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Collection Title: Johnston (Albert Sidney) Letter

Collection Number: M221

Dates: December 2, 1849

Volume: 1 letter

Provenance: Donated by Ernest A. Walen to the University of Southern Mississippi, October 1969. This collection was separated from M123.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Albert Sidney Johnston (February 2, 1803-April 6, 1862)

Johnston was born in Washington, Kentucky, to Dr. John and Abigail Johnston. Albert Johnston was educated under the direction of private tutors and later attended Transylvania University, where he excelled in Mathematics and Latin. In 1822, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy, where he earned honors in Mathematics and acquired the rank of corps adjutant as a first-classman. He graduated as a brevet 2nd lieutenant, 2nd Infantry, and subsequently served at Sackett's Harbor, New York (1826). On June 1, 1827, he took a commission of 2nd lieutenant, joining the 6th Infantry at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. He participated in the Black Hawk War as regiment adjutant.

Johnston married Henrietta Preston on January 20, 1829. On April 24, 1834, he resigned his commission because his wife was ill. She died on August 12, 1835, leaving two children in her husband's care.

After a short period at farming in St. Louis, Missouri, Johnston moved to Texas where he enlisted as a private in the Texas Army. On August 5, 1836, he was appointed adjutant-general by General Rusk, commander of the Army of Texas. As a senior brigadier-general, on January 31, 1838, he took command of the Texas Army. On December 22, 1838, he was appointed the Secretary of War for the Republic of Texas. During his term in office he was instrumental in freeing the Texas borders from Indian raids. However, his enthusiasm in his crusade against the Cherokees invoked the displeasure of General Sam Houston; on March 1, 1840, Johnston resigned his office.

On October 3, 1843, while in Kentucky, he married Eliza Griffin, first cousin to his late wife. They had two children to survive to adulthood. On his return to Texas Johnston settled in Brazoria County, where he purchased "China Grove." This property purchase caused him financial difficulty.

At the start of the Mexican War, he was commissioned colonel of the 1st Texas Rifle Volunteers. He served under General Butler at Monterrey, as an inspector general. The following few years, he farmed at "China Grove." On December 2, 1849, he took a commission as a paymaster with the United States Army. He served in this capacity along the Texas frontier until his appointment as colonel of the 2nd Calvary. On April 2, 1856, Johnston took command of the Department of Texas. He served in Utah, from 1858-1860, as brevet brigadier-general, where he succeeded in putting down threats of a Mormon uprising without the use of force.

In December of 1860, Johnston departed for San Francisco where he commanded the Department of the Pacific for three months. After Texas seceded, he resigned his commission (April 10, 1861) and retired from his duties when General Sumner arrived, April 25, 1861.

Johnston was accused of plotting to win California for the Confederacy. However, Johnston was not desirous of civil strife. He retreated to Los Angeles to avoid such rumors. Realizing their error, the Federal Government asked Johnston to consider a command with the Union forces-Johnston declined. Leaving his family in the charge of his brother-in-law, Johnston joined Alonso Ridley's Company and returned to the South. In Richmond he joined Jefferson Davis, where he was appointed commanding general of the Western Department. He secured Bowling Green, Kentucky and began to form and train an army. Johnston's army was severely outnumbered and lost at Mill Spring (January 19, 1862), Fort Henry (February 6, 1862), and Fort Donelson (February 16, 1862). Johnston was forced to retreat to Nashville and then Corinth, where he engaged the Federals at Shiloh Church (April 3, 1862). Johnston succeeded in turning the enemy back to the Tennessee River. On the verge of victory, Johnston was mortally wounded in an artery and bled to death.

After a temporary interment at New Orleans, Louisiana, Johnston's body was carried to Austin, Texas for burial (January 1867). An order from General Sheridan refused to honor Johnston with a military funeral procession.

Scope and Content:

This letter is dated December 2, 1849 from Brazoria County Texas and was written and signed in the hand of Albert Sidney Johnston. The letter is addressed to "General R. Jones, Adj. General, U.S. Army" and concerns Johnston's appointment as a paymaster in the United States Army. The letter notes that Johnston received news of the Presidential appointment from G.W. Crawford, Secretary of War. Also mentioned is Johnston's taking the oath of office.

Originally, according to the letter itself, the oath of office and the memoranda of the President were also enclosed. This was in accordance with the instructions of the Department of War. However, those items are not a part of this collection.

In a brief postscript, Johnston states that he will wait at Galveston for General Jones' orders.

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