Albert Sidney Johnston "Unrealized Potential" February 2, 1803 - April 6, 1862
Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, the second highest ranking Confederate general, bled to death on the battlefield at Shiloh from a minor wound. He had just led a charge across a fire-swept field and captured a key battlefield position. Johnston emerged without a scratch even though there were many bullet holes in his clothes. Shortly after the charge he was hit in the leg by a stray bullet, but he thought it a minor wound and did not even mention it to those around him. Johnston had sent his surgeon off to tend to some wounded Union soldiers, but had they known, almost any of his aides could have staunched the flow of blood that was trickling into his boot from a severed artery. Only when their general turned pale and faint did they realize he was wounded and help him down from his horse. But it was too late; he died quietly a few minutes later.
Born in Kentucky, Johnston graduated eighth in his class from West Point in 1826, and served with distinction in the Black Hawk War. He resigned his commission in 1834 to tend his terminally ill wife. In 1836, after her death, he went to the young republic of Texas and entered its army as a private. The next year he was named a brigadier general, and two years after that he became the republic's secretary of war. When the Civil War began, Johnston returned to the army as a Union brigadier general in command in California. Considering himself a Texan, however, he followed his state out of the Union and offered his services to the Confederacy.
Johnston was one of the most highly esteemed officers at the beginning of the war, and both sides offered him a high command. He was tall, handsome, and every inch a general. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant "expected him to prove the most formidable man that the Confederacy could produce." President Jefferson Davis said, "I hoped and expected that I had others who would prove generals, but I knew I had one, and that was Sidney Johnston." Dying in the first year of the war, Johnston had little opportunity to live up to their expectations.
Fascinating Fact: Though he had resigned his command in California, Johnston loyally stayed at his post until his replacement arrived from the east.
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