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 Posted: Wed Jan 17th, 2007 03:23 pm
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calcav
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There is no official listing of any particular Confederate unit which may have caused the fatal wounding of General Albert S. Johnston at the Battle of Shiloh. Speculation that he was shot by friendly fire arises due to the nature of his wound, a rifle ball that entered the back of his right knee tearing the poplitreal artery. The possibility of friendly fire assumes that Johnston was facing the enemy at the time he was struck and there is no certainty of this. Johnston's horse "Fire Eater" was struck twice and was more than likely very active in its movements because of the sound and events occurring all around. Keep in mind that this was the horse’s baptism of fire and his behavior was not documented. Johnston was very active himself in organizing an attack against the Union left and was most certainly not sitting static when the wounding occurred. I do not think it will ever be known which unit, let alone which side, fired the fatal bullet.

 

In his book Shiloh: Bloody April, author Wiley Sword contends that General Johnston was struck by a .577 caliber Enfield bullet. Author Charles Roland in Albert Sidney Johnston: Soldier of Three Republics states it was a "minie ball" which could have been one of several calibers of rifled bullet. The ball was extracted by Beauregard's staff surgeon Dr. Choppin but it is unclear what type and caliber it was. Keep in mind that the battlefield was a very fluid, dynamic situation. Soldiers had fought back and forth over that precise piece of real estate and weapons and ammunition had been dropped and scavenged as needed to continue the fight. Even if the exact type of weapon were identified there is no way to conclusively prove if a southern or northern soldier fired it.

 

The actual location of Johnston’s wounding is on a small knoll less than a hundred yards from the southeast corner of the Peach Orchard. He was most definitely in range of several union regiments of Pugh’s brigade of Hurlbut’s division and McArthur’s brigade of W.H.L. Wallace’s division. On the Confederate side Statham’s, Bowen’s and Chalmer’s all had troops within range of General Johnston.

 

Johnston died with a tourniquet in his pocket. It is very possible that he himself was unaware of the fatal wound until he reeled in the saddle due to loss of blood. On February 5th, 1837 A.S. Johnston participated in a duel with Felix Huston in Texas. On the fifth or sixth exchange of shots Johnston was hit in the right hip. It was a bad wound and he was in bed for weeks recovering. There was nerve damage and he lost a degree of feeling in that leg.

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