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Chapter 1: family and boyhood.

  • Birth and family of Albert Sidney Johnston.
  • -- his father. -- his Maternal grandfather. -- boyhood and early friends. -- character as a boy. -- anecdote. -- his schools. -- Transylvania. -- desire to enter the Navy. -- visit to Louisiana. -- his brothers. -- vigor of early settlers of Kentucky. -- sketch of Josiah Stoddard Johnston. -- his distinguished career. -- his generosity to his brothers. -- return of A. -- S. -- Johnston to Transylvania. -- appointment to United States military Academy. -- kindness to animals. -- formation of character. -- illustrative anecdotes. -- Captain Eaton's account of entrance at West point. -- his conduct there. -- testimony of his fellow-cadets. -- singular occurrence at his graduation. -- assignment to Second infantry. Intimacy with Leonidas Polk. His friends at West point.

Albert Sidney Johnston was born on the 2d of February, 1803, in the village of Washington, Mason County, Kentucky. He was the youngest son of Dr. John Johnston, a physician, and one of the early settlers of that town. Dr. Johnston's father, Archibald Johnston, was a native of Salisbury, Connecticut, and descended from a Scotch family of some property and local influence, settled in Salisbury. John Johnston, having received a liberal education at New Haven, and at the medical school at Litchfield, began the practice of his profession in his native town. In 1783, at the age of twenty-one, he married Mary Stoddard, by whom he had three sons, Josiah Stoddard, Darius, and Orramel. In 1788 he removed to Kentucky, and settled at Washington, where he remained until his death in 1831.

Mason County, which then included all the northern and eastern portion of Kentucky, in 1790 contained only 2,729 inhabitants, while the whole population of the Territory of Kentucky was less than 74,000. The country still suffered from Indian incursions across the Ohio, and was indeed the very frontier of civilization. But, although an outpost, this beautiful and fertile neighborhood already enjoyed the benefits of social order, and was fast filling up with substantial and educated families, principally from Virginia and Maryland. Dr. Johnston's skill and worth soon secured him not only a large practice, but the warm friendship of the best people with whom he continued in the kindest relations during his whole life.

Having lost his first wife in 1793, in the following year he married Abigail Harris, the daughter of Edward Harris, an old settler, who, with [2] his wife, had emigrated from Newburyport, Massachusetts, and whom a venerable citizen describes as “the old John Knox Presbyterian of the place ;” adding, “anecdotes are still told of the spirit and courage with which he defended his Church.” One of General Johnston's earliest recollections was of his grandfather giving him money to buy a catechism. Edward Harris had been a Revolutionary soldier, and was appointed military storekeeper and postmaster at Washington, Kentucky, by President Washington. A letter to the Postmaster-General is still extant in which he resigns the latter office, because some new postal arrangement required him to open the mail on Sunday, which he could not conscientiously do. The letter is a candid expression of very decided religious convictions, and is evidently the production of an educated and thoughtful man. Edward Harris died in 1825, aged eighty-four years. He, at one time, owned a large body of land in Ohio, but lost it by the intrusion of squatters. Dr. Johnston's second wife lived about twelve years after her marriage, and died, leaving him six children-John Harris, Lucius, Anna Maria, Clarissa, Albert Sidney, and Eliza. Anna Maria married Mr. James Byers, Clarissa remained unmarried, and Eliza married John A. McClung, distinguished first as a lawyer and afterward as a Presbyterian minister. Dr. Johnston subsequently married Mrs. Byers, a widow with a large family of children, but there was no issue from this marriage. He died in 1831. Wonder was often expressed that he did not remove to a city, where his acknowledged skill would have secured adequate reward; but it may be presumed that he fairly estimated his advantages, and was satisfied to be able to maintain and properly educate so large a family. This he did, giving all his children the best education that the times afforded. Though diligent and conscientious in his profession, he was not anxious to accumulate money, and late in life became poor from the payment of security debts. To discharge these he voluntarily gave up all his property; his home was sold at public sale, but it was bought and restored to him by his eldest son, who had then become eminent and prosperous. Mr. J. S. Chambers, from whom these facts were obtained, adds:

I always thought General Johnston inherited his frank, manly nature from his father. His mother was a gentle, quiet woman; while the old doctor was bold and blunt to a remarkable degree. He had no concealments, and was physically energetic, and mentally bold and independent. He had a large practice, and was often called into consultation in difficult, or rather in desperate, cases.

All the old citizens of Washington bear witness to his industry, skill, talents, and probity, and to his kind and genial temper. General Johnston's mother is spoken of by others as a woman of handsome person, [3] fine intellect, and sterling worth; but, whatever traits her children inherited from her, she died too young to have done much toward moulding their character.

The boyhood of Albert Sidney Johnston was a fit prelude to his after-life. Though his father's means were narrow, yet the education which he had, at whatever personal inconvenience, bestowed upon all his children, could not fail to exercise a liberalizing influence on his household. The habits of all classes at that time were plain and unostentatious; but this family was necessarily trained to a Spartan simplicity that was ever after the rule and habit of life most congenial to the subject of this memoir. Captain Wilson Duke, United States Navy, one of the choice friends of his youth, used laughingly to tell how he tore off his ruffled shirt-collar and hid his shoes on the road to school, from fear of Albert Johnston's ridicule. His intimate friends in those early days nearly all obtained more than ordinary positions in after-life. Among them were : Captain Wilson Duke, the father of the gallant General Basil W. Duke; Captain William Smith, also of the United States Navy; Captain William Bickley, of the United States Army; Hon. John D. Taylor, well known in the politics and jurisprudence of Kentucky; Mr. Charles Marshall (known as Black Dan), Mr. John Green, and John A. McClung.

Albert Sidney Johnston was endowed by nature with an ardent and enthusiastic temperament; but to this were joined a solidity of judgment and a power of self-control, that early held it in check, and eventually so regulated it that it was only displayed in resolutions and actions requiring uncommon loftiness of soul. The feature of his character most remarked by his contemporaries was, in his early boyhood, an energy that made him an acknowledged leader among his comrades; later, it was a self-contained dignity and reserved power that subjected affections, will, and passions, to the performance of duty.

His eldest sister says of him that, when he was a boy, he was fearless and impetuous; but kind, affectionate, and just; amenable to reason, and deferential to age.

Mr. J. G. Hickman, of Maysville, writing in 1869, “after consulting all the old folk,” says:

My aunt and Mr. Lashbrooke remember General Johnston from his infancy; and they say, as indeed all say, that there was great promise about him from his childhood. He was a handsome, proud, manly, earnest, and self-reliant boy; and his success and distinction in after-life were only what were expected of him by those who knew him in his boyhood. Mr. Lashbrooke says he went to the same school with him, in 1811, to Mann Butler, a teacher of some distinction in his day. He was distinguished, too, for his courage in boyhood and early manhood. While he was a born gentleman, as they all say, and as far from being a bully as any boy in the world, yet he was one whom the bullies [4] left undisturbed. Colonel C. A. Marshall told me of one fellow about Washington who was proud of playing the bully, but who, to the amusement of the town, always skipped Albert Johnston and Black Dan Marshall.

General Johnston sometimes told an anecdote of his early boyhood, from which he was wont to draw many a valuable moral. Playing marbles “for keeps” --a species of boyish gaming — was a favorite sport of his schoolboy days; and he was so skillful and successful a marble-player that at one time he had won a whole jar full of white alleys, taws, potters, etc. It was then that the design entered his breast of winning all the marbles in the town, in the State, and eventually in the world. Filled with enthusiasm at the vastness of his project, he cast about for the means; and finally concluded, as the first step, to secure his acquisitions by burying them. He buried his jar very secretly, reserving only marbles enough “to begin life on.” Purpose lent steadiness to his aim, so that again he beat all his rivals “in the ring,” and added daily to his store. Only one competitor stood against him, whose resources seemed to consist not so much in skill as in an exhaustless supply of marbles, that were sacrificed with a recklessness arguing unlimited pocket-money. At last he, too, succumbed, and the victor went with a jar larger than the first, to add it to his spoils. To his dismay, however, he found his hoard plundered and his treasure gone. The inferior, but desperate, marble-player had furtively watched him, robbed him, and then staked and lost his ill-gotten gains. The second jar contained the same marbles as the first, and larceny had contended for empire with ambition. General Johnston said that he felt the lesson as a distinct rebuke to his avarice and rapacity; the plans he had built upon success vanished; and he learned that world-wide renown as a marble-player was merely “vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Mr. J. S. Chambers, writing in January, 1873, says:

He was six or seven years my senior, yet I remember him with great distinctness. He was my beau-ideal of a manly, handsome boy. He went to school for several years to James Grant, about one mile and a half west of Washington. Hie was active and energetic in the athletic games of the period, and fond of hunting on Saturdays, and always stood well in his classes, having a special talent for mathematics. He was grave and thoughtful in his deportment, but, when drawn out, talked well, and was considered by his associates and teachers as a boy of fine capacity.

When he was nearly fifteen years of age his father yielded to his wishes, and sent him to a school in Western Virginia; but he was disappointed in its character, and remained only one session. He was afterward, for a short time, in the drug-store of Mr. Thomas Duke; but, whether with the intention of adopting trade or medicine as a line of life, we are not informed. Throughout life he showed an uncommon [5] knowledge of physiology, and acquaintance with medical practice; due in part, perhaps, to this apprenticeship, but probably still more to the informal instruction of his father.

Colonel C. Marshall, writing with reference to this period of his life, says:

His dignified bearing, his reserved and quiet manners, even at that time, I can recall. The influence he always possessed with the young men of his own age, and his habitual interference for the protection of the smaller and weaker boys, are well remembered.

He was then sent to Transylvania, where he remained a session, the room-mate of his townsman, John D. Taylor, who was of his own age, and who wrote concerning him:

Nature had endowed him with a genius and fondness for mathematics, which enabled him to hold a high position in his class at Transylvania.

He studied hard, but at the end of the term became restless, from a desire to enter the navy. The gallant achievements of the American Navy in the war against Great Britain, and the subsequent daring exploits of Decatur at Algiers, had doubtless inspired him with the desire to emulate these high examples. His friends Duke and Smith, under the same impulse, sought and obtained warrants as midshipmen. But this project received no favor at home. His father and family opposed it; and, in order to divert his mind from brooding over a plan on which he had set his heart, it was proposed that he should accompany his sister, Mrs. Byers, and her husband, who were going to Louisiana. In the autumn of 1819 he went with them to the parish of Rapides, whither all his brothers had preceded him, and made a visit to his eldest brother, Josiah Stoddard Johnston. This visit was attended with important consequences to the adventurous youth, changing the theatre of his ambition from sea to land. Indeed, as the youngest son, the Benjamin of the household, sent to this new land of plenty by the old man, his father, he was received with a double portion of kindness by the elder brother, who, now in middle life, had already achieved a conspicuous position.

It will not be inappropriate here to give a brief account of the brothers of Albert Sidney Johnston, since a strong family likeness to “the old man, their father,” and to each other, serves in some measure to throw light upon his character. It has been already mentioned that the immigration to Mason County had brought with it a degree of wealth, culture, and social order, unusual in new communities, to which was joined the enterprise that had peopled the wilderness. The intellectual vigor of the settlers is evinced in the “Kentucky law reports” of an early period, which show legal ability and acumen rare in any [6] country. Nowhere were the characteristic traits of Kentucky people more fully displayed than in Mason County, from whose pioneer families proceeded many noted men; but from under no roof-tree went forth a hardier brood than from that which sheltered the boyhood of Albert Sidney Johnston. First among his brothers in age and eminence was Josiah Stoddard Johnston. The following facts, obtained from a sketch of him by Hon. Henry D. Gilpin, of Philadelphia, and from other sources, will give some idea of his career.

Born in Salisbury, Connecticut, November 24, 1784, he was taken to Kentucky by his father at an early age. When twelve years old his father carried him to New Haven, Connecticut, to school, where he remained some years; but he completed his academic education at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, and then studied law with the famous George Nicholas. His acquirements were solid, and his reading choice and various. In 1805 he emigrated to the Territory of Louisiana, lately acquired from the French, and then sparsely settled by a rude population. Settling at Alexandria, at that time a frontier village, he devoted himself to the practice of law, and rapidly gained wealth and distinction. His firm yet gentle temper and strong sense of justice kept him free from the personal collisions that marked the period and region, and, indeed, enabled him to maintain the honorable character of an umpire in an unorganized society, so that he was called “the Peacemaker,” while his education and talents placed him in the front rank of the leaders of public opinion. He was elected to the first Territorial Legislature, and continued a member of that body until Louisiana became a State in 1812. He held the position of district judge from 1812 to 1821. Toward the close of the war, when Louisiana was invaded by the British, he was elected to the command of a regiment of volunteers, which he had aided in raising, and to equip which he had from his own means bought a large quantity of arms and ammunition; but, though they joined General Jackson, it was too late to share in the decisive victory of January 8, 1815. In 1814 he married Miss Eliza Sibley, the daughter of Dr. John Sibley, of Natchitoches, a lady of rare personal and intellectual attractions. In 1821 he was elected to the Seventeenth Congress, and in 1823 to the Senate of the United States; in 1825 he was reflected; and in 1831 he was chosen again by a Legislature opposed to him in political opinion. These successive trusts were justified by the fidelity and success with which they were discharged; and his last election was due to the conviction that his continuance in the Senate was necessary to the welfare of the State. As a member of that body, though he did not decline to take part in the exciting political contests then waged, his chief attention was directed to the advancement of the material interests of the country. Although not a brilliant orator, he was a clear [7] and forcible speaker, and always commanded the ear of the Senate. As chairman of the Committee on Commerce, and as a member of the Committee on Finance, he brought to bear an untiring industry that mastered the details, while it grasped the principles of whatever subjects came before him; and this not only by the study of books, but by conference with practical men and by severe, independent thought. Hence his reports and speeches, which were marked by the directness of his mind and the unselfishness of his political character, were listened to with respect even by his opponents, while his amiability and forbearance secured him a large personal influence. He enjoyed a very close friendship with Mr. Clay, with whom he was in political affiliation. He opposed the doctrine of Nullification, and was a leading advocate for a carefully-guarded protective tariff which, by a judicious adjustment of duties, should advance American industry. But, while he was a close student of the history and Constitution of the United States, and a representative diligent in the protection of his constituents, his position in reference to the commerce of the country called his attention to questions of even wider range. It is to his credit that, with an enlightened benevolence and enlarged view of international law, he strenuously pressed upon the Government the duty of seeking a mitigation of the laws of maritime war. To this end he urged especially that neutral vessels should protect the goods on board to whomsoever they might belong; and that articles contraband of war should be limited to the smallest possible number of such as are of direct use and essential in their operations.

Mr. Johnston was somewhat below middle size, of graceful person, handsome countenance, and most winning manners. The testimony of his contemporaries represents him as a firm yet moderate partisan; a statesman of singularly disinterested views; a most steadfast and loyal friend; and a man of warm, pure affections, cheerful, generous, and honorable. The happy influence of such a character and career upon a band of younger brothers cannot be over-estimated, especially when they saw virtue crowned with a success which met neither check nor reverse from its beginning in 1805 to the close of an honored life in 1833. He was a man well beloved, and well deserving the love of his fellow-men. His conduct toward his brothers not only illustrates the warmth of his affections, but exerted a powerful influence over the destinies of his family. As they approached man's estate he directed and aided in their education, invited them to his home, and advanced them in their professions.

Darius was graduated at Transylvania, and studied law with Hon. William T. Barry, afterward Postmaster-General. Orramel and Harris were thoroughly trained, under the eye of their eldest brother, by private tutors; the former completing the study of medicine in New Orleans, [8] and the latter studying law with Judge Alexander Porter, an eminent jurist. Darius and Orramel, however, took part in the Mexican War of Independence; and, although they survived to return, it was with constitutions ruined by hardship, fever, and imprisonment, so that the former soon died, and the latter survived only a few years. Lucius, who was said to possess fine oratorical powers, went to Louisiana with the view of becoming a planter; but in the second year of his residence succumbed to a prevalent malignant fever, when only twenty-four years old. These were all remembered as young men of much promise. John Harris Johnston, with better fortune, at once made his way at the bar, and was also several times elected to the State Legislature. He was then chosen district judge; which position, after some years, he resigned, to take the place of parish judge, which he held until his death in 1838. He was a remarkably handsome man, with fine legal abilities and great industry, and with the same amiability that characterized his brothers. As Josiah S. Johnston showed to his brothers of the half-blood the same affection and kindness as to his own brothers, so to him and his memory were returned a gratitude and devotion that lost none of their warmth by lapse of years. Not many years before his own death, General Johnston said to the writer, with great feeling, “I am more indebted to my brother Stoddard for whatever I am, than to any other man.” He taught his children to love and revere the memory of this generous brother and his good wife.

In the course of a winter passed most pleasantly in Louisiana, Albert Sidney Johnston yielded his purpose to enter the navy, in deference to his brother's advice, and consented to return to Transylvania University. Once resolved, he reentered with ardor and steady industry on his collegiate course at Lexington, where he remained two years. Transylvania University, though planted almost in the wilderness, had the good fortune to be under able direction, and had thus acquired great reputation as a seat of learning. It was the Alma Mater of many illustrious men, among whom is Jefferson Davis. In his own reminiscences of his college-life, General Johnston spoke with great respect of the eminent talents and distinguished urbanity of Dr. Holley, the president; and with affectionate remembrance of Mr.Deweese and Mrs. Deweese, the amiable friends with whom he boarded, and by whom he was treated like a kinsman. He not only advanced himself in his mathematics during his stay at Transylvania, but obtained a very thorough training in the Latin classics, and an acquaintance with other branches of learning that were useful to him later in life. Twenty-five years afterward he read and construed Sallust with considerable facility. But his preference was for mathematics and the natural sciences. Mr. John P. Morton, of Louisville, who sat next him in class, says, “He was conspicuous for always knowing his lessons.” [9]

He was undoubtedly a hard student, and he met his reward in the form he most desired. After the check given to his wish to enter the navy, the desire to become a soldier had entirely supplanted it; and in this hope his eldest brother had indulged him. In 1822 Josiah S. Johnston, being then a member of Congress from Louisiana, procured for him an appointment to the Military Academy at West Point; and he entered on his preparation for the military career with an enthusiasm that had in it almost the spirit of consecration. His sister, Mrs. Byers, supplies a little anecdote that may be related here. He had a beautiful riding-horse, which he thought of selling; but, as the time approached for his departure, he would turn his favorite out of the stable, and watch his graceful movements as he enjoyed the freedom of the pasture. When about to go, he gave him to his sister, saying: “I cannot sell that horse; he might fall into hands where he would be badly treated; but you will use him well.” Mrs. Byers says: “His dog and his horse he always treated with the kindest consideration. I have often known him to walk, and lead his horse, when it had become fatigued.” This trait grew upon him with years, and his comrades and followers can attest the benevolence that noted and regarded every sign of fatigue or suffering in animals under his control.

The writer recalls many lessons from his father to impress upon him that a man has no right to inflict upon any creature of God unnecessary pain. He would habitually turn aside from treading upon a worm in his path; but there was no morbid sentimentality in this, as he enjoyed field-sports moderately. He preferred, however, not to injure the most insignificant beings. It may not be amiss to give here another little anecdote, that shows in part how his habits of self-control were formed. The same sister tells how, when he was a lad fourteen years old, on one occasion, “though not in the habit of giving way to anger,” he entirely lost patience, after having repeatedly tried in vain to pull on a tight boot, and at last threw it violently out of the window. She gave him a gentle and rather playful rebuke, at which he left the room with a look of quiet defiance, but soon returned with the boot, and silently set it against the wall. No further allusion was made to it. When ten years later he visited his family, Mr. Byers presented him with a fine rifle. He loaded the rifle to try it; but, on attempting to shoot, it snapped. He examined it, and tried again; again it snapped; and so on for several times. At last, he quietly put it down, saying, “This is a very fine rifle, but it needs oiling.” His sister, who had been admiring his patience and calmness, said, “I wonder you did not strike it across the railing.” He laughed, and replied: “You remember the boot. I have not forgotten it; but I have learned that a soldier should have perfect control of himself, to be able to control others.” That this was not a young man's idle boast, subsequent events will show. [10]

Poets, wits, and men of letters, often exhibit precocious signs of coming greatness; “Pope lisped in numbers,” and “Poor Goldsmith” jested as a boy; but the youth of men of action is usually spent in uneventful preparation for the work before them, and their early record is generally unmarked by interesting incidents, or wise and witty sayings. The chief value of what little can be gathered of the youth of Albert Sidney Johnston lies in its entire consistency with his after-life. It is in this view that such glimpses of his boyhood, and life at West Point, as can be collected, are here given. On his way to West Point he first met Nathaniel J. Eaton, with whom he formed a friendship that subsisted for nearly forty years. The steadiness and loyalty of this attachment will receive ample illustration in these pages; but Captain Eaton's own account manifests both his enthusiasm and the deep and earnest nature of. his friend. In a letter of January 1, 1873, he says:

I first met Albert Sidney Johnston in June, 1822, on board the little steamer Fire-Fly, on the North River, as we were going to West Point to be examined for admission as cadets in the Military Academy. He was a full-grown man, of commanding figure and imposing presence. Hie was then a little over nineteen years old; and I was a stripling of a boy, not quite fifteen years old, and as green as I was young. The notice your father took of me, and his kindness of manner toward me, made a deep impression on my heart; and now, after the lapse of more than half a century, I often think of it very pleasantly. We arrived at West Point on Saturday evening; and the next morning, which was bright and beautiful, as your father and I stood on the veranda on the north side of the old “South Barracks,” looking at the parade and inspection of the corps of cadets, and listening to the music of the band, he laid his hand on my head and said kindly, “Well, my young friend, what do you think of that?” His manner was most kind, and filled the measure of youthful love, respect, and, I may say, reverence, that I had for him; and to this day it remains as fresh, as bright, and as pleasant to me as it was then. But it was many years after that before I dared to hope that the warm regard I had for him was reciprocated. He was a reticent man, as you know, and was undemonstrative. Besides, he was five years my senior, and was even then a man of a good deal of culture. Hence there was but little social intercourse between us while we were together at the Academy. But on joining my regiment in 1827, at Jefferson Barracks, the gallant old Sixth Infantry of glorious memory, I was cordially greeted by your father, who had been assigned to that regiment. We were on very pleasant terms, but his reticence and dignity of manners prevented me from knowing exactly how I stood with him; and it was not until I took leave of him, when about to start on furlough in the fall of 1828, that I was able to penetrate beneath his reserve of manner. But his cordial grasp, as I shook hands with him and bade him good-by, and his hearty “God bless you, Eaton” revealed what I had for years yearned to know, that my warm feelings for him were reciprocated; and I think those feelings were never for a moment alienated; so that, when he fell at Shiloh, I felt as if I had lost a brother.

That the friend so cherished had desired and valued this boyish [11] devotion is proved by a letter of General Johnston's from Utah, in 1858. He writes to Captain Eaton:

I have known you long; more than the lifetime of a generation. I remember when I first saw you on North River. The son of a noble patriot could not fail to attract my attention; and, although you were much my junior, I felt a desire for your friendship, which in the course of time I acquired. I need not say that it was reciprocal, and in all that time not one incident has occurred to mar a friendship purely disinterested.

To many a veteran soldier, this little episode will serve to recall like friendships, prompted by the same scenes and similar emotions, and cemented by sincere esteem; and to none, indeed, can the spectacle be altogether indifferent of the honorable sympathy of young and ardent souls ripening into enduring regard.

Colonel N. C. Macrae, who was his classmate, says:

His whole career at West Point was marked by a staid firmness, not always found among young gentlemen. He commanded the respect of all who knew him.

Colonel William H. C. Bartlett says:

No one of his large class at the Academy enjoyed more than he the respect of all who knew him, and none had a larger share of the affectionate regards of his classmates. His nature was truly noble, and untainted by anything small or contracted.

Colonel Edward B. White says:

During our few years at West Point, he was esteemed by us all as a high-minded, honorable gentleman and soldier, for whom we entertained much affection, and whose death was unaffectedly mourned by the few of us who survive. He was, as a mark of his good conduct and soldierly bearing, a non-commissioned and commissioned officer of the corps of cadets, I think, during his whole term; a distinction much valued and desired by all of us; and, during the last or graduating year, was adjutant of the corps, which he preferred to a captaincy, which my contemporary Bartlett says was at his option.

Hon. Jefferson Davis says:

He was sergeant-major, and afterward was selected by the commandant for the adjutancy, then the most esteemed office in the corps.

And adds:

He was not a hard student, though a fair one. His quickness supplied this defect. He did not have an enemy in the corps, or an unkind feeling to any one, though he was select in his associates.

The testimony of others might be adduced to the same purport; suffice it to say, however, that he pursued the prescribed course at the Military Academy with diligence and success. [12]

The struggles of the South American republics for independence, and the revolt of Greece against Turkey, had excited the warmest interest in the United States; and the poetry of Byron and the eloquence of Clay found an echo in the feelings and opinions of the young men at the Military Academy. Johnston and some others were approached by the agents of the revolutionary governments. The era of profound peace that was evidently opening before the United States was contrasted with other arenas which seemed to offer the most splendid prizes to military talent and ambition; and it was seriously discussed among the more adventurous cadets whether aid to the nationalities striving for liberty against oppression was not a more pressing call than the routine service of the United States Army. Fortunately, prudent counsels prevailed; but General Johnston, many years after, spoke of it to the writer as a strong temptation wisely resisted. He stated that this incident had directed his attention to the careers of men who had enlisted in a foreign army, and that his observation was that the greater the services rendered by them the more jealously were they regarded by the native rulers, and that this prejudice against the foreigner was sure to thwart their ablest efforts. I think he cited, as one instance, General Woll, of the Mexican Army, a Belgian, whom he esteemed as its best soldier.

The circumstances attending the graduation of Albert Sidney Johnston were somewhat unusual. He had won his way by hard labor to a grade in mathematical attainment only excelled by W. H. C. Bartlett, afterward distinguished as a professor of the institution, to whom he accorded an easy eminence; and by Mr. Twiss, who was inferior to Bartlett only. Mr. Davis says:

Johnston did not highly value class-standing, but was anxious for a thorough knowledge of the course.

He devoted himself earnestly to the preparation for the examination, and was satisfied with his mastery of the whole course except two problems; but, when he was called upon to come forward, the subject presented to him for discussion was one of these very problems. He was compelled to decline, hoping for better fortune next time; but, to his dismay, by a coincidence not included in his doctrine of chances, the professor gave him the other neglected problem. He was again obliged to say that he was unprepared. He was ordered to take his seat; but, feeling that his reputation and future standing were at stake, he briefly yet forcibly stated the fact that these were the only two exceptions to his knowledge of the course. The superintendent sternly ordered him to take his seat, which he did. If the matter had ended here, he would probably have lost his commission as well as his grade; but, as soon as the class was dismissed, he sent a written communication to the examiners, stating the facts, and challenging the [13] most rigorous examination. There was some indisposition to grant the reexamination; but it was finally accorded to him, through the friendly intervention of General Worth, then commandant of the Corps of Cadets, who had been greatly pleased with his bearing under such difficult circumstances, as well as with his previous conduct as a cadet. It was a most trying ordeal. The board took him at his word, and gave him a long and most searching examination; after which, however, in spite of a reduction on account of his misadventure, and of a want of skill in drawing, he was graded eighth in his class. He was not only grateful to Worth for this good turn, but always retained an admiration for him as a dashing soldier. Worth had a large measure of knowledge and experience, and was full of martial spirit and generosity, which, with his handsome person and gallant bearing, made him a model for these young soldiers. He always treated Johnston with marked consideration; and, after the Mexican War, recommended him as leader for a difficult enterprise.

When Albert Sidney Johnston was graduated, in June, 1826, he was entitled, by virtue of his rank in his class, to select which arm of the service he preferred. Had a cavalry corps then existed, his tastes would have led him to enter it; but as between the artillery, then generally stationed in the seaboard fortresses, usually considered preferable, and the infantry, which was employed in more active service on the frontier, he chose the latter. He was accordingly assigned to the Second Infantry, with the rank of brevet second-lieutenant, to take date from July 1, 1826, with a furlough until the 1st of November. He left the Military Academy with very kind feelings to his classmates, and with a high regard for the institution, which he retained through life. His recollections of Prof. McIlvaine, then chaplain at West Point, and afterward Bishop of Ohio, were especially kindly. Hon. Jefferson Davis says:

Johnston valued one feature of cadet-life very much, the opportunity to select one's own acquaintance from congeniality of tastes, which was denied to the officer in barracks.

The subsequent careers of his friends is the best justification of his discrimination. Leonidas Polk, of Tennessee, subsequently Bishop of Louisiana, and a lieutenant-general in the Confederate service, was his room-mate and intimate friend; and General Johnston never slackened in his affection for him, which was based upon a perfect confidence in his nobility of soul. He confirmed the reasonable opinion that Polk's religious development was the natural outgrowth of habits and beliefs cherished as a cadet. A single letter, written him in 1827, by Polk, who was still a cadet, remains. It is that of one intimate friend to another, on topics personal or pertaining to the Academy. Robert [14] Anderson, afterward famous for his defense of Fort Sumter, was another close friend at West Point. Some of their correspondence yet remains.

Among his friends at the Military Academy were William Bickley, his townsman, Daniel S. Donelson, of Tennessee, afterward a gallant general in the Confederate service; Berrien, of Georgia; the veteran Maynadier; Bradford, a grandson of the first printer in Kentucky; W. H. C. Bartlett, already mentioned; and Lucien Bibb, the son of Hon. George M. Bibb, and a noble, graceful man of genius.

His most intimate friend was Bennett H. Henderson, some time assistant professor at West Point, a man of brilliant talents, who resigned and began the practice of the law in St. Louis, but met an early and accidental death. Jefferson Davis, who was two classes below Johnston in the Academy, formed with him a fast friendship, that grew and strengthened, and knew neither decay nor end. There were others for whom Albert Sidney Johnston entertained a warm and lasting regard, and to whom, it is hoped, these pages may recall pleasant passages of youthful fellowship and happiness; but we refrain from further detail. It was a society of young, ardent, and generous spirits, in which prevailed general good feeling and little bitterness-a generation of brave spirits, steadfast and reflective, but beyond comparison ardent and generous.

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