. [applause] mr. symonds: good morning. i will put our subject on the screen. this is old joe. i will happily acknowledged to this audience that the speakers
-- and the speakers that came before me that controversy and dispute hovered around the civil war career of ambrose burnside and -- i would argue that a few general officers on either side you vote more controversy than joseph e johnston with the possible cullen.on of mc his critics argue that his combativeness with the infederate government richmond so undermined the himhern war effort to make a contributing factor in confederate defeat. to these critics, johnston was mccullen of the west.
he would not fight a battle unless he was certain of victory. rare, he rarely fought a battle at all. he became a rallying of enemies of the administration. johnston has his defenders in the civil war community then as well as now. their support is often a product of their admiration for johnston -- less a product of their admiration for johnston than the utility of using johnston is a blunt instrument to assail jefferson davis. defenddetermination to the confederacy everywhere, they argue, made it impossible to defend it anywhere. the president's tendency to protect personal favorites weekend the army and made a contribution to confederate
defeat. because johnston favored acting on the defensive and concentrating forces on vital points, that view, they insist, was more realistic. in the ineffectiveness field was less his fault than davis' support. questionably, johnston often seemed a reluctant warrior. he voluntarily evacuated in 1861.junction he gained ground repeatedly on the virginia peninsula in 1862, almost to the proverbial gates of richmond. before finally counterattacking at southern pines, where that was marked by confusion, misdirection, and where he was wounded severely. after his recovery he went west,
where he delayed too long before , to rescue too hard pemberton in 1863 and where he fell back repeatedly before william t sherman and the crew come in for the decisive 1864 atlanta camping. at the heart of the most controversy of joe johnston is that 1864 campaign from dalton to atlanta. let's do that first. it was johnston's failure to stop sherman that led davis to dismiss him of his command in july of 1864 and replaced him with john bell hood. that didn't work out so well for the confederacy, as sam hood , andexplain this afternoon allow johnston's defenders to allow that hood's campaign into
tennessee and the destruction of the army of tennessee proved that johnston's strategy was superior. it is impossible to know what might've happened. we all do this. all civil war students say "if this, then that." we never know what would happen for sure if davis would have stuck with joe johnston. my friend says johnston would have fought the decisive battle of key west. [laughter] which is possible. , at least, of johnston's justification for avoiding an open slugfest was based on the insistence he was outnumbered. excuse incclellan's virginia. at least in johnston's case it was true. of 305 in three
armies. only 80,000 for what we would call effective. that they could hold a musket and stand in the line. how big was johnston's army? .hat is a controversy, too his official returns in may of 1864 at the outset of the campaign shows 60,000 men in all branches, infantry, calvary, and artillery, and an effective total of 42,000. in richmond, jefferson davis look at these returns and the number that popped in his mind is 60,000, roughly the size of army in virginia appear johnston emphasized the smaller number, 42,000. with either number the odds were
2-1. the confederacy faced long odds everywhere. johnston's inferiority to sherman was not significantly greater than lee to grant. johnston knew what davis expected from him. from dalton to northern georgia he was to advance northward to recover chatanooga and move into central tennessee. butston was willing to try, insisted that he didn't have the assets to do it. he complained that he was short of calvary. to popular culture, the calvary is supposed to be a confederate strength. that was probably true in 1862 and may have been mostly true in virginia as late as 1864, but not in the western theater, and
certainly not by 1864. johnston's calvary force was headed by a 28-year-old major general named joe wheeler. on paper, he had 10,000 horsemen. such official numbers are suspect. the number of mounted troopers that you take the field was less than a quarter of that number, 2400. it is not that cuyler and johnston lacked -- not that wheeler and johnston lacked volunteers. many were eager. there is the old jive, who ever saw a dead calvary men? you got tood deal, ride places and run away faster. had problems with his calvary. he had 12,500, five times the number of mounted horses.
was heblem for sherman parceled his calvary out among the various divisions and core. sherman commanded what we would call an army group, three different armies cooperating together rather than a single army like johnston did. if he couldght horsemente his 2400 against one of these pockets of federal calvary he could win a decisive victory. that division so tempted him he often issued his primary duty of scouting and reporting seeking a clash with his counterparts. that proved crippling. for an army on the offensive needs a capable screen to advance and johnston didn't have one. johnston decided to defend his
position. tot left the initiative sherman. johnston hoped that once sherman attacked him and was repulsed from strong defensive positions he could counterattack and launch that offensive into tennessee that davis expected. this is what he said in his infrequent reports to richmond. his critics, then and later, insisted that johnston never plan to do this. that he was constitutionally incapable of mounting an offensive. in, hoped was dig sherman would attack came where he was strongest, so that the disparity in numbers could be minimized. one of his famous quotations following fredericksburg was when johnson read about this in the papers he said "what look some people have. no one will ever attack me in a position like that."
johnston positioned his 40,000 men along a ridge line named rocky face ridge, north and west of dalton. againstld be the wall which sherman broke his armies before johnston's suppose it counterattack. was not so obliging. he took several looks at the rebel lines and decided to go around. much like lee at chancellorsville, sherman left a strong force on johnston's front to hold him in place and sent to ,the army to the tennessee named for the river, not the state, on a long march to the exposed flank through snake creek gap. the men slithered through the gap like a -- nevermind. ok.
define themselves on johnston's left flank on the railroad line the first week of may 1864. this same week that lee and grant are slugging it out in the wilderness in virginia. it was the job of wheeler's calvary to alert johnston to this move, but he was busy north of dalton, it on the forr side of this, looking an opportunity to launch a dramatic calvary charge. as a result, mcpherson was to rest talk of the four johnston saw the threat to his left as it brigades marching in a quick step to block him. they got there just in time. battle,ated and the fought three days in mid-may, his army held on to the line of the railroad.
to give up those strong defensive positions on rocky face ridge. railroad, by the way, a single track line from was thega to atlanta fibrous core of this entire campaign. both armies needed it for supply and support. sherman needed it to advance, johnston needed it to keep his soldiers supplied and said. it was critical to both sides. johnston knew if sherman broke that threat he would have to give up north georgia. over the next two weeks sherman employed his flanking again and again, moving always to the right around johnston's left, seeking to get a hold of the railroad. he never broke through, he never got to johnston's rear, but he forced johnston to fall back again and back 100 miles.
incidentally, the distance from dalton to atlanta is roughly 100 miles, about from the rapid and river to- rampant and petersburg. it was easy to make a comparison with how his two generals were performing, one at virginia, one in georgia. johnston never lost a battle in all this. but with the exception of kennesaw mountain, where he once again acted on the practical win any-- he did not either. most importantly, by mid-may, he had on back -- followed back over the chattahoochee river, the last natural barrier before atlanta himself. so for davis, and looked like johnson simply was not trying very hard. his casualties were less than 1/10 of leave losses in virginia over the same time. these were the weeks of the
wilderness, the mule shoe, fighting the presaged what ofpened in the trenches 1914, 19 15 in europe. the casualty lists in virginia were positively horrifying. in the 19th century and perhaps, particularly in the 19th century south, heavy casualties served as evidence that the men were trying. to davis,it seemed have forgotten how to do that. for jefferson davis, johnson's retreat south of the chattahoochee was the last straw. president believed he had practiced patients with johnson until it was no longer a virtue. and the highly charged political environment of wartime richmond, the news of johnston's repeated withdrawals, it sharpens the antagonism between the champions and the critics of the administration. political enemies in
congress were led by this fellow, the senator from texas and the close friend of joseph e johnson. they put all of the blame for the bad news from georgia on davis, who they said failed to provide joe johnson with the support he needed. davis's defenders sophisticate -- insisted that the long retreat from georgia with your evidence that the general simply lacked the will to fight. meanwhile, the disaffection he provoked and even encouraged as mary chestnut put it, "eight into the very vitals of our distracted country." here are the real comebacks in the atlantic campaign. through much of the war in the west, i would call this the dual of goatees. [laughter] their amnesty, strategical,
political, and even personal began well before the atlantic campaign in 18 before. it began in the first summer of the war, in 1861. it was a dispute about rank. we might think this is a silly little argument, and in fact it was from a 21st century perspective, but in the 19th century, ranked affected honor, and onto without at the center, the core of many officers who wore uniforms of both blue and gray. early on, the confederate congress passed a law, authorizing the president to name five full generals in the confederate army, only five. he was to rank them according to law, in order of their seniority in the old army. of those five, the only one of them who had been a general in the old army was joseph e johnson, who is a brigadier general by virtue of being quartermaster general of the army.
but that was a staff rank. and davis ranks them in order of their graduation from west point. first, cooper from 1815, lee, 1827, and so forth. lee and johnson were classmates. that is a hard one. they both graduated in 1827. but we graduated and and johnson graduated 17th. so lee was ranked ahead. being rankedup fourth out of five. he says wait a minute, the law says -- and yet you demoted me -- this affects my honor. so he wrote a long letter about oh, my honor, and the discretion of my family doesn't -- desecration of my family. davis wrote back a dismissive note, and from then on, the two of them simply never were compatible. they were not partners. they were on the same side, but barely allies. willing to have been tolerate johnston's peak, as
long as he won battles. but now it seems to him, especially after the atlantic campaign, that he was unwilling even to fight one, much less to win one. don steyn sex play nations all sound, and they grew more labored every day. -- all the while, johnston's all grews explanations more labored every day. and all the while, the used joe johnson as an instrument to do it. if you were eight at president, he would give the support to joseph e johnson that he deserves. this did not help much in terms of the relationship between the two men. in then johnston's enemy confederacy -- there were many, including braxton bragg, maybe especially braxton bragg -- more about him in a minute. it were at john davis's elbow, insisting that johnson -- you know, if you took all the numbers and added them all, he
has 150,000 men out there. he has no excuse to not be attacking sherman and driving them back to ohio. the men in the ranks, bragg insisted -- and he had commanded that army before, so he had some justification for saying what he did, that the men in the ranks were eager to fight, only if johnson would unleash them, and he would not do it. he would not strike a blow. davis could see that johnson had , as mary chestnut put in her diary, "the core around which all restless and halfhearted disappointed people concentrate." davis decided that johnson was a liability he could no longer afford. on july 17, 1864, he sent a telegram to johnson, dismissing him from command and ordering him to turn his army over to john bell hood. johnsonut we assess joe
in this campaign iago he himself argued, both at the time and later, in a very self-serving memoir, that his defensive moves were a carefully calculated gambit to help sherman use up his army by beating his head against his defensive lines, to extend his own lines of communication. sherman would grow weaker as he moved south. johnson would go stronger -- grow stronger until the moment came. but the moments never came. some observers have argued that johnston was one of the few who recognize that warfare was changing into what essentially merged in flanders and belgium in 1914, 1918. johnson himself made this argument in his postwar memoir, yet contemporary evidence suggests this was at least partly -- maybe even mostly -- a hindsight. as initial instinct, he was
19th-century general. his instinct was to attack. it was only after sherman's various moves around his flank had forced him to fall back that he reconsidered what was happening and said you know, this is working out ok. sherman had to leave troops behind to guard that railroad, all the way back to chattanooga. as a result, his numbers at the .ront got smaller and smaller meanwhile, i'm using him up as he tries to attack my defensive position. this is a good strategy. but not one he had in mind from the beginning, one that was forced on him by william t sherman. and the other errors that johnston made -- johnson made, and this may be even more serious than has behavior, was the unwillingness to write letters to jefferson davis. the men did not like each other particularly.
johnston wrote monthly, because he had to do a monthly report, but he did not do what robert e lee did in virginia. robert e. lee wrote davis nearly , and they are hard to read these days, because they say things like dear mr. president. advicerately crave your and guidance, because you are a brilliant strategist, and the most wonderful man, and handsome, too, i might add. [laughter] >> they are a little thick, but davis love this. we kept in touch, johnston would not do it. i think it hurt him. so johnston's dismissal in the summer of 1864 might have been the end of the story, but much against his better judgment, davis was forced to give johnston another chance. in the spring of 1865, the spring of 65, the last months of the war, the confederate forces
controlling only a small fraction of southern territory. federal armies closing in on richmond. the southern public desperately sought a miracle, and a number of individuals called for johnstons restoration of command. they were grasping at straws. johnstons rivals within the confederate high command, in particular braxton bragg and john bell hood noted scornfully that things must be desperate indeed if the nation now looked to joe johnston as a savior. nevertheless, in a deliberate slap in the face to jefferson davis, the confederate congress in february, 1865, passed a law naming robert e by name, allander in chief of confederate forces, even though the constitution said that jefferson davis was the commander in chief of all confederate forces.
and that same legislation recommended, and i'm quoting, "the assignment of joseph e johnston to the army of tennessee." congress was telling davis to appoint him. davis,recommend it to and not merely because of congressional suggestion. we and johnston, as i mentioned earlier, were classmates at west point and remained friends all that time. they had known each other for four decades, and despite what had happened during the war, he remained confident in johnston. a --ew his name was almost two soldiers, who knew he would not throw them into battle unless there was a good chance they would win. so he was very popular with the troops, and naming him to command might call deserters to the colors. davis refused to do it. he prepared a lengthy and
carefully argued bill of indictment, 15 pages long. outlined all of the general's shortcomings. that is why it had to be 15 pages long. [laughter] he concluded with this. "my opinion of general johnstons unfitness of command has ripen slowly and against my inclination into a conviction so subtle that it would be impossible for me, again, to feel confidence in him as a commander of the army in the field." intended use of it that congress is responsible legislation, but did not do it. we convinced him that if nothing else, johnstons appointment would boost sagging morale in the army and was a measure of in lee and his commitment to the cause that he was willing to violate every personal instinct, swallow hard, and make the appointment. the news brought no pleasure to joe johnson. when he got lee's order to
concentrate your forces and , he repliedherman "these troops form an army too weak to cope with sherman." of course, davis had heard back before -- that before. the day after he wrote that response, johnston, who was living in south carolina, ran into mary chestnut, who was apparently everywhere that anything happened during the confederacy. she wrote in her diary that night "johnston was very angry to be ordered to take command again. he did not see this as a reconfirmation of his skill as a general. he believed that he had been but -- put back in command to bear the historical appropriate him of being the guy who finally had to surrender. in spite of that, he did accept it. it is interesting to speculate why. circumstances were so bleak, it could hardly be imagined that he thought victory was still possible.
in theory, he was in charge of all confederate forces east of the mississippi other than lee's beleaguered army here in petersburg. in reality, that command consisted of isolated groups of soldiers scattered across the mid-atlantic and facing them was an overwhelming and indeed nearly irresistible veteran army under johnstons old nemesis, william t sherman. if johnston believed that davis was setting him up for failure with military prospects so bleak, why did he accepted? most likely, he was a soldier. this was his duty. a soldier did not choose his assignment. he accepted the burden given him by his government, even such a government as the one headed by jefferson davis. perhaps he saw it as a way to prove that he was a bigger man than davis, a chance to redeem himself before the court of public opinion. you folks. whatever it was, johnston
formerly took command on february 25, 1865. the confederacy had less than two months to live. in tennessee,cle there were about 18,000 men from the once proud army of tennessee, who answered the onlcall into the mississippi january. after the long retreat from tennessee, only about half of them made their difficult way east to find old joe, and make the last stand of the confederacy. adding all of his forces together, johnston can claim 20,000 men on paper, but it was hardly an army. in any way, those men were scattered across three states. as the cavalry commander put it, it would have scarcely been possible to disperse more effectively. so his first thought is to bring together these widely scattered forces so they could not be picked off one by one.
his chances of doing so are problematical at best, because by now, the transportation system in the south had completely broken down, and the logistic networks of the confederacy hardly existed at all. the supply system did not even pretend to function anymore. when johnson got command, he wrote to the quartermaster support, and all john c breckenridge could do was offer a verbal shrug and right that he should make the best of ite that he should make the best of it. lee said that johnstons try to live off the land, as sherman's men did. that only added to the hardship of north carolina, because now that it not only have to fear a yankee calvary and the bombers, but the confederate calorie as well -- calvary as well. the horsemen were just as likely to strip them of their last
chicken or pig is the blue coats. command todered his concentrate on fayetteville, north carolina, moving their march 4. was that sherman was advancing so swiftly that the federal army would get to fayetteville before the southern troops could get there. he shifted the rendezvous site 60 miles further to raleigh. he was acutely aware of how this will look in richmond. his first order as new command was to retreat 60 miles. but there was nothing for it. to the logistical problem he inherited, johnston had to deal with all the personal baggage -- and there is a lot of it by now, including his own. all this the federal generals brought with them, including this guy. i'm astonished that at a conference that it is about -- that is about generals we love to hate, we have no one talking about braxton bragg here.
so let me take a few kicks. [laughter] >> back in 1864, braxton bragg secret and several poisonous letters to jefferson davis, attacking joe johnston. johnston had replaced him in command, and bragg, frankly, resented it. johnston did not learn about these letters until later. bragg found himself under johnstons command. that is embarrassing. bragg begged davis to get him out of it. davis refused -- learn to work together. seekohnston, rather than some measure of revenge for bragg's backstabbing, which he now knew about, instead ordered the reinforcement of bragg. that led to another quandary, because he'll hated bragg as well. hill hated bragg as well. almost everybody did.
"he has made me to scapegoat once," hill wrote to johnson, .nd would do it again johnston, like davis -- there is a phrase you cannot hear very often -- ordered them to put aside their grudges and learn to work together. and they did. with field support, breck turn on the federals and inflicted a sharp reversal in one of the advancing columns at kingston, making -- taking 1000 federal promoters -- prisoners and suffering minimal casualties. was spotelaying action against sherman's left wing on the 16th, and then johnston ordered harvey, bragg, and hill -- to concentrate it to fill smithville, halfway between goldberg and raleigh. and 20th, near the small village of bentonville, north carolina, joseph e johnston fought his last battle. indeed, the last full-scale battle of the war. four years of war and the bitter
retreat from tennessee had reduced the once powerful army of tennessee to a shadow of itself. advanced --the men they do advance, this is a confederate offensive -- they advanced on a four division front. but if you looked at it, and even in the paintings that survived, the regimental standards are only about 10 yards apart, because the regiments had become the size of companies. still, the attack had both surprise and momentum, and for a moment it was 1862 again. yankees fleeing. it was a moment that did not last. the federals brought up reinforcements, formed a defensive line, johnstons men bumped up against it and had to recoil, despite repeated assaults by the determine rebel infantry, the line held. by midnight, johnston told his men back to the original position. i wanted to add this slide. here is the statue of joe
battlefield that bentonville, and this is my personal opinion this is where they belong. here is joe johnston on ground although a smart aleck would look at it and say now, is he saying charge that way, men. or look, a line of retreat. [laughter] sorry. bentonville was not a confederate victory. but in some respects, it was a satisfying day. johnston had surprised his old core. his tactical plan had worked. sherman would have to advance more carefully now. he could not spread out over the countryside and advance on a broad front, he would have to advancing concentrated units during a possible counterattack. having accomplished that much, johnston should have slid off in
the cover of the darkness to fight another day, but instead he stayed at bentonville. while his army endured several federal probing attacks, one who of partiesfe 16-year-old son, johnstons official expedition was that he needed time to evacuate his wounded from the field, which he did. he also hope that and in in cautious federal counterattack would wreck itself on defenses, but another attack may have been his reluctance -- reluctance to reinforce the criticism that he was already -- always ready to retreat. so he stayed for a day. on march 20, having made his point and recovered his wounded, he ordered the army to fall back. johnston boasted to richmond that the current and enthusiasm of the troops that bentonville thatoved this berlin lies could had written in his report that the men in the ranks had forgotten how to fight. yet the battle of north carolina did nothing to relieve these -- lee'sed force
beleaguered force and aligned around rich hill. throughout the campaign in north carolina, they believed he was holding his own successfully outside richmond, and his responsibility, johnstons responsibility, was to protect these rear and keep open that vital railroad link between the two armies. in his view, it was possible that the armies might yet combine and turn one on the other to see both grant and sherman. a pipe dream, of course. even as johnston fell back from bentonville, lee was planning his own stroke east of petersburg. we hope that the capture of the force would compel grant to pull his forces back from the flanks and buy some time for the role defenders. but like the grants charge of johnston's at bentonville, the well-planned attack by john b gordon on march 25 was little more than a four alarm hope, and failed to achieve its broader
strategic goal. afterward, grant exhilarated his right, on lee's stretching the lines even further, and some of the lines we see outside this building. it was only a matter of time before those lines broke. on april 10, johnston learned that lee and his army had evacuated richmond. admits his disappointment, there flared a new hope that would lean now on the fact that the two armies could be unified somewhere, and these two west point classmates could, together, turn this thing around. he was thinking along those lines on april 11 when he received an order from jefferson davis to meet with him in greensboro, north carolina. johnston dutifully turned the army over to party and went off to meet the president -- party to be thend went off
president. he arrived in the morning on april 12. there he learned that lee had surrendered his army three days before at appomattox courthouse. he did not record his feelings at the time, but later asserted that "from that moment, he assumed the war was over." consequently, he was astonished when only minutes later, he arrived at the house where davis was the holding, but would turn out to be the last cabinet meeting of the confederacy. davis greeted his least favorite general with what amounted to a pep talk. things were not so bad. could still bers recalled, and a new army could be formed. the war could still be one. -- won. johnston was appalled, and said that men who left the army when
the cause was not desperate would not reenter upon mere invitation to do so. after this initial meeting, johnston met separately with several members of davis's entourage. john reagan, and even general beauregard, who was prone to the most high in the sky scenarios. even beauregard agreed that lee's surrender meant the war was over. continuation of the war now, they all asserted, would be nothing less than murder." -- nothing less than murder. it wasld johnston that his responsibility as the only serving general left in the confederacy it was his job to make the president see reality. the president agreed -- the general agreed to try, telling the president we must cure piece on the best terms we can. johnstons that it was
duty as a soldier to make that clear to the president. it was in that frame of mind that johnston attended the final cabinet meeting with davis at 8:00 that night. according to the notes that were capped by postmaster reagan -- by postmaster reagan, johnston addressed the meeting directly. we hope we may have the benefit of your views. for inviting them to give their views, however, he offered his own opinion that the own situation, while serious, was not fatal. i believe we can still with the enemy is our people will turn out. everybody waited for johnstons johnston's reply. after a poignant pause, he said my views, sir, are that our people are tired of the war. they feel themselves with and will not fight. the country is overrun, it's military resources greatly diminished, while the enemy's
powers were never greater and may be increased to any extent desired. my men are deserting in large numbers and stealing my artillery teams and aiding their escape back home. they regarded the war as at an end. johnston finished speaking, and it was quiet again. all the heads in the room turned to see how davis would respond to that. turned toment, davis beauregard. what do you say, general? i concur in-- everything general johnston has said. johnston looked down. his hands fidgeted with a piece of paper he had in his lap. finally, he looked up. well, general johnston, what do you propose? johnston asked to be given the authority to open negotiations with sherman to bring about an end to the war. davis doubted it would do any good, but he gave johnston
permission to try. but to try what, exactly? what davis believed he had given johnston the authority to do was negotiate an end to the war, which meant getting sherman to agree to confederate independence. [laughter] >> no wonder he did not think it would do any good. once again, as throughout their relationship, the two men failed or perhaps refused to understand one another. back with his army, johnston said -- sent sherman a note saying they would need to renegotiate an armistice, which would permit civil authorities to enter into neat full arrangements -- need full arrangements to end the war. curious phrasing, and the reference to civil authority require the recognition that there was such a thing as the confederate government. still, sherman was unwilling to give up a chance to end the war
on such a technicality, and he returned a polite, even .onciliatory note of acceptance on april 17, 18 65, sherman and johnston met in the home of near and nancy bennett durham station, north carolina, seen here in a modern photograph. by then, each man had spent many hours, days, months thinking about the other. what plans might lurk in the mind of that photo of mine of minehe battle -- foe across the battlefield. they had served in the military together for decades, but had never met until this day. unlikent into the house, at appomattox, where you see in the paintings the staff members huddled around, particularly grant's rather large staff. they went inside alone. once inside, sherman reached into his desk and wordlessly handed johnston a telegram that
he had received upon leaving camp. white,n read it, turned and looked up at sherman in horror. it announced that abraham lincoln had been assassinated the night before. johnston said it was the greatest possible calamity to the south, and expressed a hope that sherman did not think the south had a hand in such a matter. sherman replied that he was confident the rebel army had no part in it, but he was less sure that davis's government had not played a role. for that, johnston made no response. they got down to business. sherman offered johnston the same terms that grant had offered lee at appomattox. but johnston suggested they could go further than that, and arranged the terms of a permanent peace. sherman asked johnson if he had -- johnston if he had authority to make the agreement. johnston said secretary of war
breckenridge would arrive that afternoon, and he could represent the rebel government. entern said i could not into any negotiation with a member of the rebel government. oh, but breckenridge is also a major general in the army. so you could meet with him as a major general, even if he rep is a cabinet -- represents the. and just for the bloodletting to end, sherman agreed. so sherman, johnston, and now breckenridge met in the state house the next day, april 18. sherman had prepared a memorandum to use as a basis of agreement. he called not only for the dissolution of all southern armies, but also the restoration and recognition of state government. after some conversation and a few inundations, men all agreed -- the three men agreed and signed the document. johnston left the meeting believing the war was at last over. but the political leaders in washington, especially in the wake of lincoln's assassination, were in grade -- enraged by the deal sherman had struck.
rant himself was sent south to -- grant himself was sent south to tell sherman to heel. a noteman sent johnston saying hostilities would resume in 48 hours. but he also invited johnston to another meeting, where they could discuss the surrender of the army alone, without reference to political issues. johnston and that the renewal of hostilities would have only one result, for what was left of his army was rapidly disintegrating as men left for home and the belief the war was over. 4000 of them have left that day. seeking to share the burden of the decision, he asked breckenridge for guidance. breckenridge told him that if he had to surrender, he should at least bring off the calvary. but if he did that, it would mean the war would go on -- or how long? a week? a month?
and to what end? johnston was not willing to risk the blood of his soldiers so that jefferson davis could stay in office for another week. so he notified sherman that he would meet with him again in order to surrender his army, which he did on the 26th of april. the long and often bitter relationship between jefferson davis and joseph e johnson, it is hardly surprising that the confederate president never forgave him for what he considered an abject and unnecessary surrender. to be sure, we had surrendered as well, but he had been surrounded. he thought as hard as he could for -- fought as hard as he can for as long as he could, and then accepted the inevitable. johnston, in davis's view, had just quit. to davis, johnston's surrender at durham station was another manifestation of a contrary in general who had come up from the
first, been a reluctant warrior. but whatever may be said of johnston, the retrograde movements on the virginia peninsula and 18 to two, or his trading space for time in georgia in 1864, his decision to lay down his arms in 1865 was surely the reasonable act of a man who knew when the time had come for the killing to stop. thank you very much. [applause] >> do we have time for questions? i am told we have time for questions. there are a couple down here, microphones are on their way. whoever gets the microphone first. that is the rule. [laughter] johnstont just of propose a set of terms to sherman before sherman pulled
out his alternatives, and did not sherman look at them and say oh, these are not too bad. it was johnston's proposal that kept the state government. >> johnston made that verbal recommendation to sherman. he thought to himself the one problem we are going to have after the war is instability and chaos. the war ends, there is no authority in charge, people will run amok, be writing, looting, we need to have -- rioting, looting, and we need to have some other government in place. he made this argument to sherman nt put it in the document -- and sherman put it in the document he presented. but johnston knew there had to be an authority of some kind in place. if it was not the state government, it would be the military occupiers. he kind of wanted to avoid that if he could. so the argument has been made
that johnston was looking out for the interests of the citizens of the south in the poorest war -- postwar era, and that may be true. ranking you go over the of those five generals, one through five? x what is cooper's first name? >> samuel cooper, he was actually the highest-ranking general in the confederacy. a lot of people overlook this. he had never served in the field, and was long in the tooth for those days, but remained on active service in richmond for most course. he was first. number two, from the class of 1924 -- somebody -- 1824 -- somebody help me -- albert sidney johnson was number two. that was davis's favorite general. he had what they call the first captain, the commander of the at west point, from when davis had been a cadet. so he had reverence from albert sidney johnston from the
beginning. after he was killed at shiloh, he appointed his staff in richmond to keep that connection with him. he was number two. number three was robert e. lee, class of 1827, graduating second. number four was joseph e johnston, from the same class, and last of all was beauregard from the class and -- of 1838. those were the five and that order. so any of them ever serving in the same theater, one would have command jurisdiction over the other. it was not that that bothered johnston so much, because he did have command authority in the field of virginia. but it was the idea that the law said i should be number one, and you made me number four. that requires an explanation. againstay, the argument johnston's position here was that johnston was quartermaster general, and therefore had a one star rank. brevet appointment,
a rank that went with the job. anyone who was court master general in the army became a one star general -- quartermaster general in the army became a one star general, but he left the army he would revert to his statutory rank of lieutenant general. so everyone said he was a general, but not a real general, so that was part of the mix as well. -- -- me ask you >> the boss will ask me a question. >> based on the fact that everyone believes johnston was defensive minded from dalton to atlanta, there was incident at castle. do you want to comment -- cats will -- do you want to comment on that? >> he said that when the time came, he would turn and strike. there was a moment when the roads diverged. the western atlantic railroad went this way, and branched off. you cannot move an army of
80,000 men along a single track, so sherman had divided his forces and they were separating themselves, and johnston had taken up a good position on the flank of the easternmost prong of that advance. he had it all set up. he was going to attack and block hood,ttack with good, -- the sword and the shield would strike the flank, and the orders without and john bell hood, who was to execute the assault, said i cannot do it. we have just reported a strong federal force coming on my own flank. it turned out not to be a strong federal force, it was a lost for gator something -- brigade or something, but who'd said cancel it, so it was canceled. who is never bothered to mention that in his letters back to richmond. he said this guy won't fight because this was when the moment he plans to, what did not
because the person who was plans to execute the assault said could not be done. so cash bill was the great what-if of the georgia campaign. sam hood can explain all of this this afternoon, as to why john bell hood did that. another one? i haveve to confess, always been so pathetic to joe johnston, but there is one case -- sympathetic to joe johnston, but there is one case i cannot excuse his behavior. that is the vicksburg campaign after he retreats. he sends orders to come out to vicksburg and perform a routine on grant. johnston coming from the east, -- coming by the west, but johnston says i have no intention whatsoever to act on those orders, and -- comes out and get beaten up the hill. can you explain that? >> i can explain it the way joe johnston would have explained it.
it was hard to know what exactly the intentions that anybody had. it looks from the way johnston positioned his army that he was not on the cusp of launching an assault to relieve pemberton. but i think if you back that up a couple of weeks, maybe even a couple of months, the problem is that johnston has command in thety over two armies theater. the braxton bragg army in the pemberton army in the mississippi. he is postwar nates two, and it is a command he cannot really understand, because for a 19th century general like johnston, his job is to command an army. if you shows up and tells bragg what to do, he is superseding bragg and command of that army -- in command from that army. finally he sends an order and says look. take 3000 men and go rescue pemberton. so he goes off, and he says
look, 3000 men are not going to do anything against grant's 40,000, 45,000 coming from the southwest for jackson. the only way this will work as if i combined my forces with pemberton's forces. he sends pemberton in order that says a vacuum vicksburg -- evacuate vicksburg. this is long before it is besieged. pemberton called the council board. what else would you do, and says i have orders to get out of vicksburg and joined johnston. this is before the battle of raymond, when it would have been possible. he said i do not want to do it, because i know jefferson davis wants me to hold vicksburg at all costs. is the key. we cannot let it go. he says no. i will not do it. i cannot just stay here, because that is too passive.
so what i will do is go out and fight sherman at the big black river. pemberton was doing what he knew davis wanted him to do. johnston was trying to do what, according to the theories he had been taught at west point, told to do, and that is concentrate or forces in the face of the enemy, do not let the enemy pick you off and get in between. that is exactly what grant did. when you say johnston had no attention -- intention of attacking, he did not plan to attack after they were besieged from the outside. the moment was before it was besieged, from pemberton coming out into the field, joining with couldon, and collectively have had an opportunity to turn back grant, who would have been in a pretty difficult positions south of vicksburg without a secure line. that is the way johnston would have explained it. and once pemberton refused his orders, set i will not do it, johnston was kind of trapped. --o not know that if that is
i do not know if that is a satisfactory answer, but there is someone right here -- did i get everybody else? ok. yes? 1862,nston's wounding in was he prepared to give up richmond or was he going to fight a decisive battle before that came about? >> great question, because johnston's view was always to fight an offense of battle -- offensive battle. some people who know him say i do not believe it, but his plan was to fight an offensive battle . the way you do it was to hold the citadel with a holding force. militia, smaller troops, artillery, batteries for example. and use a mobile field force to strike at the advancing enemy. he did not want to fall back within richmond and let himself get besieged, he wanted to
maintain that fluidity. but he was willing to -- you want to fortify the city so that it would be held by a small he maneuvered. he is falling back to the peninsula. orders arrive in richmond, bill fortification's around the city. fortifications around the city. what does that mean? you are going to fortify yourself. that is only partly what he had in mind. but the fall goes to joe johnston's inability or one willingness -- unwillingness to meet with davis, explain it to him, send him the letters, explain what he is doing and why he is doing it so that he may have gotten the political support from the government to execute a strategy. instead of that, he allowed davis to draw his own conclusion as to he is fortifying the city, he is going to give it up. i will pair that with as he is falling back over the chattahoochee river, he sends orders back to atlanta, fortify the city. it can be held by small groups so i can maneuver, blah blah.
once again, davis concludes that is it. he is not fighting a battle. he is falling back into the city . are we done? i bet everybody is hungry. it is time for lunch. thank you. [applause] >> ok, lunch will be served at 12:00 and the pavilion outside. be back here before 1:00. there are still tickets available on that [indiscernible] so you will to find those as well. see you back here at five minutes to 1:00. [indiscernible conversation]
>> this is american history tv on c-span3. after the lunch break, we will be back, live with two more sessions. one on union general joseph hooker and one on confederate general john bell hood. or the next hour, a recent program on the union's decision to assign u.s. kohler troops -- troops. troops to guard confederate prisoners. she describes the impact on southern morale, particularly when southerners were under african-american contrn