|View single post by Wrap10|
|Posted: Sat Jul 28th, 2007 06:42 pm||
Good discussion about Johnston. I used to believe that had he lived, the Confederates might have won at Shiloh. Over time though, that opinion has pretty much about-faced. Basically speaking I think by the time the Confederates reached the third and final Union defensive line on April 6th, the odds were just too much against them. The terrain, the chaotic and exhausted condition of their own army, the strength of the Union position, and the tiny window of remaining daylight all combined to thwart any realistic chance of victory. That's the way I view it anymore.
My overall take on Johnston as a commander is that his report card has to remain incomplete. As Texas Defender wrote earlier, Johnston did in fact display great determination on the eve of Shiloh, even when some of his senior officers favored calling off the attack. He also displayed great personal courage during the battle, often exposing himself to danger. He is both praised as criticized for this, oddly enough, but I think on the whole it was the right course of action, even though it eventually led to his death.
His record prior to Shiloh was not so good. The collapse of the entire Confederate defensive line in Kentucky took place on his watch, and his initial response was not exactly inspired. His indecision regarding Fort Donelson helped seal the fate of more than 12,000 Rebel troops there, and deprived Johnston of these valuable troops at Shiloh less than two months later.
His deference to Beauregard in the days leading up to Shiloh has been a major source of controversy ever since. Was it from lack of confidence in himself following the disaster in Kentucky, or from overconfidence in Beauregard's military abilities? And could he have conducted the battle better than he did in reality?
Where Johnston's continued presence might have made more of a difference was after the battle rather than during it. He may have had no greater success in stemming the Union advance than did his succesors after Shiloh, but when we look at their overall record, it's hard to see Johnston doing any worse. I think this is probably where his 'legend' comes from, such as it is, that he might have been the savoir of the Confederacy in the west, or the Western Theater's version of Robert E. Lee. Maybe, maybe not. That's the whole problem - there's no way to know, and his record up to his death is simply too mixed to give a clear picture. Plus, it's difficult for me to see anyone, Johnston included, managing to beat Grant once he replaced Halleck. Johnston might have had the best chance among those who actually faced Grant in the west, but again, there's just no way to know.
In any case, didn't mean to ramble on, but Shiloh is one of my favorite battlefields, and it's always fun to discuss the battle or the park. I recently started a discussion group on both, and I'd like to invite everyone to join. Here's a link -
We're holding our first chat next Saturday evening, August 4th. Hope to see you there.