Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Civil War "Do You Know Me?" of the day

Do you know this man?

This distinguished-looking gentleman won both the first and (arguably) the last major battles of the Civil War.

The first, of course, was First Bull Run, or First Manassas.

The last was in the "Western" theater, the battle of Bentonville,which is in North Carolina, and not the Arkansas home of Wal-Mart.

In between, he lost one major command due to wounds; gained, then lost, then regained another; and feuded with Confederate President Jefferson Davis over such regrettable things as seniority among full generals.

Figured it out yet?

A hint: It's not Albert Sidney Johnston, who also entered the Civil War with a sterling reputation, and left it with that reputation somewhat tarnished.

Unlike Sidney Johnston in the Peach Orchard at Shiloh,however, this man left the Civil War vertical.

Want another hint?

Perhaps one reason this man isn't so prominent in history is that, although he was the first commander of the fabled force that would become the Army of Northern Virginia,a few things got in the way.

First, when he commanded the army, it was known as the "Army of the Potomac." A bit inconvenient, since the Union army it opposed was also called the Army of the Potomac.

Second, when he got wounded during the Seven Days' Battlesoutside Richmond, he was replaced by Robert E. Lee, a former West Point comrade, and he'd spend the rest of the war - indeed, the rest of his life - in Lee's shadow.

Third, and perhaps most debatable, is that this general, as a commander, was the opposite number of Lee - Lee being the ultimate aggressor, this man being the ultimate counter-puncher. He would retreat, and defend, and await the right time to strike - and not do so until that perfect opportunity. Critics watched as he retreated before the Union armies time and time again (he was, as most Confederate commanders, perpetually outnumbered), and indeed, when he commanded in the Western Theater, it seemed at times like he might retreat all the way to the Atlantic Ocean before firing a shot.

Supporters, of course, would point to such events as the battle of Franklin - when John Bell Hood (a disciple of Lee's aggressive Eastern style) got his Army of Tennessee obliterated - as evidence the South could not use such tactics in the West.

One last hint?

Our general became such great friendswith his enemy's commander, William Tecumseh Sherman, that he was in attendance at Sherman's funeral years after the war.

There, he stood in the rain with his hat doffed in respect, despite a warning that the old man shouldn't let his head get wet. He replied, a true Southern gentleman, that if the positions were reversed, Sherman would do the same for him.

As you might expect, the aged general took ill from the rain, and very shortly died.

Figure it out yet?

The answer is Joseph E. Johnston,one of the Confederacy's most important, highest-ranking, and yet often forgotten, army commanders.

(p.s. Those Amazon books that pop up off some of the links? They're ones I recommend reading, if you're interested in knowing more about Johnston or his battles. Not just a blantant attempt to make a little money on the side or increase my traffic. Honest.)


Freak Magnet said...

You'd get along well with a guy I work with. He does the civil reenactments, has an authentic costume and everything.

jin said...

"Day off of Work so You can Eat Lots"


*If that's not witty enough for ya...too bad...I blame sleep deprivation!*