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Chapter 15: camp Floyd.

  • Location.
  • -- duties. -- disbanded volunteers. -- winter-quarters. -- Indian affairs. -- Mormon Slanders. -- issue with Governor Cumming. -- conflicts of authority. -- Governor's proclamation. -- ambiguous policy of the Government. -- General Johnston's Administration of Utah. -- relieved. -- letter in regard to personnel of the army. -- family affections. -- parting with his army. -- a Gift declined. -- attempt to bring him forward for the presidency. -- his letters on the subject. -- his Valuation of his citizenship. -- a fleet-footed Indian. -- the Japanese. -- a quartermaster-general appointed. -- Reunion with his family. 1860. -- the crisis of American destiny. -- assignment to command in California.

Camp Floyd, the headquarters of the Army of Utah, was situated at the north end of Cedar Valley, midway between Salt Lake City and Provo, about thirty-six miles distant from each. The valley was about eight miles wide and twenty-five miles long, and situated three miles west of Utah Lake, with a low range of mountains intervening. The population of the Territory was located chiefly at the western base of the Wahsatch range, and along the eastern rim of the Great Salt Lake Basin. The position selected for the camp was a commanding one, as the valley debouched in the direction of Salt Lake City by two routes, toward Provo by two, and also into Tintic Valley in the direction of Fillmore City. The grass of Cedar Valley, and of Tintic and Rush Valleys, which communicated with it, was the main reliance for the subsistence of the horses, mules, and beef-cattle. The grass, though nutritious, was bunchy and sparse, so that a large space of country was required to support the animals, about 8,000 head in number. To guard this stock from both Indians and white robbers was an important and troublesome duty, but successfully performed.

When the army had been established at Camp Floyd, three duties devolved upon General Johnston: first, to secure the troops under his command against the hardships and privations of the preceding winter; second, to control the Indians, at least so far as to prevent or punish depredations upon the inhabitants; and third, to aid the civil authorities in executing the laws, by furnishing troops to act as a posse, on the requisition of the Executive or judicial officers of the Territory. To these might be added the auxiliary work of exploration and road-making.

His first care was so to disband the volunteers as to avoid turning loose a large body of strangers “who might,” as he remarks, “produce [234] disturbance in the communities, although it may be truly said of them that the Government never had a better regiment of volunteers.” The battalion was ordered to Leavenworth to be disbanded, so as to afford them transportation and subsistence home, except where they preferred to take employment in Utah or go to California. Similar precautions were taken with the employs discharged by the quartermaster's department and contractors, some 500 in number. Those who would emigrate to California or return home were allowed to purchase arms and outfits from the Government, and those who wished employment in Utah were hired as wood-choppers and herdsmen. No confusion or trouble ensued.

General Porter says:

General Johnston's attention was now successfully turned to establishing his command in comfort for the coming winter, to securing the necessary supplies for the support of men and animals, and to protecting provisions from the effects of the climate. Before winter set in, the men were all comfortably housed, the provisions under shelter, and the mules and cattle distributed to proper grazing-grounds.

Quarters were built of adobe, and covered with plank and earth; and, with such comforts as could be added, the troops were wintered in health and contentment.

In a letter to the writer, September 23, 1858, General Johnston says:

Although nothing has been changed in the Mormon polity, quiet prevails. The people take employment at our camp, when they are needed. Large numbers are employed making adobes and in the various mechanical pursuits. They bring in freely their surplus grain and vegetables. Our winter-quarters will be comfortable; we are building a great many houses to shelter the men, and large storehouses for our supplies. The walls of our houses are eight feet high; the roofs are covered with plank, which is again covered with three or four inches of clay. Small windows, rough doors, and well-pounded clay floors complete the building. To put up buildings, even of rude structure, for 8,000 or 4,000 men, is a work of immense labor, where the materials are to be brought from a distance.

Congress has made no appropriations for sheltering the troops here, and all this considerable outlay of money is on my own responsibility. Congress, I do not doubt, will make the appropriation; yet it is not pleasant to have to incur weighty responsibilities. At this distance from the seat of government much responsibility has at all times to be assumed, and I shall not shrink from it. As I will do no one thing which my conscience does not approve as beneficial to my country, I shall always be without fear, and, I hope, without reproach.

The arrival, in October, of Colonel Crosman, who had been assigned as his chief quartermaster, was a source of great relief to General Johnston. His predecessor had done his part well, but Crosman was [235] an old and tried friend, in whose experience, good sense, and loyalty of heart, he placed an unbounded trust, which was never impaired.

It is sufficient to say that this well-administered army passed the winter not only contentedly but cheerfully, bringing to their aid the recreations and amusements of civilized life without relaxation of discipline, or of the vigilance necessary to a strict performance of their duties. General Johnston applied again for a leave of absence, to take effect in the spring, but without success.

In regard to the relations established by General Johnston with the Indians, General Porter makes these remarks:

While journeying to Utah, and while at Fort Bridger, Colonel Johnston took every occasion to bring the Indians within knowledge and influence of the army, and induced numerous chiefs to come to his camp. There is nothing so civilizing to an Indian as the display of power, and the appearance of the troops insured respect and quietude. Colonel Johnston was ever kind, but firm and dignified, to them; and he was respected and feared as the “Great chief.”

Washki, the chief of the Snakes, the white man's friend, was invited by the colonel, when near South Pass, into camp, and feasted and smoked for a talk. This resulted in the disclosure that Brigham Young had sent to him and his young men, to induce them to make war on the United States army; and that he (Washki) had turned the Mormons from his country, telling them that his tribe did not meddle in white men's quarrels, and never against the United States; that they knew no difference between white men, and were as apt in war to slay Mormons as Americans. How much Colonel Johnston's impressive presence and the manifestations of power had to do with Washki's attitude cannot be known; but it is to his credit that he maintained it, holding his men under control on trying occasions, when unworthy white men had deservedly earned the enmity of the Snake tribe.

The Utes, Pi-Utes, Bannocks, and other tribes, visited Colonel Johnston, and all went away expressing themselves pleased, assuring him that so long as he remained they would prove his friends, which the colonel told them would be best for them. Thus he effectually destroyed all influence of the Mormons over them, and insured friendly treatment to travelers to and from California and Oregon.

General Johnston, while using every means to secure the friendship of the Indians, was most careful to warn them to keep clear of the impending conflict. This did not, however, prevent malicious attacks by those who had often found unscrupulous detraction a powerful engine against opponents. Governor Cumming's first communication from Salt Lake City to General Johnston, written within three days after his arrival, while the Mormons were yet confronting the troops in arms, was to apprise him of charges made by William H. Hooper, the Mormon Secretary of State, against United States officers, as advising the Indians to murder and pillage, and of insinuations against General Johnston himself. The Deseret News also made similar statements. These [236] were fit fabrications to emanate from the conclave which had instigated the Mountain Meadows massacre. As General Johnston's “talks” with the Indians had been in the presence of others, he had no difficulty in placing on record the false and slanderous character of these statements; and those who are curious in such matters will find them set forth in “Executive documents,” second session, Thirty-fifth Congress, vol. II., part II., 1858-59, pp. 71-87.

During General Johnston's administration of that military department, the Indians behaved very well. A few outrages only were perpetrated by bands of “vagabond” Indians, who were promptly punished; and California and Oregon emigrants will remember that their wagon-trains received escorts of dragoons over the dangerous parts of the route.

In the spring of 1859 an issue arose between General Johnston and Governor Cumming, in which the latter was evidently misled by his feelings. The documents and correspondence will be found in the executive document just quoted above, and may be summarized as follows: Governor Cumming, from the time of his association with Colonel Kane, imagined that his civil functions were to protect the Mormons from the military, who were seeking their destruction; a very praiseworthy and magnanimous state of mind, if it had been founded upon facts. His error was, I presume, of the head rather than of the heart; and it is not probable that he could have so misconceived General Johnston, if he had allowed himself to become better acquainted with him. He indulged another fancy, that his office, somehow, clothed him with military authority; while, in fact, his sole function in this direction was to obtain, by requisition upon the commander, troops who should act as a posse to enforce the laws or protect citizens in their rights of person or property. It will be remembered that General Johnston's orders (page 209) directed him to obey the requisition of the judges, as well as of the Governor; but this fact the Governor did not choose to recognize.

Judge Cradlebaugh, who had charge of the southern district of Utah, determined, if possible, to bring to justice the leaders in the Mountain Meadows massacre, and, on proper information, had John D. Lee, Isaac Haight, and six others, committed for trial at a term of the district court, held on the 8th of March at Provo. In accordance with his authority, he made a requisition for troops to protect the court and witnesses, and hold the prisoners securely, there being no jail. A company was sent to Provo, and later a regiment put within supporting distance; and an examination of all the facts will show that the instructions from the commanding general, and their execution by his subordinate, were clearly within the letter and the spirit of the law, and scrupulous in their conformity to technical observances as well as to the necessities of the case. Not only were the officers firm and discreet, [237] but the soldiers avoided even the appearance of incivility. Nevertheless, the mayor and council protested against “the military occupation” of their town, to “the annoyance and intimidation” of citizens. Judge Cradlebaugh replied politely, pointing out the necessity of his action; and a controversy ensued in which the Mormons dwelt upon the dangers of military despotism, and offered to provide for the security of the prisoners. This, of course, would have been a mere mockery of justice.

At this juncture, March 20th, Governor Cumming appeared upon the scene, and requested General Johnston promptly to withdraw the guard from Provo, adding, “I am satisfied that the presence of the military force in this vicinity is unnecessary, and for this and other reasons I desire to impress upon you the propriety of the immediate disposition of the troops as above indicated.” He also complained that the detachment commander, Captain Heth, had not reported to him.

General Johnston returned a courteous reply to this letter, declining to obey the Governor's commands, and reciting his own orders, Judge Cradlebaugh's requisition, the want of a jail or any other means of detaining the prisoners, except by the guard, and his care to avoid giving just offense to well-disposed persons. He says, also :

I beg most respectfully to suggest that, under the circumstances, there would have been a manifest impropriety in Captain Heth's reporting to you; such an act would be an acknowledgment of military supremacy on your part, which does not exist. To prevent any misunderstanding hereafter, I desire to say to your excellency that I am under no obligations whatever to conform to your suggestions with regard to the military disposition of the troops of this department, except only when it may be expedient to employ them in their civil capacity as a posse; in which case, should the emergency arise, your requisition for any portion of the troops under my command will be complied with, and they will be instructed to discharge the duty pointed out.

In transmitting the correspondence to the general-in-chief, March 24, 1859, General Johnston writes:

I regret that his instructions should have impressed upon him (Governor Cumming) a view of his powers so inconsistent with the well-understood theory of military organization; and so much the more do I regret it, because this discrepancy of view between the Executive of the Territory and the commander of the department cannot fail to entail all the evil consequences of want of harmony and of unity of purpose. . ..

By my instructions I am equally bound to respond to the call of the judiciary as of the Executive; and, if I had complied with his command, to make any other disposition of the force acting in aid of the administration of justice than as requested by the judge, without his consent, I should have been accessory to an executive interference with a coordinate branch of the Territorial government. [238]

Governor Cumming issued the following proclamation, denouncing the action of General Johnston, and placing him before the people of the Territory in an entirely false light:

By Alfred Cumming, Governor of Utah Territory: a proclamation.

Whereas, One company of the United States Infantry, under the command of Captain Heth, is now stationed around the court-house at Provo, where the Hon. Judge Cradlebaugh is now holding court, and eight additional companies of infantry, one of artillery, and one of cavalry, under the command of Major Paul, are stationed within sight of the court-house; and- Whereas, The presence of soldiers has a tendency not only to terrify the inhabitants and disturb the peace of the Territory, but also to subvert the ends of justice, by causing the intimidation of witnesses and jurors; and- Whereas, This movement of troops has been made without consultation with me, and, as I believe, is in opposition to both the letter and spirit of my instructions; and- Whereas, General Johnston, commander of the military department of Utah, has refused my request, that he would issue the necessary orders for the removal of the above-mentioned troops:

Now, therefore, I, Alfred Cumming, Governor of the Territory of Utah, do hereby publish this my solemn protest against this present military movement, and also against all movements of troops, incompatible with the letter and spirit of the annexed extract from the instruction received by me from Government, for my guidance while Governor of the Territory of Utah.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused ...... the seal of the Territory to be affixed. Done at Great Salt Lake City, L. s.: this twenty-seventh day of March, A. D. eighteen hundred and fifty-nine, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-third.

Alfred Cumming.

By the Governor:

(Signed) John Hartnett, Secretary of State.

With whatever accuracy Governor Cumming may have interpreted his instructions from the State Department, it was manifestly unreasonable in him to expect General Johnston to conform to them in disobedience of his own orders. But, however that might be, the issue having been made and referred to competent authority for decision, should have rested there. His proclamation was erroneous in law and in fact, and calculated to exasperate an already excited people, unless they had been restrained by leaders who now felt the folly of open war.

In the mean time the Mormon county court impaneled a grandjury, in which sat some of the men implicated in the massacre and in other murders which were to be investigated. Nevertheless, a considerable number of witnesses appeared before them, testified to the most [239] conclusive facts, and then sought the protection of the military from an “intimidated” people. The grand-jury having sat two weeks, and failed to make a presentment, was finally discharged by the judge. It was evident that the local authorities and the people, with the countenance of the Territorial Executive, were able to arrest the course of justice, so that the functions of the judiciary were virtually at an end, unless other modes of trial were adopted by Congress. Judge Cradlebaugh was able, however, as a committing magistrate, to place on record a mass of testimony that fixes on the Mormon leaders the indelible stigma of atrocious deeds, which will cling to the church until it perishes.

Closer contact with the Mormons, and continued observation of their system, gave General Johnston no better opinion of them than he had held at Fort Bridger. In commenting upon his own official reports, he wrote to General Scott, March 31, 1859:

I have refrained from speaking of the horrible crimes that have been perpetrated in this Territory-crimes of a magnitude and of an apparently studied refinement in atrocity hardly to be conceived of, and which have gone unwhipped of justice. These, if the judges are sustained, they will endeavor to bring to light.

General Johnston was not at all satisfied with the measure of support he received from the Administration, which, for many obvious reasons, was anxious simply to tide over the troubles in Utah. He had obeyed his orders scrupulously in letter and in spirit, and yet he found himself left in a somewhat ambiguous attitude before the country. Moreover, he had become convinced that proper laws should regulate the Territorial relations to the General Government; yet he found that these were drifting at the mercy of events.

The Government could not disapprove of General Johnston's course, but tried to obviate the difficulty by modifying his orders, as will be seen by the following letter from the Secretary of War. The letter is the key to the subsequent policy at Washington. It ties the hands of the judiciary, and leaves Utah to ferment into whatever it may-living waters or a hell-broth, as the case may be:

War Department, Washington, May 6, 1859.
Sir: The change which seems to have taken place in the condition of things in Utah Territory since the date of your former instructions renders some modification of these instructions necessary.

Peace being now restored to the Territory, the judicial administration of the laws will require no help from the army under your command. If the services of the United States troops should be needed under any circumstances it could only be to assist the executive authority in executing the sentence of law or the judicial decrees of the court; and that necessity could only arise when the services of a civil posse were found to be insufficient. You will therefore only [240] order the troops under your command to assist as a posse comitatus in the execution of the laws, upon the written application of the Governor of the Territory, and not otherwise.

The fidelity with which you have obeyed the instructions of this department heretofore given you is the fullest guarantee that you will with the same zeal and efficiency conform to these.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, (Signed)

John B. Floyd, Secretary of War. Brevet Brigadier-General A. S. Johnston, commanding Department of Utah, Camp Floyd, U. T.

General Johnston, in a letter to the author, June 10th, comments upon the modification of his orders thus:

This, in view of the premises assumed by the Secretary, is rightly done; but these are not the law-abiding people the Administration believes them to be, and he will find that henceforward the law here is a nullity.

I suppose the Secretary found it difficult to sustain me at all, so I ought to be satisfied with him, for I do not doubt that he had to combat the foregone conclusion of the President and most of the cabinet that this question is finally settled, or their predetermination so to view it. I have conscientiously discharged my duty in sustaining the judiciary, and the people will applaud me for it; for the time is not far distant when they will know the utter incompatibility of Mormon institutions and those that our own people are pledged by every obligation of duty and honor to establish and cherish in every part of our broad territory.

During the remainder of my sojourn here I shall not be called upon in the discharge of my duty to make any comment upon events transpiring here not purely of a military character. I now hope I may be granted a leave of absence.

It would seem proper, in view of the want of harmony in sentiment and personal relations between the Governor and the military commander, that the Government should have removed one of them. The Administration thought otherwise; and, although General Johnston requested to be relieved, he was obliged to retain his unpleasant post another year. The motive for adopting this sort of middle ground, so characteristic of Mr. Buchanan, was not an unkind one. To relieve General Johnston, under the circumstances, might have the semblance of condemning him for obedience to orders; to appoint another Governor would look like an intent to pursue a decisive policy instead of the laissez-faire course represented by Governor Cumming. So he let things drift.

Though the transaction of business with a population trained to annoy and pillage the Government was always disagreeable to its representatives, yet such were General Johnston's exact justice and circumspection of conduct that no commander has held this department with less detraction. [241]

General Porter says in his letter to the writer:

The army had now nothing to do but to maintain discipline and efficiency, and be ready for any emergency. Yet General Johnston availed himself of every occasion to display force where its presence would have a good influence.

He sent Colonel Loring to New Mexico by a new route directly across the mountains, through the Ute tribes. He dispatched a force to the southern part of the Territory to the scene of the Mountain Meadows massacre, that the guilty might feel that a power was close at hand to prevent or punish such crimes in future. He sent a large and well-provided force to Oregon, and another to California, taking care they should pass through the regions least frequented by troops. He had the country south of Salt Lake explored to Carson's Valley, and opened a mail route and emigrant trail to California, 800 miles shorter than the old road. He opened the route up Provo River to Fort Bridger, which, with the route through Bridger's Pass to the east, and to California west, established the easiest, best, and shortest route across the continent.

These explorations had in view not only the display of force and the opening of as many avenues as possible into the country so as to counteract as far as possible the policy of isolation on which the priesthood relied for its absolute control, but information which would render easier the location of a railroad route to the Pacific.

The Union Pacific Railroad now runs some distance east and west of Fort Bridger over the route laid down, and much of it opened, by Colonel Johnston; and, had not the local interests of Brigham Young prevailed over the interests of the road and of the Government, its better location would have carried it down the Provo River to the bench-lands of the valley, and thence with the main trunk south of the lake, and with a branch to Salt Lake City.

General Johnston bore with some impatience the political arrangements that kept him in Utah. He found the climate healthful but disagreeable, and the separation from his family and social isolation very irksome. Though he could not express these feelings to his superiors, he did to the writer occasionally. Writing August 5, 1858, he says: “I shall be obliged to remain here another winter, at least. We cannot avoid our destiny; so I will try to be contented, and hope always. This is the most sterile country I have ever seen or imagined.” Again, September 15th, he says: “I bear my exile here badly. My philosophy sometimes gives way. I try to be content, and hope for better times.” Finally his request to be relieved was granted, and on February 29, 1860, he turned over his command to Colonel Smith. Gladly obeying his orders, he proceeded to San Francisco, and thence by sea to New York.

The army of Utah was, for the most part, withdrawn from the Territory, and the Saints were left to their own devices. As soon as the pressure of the troops was removed, the voice of the Prophet resumed its earlier tone of truculent defiance, blackguardism, and blasphemy. [242] The following from an officer at Camp Floyd, August 11, 1860, gives the changed aspect of affairs:

The same game has commenced on the part of the Mormons that was played before the army came here as regards the Gentiles. Brigham preached a very inflammatory sermon last Sunday. He cursed the Government, the President, and the Gentiles. He said “he would wipe them all-every one-out, d-n them! that he would let the Government know that he was still here; that he would send every Gentile to hell with wooden legs, and that they had better be supplying themselves now while lumber was cheap.”

With the further history of events in Utah this memoir has no concern, and hence it may be dismissed with the remark that the vexed question is still an open one, under the changed conditions, however, that eighteen years make in all human affairs.

The following letter will not be without interest to those who feel a concern about the United States army:

camp Floyd, Utah, June 22, 1859.
my dear son: Your letter of May 14th, ult., concerning the nephew of Dr. L- B--, has been received. I have made inquiry respecting him, and am glad to learn that he is regarded as a worthy soldier. I have the power by the articles of war to discharge soldiers from the service, but it is an authority never exercised for private reasons. Great length of service, disability from physical or mental causes, etc., are some of the motives which would justify a department commander in exercising this power. If B-is ambitious he can be gratified; the door is open to all in the ranks. Having the prerequisite of a good moral character, the other qualifications can be obtained by proper industry. If he prepares himself for the examinations which must be gone through, I feel sure he will find no difficulty in procuring the recommendations of his company and regimental commanders to be allowed to be examined. The quality of the enlisted men of the army, morally and physically, is not well understood by the citizens. There exists so deep-rooted a prejudice against the soldiery that I must believe that, some time or other in our history as a nation or as provincials, they must have been intolerably bad. I think this is likely. Within my own knowledge of the reputation of this class of men, which runs back more than thirty years, they were very objectionable. I am glad to say that since my first acquaintance with them there has been a vast improvement, morally and physically. They were then said to be broken-down drunkards; now, physically, they are literally without blemish. After several minute inspections of the naked corpus by surgeons, they, if found perfect in their physique, are accepted; and, all being very young men, very few, if any, of them can have been injured by previous habits. A large majority of them write their names; so that there can be claimed for them, for their class, a high degree of intelligence. It is said many of them are foreigners; this is true, and in that they represent very perfectly the population of the country. Their pay, though nominally less than laborers', with all the advantages of clothing and food and physicians' bills free, with good care in the hospitals when they are sick, makes it appreciated by many as more desirable than the precarious wages of the laborer who may lose [243] all his earnings through the grasping cupidity of the doctors. Soldiers cannot be associates for refined persons; but they ought now to be as much respected as it is the custom to despise them. When called upon for duty they do not count the cost.

Numerous illustrations might be given of General Johnston's deep and tender feeling for his family — an affection that never failed in any act of self-sacrifice, and was manifested rather by a constant course of gracious and forbearing conduct than by extravagant demonstration, These are for the most part omitted, as no public end would be served by their introduction; but the following extract from one of his letters to his daughters, with its personal allusions, is given because it truly represents his relations to his children; The thermometer has fallen once to 22° below zero, and often to 10° below. I do not mind the cold now. I ride on horseback or walk every day without an overcoat. My mustache soon becomes an icicle; yet I do not suffer from cold, or have the dread of it that every one feels for a Texas norther. I am in robust health. Every symptom of liver-complaint has vanished, and I am now as active and strong as I have ever been. You may know that my fare is not meagre when I tell you I weigh 194 pounds.

Will has a charming family, and I am delighted with your account of my dear little granddaughters. I am sure he deserves all the blessings with which he is surrounded, and that your presence gives additional sunlight to the happy scene. I wish I could be with you more, that I might manifest the love I bear for you and him and all my children, and the pride I feel in the high tone and honorable principles of each. Destiny has otherwise decreed. I do not repine, for in a great measure we make our own destiny, and ought to submit without murmuring; but I hope the future has many good gifts in store for us, I trust in God; in that consists the sum of my religion. No hour passes without my thoughts reverting to you and each one of my family.

When General Johnston relinquished his command in Utah, it was with that mingled feeling of regret and relief that accompanies the severance of ties binding us to comrades with whom we have shared arduous duties, to enter on a more attractive field. Mutual confidence, affection, and esteem, bound together the army and its commander. General Henry Heth told the writer that the most touching scene he ever witnessed, except the surrender at Appomattox Court-House, was General Johnston's departure from the army of Utah. As he rode along the line of soldiers, drawn up to bid him farewell, there was not a dry eye.

During General Johnston's official career in Utah, as elsewhere, it was his wish so to conduct the affairs of his command that every citizen might feel that the Government he represented was ready to accord him the most generous treatment. When the snow-storms broke upon him in the valleys of the Wahsatch, he made common cause with the army [244] contractors against the elements, and, in serving the Government and providing for his army, he was able to place the army contractors and merchants with trains for Utah under heavy obligations. One of the wealthiest and most powerful of these merchant princes of the desert sent General Johnston a New-Year's gift that gave rise to the following correspondence:

camp Scott, January 1, 1858.
dear sir: Accept the articles sent you on the inclosed memorandum as a New-Year's gift from your humble servant.

General Johnston sent a polite note of thanks, but on opening the package next day discovered the character of the present, and at once returned it with the following note:

camp Scott, January 2, 1858.
To —, Esq.
dear sir: In my note to you yesterday evening, accepting your New-Year's gift, I thought it was some trifle in value, offered in a spirit of kindness, which I might properly receive; but, on examination of the packages, finding that it is a splendid and costly service of plate, I feel constrained by our official relations to decline the acceptance of it, which I do with the utmost respect for you, and with grateful acknowledgment of the friendly sentiment which dictated the offer.

I beg that you will believe that, in declining to receive this token of your regard (but which will also be considered as an evidence of your approbation of my conduct as commander), I am actuated by no other feeling than a sense of military propriety.

In the turmoil of parties preceding a presidential election, prominent citizens not unfrequently endeavor to find some new man, with such elements of popularity and usefulness as will render his name acceptable to the people. Polk and Taylor, Pierce and Lincoln, have all been selections of this sort. While General Johnston was in Utah, some leading gentlemen in the West, of conservative views, and doubtless moved by a friendship that overlooked all obstacles, fixed on his name in conference as a proper one to be introduced into the canvass for the presidency. They believed that he combined certain popular features that would make him strong before the people in an uprising against faction and fanaticism, and with this view they communicated with him to learn his feelings on the subject.

General Johnston made the following reply to one of them, who united in himself a warm and loyal friendship with an ardent patriotism:

I have no ambition for the high place you mention in your letter; or, I might better say, I have no taste for political life. You describe a state of things for which there is no cure, and which it would be wholly beyond the power of any man, no matter how honest or how able, to remedy. It must run its course. When the moral basis of political action has become corrupt, it is a disease [245] which cannot be arrested. It is like some diseases of the human body, which men wise and learned in medicine abstain from treating. We must imitate them. We must watch and sustain the patient when he sinks, and trust to the medicinal power of Nature. Time will, I trust, restore to us a sound and healthy basis of moral action, such as we set out with as a people in the days of Washington and the elder Adams.

In another letter, to the same friend, he says:

I have known you long, more than the lifetime of a generation.... It must be believed from our personal antecedents that, with you (if such a course on my part were possible with any one) I would not feign a reluctance to take that which I ardently desired. You will know that my opinions, expressed in reference to so important a matter, are candid and sincere, and that my decision as to my own course is final.

I have given the subject full consideration, for it has been before me for some time, and I have been ruled by a sense of duty in the conclusion I have arrived at, and not by desire. I well comprehend that, to be thought worthy of so high a trust is an honor, and at the same time a testimonial, than which there is none higher; but, while entertaining toward my friends, should they proffer a nomination, a grateful sense of their kindness and good opinion, in order to prove myself worthy of such regard, I should feel it my patriotic duty to commend to their choice some other citizen more competent for the discharge of the duties appertaining to that eminent station.

Your partiality, my friend, would draw me from a vocation and duties for which, from my education and taste, I have I believe some qualification, to place me upon an arena which, with my views of it, would seem to demand a life-long familiarity with the objects and operations of our institutions to do justice to the requirements of so responsible a position. I will not consent, but will rather imitate your own example when civic honors were offered to you.

In a letter to the present writer, adverting to the foregoing, General Johnston says:

My friends, some of them, in the States, say that a glittering prize is within my grasp, in their opinion. If I had you to write my answer, declining the proffered honor, if by any chance it should be offered, I could, by displaying the folly of our people in selecting men for public office without any regard to their fitness by education and training for the particular duties they are called upon to perform, more entitle myself to their good opinion than by accepting. My education, my taste, and my ambition, if I have any, would find nothing congenial in the performance of the duties of a civil office. If success were certain. I still have honor and patriotism enough to say that there are others much more capable and more fit for the station who ought to have precedence. A friend of mine used to say that there is nothing in which we so well display our judgment as to stop speaking when we have said enough. I suppose it must be the same in writing. I therefore dismiss the subject.

When General Johnston first went to Texas, he bought a league of land, which was afterward “squatted” upon, and thus became the subject [246] of litigation. This suit wore on for many years, the local claimants obtaining all those advantages which the elective system gives the voter over the non-resident. The precedents in the State courts pointed to a final decision adverse to General Johnston, while in the Federal courts the adjudications were in his favor. For this reason, and to remove the cases from the sphere of local influence, the attorneys for General Johnston wished to bring them before the United States tribunals. It was therefore proposed to him, through the present writer, that, as he had been so long an officer of the army, and for some years absent from the State, he should renounce his citizenship for this purpose. The following was his reply, from Camp Floyd, August 27, 1859:

My citizenship in Texas was obtained at the cost of the bloom of health and the prime of life spent in the service of the State, and of property, which, if I had it now, would constitute a princely estate. I will not give it up now, though I should lose in consequence every foot of land I have in the State. This I would regard as a mere mess of pottage in comparison with my citizenship.

General Johnston returned to the Atlantic coast by way of California and the Isthmus, as it was too cold to cross the Plains. In Southern Utah, an Indian chief, to prove his friendship and warn off prowling clansmen, ran on foot for several days beside his wagon, keeping pace with the trot of the mules. General Johnston on parting gave him among other presents, to his extravagant delight, “a coat of many colors” --a gay patchwork quilt that had served through the campaign. He said it was a prudent gift, as its bizarre brightness was fascinating enough to an Indian to stir up a border war, or, at least, induce a massacre.

At San Francisco he saw the first Japanese embassy to this country. He was much interested in the Japs, and observed them, both then and afterward at Washington, with friendly curiosity. He remarked to the writer in regard to them:

How apt we are to undervalue what is unfamiliar! We call the Japanese barbarians. Yet compare their skill and perfectness in all handicraft with our own. Look at their cutlery and lacquer-ware, their fabrics of paper and silk, and the cunning joinery of one of their little cabinets; and then consider how few men in America can make a bureau-drawer that will open without a jerk. Then, too, they are brave, aspiring, and sensitively honorable. We call them barbarians; but such a people ought to have a great future.

No important incidents occurred on his voyage or after his arrival in the East. General Scott received him with the utmost kindness, approved heartily of all his acts, and spoke of him publicly in the most unqualified terms of commendation. The office of quartermaster-general, with the assimilated rank of brigadier-general, became vacant in [247] the summer of 1860, and was conferred by Secretary Floyd on Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph E. Johnston. It was said at the time that General Scott urged the name of General A. S. Johnston for the appointment; and a rumor was prevalent that he had also filed a paper in the War Department, recommending him as commander-in-chief in case of his own decease. Without means of verifying the correctness of these reports, they evince, nevertheless, the estimate that General Scott was commonly supposed to place upon him.

General Johnston was greatly rejoiced to be reunited to his family after two years and a half of separation. His wife and children had resided in Louisville under the protection of kind friends during his absence; and, now that he was again in a home of his own for a brief season, its happiness was the brighter by the contrast with the clouds that lowered over the world without. His health had been completely restored by three winters in Utah; and, such was his vigor that, at fifty-eight years of age, he might have been mistaken for forty-five. He spent most of the summer and fall in Louisville, except when called to Washington on army business. In Kentucky and wherever he went the greatest respect and consideration were shown him.

The year 1860 was the crisis of American destiny. The presidential election that resulted in the triumph of the antislavery Republican party was a season of tremendous political excitement, and every passion that sways a popular government was aroused to the utmost. General Johnston beheld the scene with gloomy forebodings, and yet with a calmness which did not condescend to discussion even. His opinion, his voice, his utmost energies, would have no effect in stilling the storm which he had done nothing to stir. The angry passions of men seemed to be moved by an unseen power, as the waves of the sea are lifted by the breath of the tempest. Though far from feeling indifference, yet, as he had no power for active good, he maintained that attitude which he thought most becoming in an army-officer of his rank --the utmost reticence. He saw the wisdom, the eloquence, the political skill, of powerful and patriotic statesmen set at naught in the elemental strife; and to him — a man of action, not of words-silence seemed the only proper course.

During the summer, prominent Texans at Washington had been soliciting the secretary to assign General Johnston to command the Southwestern Department. Finally, on the 1st of November, the adjutant-general informed General Johnston that the secretary had given orders to that effect, and wished to see him as soon as convenient. He was at the same time apprised, by telegram and letter, of October 30th, that General Scott desired to send him to California to take command of the Pacific coast. On November 2d General Scott addressed an official communication to the adjutant-general to that effect. [248]

When General Johnston reported to the Secretary of War, he had made up his mind, as he subsequently informed the writer, not to go to Texas. If the State seceded, and the Federal Government did not promptly accommodate the questions thus started, a collision would probably occur. In this event, General Johnston took the view that he could only surrender the charge committed to him to the authority from which he had received it. He would thus be forced either to fail in his duty to the power which had confided in him and to which he owed service, or in his duty to the Commonwealth to which he owed allegiance; to violate the trust reposed in him, or resist the State which had a paramount claim upon him. He said that it was impossible for him to do the former; and he would not be so placed as to be compelled to encounter his State. With this dilemma before him, he preferred to resign rather than accept the command of the Department of Texas. The alternative was not forced upon him. He placed his preferences for California before Mr. Floyd in so strong a light, though without touching the above-named difficulty, that, with General Scott's backing in the matter, he was assigned to the Department of the Pacific.

General Johnston, before leaving for California, manumitted his body-servant, Randolph, a slave born in his family in 1832. Randolph had served him faithfully in Texas and Utah, and wished to go with him to California. He was employed on wages, and followed his master's fortunes to California, and afterward to the Confederacy. He was with him at Shiloh, remained in the Southern army till the close of the war, and yet lives a humble but honorable remembrancer of the loyal attachment which could subsist between master and slave.

General Johnston sailed from New York on the 21st of December, with his family, by way of the Panama route, reaching San Francisco about the middle of January. During the three months that he administered the department no military events occurred, except some movements of troops against the Indians, for the management of which he received the approbation of the press and people at the time. It may be here mentioned, in advance, that he resigned his commission April 10th, and was relieved by General Sumner April 25, 1861.

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