Interesting Reminiscences of General Johnston. [from the Richmond dispatch, April 26, 1891.]
Services in Mexico.I first saw General Johnston at Vera Cruz in March, 1847, when, after a bombardment of two weeks, the city raised the white flag, and General Scott appointed Captain Robert E. Lee and Captain Joseph E. Johnston of his staff to go into the place and arrange the terms of its surrender. They were then distinguished young officers,  intimate friends to each other, and their martial appearance as they rode superbly mounted to meet the Mexican officers gave a general feeling of satisfaction to our army that such representatives of the ‘North Americans’ had been chosen for such an occasion. A few days before General Scott had published to his army a congratulatory order announcing ‘the great victory won by the successful General Taylor’ on the field of Buena Vista. We young Virginians felt very proud that day. After disposing of Vera Cruz we moved on toward the City of Mexico. The army marched along the great National road, made by the old Spaniards, till about April 12th, when some cannon-shots from Cerro Gordo checked the advance guard of our cavalry, and made us know Santa Anna was prepared to give us battle there.
Wounded in Mexico.Captain Johnston was ordered to make a reconnoissance of his position. ‘C’ company of the Rifles (now Third cavalry) was a part of his escort, I being attached to it. We had been halted in the timber, just out of sight of the enemy, some twenty minutes, when we heard the rattle of musketry, and a few minutes later the order came to ‘fall back to the right and left of the road’ to let the hearers of Captain Johnston pass by. He had received two severe wounds while making a daring reconnoissance, and was borne back to Plan Del Rio and placed in the most airy house in the village, where I also was borne five days later, being severely wounded. Stevens Mason, captain of the Rifles was taken there also, and a few days after Lieutenant Darby (John Phoenix) was brought in and laid on a cot by my side.
A disciplinarian.The rooms were separated by partitions of reeds, which admitted the passage of air and sound. And we could converse from one room to another. Darby's coarse humor was irrepressible. Nothing could stop it, and it gave annoyance especially to Captain Johnston, who was as pure as a woman in word and thought. But he lay quiescent, without any expression of pain, though his wounds were the most grievous of all, and silently endured Darby's jokes till he heard him one day order his servant to catch a lamb from a passing flock and have it cooked for dinner. Then he lifted up his voice and said, ‘If you dare to do that, sir, I will have you court-martialled.’  After ten days General Scott had all of us borne on litters up to the beautiful city of Jalapa, where we were in a delicious climate and luxurious quarters. After getting strength enough to walk to Captain (now Colonel) Johnston's quarters (he had been promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the fine regiment of voltigeurs) I went to see him every day, and we there formed an attachment which ever grew until the end. His nephew, the gallant young Preston Johnston, of the artillery, was his constant companion and nurse. Ten months later both had been shot down in battle ‘in the valley.’ Young Preston Johnston was killed instantly. His uncle, then heading the voltigeurs at Chapultepec, was again severely wounded.
Tender affection.Only a month ago he told me with deep feeling of his distress on hearing of his brave boy's death, and how Lee, who broke the news to him, wept as he grasped his hand and told it. The affection between these two great men was very tender.
A comparison.After the Mexican war we met no more on duty until about 1858, when a board of cavalry officers was assembled in Washington to establish a uniform equipage for our cavalry and artillery regiments. We were occupied several weeks on this business in Winder's building, where during the same time Captain William B. Franklin and Raphel Semmes were serving together on the light-house board. One day after our daily session Franklin said: Now that you have seen Lee and Johnston working together for some weeks, how do you estimate the two men? In previous discussion I had thought Lee more full of promise and capacity. I said: While both are as earnest and intelligent as possible, I have noticed that Colonel Lee often yields his opinions to those of the board or of other members of it, while Colonel Johnston has never on any occasion yielded his, but frequently has made the board yield to him. In fact, he is the one man who seems to have come to his work with a clear and fixed idea of what is needed in every detail of it.
Cordial intercourse.Our intercourse, as you know, has been cordial, and even affectionate, ever since we met in Mexico. I was with him for a few days after  the first battle of Manassas and accompanied him as he rode over the field and described the course and incidents of the fight. Then, I being ordered to the West, met him no more until about Christmas, 1862. When he came to our army at Grenada with President Davis, who reviewed and inspected it, the army was in position in our entrenchments on the Yallabusha. I commanded the centre and was in my place when General Johnston rode out from the President's cortege, greeted me most cordially, and asked me to ride with him, which we did for several hours.
A mistake.He had just returned from an inspection of Vicksburg, and told me he had never seen so much fortification, and thought it a mistake to keep so large an army in an entrenched camp; that the army ought to be in the field; that a heavy work should be constructed to command the river just above Vicksburg at ‘the turn,’ with a year's supply for a good garrison of about three thousand men, which would guard the river better than the long line of dispersed guns and entrenchments and troops which extended above and below Vicksburg for more than twenty miles. While commanding the Department of the Gulf I occasionally sent him supplies of provisions, troops, and some siege-pieces, which he mounted on the works of Atlanta, declaring thereby his intention to ‘keep that place.’ After his removal from command I received this very interesting letter from him: