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Chapter 10: plantation-life.

  • Reception at Galveston.
  • -- reasons for retiring from the army. -- generosity to the writer. -- his plantation, China Grove. -- Texas coast scenery. -- game. -- his family. -- occupation. -- manual labor. -- Warren D. C. Hall. -- the writer's boyish reminiscences of China Grove. -- General Johnston's relations with children. -- Irish John. -- shooting. -- close observation of the habits of animals. -- the crested Wood-Duck. -- the wounded eagle. -- General Johnston's ideas of the conduct of life; of education. -- his Love of justice and breadth of view. -- books. -- opinions on the War; of Colonel Rogers; of General Taylor. -- his view of how the Mexican War should be conducted. -- letter to Preston, giving his estimate of General Taylor. -- reserve. -- gradual isolation in his solitude. -- almost forgotten. -- exceptions. -- illustrations of his character and plantation-life from his letters. -- letters giving his views of education. -- preference for an American training. -- notions on rhetoric, mathematics-requirements for legal success. -- lessons of moderation. -- begins to lose hope and health. -- his fortitude and magnanimity. -- General Taylor's nomination and election. -- movements of General Johnston's friends to advance him. -- his unexpected conduct. -- letter on office-seeking. -- finally appointed a paymaster in the army.

General Johnston returned to Galveston in October, and was received with enthusiasm by its citizens, with whom he was always a favorite. A public dinner was tendered him, which his business, however, compelled him to decline. A question of the utmost importance to himself now came before General Johnston for decision. When he had gone to General Taylor's assistance in May, he had promised his wife, who strongly opposed his volunteering, that he would not reenlist at the expiration of his term of service without her consent. He knew that she was too high-spirited to insist on his retirement while in the line of either duty or distinction. But he had come back from the army with a heavy heart. When the war broke out, rank and celebrity seemed to await him, and the opportunity had apparently arrived when his abilities would find a fair field for their display; but his brief career had ended in disappointment. He had seen the regiment, which he had converted into a powerful engine of war, dissolved before his eyes by a stroke of the pen. Though he had done all that a man could do under the circumstances, and had won the approbation and esteem of his commanders and fellow-soldiers, his services were not such as his Government chose to acknowledge. It was almost an avowed policy to confer military command as the reward of political activity; and party notables, transformed into generals and accompanied by special correspondents for the manufacture of glory, became the centres of faction and the ephemeral heroes of the press. Such methods and appliances were not only discouraging to merit and distasteful to real soldiers, but, detected at last by the newspapers and people, recoiled on the pretenders. Still, for the time, confounding spurious and genuine reputation, they repelled many good soldiers from the service.

General Johnston was not without sufficient influence to have arrested the attention of the Administration and enforced some sort of recognition of his claims; but such a course of procedure was altogether foreign to his nature and principles, and rank or power thus attained would have afforded him no gratification. He valued these as the symbols of accorded merit and the opportunity of more useful services. [146] His inclination was to return to the army as a volunteer, and do whatever work came to his hand. It was the natural desire of a professional soldier, unwilling to rust while others mingled in the fray. On the other hand, he was no mere military adventurer, and there was no call of patriotic duty upon him when there was an excess of soldiers impatient for the same service, and a Government that did not want his sword. His wife, moreover, insisted upon a fulfillment of his promise not to rejoin the army against her consent. Untrammeled, he would probably have followed professional instincts and returned to the field; but the claims of his family upon him were very strong, and he finally determined to yield to the wishes of his wife, abandon the military profession forever, and enter upon the peaceful pursuits of agriculture. This step was not taken without a severe mental struggle; but, when once taken, all the force of a resolute will was exerted to banish vain regrets, and conform his mental habits to the mode of life adopted.

The author takes pleasure, as an act of gratitude and of filial duty, in recording an instance of General Johnston's self-abnegation and generosity. As tenant by the courtesy, he possessed a life-estate in the property inherited from his first wife by her children. Considering the avails not more than sufficient for their education, maintenance, and start in life, he divested himself of his life-estate, and surrendered it for the benefit of these children.

With the small means now at his command he bought the simple furniture, utensils, and supplies, required in the humble home to which he was retiring, and such stock, farm-implements, and seed, as were absolutely necessary. His housekeeping was in a style as primitive as any of the pioneers. A double log-cabin, covered with clapboards, and fronted with a wide porch, gave a rude shelter; and the pine tables, hickory chairs, and other household effects, might have suited a camp better than a permanent establishment. Such as they were, they sufficed for his wants.

The China Grove plantation, to which he removed, was situated partly in the alluvial bottom-lands of Oyster Creek, a stream nearly parallel with the Brazos River, and partly in the flat and rather sandy prairie that stretched away toward Galveston Bay. Three or four hundred acres, constituting “the plantation” proper, had been cleared of the dense timber and undergrowth of the primeval forest, which still shaded nearly a thousand acres more; while toward the south and east a square league of prairie, waving with the luxuriant grasses of the coast-lands, afforded ample pasture for herds of cattle which ranged at will. A belt of thick woods, eight or ten miles wide, almost pathless, filled with all manner of wild beasts and game, thick set with jungle, and concealing miasmatic swamps caused by the annual overflow of the river, reached almost to the doors. A fever-breeding malaria exhaled from [147] these marshes and crept toward the prairie, where it was met by the salt sea-breeze, which, sweeping steadily across the broad savanna, mastered it with a doubtful victory. The open friend was always gladly welcomed; the secret foe sometimes laid its poisonous finger on an unsuspecting household.

From the front porch the view extended as far as the eye could reach over a grassy plain, unbroken except by an occasional fringe or mot of distant timber. To a lover of Nature in all her moods, like General Johnston, this vast amphitheatre was a source of continual pleasure. Everywhere were the evidences of fertility; and Nature offered to the observant eye all the beauty that a level surface, unaided by art, could afford.

In early spring an emerald sward, embroidered with the blue lupin, the crimson phlox, the fragrant and flossy mimosa, and a thousand flowers of varied perfume and hue, invited great herds of deer to browse upon the tender grass, while the long-horned cattle, scarcely less wild, watched with startled eyes the unfrequent traveler. Innumerable flights of wild-fowl circled and settled in the shallow pools left by the winter rains. Cranes, herons, wild-geese, brants, ducks, and sea-birds, gulls, curlews, and others, made this their feeding-ground. Summer saw the tall, yellow grass waving like a sea of gold, and the transforming power of a Southern sun and moist atmosphere working the marvels of the mirage. In winter came the long rains driving slant, or the air cleared by the bracing northern, or the midnight sky lit by a distant or nearer circle of flame that marked the movement of the prairie-fire. Over all was solitude with its narrowing, strengthening influences, its lessons of self-reliance and self-denial, and its invitations to self-communion and the study of Nature.

General Johnston's family, when he settled on the China Grove plantation, consisted of his wife and infant son, a negro man and his wife, two negro boys and a girl. Of course, he did not expect to be able to work the place with this force, but merely to find shelter and food until he could either sell the land and obtain a less costly home, or secure labor sufficient to work it. He preferred this latter course, by means of which he could easily have extricated himself from debt and derived a handsome revenne. But, although, in view of the large immigration of planters to Texas, he had just grounds for believing this plan feasible, he was, from causes not necessary to enter into here, continually disappointed in his hopes. By the application of the rent to repairs he had managed to keep the plantation in tolerable order and cultivation from its purchase until his own arrival there; and now, by his personal supervision and labor, he made it a desirable home.

In this secluded spot he was buried for three years. His chief business was to make a crop of Indian-corn, for bread for his family and [148] forage for his work-animals; a crop of cotton, for the purchase of supplies; a small crop of sugar-cane; and an ample supply of all sorts of vegetables. To these ends he gave a good deal of hard labor in the field and garden, but he did not neglect the simple but delightful recreation of the flower-garden. His house was shaded by a grove of the fragrant pride of China, and the spacious yard contained towering live-oaks, pecans, and other beautiful native forest-trees. A hedge of Cherokee rose with its snowy bloom protected the inclosure; and an ample orchard of figs and peaches furnished its fruits for the table. When General Johnston went there, he was told leeks were the only vegetable that would thrive, but he soon proved that hardly any vegetable known to American gardens would fail under ordinary care. It is true that he was careful, patient, industrious, and skillful in plant-nurture; but all this is necessary to the best success anywhere.

The frequent allusions in his correspondence to his own share in the labor of the plantation sprang from an honest pride in doing well in every part of the work he had undertaken. I remember that some years after, when he had changed his occupation, a wealthy and cultivated friend with whom we were dining very ingeniously maintained the theory that manual labor unfitted a man for the higher reaches of thought and spheres of action. “What you say,” replied General Johnston, “seems very plausible, but self-love forbids me to agree with you. I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered the harvest. The spade, the hoe, the plough, and the axe, are familiar to my hands, and that not for recreation, but for bread.”

He had but one near neighbor, Colonel Warren D. C. Hall, who, with his wife, rendered General Johnston's family every friendly office that kind hearts could suggest. Colonel Hall was one of Austin's colonists, and prominent in the earlier conflicts of the revolutionary struggle. He was elderly, and had not been fortunate; so that his large estate was laboring under embarrassments, from which I believe it was subsequently relieved. He was a bold, warm-hearted, hospitable planter. He and his wife were childless, but their affections went out to cheer all about them. As almost the only family that GeneralJohnston and Mrs. Johnston saw in their years of plantation-life, this notice seems to me brief; but the record of the amenities that sweeten life are written elsewhere than in printed books.

I trust that some recollections of the earlier part of my father's stay at China Grove will not be considered an obtrusive introduction of my own personality into this memoir. But as his treatment of me illustrates not only many of his views but some of his characteristics, what might otherwise seem an unnecessary self-display will, I hope, be pardoned. Soon after establishing himself on the plantation, my father sent for me to visit him, and I spent about three months from New-Year's [149] (1847) there. It is proper to say that he had always treated me with a confidence and consideration proportioned not at all to my merits, nor probably even to his conception of them, but to the ideal which he set before me as worthy of imitation. His rule with children was to give them a character, that they would try to live up to it. He was an indulgent husband, father, and master. He viewed the conduct of others with charitable eye, and made their opportunities the measure of their responsibilities. While he did not expect in slaves the virtues of freemen, he incited them to well-doing by kindness, and tried hard to raise their moral tone by a ready recognition of their good traits. Few people wished or attempted to resist his authority. He had the gift of command. Though his sway was gentle, I, at least, felt that its constraint was absolute. He was no believer in the rod, or in any form of terror, which he said made cowards and liars. His appeal was always to the reason and moral nature, and was made with irresistible force and persuasiveness. His children were his companions and friends, and this without sacrifice of his dignity or of their filial relation. The sympathy was very deep and tender; but it was accompanied by a sense of grateful obligation and the perception that they had been lifted to his moral plane, from which an unworthy act would hopelessly banish them.

When I went to Brazoria County I was a lad of sixteen, with health and strength somewhat impaired by too rapid growth, and, as my father imagined, by too much study. To remedy my defect of vigor, he set me to hunting, riding, digging, planting, and other kinds of exercise, on which I entered with the same enthusiasm I had given to books, and from which I derived great benefit in many ways.

For some months I was his companion in the labors of the farm and garden. I was allowed to rive out, sharpen, and nail on the pickets of a long line of fence, and to dig a trench a quarter of a mile long and two feet or more in width and depth, on the embankment of which I planted a hedge of the Cherokee rose. In this last venture my instructor was our Irish ditcher, named John. John, in personal appearance, might have passed for a doctor of divinity, and, barring an occasional spree, was an honest fellow, with a rich vein of Irish humor. Once having returned from a fortnight's frolic, sick, sober, and penitent, he was groaning rheumatically over his spade, when, desiring “to improve the occasion” for his benefit, I opened up a lecture on temperance and thrift. Probably not wishing to discuss delicate questions, John silenced me by this assurance: “You misconsthrue the whole matter intirely, Misther William. It is gout I have. I am sufferin‘ for another man's sins, you see. It all comes of me father drinking claret at a guinea a bottle!”

After I left Texas my father wrote me: “Old John has greatly lamented your absence. Mr. Will is still the subject of the greatest [150] laudation with him. He has finished his ditch, greatly to his own delight and to my praise as a judicious farmer, and to the disgrace of other farmers who have neglected such means of improvement, ‘though so long stoppin‘ in the country.’ ”

My father encouraged me to hunt, and sometimes accompanied me. His deliberation and steadiness of hand made him a very successful shot; though at other times he limited his destructiveness by the needs of the larder, and said that he was “not a true sportsman, but a mere butcher, who hunted for meat.”

There was a great variety of game in the neighborhood. Besides the water-fowl which have been mentioned, wild-turkeys, grouse, and quail, were plentiful; a single shot supplied a dinner of robins or rice-birds; hares and squirrels were a nuisance to the crops, and there was no lack of the larger game. On the prairie grazed long lines of deer, marshaled like the open files of a cavalry brigade; and in the woods a fat bear was a frequent victim. Panthers and wild-cats were often met with. I remember my father's shooting a wild-goose feeding on the prairie at the measured distance of 140 yards. Though shot through the liver with a half-ounce ball, it rose and flew several hundred yards. In a healed wound were found several long slugs, which he recognized as Canadian in manufacture. On another occasion, seeing three wild-turkeys approaching him en echelon, he waited till he had them all in range, when he fired. A twenty-pound gobbler dropped, one flew off, and the third escaped, evidently wounded. An hour later Colonel Hall came over, and mentioned that a wounded wild-turkey had run into his blacksmithshop at full speed and dropped dead. It ran half a mile after being shot entirely through.

General Johnston took pleasure in observing the habits of animals. He once called my attention to a woodcock, which was imitating the actions of a wounded bird, as the lapwing does; and, on going to the spot from which it rose, we found its nest with the unfledged young. We took the nest of a beautiful crested wood-duck from a hollow tree, and hatched the eggs, seventeen in number, under a hen. The young ducks could not be kept in confinement, but would even climb up the perpendicular sides of a barrel. Nevertheless, with a good deal of pains, we managed to rear four or five; but they did not lose their wild nature, and eventually escaped to the woods.

General Johnston brought down, at long range, an eagle, which was threatening the poultry-yard. His wing was broken, and he was chained to a log. Some large turkey-gobblers became very indignant at his presence, and gave expression to their feelings by strutting around him with uncouth antics of rage. The captive sat in silent majesty, seemingly unconscious of their existence. At last, one of these dons of the poultry-yard, a foolhardy blusterer, went too near; when, quick as a [151] flash, the eagle's talons tore his head off. My father pointed to the human analogies and obvious moral in this scene.

His clearness of mental vision and steadiness of purpose enabled General Johnston to govern his life by a few simple, general principles. With these his own life was consistent, and he wished for those he loved that their lives also should accord with the fixed standards of right. He felt the duty and necessity of walking by such lights as he had and the strength to do so; but, conscious of his fallibility, he viewed his own conduct and opinions severely, and those of others with the utmost toleration, not enforcing his views or opinions even upon his children. In dealing with the writer, he was solicitous to impress the idea that life should be conformed to the principles of virtue and right — that truth, justice, mercy, honor, the decorous and the beautiful, should, in harmony, control our thoughts and actions; but he was likewise careful that moral and intellectual growth should be, by processes of self-development, under the concurrent operation of these quickening powers, uninfluenced by his own individuality. The writer has often regretted that such was the case, as there never was a man he would rather have chosen to resemble. But General Johnston, perceiving that, though principles are eternal, opinions are modified by our surroundings, was unwilling to transmit his prejudices, and imposed upon himself great reserve of censure, especially in personal matters. In relating the variances between General Sam Houston and himself, in reply to my questions, he stated the facts clearly, but with a total absence of coloring. He used no resentful or derogatory epithets, and was always willing to cover his injuries with silence. It was the same in other cases. Petty wrongs he considered as beneath a wise man's concern, and greater ones as demanding either prompt punishment or magnanimous oblivion.

General Johnston was little disposed to take narrow or provincial views. In reply to boasts of the superiority of Southern hospitality, he was wont to resolve it into a habit, resulting from ample means and the easy gratification of a selfish want — the lack of society. He said:

The solitary planter, who gives a traveler supper and lodging, receives in return human intercourse, news from the outer world, and, perhaps, intelligent discourse. He is very well repaid. But in a dense population, crowded into a city, or on a poor soil, entertainment implies personal inconvenience and outlay of money, not compensated by companionship, the need of which is amply supplied. In the first case, provisions and house-room are cheap, and society scarce; in the second, provisions and house-room are dear, and society a drug in the market.

The intellectual pastime of chess was General Johnston's chief recreation. His correspondence contains many problems submitted to him [152] by letter, with his solutions. He was as a chess-player admirable, not only for skill, but for the equanimity with which he met both victory and defeat. Although throughout life he was more of a thinker than a reader, yet he always had some book undergoing the processes of digestion and assimilation. His habit was to read slowly, weighing the matter of the book as he went along, and reflecting on it afterward. But, during this period, I recollect that he was accustomed to run rapidly over Euclid and other mathematical works with which he was familiar, reviving at a glance their trains of reasoning.

General Johnston read slowly, and not many books; but he thought much on what he read. His habit was to revolve what he read in every possible relation to practical life. He was familiar with Shakespeare; he enjoyed Dickens, and drew largely upon Gil Blas for illustration. He was fond of physical science, and Mrs. Somerville and Sir Charles Lyell were favorites with him. But, at the time of which I speak, his chief literary delight was a translation of Herodotus. He was the first to impress upon me the veracity of the Old Historian, and to point out the care with which he discriminated between what he saw, what he heard, and what he surmised or inferred.

While I was with him, a report came that his friend, Colonel Jason Rogers, commanding at Monterey, was cooped up in the Black Fort, with a small garrison — the Louisville Legion — by an overwhelming force of Mexicans, to whom he must surrender. Hie said to me: “They don't know Rogers, if they think he will surrender. He will hold the citadel to the last man, and then blow it up, before he will surrender. But I am glad he is there. He will beat the Mexicans, and has now a chance to win renown.” Unfortunately, the Mexicans did not make the attempt.

When the battle of Buena Vista was impending, it was said that “Old Zach” had made a mistake in his movements, and would be destroyed by Santa Anna. General Johnston reviewed the campaign, explaining the reasons that made General Taylor's strategy the best under the circumstances, and confidently predicted his success. He had faith in Taylor's military capacity and soldierly qualities.

Though cut off from a participation in the exciting events of the Mexican War, General Johnston took a lively interest in the operations of the American army. His correspondence shows a full appreciation of the valor and skill of our officers and soldiers, but no very high estimate of the superintending wisdom of the Government. There is no real discrepancy between his opinion of the propriety of employing a larger attacking army against Mexico, and his own willingness at an earlier period to invade that country with a force so much inferior. The circumstances had changed. In the present case, the Mexicans were united against what they fancied was an army of subjugation; in the [153] former instance, the Texans were to act as auxiliaries of one of the two parties into which Mexico was almost equally divided. General Johnston so rarely indulged in personal criticism that his judgment as to General Taylor will not be found the least interesting part of his letters. His reflections on the waste of war are commended to those who are used to look only at its scenic and splendid side.

General Johnston, writing in regard to a kinsman, who had volunteered to go to Mexico, says:

It is a game upon which there is, in his case, too much staked. The die, however, is cast; and, I have no doubt, he will play it out nobly. Few comprehend the ravages and perils of war. They are not to be found in the reports of the battle-field, which account for but a small portion of the waste of life or the dangers encountered. The unaccustomed life of a soldier, privations without number, and hard marches under a vertical sun, or in the chilly hours of the night, make up a bill of mortality treble that of the fiercest warfare. This was the case with the British army in the Peninsular War. It has been peculiarly so with ours in this war; and, I have no doubt, if any one would take the trouble to examine, it would be found the history of all warfare . ...

War, like any other business, cannot progress prosperously unless with means adequate to the end. Our Government had them, but, instead of concentrating its power with the paralyzing shock of the thunderbolt on some vital point, it has wasted its momentum by breaking up the force into army corps, which, from the vast extent of the country they operate in, have in every instance been isolated and placed en prise, from which positions the indomitable courage of our gallant soldiers has alone extricated them. This is peculiarly the case with that noble column in possession of the Mexican capital. A foreign army so placed in our midst could never extricate itself. Our armies, whenever employed, have acquitted themselves admirably; but, being separated, their efforts have produced no results. The simplest knowledge of mechanical power would indicate the folly of dividing our forces. But enough of this; our officers and soldiers, notwithstanding everything opposing, have added the greatest lustre to our arms.

The following testimonial to the great abilities and solid character of the hero of Monterey and Buena Vista is inserted as one soldier's estimate of another, whom he had known under trying and widely varying circumstances:

August 3, 1847.
Dear Preston: . . . I will effect all or more than I expected in coming here, without encountering the dangers from the climate, with which the apprehensions of our friends threatened us. If by any good fortune I can obtain the capital to cultivate my plantation in sugar-cane, I feel sure that I will accumulate wealth. Like the poor, imprisoned abbe of the Castle d'if, I am sure that, in the ownership of this beautiful estate, I possess a great treasure; but I fear I shall not be able to make it manifest to any capitalist.

Fifteen years ago yesterday we fought the Sacs and Foxes, and defeated [154] them at Bad Axe on the Upper Mississippi. Old Zach, as lieutenant-colonel, commanded the First Regiment there. His conduct on that occasion established in my mind an unshaken confidence in his great courage and loyal devotion to his country, as well as a high opinion of his good sense and excellent judgment; but no one imagined that in that honest and faithful brain there were, even latent, those great principles of strategy which the events of last year have so splendidly illustrated. My memory now recalls the expression of the most vigorous thoughts connected with military operations, and I am convinced that he then possessed all the high powers of mind which he has lately displayed; that his capacity is no sudden endowment; that the great strategetic problems solved by him have often undergone the severest scrutiny of close investigation.

These things are true of all minds which are accounted great on any subject. The vast conceptions of Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon, Newton, Cicero, Homer, Angelo, Wren, Davy, etc., following the analogies of Nature, were embodiments which were developed by the active and toilsome labors of the mind. Hence the confidence, energy, and readiness, when the emergency arises. They are no sudden inspirations. We tread with rapidity and confidence the path we have often traveled over, all others with tardy doubtfulness.

We hear nothing of the progress of the war. There is too much to be done with too little means. An acknowledged principle of war is that, when the line of operations is pierced or even interrupted, the army is in danger. How far this applies to the condition of things in Mexico I do not know, or from what jeopardy the heroism of our troops can extricate themselves-we believe a very great one, but who can calculate it? The glory of the American arms ought not to depend upon the hazard of the die. The United States can play a sure game. It is therefore foolishness to run the risks they have done from the beginning of the war. The magnitude of the object is now apparent, though it was not in the beginning. Let the means be adequate to the object, a proposition perfectly simple, and comprehended and acted upon by all who can. Let the Government in this matter imitate the conduct of men in private life. No sensible citizen believes that less than 50,000 men ought to invade by way of Vera Cruz. With a less number the operations will be tardy and expensive.

Your friend,

A. Sidney Johnston.

While the writer is aware that on some accounts a summary of incidents and opinions is preferable to the method by which a man's life is exhibited in his letters, yet there are also cogent reasons why in this case as much as possible of the record should be presented in General Johnston's own language. Drusus wished so to live that all his actions might be open to the eyes of all men. The subject of this memoir did so live that all the world might share his thoughts with his bosom friends. He was eminently sincere, so that the unconscious autobiography set down in his correspondence has a value above “confessions” written for the public eye. Though frank where frankness was proper, he had a certain delicacy of feeling and a proud reserve that prevented him from laying bare his private griefs. His religion was one of thankfulness, [155] endurance, and self-restraint; and it was alike his instinct and his philosophy to offer a cheerful front to whatever ills befell him. Hence, as the blasts of penury and disappointment blew more chill, he drew his mantle closer around a wounded breast and lifted his brow a little higher toward the sunlight; and it may be pardoned him if he pictured to infrequent friends the bright side only of his Arcadia.

It must be borne in mind, in reading the letters that follow, that they were written under great mental strain. Those were years of a new and severe discipline of spirit. A heavy, increasing, and seemingly hopeless burden of debt taxed his energies, his pride, and his patience. He heard the sound of arms afar off, and the echoes of fame pronouncing the names of companions and rivals in arms; but he had turned his back upon glory, and the arena where he had felt sure of success was for others — to him it was closed. Rare greetings came from old friends, and in the mighty sweep of events he was passing out of memory. His life was, in a manner, condemned to prison-bounds, and Poverty and Oblivion were the jailers. There was no escape except through solicitation, from which his soul recoiled as from the worst of humiliations. Yet he never dreamed of succumbing to poverty, privation, debt, and solitude. It was a campaign in which he might die struggling, but in which he did not intend to surrender manhood, cheerfulness, or hope.

General Johnston's strongly domestic nature found a stay in his family. His two infant boys, one born on the plantation, were a great comfort to him, delighting as he did in the company of little children; and his wife not only bore privations, and managed her household with contentment and good-humor, but whiled away the weary hours by her resources in music and painting. If friends were few they were steadfast. Colonel Love came to see him whenever he could, and wrote often; and General Hamilton occasionally. Colonel Samuel M. Williams wrote him, when his fortunes were lowest, to draw on his bank at Galveston according to his necessities. Hancock, Preston, Burnley, and some others, retained their interest, and manifested it as occasion offered. The letters appended present a fair record of his plantation life and current of thought, and illustrate the facts and characteristics already mentioned. The first extract is from a letter written by General Johnston in the spring of 1847 to the author, who had recently left him:

Sid is a fine boy, grows well, and talks a great deal about brother Willie. Like all healthy children, he is considered a prodigy, physically and mentally. His mother will give you the facts sustaining this opinion, and can do it better than I can. With the exception of the loss of Newman Noggs,1 whom no skill could save, everything continues to thrive with us; the dairy, the piggery, the [156] poultry-yard-and a well-filled poultry-yard, with no market at hand to tempt the cupidity of owners, is no contemptible thing in the opinion of a person in robust health. We have bushels of figs, and wish you were here to enjoy them. We have also a fine patch of sweet-potatoes.

A few letters are given from a large correspondence with Mr. Hancock and the writer:

China Grove, February 28, 1847.
Dear Hancock: You have long since, I fear, condemned me for neglect, and appearances are so much against me that I would not blame you; but I had a reasonable excuse in the unremitted labor I had to encounter in repairing my farm and preparing for a crop. I may say with truth that I have scarcely taken time to rest since we came here. The plantation has quite a renovated appearance, and I hope by next winter to have it in complete reparation, with a comfortable house to live in, and everything farmer-like about it. I hoped to be able to return in the autumn in time to make you a visit, but I was detained so much later than I expected that I was compelled to come here at once and go to work. This I believed to be the best course to pursue, whether I sold the place or kept it; and I have no doubt that what I have already done would make the place sell for two thousand dollars more. You would be surprised, I think, at what I have achieved in three months with my limited means. If a good opportunity to sell occurs, I will not let it pass ....

The successful cultivation of the cane here is no longer a problem. Everywhere it has been tried in this neighborhood it has succeeded excellently well. The yield has been great; and the quality Mr. Kenner, I understand, says equal, if not superior, to Louisiana sugar made by the most improved means. Mr. Caldwell, fifteen miles from here, on the same kind of soil as mine (peach-land2), made 104 hogsheads (or thousands of pounds) of sugar, besides molasses, with sixteen hands, which is selling from eight to ten cents per pound. Sweeney has been quite as successful, and others that I have heard from.

Your kind invitation and offers to us will be long gratefully remembered. It is at the dead point that aid is most valued and most seldom offered; and, therefore, when it is, it ought never to be forgotten.

Writing to Mr. Hancock, October 21, 1847, General Johnston says:

We have been blessed with excellent health since we came here, and everything has prospered with us better than we had any right to anticipate. I have cribbed 900 bushels of corn, and will send enough cotton to market to pay all of our expenses of every kind, besides considerable repairs and improvements. This, I think, is as much as could have been expected from so small a force. I esteem it also of great importance to me to have acquired some practical knowledge as a farmer; and mine has been truly so, for I have often lent a hand in the work.

My object in coming here with a force so inadequate was to repair the dilapidations which rented property always suffers, and to keep the place until I could sell it, or make such an arrangement for the cultivation of the whole of [157] the cleared land as to enable me to pay the remainder of my debt. The latter arrangement I would prefer, as I still regard this as a splendid estate, which, if possible, I would like to hold. If I had it paid for, I would be satisfied to live here with the little force I have, with the confidence of supporting myself; but it would be a pity to let so large a place lie idle, when its cultivation in sugarcane would, without doubt, produce abundant wealth in a few years ....

I promised my wife last year that, if she would patiently submit to my volunteering for six months service, I would then, if she desired, abandon military life forever. I found her, upon my return, more obstinately bent upon my withdrawal than ever; so much so that, although I told her it might result in daily labor for support, she said she would cheerfully encounter every trial rather than I should return. I therefore yielded up all the hopes and aspirations of a soldier, and with them has vanished all regret. I made no effort to obtain a post in the army, nor did I request any friend to do it; nor would I, after that, have accepted any offer. I have had the firmness to resist the most powerful impulse of Nature and education; and, no doubt, for the best, at least so far as my family is concerned.

You will oblige me by presenting my most friendly regards to General Butler. His soldierly and gallant bearing commanded the admiration of every one, and I would be glad to know that he will lead an effective force to the aid of Scott; for, truly, the situation of our army is precarious. The force to have accomplished the work given to him, promptly and economically both with regard to blood and treasure, should not have been less than 50,000 men. With that amount of force he could have controlled the resources of the country for the support of his army, and saved all further expense to his own Government after his outfit. A force so small as his present one, and so isolated in the midst of any other people than Mexicans, would never receive from home another biscuit, nor the succor of another detachment. It would be inextricably compromised. But we cannot reason with regard to Mexicans as with regard to any other people.

General Johnston wrote as follows on the 22d of March, 1848, to Mr. Hancock:

We like our residence here, although entirely secluded from the world and from all society whatever. If we lose the pleasures and sweets of society, we are free from all the drawbacks, which themselves form a numerous catalogue. Happy contentment reigns under our humble roof. We both industriously endeavor to do our part in our own sphere, and the result of our efforts is never the subject of complaint. We have been married nearly five years and the first unkind word or look has never passed between us. If this is true-and it is so, for I have said it — have we not sufficient indemnity for the loss of society and the absence of wealth? There are those who, not comprehending the object of life, would sneer at our humble and satisfied views of it, but experience will in the end convince. ...

After apologizing for not accepting a kind invitation to visit his friend in Kentucky, he continues: [158]

Our little crop will need my constant supervision, and the expense of the journey would go far toward building a comfortable residence for us. Our expense is very little, for we manage to raise almost everything we want.

We are now in the midst of spring. Everything is very beautiful around us. The grounds around our cabin are filled with China-trees in full bloom; large monthly roses, also blooming; the Cherokee-rose hedge, its dark green spangled with large white roses; the Ouasatchee, a species of acacia, “waving its yellow hair;” and the air redolent of sweets. Tell Aunt Mary I am reaping the fruits of my apprenticeship under her as a gardener; my horticultural knowledge is very respectable. We have fine strawberries and Irish potatoes, tomatoes in bloom, and many other vegetables. My corn all came up in February, and the stand is excellent and growing finely. I had a time of it to save it from the birds. “The price of corn is eternal vigilance” here.

In a letter of May 16, 1849, to the writer, General Johnston says:

My crops are small, but since I have become a farmer I have the gratification of success in everything I have attempted; and in gardening I have succeeded as well. We have had a great abundance of strawberries; and at this time we have a good variety of excellent vegetables-artichokes, pie-plant, fine heads of early York cabbage, squash, tomatoes, Irish potatoes, and your favorite yams of last year's crop, which we have never been without since we came here. Our cantelupes will soon be ripe, and in a short time we will have plenty of figs and watermelons.

The statistics of the poultry-yard and dairy are still more creditable to the industry and attention of your mother. She boasts of her flock of 100 turkeys, with prospects of as many more, besides swarms of chickens and ducks, and as many eggs as we want; this latter remark applies to Sid and Hancock, too. All these things, with butter and milk, and a good appetite gained by some toil, enable us to live, so far as these matters are concerned, as well as rich folk; and these are the things within the reach of the industrious poor from the St. Lawrence to San Francisco. This is the mystery which foreigners cannot unveil. They do not perceive that the well-being of our population flows from a fostering government, which does not meddle much with private pursuits, and taxes with great moderation-always excepting the municipal tyrannies of our land. The patriotism of our people is founded in the advantages derived from their institutions; hence its ardor; hence it is “a constant quantity,” never short of the exigency.

General Johnston regretted deeply that distance, poverty, and the requirements of their education, separated his elder children from him. In expressing this feeling to his daughter, in 1848, he says:

It is a great disappointment to me; but we have learned to repine at nothing, believing that there is a Power that orders all things for the best-that even those things that are seemingly to our finite mental vision a chastisement are ultimately for some good beyond our ken.

In a letter dated June 10, 1849, replying to some good-humored reproaches from Mr. Edward Hobbs for not writing to him, General Johnston says: [159]

The life of seclusion and obscurity in which I have lived accounts for your not having heard from me. On my return from Mexico after the campaign of Monterey, I found that all the proceeds of the Louisville property would scarcely suffice for the education of Will and his sister, and that it was necessary to go to work at once with small means for the support of my family. It was a question of bread. I immediately carried my resolution into effect. My own personal labor (this is no figure of speech — I don't mean head-work) was necessary in conducting my small farming operations; and I have yielded it with cheerfulness, and have thus, after three years toil, become a rugged farmer, with good habits.

We have been away from home but about three or four times to visit a neighbor since we came here. So you see our habits conform to the humbleness of our position; and, as for correspondence, a man in my situation is not likely to be overburdened by his friends. In this “battle of life” such ammunition so aimed would be uselessly expended. A series of adverse circumstances have, with me, disappointed expectations most justly founded; and, although I am still confident of a final extrication, the effect has been to throw me beyond the sphere of motion of friends and acquaintances to a distance, I fear, at which sympathy languishes. But, as this is the result of a natural law of our organization, I do not complain. I feel satisfied that I have not deserved to forfeit their esteem. It ought to be held as honorable to battle with adversity with unquailing front as to lead the way to the deadly breach amid the roar of cannon and the din of mortal combat. Thus much I have said in vindication. Do not believe that silence is forgetfulness; nor that the scenes with which I am surrounded engender any but cheerful feelings, and kindly thoughts and charitable. Even the bitterness of ancient enmity is softened down or forgotten.

The writer ventures to introduce at some length a number of extracts from General Johnston's letters, touching topics connected with the education of his son. Writing with the freedom of private correspondence, it is not to be expected that the subjects discussed should be elaborately treated, and his opinions are marked rather by wisdom than novelty. Still, as the result of wide experience and deliberate, independent thought and not of borrowed lore, they are eminently characteristic, and may deserve the attention even of educators. Doubtless the same subjects may be found handled in a more skillful and striking manner in the systematic essays of professed teachers; but, nevertheless, the absolute sincerity and practical nature of his conclusions will probably give them a certain value to a large class of readers.

In a letter to Colonel William Preston, who had kindly interested himself in the education of General Johnston's children, he says:

Your letter in reference to the education of my children has received my most grateful attention. It has long been with me an object of deep solicitude. They both have superior mental endowments, which will bear all the culture that the most liberal education can bestow. ...

With regard to a foreign education my judgment is opposed to yours. I [160] would greatly prefer that my son should be educated in one of our own schools, and that my daughter should be educated as near her grandmother as possible. I do not wish her to cross the mountains. Your mind will at once cite our excellent wives as examples of the superiority of Eastern schools. They are only exceptions. Thousands are made worthless by them.

As I place the American people above all others, so I place their institutions. In their schools only will our children learn to comprehend the essence and spirit of those institutions in a liberal and enlightened manner, and to love and admire them. You are aware of the value, to one who looks forward to political preferment, of the great advantages to be derived from the friendships and general acquaintance formed in our public schools. Their influence is incalculable; and, if it is granted that a superior education can be had abroad, we must still claim for our own a better adaptation for this particular arena To seek an education abroad seems to me like groping in the dark in search of those things which are here everywhere exposed to view. Acknowledged truths with us are yet subjects of doubt and investigation with them. They are ages behind us in the science of government — the well-being of the many. I know of no great man of any country who was educated away from his people. An important part of education is the study of the temper and tendencies of our own race — of the people, in units and in mass, among whom we are to act-without a knowledge of which no one need ever hope to wield power in a free country. One educated at home is recognized and received as a man of the people; he is of them; there is no disruption of those strong bonds of sympathy, without the power to arouse which the greatest mind would be impotent. Besides all this and many more reasons I could give, did I not fear to fatigue and annoy you, I oppose an instinctive dread of a foreign influence. European opinions, manners, notions, and habits differ, in toto coelo, from ours; I fear he would unconsciously imbibe them. If my son could stand in the midst of any assembly in Europe and think or believe that there was present any nobler or bolder spirit than his own, I would scorn him; yet, did he not, they would deem him a fool. This illustrates the difference between them and us. Let us rear our children among equals, and let them take such eminence as genius and merit may command. We will not bow down their honest pride of manhood by placing them among acknowledged classes, where they are never esteemed first, whatever may be said to the contrary. I have perfect confidence in your judgment with regard to our own institutions, and have already referred William to you for your advice.

Truly, your friend,

A. Sidney Johnston.

It may not be amiss to state here that, when General Johnston was Secretary of War of Texas in 1839, Admiral Baudin, of the French Navy, then visiting Texas on diplomatic business, was pleased to express great esteem for General Johnston, and tendered him an appointment for his son in the Polytechnic School. General Johnston, though much gratified at this mark of respect, felt constrained to decline it. He also dissuaded his son at a later date from taking an appointment at West Point, his own experience pointing to so many evils and discouragements in the career of a professional soldier in America as to render it most undesirable. He sent his son to Yale College, and wished him to [161] travel and study in Europe, after his principles and habits were established; but circumstances prevented this. The following brief extract in regard to parental duty in the matter of education, and the dignity of labor, is from a letter to the writer:

Education in the present age is a positive right. It would be criminal in a parent to withhold it, if any sacrifice or privation on his part could procure it. In my opinion, there is no excuse in this country for neglect in this matter. If there be not ready and available means, then the parent is bound to labor for them. With a resolute heart and a right way of thinking about it, this is neither a humiliation nor a hardship; it is a labor of love. Labor does not degrade the mind of an educated man; if he has talents, they are invigorated; if he has honor, it becomes more steadfast. He regards his brawny hands as the guarantee of his independence; a view of them brings no shame to his proud heart; he sees in them nothing more than the evidence of honorable exertion. The opinions of those whose opinions are worth anything sustain him. They would intrust him with the transaction of important business, or with power, if there was need. They who affect to despise those of whom circumstances demand personal exertion, and exult in their own exemption as an evidence of their superiority, are the moths of society, who, after a few giddy gyrations, usually have their wings clipped and fall, to struggle in impotency. Their foolishness has prevented many a thoughtless, but noble, spirit from pursuing the course pointed out by duty, while their miserable fate seems to have taught but few that they ought to have despised rather than feared them.

The writer, having been selected by his comrades as the orator in a college celebration of the birthday of Washington, received the following letter of encouragement from his father. There are in it some old-fashioned lessons of patriotism that will bear revival:

Brazoria County, January 4, 1848.
I have the opportunity, my dear Will, of writing a few lines to you, and I seize it with great pleasure, as it affords me the gratification of acknowledging the receipt of your letter since you were installed as a member of the Military Institute, by which we learn that you are agreeably situated, and have been greatly honored by the good opinion of your comrades in their selection of you as their speaker for the 22d of February. It is said to be a difficult theme, on account of the immense number of speeches that have been made in commemoration of the birth of Washington; that all has been said that can be; that the subject is trite. The same might be said of all the most sublime virtues; of whatever is great, good, or beautiful; of fortitude, courage, patriotism; but it would be no more true than the remark with regard to the birthday of Washington. Do we not see that everything in Nature, in every new light in which it is viewed, presents new beauties? Every position gives a different light, and, as these positions are infinite, there cannot be any limit to the beauties of whatever is beautiful. It is the same in the moral world as in the physical. Does a man possess great goodness, great courage, great patriotism, the coloring of language may be so skillfully applied as to make their representation charming to the mind, although the thoughts in reference to them might be familiar to all. We [162] all have some conception of the infinite attributes of Deity, and we are awed and delighted in the ratio of its strength; yet there are those who can so finely describe these subjects of familiar contemplation as greatly to enhance our awe, admiration, and pleasure.

The Father of his Country imbued the minds of the people with his own great qualities, and great occasions invariably draw them forth. Let the noble enthusiasm and devotion of the soldiery to the cause of the country serve for an illustration. Remember the last 22d and 23d; the day had its inspiration.3 There is a holy inspiration in the memory of Washington's great services that would make any American willingly risk the sacrifice of his life in emulation of them. You ought not, therefore, to be discouraged. Your subject will find sympathy in the minds and hearts of your audience if they be American ....

Your affectionate father,

A. Sidney Johnston.

The following letters and extracts are offered without further apology:

May 9, 1848.
Neglect none of the subordinate means for the attainment of a superior knowledge of law. A limited acquaintance with mathematical science is one of those means. The course you mentioned will be sufficient; proficiency in algebra, the elements of geometry, trigonometry, and surveying, will give you the art of developing truth by the skillful use of the reasoning powers, and, besides, store your mind with a species of knowledge of daily practical utility to a lawyer. The art of reasoning employed by the mathematician is beautifully synthetic and analytic; and this method, not limited by the restrictions exacted by rigid science, but aided by the conceptions of a mind fertile in its ingenuity, must give him who employs it a decided advantage over one not so guided. It is the helm of the mind, steering it over the shortest route from the point of departure to the destination — from cause to effect.

But inasmuch as in mathematical reasoning the arguments (or proof) are furnished, the facility with which a correct conclusion is reached is determined by the skillful use of axioms and truths founded upon them. The mind, therefore, long employed in the investigation of mathematical propositions becomes impoverished in ingenuity and worldly comprehensiveness. Many moral truths, illustrations, etc., which convince the minds of men are not admitted by the mathematician, and therefore not employed. His language takes the form of his reasoning; it is stiff, rigid, exact, without ornament. His argument is sound and incontrovertible; it is a solid, granite structure, without a bunch of ivy or straggling flower to please the eye, and with its fragrance charm the senses. But the skillful speaker-conjures up every fascination to hold his audience, while they listen to his reasoning and concur in its truth.

The science of law, as I understand it, consists in the reasons of the law and their applications. These reasons are not always founded in abstract justice, but are derived from the wants of society, dependent upon a multitude of causes; and the acquirement of a knowledge of the science calls into requisition the whole circle of human knowledge. The knowledge you have and what [163] you will acquire are so many degrees in the noble profession you are about to adopt.

In your commencement, do not plunge in media res. Begin at the beginning. Learn well the axioms and principles of the law as a first step; your progress afterward will be easy and pleasing. In your debating society, venture on no subject that has not been well considered beforehand, and do not be much upon your legs. Be courteous and calm, and endeavor to convince by the earnest exhibition of your argument, and do not employ personalities. Above all, do not try to show your superiority: if you have it, it will be felt and silently acknowledged; if exacted by words or bearing, it will be withheld. With the consciousness of having deserved well be content. If you deserve well, the merit of it will usually be accorded to you. But no one must try to find out what people think of actions he himself may approve. At the same time that the good opinion of those by whom we are surrounded is to be highly valued, those who fish for it usually catch minnows. Avoid in your speaking what Macaulay calls “carmagnoles” (puns, jests, rant, interjections), but few conditions of society admit their use.

Your own good sense, my dear son, has already suggested to you better counsel than I can give you; but it is the privilege of age to make youth suffer in that way, and you perceive I use my privilege.

Your affectionate father,

A. Sidney Johnston.

Brazoria County, Texas, December 11, 1848.
my dear will: Your last letter, giving renewed assurance of the satisfactory progress and improvement in your studies, was received with all the gratification the most solicitous parent must naturally experience for a son whose conduct has always commanded his highest respect as well as unbounded affection.

You express the determination to make great efforts, and if necessary great sacrifices, for the attainment of the first honor. While I would inculcate all the diligence compatible with good health and a full development of physical power, I would most assuredly deprecate and regret any exertion beyond that, if it endangered the loss of the one or checked the other.

You are, I hope, preparing for a long career. In that case, our experience teaches us that the powers, physical and mental, should be husbanded, or used moderately and economically; otherwise the goal can never be reached with distinction. If our experience is correct, it would be unwise to waste our strength in a first effort. The untaught pedestrian who is trained for a ten-mile race knows this; he wins his race by at no time in the course attaining the highest speed of which he is capable. What would you think of the judgment of a race-rider who would give his horse the highest speed at the start, or who, all other things being equal, would agree to carry ten pounds more than his opponent? Now, this latter view embraces your case; you have one more study than your rival. You may possibly beat him; so may the horse that carries undue weight win, but in most cases he never wins again-all his powers have been sacrificed for a single object.

Would it not be thought insane if a man should agree to give his left arm for a full knowledge of integral and differential calculus? If so, to use the language [164] of mathematics, how much more insane would he be who would risk the loss of all his physical powers for a less object, or for any object! Mind and matter are dependent upon each other for effective action; if one is sick or debilitated, the other will sympathize. Caesar with the ague whines like a sick girl. An effective mind can spare nothing from the physical organization-not even its shadow. Cultivate the mind; but with the same sedulous care cultivate the body. Learn if you can; but learn nothing at the risk — I do not say loss-at the risk of health. Neither wealth, nor power, nor human admiration, if gained in exchange, could compensate for its loss.

Higher honors await moderation than any qualities you may possess. “Bide your time.” Study moderately; exercise moderately; eat moderately; in fine, let this be your rule. I say these things for your sister as well as yourself, for I know no difference in my feelings toward you. You are both my pride and hope. I believe I am very honest, and I would maintain my honor at the risk of my life; but I do not think there is anything else in my character worthy of imitation: your own good sense will inform you of whatever is defective; that, of course, you will avoid. So, if I give you advice not in harmony with my own course, it is to warn you off the shoals upon which my own little bark has been stranded.

My judgment is that, after you have taken your degree at Georgetown, you will be qualified to begin the study of the law. Those who do not begin early rarely succeed in law. If you like mathematics, you will like law more. Whatever of ingenuity your mind may possess will be brought into play in the solution of its entangled and difficult problems. It is often said that descriptive geometry is the poetry of mathematics; if so, its imaginings are stereotyped. The science furnishes the arguments and the imagination. Not so the law; here more is required of mind. Give my love to Henrietta.

Your affectionate father,

A. Sidney Johnston.

Again, in the same strain, he says:

Take exercise regularly and moderately, and rest, and so of study; and you will be able to continue your exertions in the acquirement of knowledge even to old age. Infinite magnitudes may be the accretion of infinitely small increments. Great learning may be the result of the daily acquirement of small items of knowledge. Be patient, therefore, and be satisfied with moderate progress. Go to bed early; rise early; read three or four hours a day. Turn your reading over in your mind well and frequently, and be sure to talk about it with some one able to illustrate and explain it.

I have occasionally offered you a little of my experience, of which I have a large stock, purchased at high prices (which men of strong will have always to pay), to save you expense; but I doubt if it is a transferable article. It does not do to deal too much in such expenditures; the means will not hold out. Caution and reflection are a cheap and safe substitute. It is better to make a survey, and sound where you intend to dive, than buy the same information by heedlessly plunging in and breaking your head. Every step taken by the man who would acquire fame or fortune must receive the sanction of his own judgment, unwarped by passion and unbiased by prejudice. Facts and information from friends you will find valuable; but their advice [165] as to the use to be made of them, or as to the course you ought to pursue in any matter, is not so much to be depended upon as the result of your own reasoning. The one is often an off-hand shot; while the latter is usually a long, labored, and patient investigation. Upon this we ought early in life to learn to rely, rather than to catch up the hasty opinions of friends, which, however well meant, are not sufficiently elaborated. If, then, acting from a judgment so well guarded against extraneous influences, we should fail, there is left behind no mortification or stings of conscience, and we have only to deplore that our mental endowments have not sufficient scope. The love of approbation or the urgency of friends, generally well intended, sometimes precipitates us on a course which we have greatly to regret. Be careful, therefore, not to mistake these influences for a decision of your own judgment. I have now nearly torn this subject to tatters, and turn over the letter to your mother.

From what has been said, and from General Johnston's own utterances, it is manifest that under the humble roof of his frontier cabin a lofty philosophy made its home. Though luxuriant Nature had poured out so much of beauty upon this teeming spot, it was, nevertheless, a monotonous plain; and ever lurking near was the insidious, fever-breeding malaria, which saps the health and strength and energies of its victims. Although General Johnston and his family did not suffer the worst consequences of a residence so near the swamp, yet when they left the plantation they were sallow, gaunt, and ague-stricken in appearance. But the causes that wore down the edge of his spirit were moral rather than physical. This was not the country-home that his fancy had portrayed when Fortune seemed ready to provide him a field and ample returns for all his energies, together with such delights and recreations as taste and culture might suggest. Gradually, too, the conviction must have forced itself upon him that he had mistaken his vocation; and that, though his occupation was endurable, and had its own stock of simple, rational pleasures, yet it was in arms alone that he found full play for all his faculties and for the exercise of his special talents. Then, too, he saw the interest on his debt steadily swelling the burden that galled his neck like an iron yoke.

Mrs. Johnston says, in one letter: “He is almost in despair, and often says he feels like a drowning man with his hands tied; but he tries to keep up his spirits.” And again, writing in October, 1849, she says: “Our home is now a beautiful place, and I have become so attached to it that I shall grieve a great deal when we must leave it. Your father looks care-worn and sad. You would be astonished at the great change in him since you last saw him (April, 1847). From a fleshy, stout man he has grown quite thin, and, considering his frame, slender.”

It would not have been strange if disappointment had tinged with bitterness a nature so aspiring; but, if it was so, it took the form of an almost silent self-reproach, which accepted with stoical firmness both the consequences of his own mistakes and the hard decrees of a seemingly [166] inexorable destiny. It is proof of the strength of his principles and the sweetness of his temper, as well as of the practical soundness of his philosophy, that he came out of this trial with a nature enlarged and ennobled. He had a great share of magnanimity; and his soul, exalted above the jealousies and littlenesses of small minds, learned in solitude to correct, in many important points, its standard of the world.

While General Johnston was planting in Brazoria County, a political revolution occurred which again changed the current of his fate. The Whig party, thoroughly vanquished by its opposition to the annexation of Texas and its adhesion to a narrow commercial policy, was seeking to rally its forces on a broader platform, under the leadership of a candidate available and unencumbered with the weight of political disaster. Though Clay, Webster, and other political chiefs, had each a following of devoted adherents, the most obtuse felt that without some new and more popular name the fate of the Whig party was sealed; and presently attention was turned to the victor of Resaca and Monterey. General Taylor promptly and bluntly put aside the glittering temptation; but the over-astute policy of the Government in its further employment of him gave color to the popular notion that his services were to be depreciated, and perhaps, even, that himself and his army were to be sacrificed for political considerations. The prevalence of such an opinion, whether just or unjust, was at once fatal to the organization charged with such conduct, and an augury of triumph to the supposed victim. Already a popular favorite, General Taylor became a popular idol; and the evident sincerity with which he at first resisted all manifestations on his behalf swelled the tide of enthusiasm, which finally bore him into the White House over all opposition, and almost against his own protest. There is no doubt that General Taylor felt a real disquietude on account of his inexperience in political affairs, and committed himself too entirely to a clique unequal to the greatness of the situation. Had he lived, it is not improbable that his strong sense and courage would have asserted themselves by casting off the trammels of party management, and that he would have vindicated his ability in civil as in military affairs; but his presidential career was so brief as to furnish no sufficient criterion of what he might have been.

General Johnston shared in the popular sentiment that raised General Taylor to the chief magistracy, and entertained the liveliest hopes of reform as a consequence of the defeat of the old organized parties; but he contributed to it no more than his vote. It is somewhat remarkable that this was the first vote he ever cast, and I believe the only one. Officers of the United States Army formerly regarded partisanship in political struggles as indecorous; and, after his removal to Texas, his position had either been similar, or circumstances prevented the exercise of this right. [167]

When General Taylor was elected, General Johnston's friends confidently expected his appointment to some position of trust or honor which would relieve him from his unsuitable situation. Though the legitimate use of influence would seem quite natural under the circumstances, his friends, knowing his proud sensibility, did not propose that he should employ-it, but only that he would indicate for their guidance in what direction his wishes inclined. Hancock and Burnley, who were intimate personal friends of the President, were especially zealous. General Johnston, however, looked at the matter in an unexpected light, as will be seen in the correspondence presented herewith; so that, but for the voluntary efforts of these and other friends, and still more the personal interest of the President and his brother, Colonel Joseph P. Taylor, it is likely he would have been forgotten in the eager press of aspirants. As it was, his appointment was delayed until December, 1849. General Taylor then conferred upon him the place of paymaster in the army, a quasi-military office, which was permanent, with a living salary, and gave him a footing in the regular army establishment, from which he might hope, by possible promotion or transfer, to renter the line. If General Taylor's death had not occurred so soon after, it was thought that at the first opportunity he would have effected this transfer to a position strictly military and entirely congenial. Regarding it as a probation, but as the only door to the regular army open to him, General Johnston accepted the post. For the fuller explanation of the foregoing statements, the following letters are now introduced:

Brazoria County, Texas, December 2, 1848.
Dear Hancock: Your letter of the 10th November has been received, but not in time to answer you at Carrollton. In my reply, I hope you will not misunderstand me; but, on the contrary, always believe that I appreciate your kindness toward me.

With regard to appointments to office, I have notions of my own, which, if peculiar, should not be so. I think the President should be left free to select for himself. Heretofore, General Taylor's judgment has proved unerring in selections for services to be performed under his orders. It has been remarked that he has always found the right man when anything was to be done. Let the reform in this commence now. The scramble for office after a presidential election is well calculated to make the world doubt whether it is a mere contest for principle. It is time that this disgraceful feature of a great public event was done away with. It was not, I understand, the custom in the early history of the Government. No one presumed then to consume the valuable time of the President in setting forth the respective merits and claims of applicants for office. In truth, for some years past the President's audience-room has been but little better than an “intelligence office,” where employment was sought for and could be found. Every one says it is a shameful evil. If it is, let it be changed. The announcement that the employment of congressional influence to obtain office would be considered a species of bribery fatal to the hopes of the applicant would do much to relieve the President from this clamor. It is [168] said that this is the best method to obtain information. It is the worst. It is the way in which mere partisans and demagogues receive their reward. I do not, therefore, wish my friends to ask General Taylor for any office for me. He knows me well; and if it should not occur to him to offer me a place, I shall only think that he has selected others whom he believed better capable of promoting the public interest. This consideration, I believe, will alone guide him; and God grant that it may be always the only rule of action!

We now have a man for President who will administer the Government according to the Constitution construed in a liberal and enlightened spirit, whether the principles educed by him have been approved or condemned by one party or the other. The extremes of neither party will find any footing with his Administration. He will be as averse from the fanaticism that imposes high and oppressive tariffs as from that which, standing upon “54° 40‘,” bullies our rivals in trade and threatens the peace of the world; or from that which, as a rabid propagandist, preaches “the extension of the area of freedom.” Attempt to conceal it as they may, a new and great party has arisen, which, like “the rod of Aaron, has swallowed up all the others.”

A. S. Johnston.

Dear General: Burnley informed me he had seen you; and showed me a letter the day he started for Washington, that he had just received from you, giving him the reasons why you could receive no office from General Taylor. I had some time before received one of a similar kind, and had followed your injunction “that no application should be made to General Taylor in your behalf.” I was one of a committee sent by the city and county to escort the general to Louisville, and, being several days with him, had frequent and confidential talks with him. He asked kindly after you. I told him you were struggling along in Texas. He remarked that it was no place for you, and observed, “I had not been informed of my election long before I determined to do something for Johnston.” I am convinced that it is not only his wish, but that it would give him great pleasure, to put you in a position that would be lucrative and honorable; and the only thing is to know what place would be most agreeable to you- Governor of Oregon, commissioner to run the Mexican boundary, Treasurer of the United States, charge to Sardinia or Naples, Superintendent of the Mint in California, Surveyor-General of California or Missouri, or paymaster in the army. I will guarantee you will have the offer from General Taylor of whatever he may know it would be agreeable to you to accept. . . .

G. Hancock. To General A. S. Johnston.

Mr. Hancock further says, in a letter of April 22, 1849:

You seem to have misapprehended me in relation to your applying for office. I agree with you fully that a gentleman ought not to ask for one, but in your case this never was asked of you. The President of his own accord expressed the determination to give you one, if you would take it, and your friends only wanted to learn from you what you preferred. However, the thing is now settled. Joe Taylor is now here, and tells me you will shortly be offered the place of paymaster in the army. . ...

G. Hancock.


Mr. A. T. Burnley was in General Taylor's confidence, and had been selected by him as one of the proprietors of the Administration “organ.” He wrote to General Johnston, on the 21st of May:

General Taylor intended to offer you the marshalship of Texas. I told him you would not have it. He said then, if Reynolds resigned, he intended to offer you the collectorship of Galveston. I told him you would not have it. “Then,” said he, “I shall offer him a paymaster's place in the army.” Not knowing your views as to that place, I replied, I expected you would take it; because I thought it was a good office, and wanted it offered to you. I have since ascertained that it is worth about $3,000 per annum, and is permanent.

In thus exchanging the life of the plantation for military service again, General Johnston had the encouragement of his wife, who now clearly perceived that, however faithfully he might perform the duties that fell to the lot of a farmer, his heart, his thoughts, and his aspirations, were in the profession to which he had been educated. But though he deliberately reentered a military life, which he had thought closed upon him forever, it was through no arch of triumph, but by an obscure postern and along the hard and narrow path of petty and clerical routine. H-e saw in it the path of duty, and trod it manfully.

General Johnston, in conversation with the writer, said, in allusion to this appointment:

A good character has a solid value. I had tried to live blameless and to deserve well; and yet, at last, I found myself where I thought I was entirely forgotten. Now, do you think that if I had been a sharp fellow, General Taylor would have taken the trouble to hunt me up in the mud of the Brazos bottom to make a paymaster of me?

1 A horse, whose name was considered characteristic.

2 The wild-peach, a kind of laurel, grows on the low ridges and drier spots of the alluvion.

3 The battle of Buena Vista was fought February 22 and 23, 1847.

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