Civil War Fantasy Roster: Edward “Old Allegheny” Johnson

Among all division-level Confederate Generals there is only one of them that has not been honored with the name of a chapter of the Sons or Daughters of the Confederacy. That one exception to the rule that the Confederacy honors its soldiers is Edward “Old Allegheny” Johnson, whose early death and lack of a family, along with the fact that his achievements were stolen by others (particularly Stonewall Jackson) has led him to be a far more unknown and obscure general than he deserved.

Now, I am no great partisan of the cause of the Confederacy, but it is easy to recognize the bravery and skill of Edward Johnson as a leader, and it is for that reason that I find him worthy of a fourth round pick, even if it is likely that he would be available later. Like Samuel Ryan Curtis [1], he commanded a small army ably, but given his notable ability, it is remarkable that he was not remembered better—he had the bad luck to be captured twice, in large part due to being immensely brave, but at the same time he led two small armies to victory himself during the American Civil War, and that itself deserves great credit.

Like many future Civil War leaders, Edward Johnson conducted himself with bravery during the Mexican-American War, being brevetted twice during the Mexico City Campaign. Then, again, like many of his contemporaries, he served bravely in the West in the late 1840’s and 1850’s, participating in the Utah Expedition among other exploits. When he resigned form the US army he received the rank of Colonel in the 12th Georgia and his regiment was sent to defend the claim of Virginia over what became West Virginia under Robert E. Lee. Though the campaign as a whole was unsuccessful, after Lee was recalled to Richmond Johnson led the brigade-sized “Army of the Northwest” to victory at Allegheny Station against Union forces under Union Gen. Milroy, which earned him the nickname “Old Allegheny [2].”
While that victory alone would have made him worthy of a roster spot, it is his work in the Valley Campaign that makes it such a crime for him to be so forgotten by Confederate partisans. After all, it was Johnson’s regiments, which he had commanded the year before, that brought Jackson’s army victory at the Battle of McDowell, where Johnson was injured with a shot in the ankle. It was Johnson’s men and Johnson’s leadership that earned that victory, as Jackson was not on the field at all. Nonetheless, as the battle was key in providing the momentum for Jackson to win in the Valley Campaign, Stonewall Jackson has gotten the credit and Edward Johnson has largely been forgotten.

While recovering from his injuries, Edward Johnson’s reputation as somewhat of a ladies’ man (despite being heavy-set, somewhat crude, and afflicted with a wound that made him appear to be winking flirtatiously) reached Richmond, earning him recognition in Mary Chesnutt’s diary. After Stonewall Jackson’s death, he took command of the Stonewall Division, and he ended up defeating Milroy yet again at the Second Battle of Winchester (his third victory as a general officer) before arriving late on July 1st at Gettysburg, and not being put into battle against the Union forces on Culp’s Hill until the next two days, without reinforcement or lasting success against that strong position.

Likewise, Johnson was notable for his role in the Mine Run campaign, another unjustly obscure action, where he helped defend against a Union incursion in late 1863. After serving bravely in the Battle of the Wilderness, he was a candidate to replace Longstreet as Corps commander and then was captured in the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania, spending some time in prison in Morris Island, outside of Charleston. Once he was exchanged he was sent to Hood’s army, where he was captured in the debacle at Nashville (for which he does not deserve blame), after which he was falsely thought to be complicit in Lincoln’s assassination. He was then freed in July of 1865, became a farmer, and died in 1873, too early to have written memoirs that would have shown his military talent to later generations. Fortunately, he has a friend in historian Gregg Clemmer, who has written a definitive biography and introduced me to this forgotten leader.

So, why does he deserve recognition on a Civil War fantasy draft? He won three battles, two of them very substantial, as a leader of small armies, and served a vital (if forgotten role) on the brigade and division level in Jackson and Lee’s armies. Despite his excellence as a military leader, his lack of a family (he never married or had children) as well as a large cheering section among postwar memory makers left his considerable exploits and talent to be largely forgotten. He is obscure enough that he would probably remain available until well after the fourth round, but he merits consideration here especially for his work as an independent commander, aside from his notable bravery at Gettysburg, Mine Run, and the Wilderness as a subordinate of Lee.



About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, History, Military History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Civil War Fantasy Roster: Edward “Old Allegheny” Johnson

  1. Pingback: A Modest Proposal For A Jane Austen Fantasy Draft | Edge Induced Cohesion

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