Albert Sidney Johnston

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Albert Sidney Johnston : biography

February 2, 1803 – April 6, 1862

Battle of Mill Springs

After this Confederate defeat at the Battle of Mill Springs, Davis sent Johnston a brigade and a few other scattered reinforcements, and he sent Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, who was supposed to attract recruits because of his victories early in the war and give Johnston a competent subordinate.Woodworth, pp. 71–72. The brigade, however, came with the incompetent Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, who was to take command at Fort Donelson as the senior general present just before Brig. Gen. Grant attacked the fort.Woodworth, pp. 80, 84. Beauregard’s move to the west contributed to the movement of the Union commanders into action against the forts so they could act before, in their view, Beauregard could make a difference in the theater.Woodworth, pp. 72, 78. They had heard that he was bringing 15 regiments with him, but this actually was not true.

Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Nashville

Based on the assumption that Kentucky neutrality would act as a shield against a direct invasion from the north, Tennessee initially had sent men to Virginia and concentrated defenses in the Mississippi Valley, circumstances that no longer applied in September 1861.Woodworth, p. 54.Eicher, The Longest Night. pp. 111–113. Even before Johnston arrived in Tennessee, two forts had been started to defend the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River which provided avenues into the State from the north.Woodworth, p. 56. Both had been sited in Tennessee, however, in order to respect Kentucky neutrality and were not in ideal locations.Long, p. 142Weigley, p. 108McPherson, p. 393. Fort Henry on the Tennessee River was in an especially unfavorable low–lying location commanded by hills on the Kentucky side of the river. Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, although in a better location, also was not well–sited, had a vulnerable land side and did not have enough heavy artillery for its defense against gunboats.

Maj. Gen. Polk ignored the problems of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson when he took command and, after Johnston took command, at first refused to comply with Johnston’s order to send an engineer, Lt. Joseph K. Dixon, to inspect the forts.Woodworth, p. 57. After Johnston asserted his authority, Polk ultimately had to allow Dixon to proceed. Dixon recommended that the forts be maintained and strengthened, even though they were not in ideal locations, because much work had been done on them and the Confederates might not have time to build new ones. Johnston accepted the recommendations. Johnston wanted Major, later Lt. Gen., Alexander P. Stewart to command the forts but President Davis appointed Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman as commander. Then, in order to prevent Polk from dissipating his forces by implementing his proposal to allow some men to join a partisan group, Johnston ordered him to send Brig. Gen. Gideon Pillow and 5,000 men to Fort Donelson.Woodworth, p. 58. Pillow took up a position at nearby Clarksville, Tennessee and did not move into the fort itself until February 7, 1862.Long, pp. 167–168.Eicher, The Longest Night, p. 171 says the garrison at Fort Donelson numbered 1,956 men before the Fort Henry garrison and the men under Floyd and Pillow joined them in early February 1862. Alerted by a Union reconnaissance on January 14, 1862, Johnston ordered Tilghman to fortify the high ground opposite Fort Henry, which Polk had failed to do despite Johnston’s orders.Woodworth, p. 71. Tilghman also failed to act decisively on these orders, which in any event were now too late to be adequately carried out.McPherson, p. 396.A Confederate battery and the beginning of some fortifications were sited across the river at Fort Heiman but these were of little value when the Union flotilla appeared.

Gen. Beauregard arrived at Johnston’s headquarters at Bowling Green on February 4, 1862 and was given overall command of Polk’s force at the western end of Johnston’s line at Columbus, Kentucky.Woodworth, p. 78.After some preliminary work with Johnston, Beauregard assumed command of this force, which he named the Army of the Mississippi, on March 5, 1862 while at Jackson, Tennessee. Like the other Confederate commander, he had to withdraw to the south after the fall of the forts or be surrounded by the advancing Union forces. Long, p. 178. On February 6, 1862, Union Navy gunboats quickly reduced the defenses of ill-sited Fort Henry, inflicting 21 casualties on the small remaining Confederate force.Woodworth, pp. 78–79.Long, p. 167. Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman surrendered the 94 remaining officers and men of his approximately 3,000-man force which had not been sent to Fort Donelson before U.S. Grant’s force could even take up their positions.Long, pp. 166–167Weigley, p. 109. Johnston knew he could be trapped at Bowling Green if Fort Donelson fell, so he moved his force to Nashville, the capital of Tennessee and an increasingly important Confederate industrial center, beginning on February 11, 1862.Woodworth, p. 79.Loing, pp. 169–170.