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December 16, 1863 - Gen. Joseph E. Johnston (right) takes command of the Army of Tennessee from Gen. Braxton Bragg. Graduating from West Point in 1829, Johnston served as an engineer in the years before the Civil War. Twice brevetted for bravery during the Mexican-American War, he was appointed Quartermaster General of the US Army in 1860. The highest ranking officer to resign from the US Army and go south, he co-led the Confederate army to victory at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. Given command of what became the Army of Northern Virginia, he opposed Maj. Gen. George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign until being badly wounded at Seven Pines. Recovering, he was appointed to command the Department of the West. In this position he lacked the manpower to save Vicksburg and spent most of 1863 on the defensive. Despite a frosty relationship with Pres. Jefferson Davis, he was given command of the Army of Tennessee that December. The following spring and summer saw him driven back through northern Georgia by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. Always prone to giving ground while seeking an advantage, Johnston was relieved by Davis in July and replaced by Gen. John Bell Hood. A popular commander with the public, he was recalled to oversee the defense of the Carolinas in early 1865, but lacked the resources to halt Sherman's advance. Meeting with Sherman at Bennett Place, NC in late April, he surrendered the nearly 90,000 under his command - the largest single Confederate surrender of the war. Impressed with Sherman's humanity towards his defeated troops, he served as a pallbearer at the general's funeral in 1891. In the process, he caught pneumonia and died a few weeks later.

Photograph Courtesy of the National Archives & Records Administration


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