Question of the Week: 4/8-4/14/24

In your opinion…what would have happened if Confederate General Albert S. Johnston had not died at Shiloh in April 1862?

11 Responses to Question of the Week: 4/8-4/14/24

  1. Hmmm, if didn’t die on April 6, 1862 during the battle I think I know what would have happened. Unfortunately, he would have only cheated death for two days and been killed during a rearguard action he was organizing to cover his retreat on April 8,1862.

    (This is my way to say the battle’s result would be unchanged.)

  2. The South lost a promising, yet erratic general when Johnston died. I don’t think the result at Shiloh would have materially changed as terrain and other factors were strongly against the South. As far as broader “what ifs”, I don’t think the course of the war in the Western Theater would have materially changed. The Confederacy still might have made a stronger showing under Johnston’s charismatic leadership.

  3. Johnston entered the war with a tremendous reputation. His actions during the war before his death were pretty mixed. The western theater definitely needed a strong personality that had Davis’s backing, that wasn’t Braxton Bragg.

  4. It’s hard to see Johnston significantly changing the outcome at Shiloh. But over the long term, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have done a better job in the West than the A-team of Bragg, Pemberton, etc.

  5. Based on Tim Smith’s recent and excellent study, I think it’s time to bury the Johnston Shiloh Legend.

  6. IMHO, there would have been no change. The mission was impossible. A.S. Johnston would still have to deal with what the Confederacy ultimately failed to accomplish. Defend an area from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi with a single army facing two Federal armies with the Federal controlled rivers providing avenues for invasion while Lee defended a single state, Virginia, with the rivers providing barriers to a Federal advance. ASJ wouldn’t have been able to do any better than Bragg, J. Johnston or Hood.

  7. This is right up there with “what would have happened if Stonewall Jackson hadn’t died after Chancellorsville?”… except more so. Johnston would have been the leader needed for the War in the West to hold that immense territory together, with his combination of charisma and intelligence. A leader of Lee’s caliber was missing in that arena. They all had trouble with Davis re execution of the War, but it’s unlikely AS Johnston would have been replaced by anybody at Atlanta, if the Federals had even gotten that far. All the comments about logistics and relative supplies, etc., are true, but it was home territory for Confederates and its enormous size was actually an advantage, had the right person been in charge. Just to set everyone off, Forrest was another missed opportunity for the South, underutilized because he wasn’t a familiar West Point grad but revered by Southerners for his “erratic” but effective leadership.

  8. Grant was surprised by Albert Sidney Johnson. Had ASJ lived he might have tried to push HUG into the river that night, after all, before the battle ASJ said he would attack even if there were a million of his enemies. Based on that attitude, I don’t see him organizing an overnight defense. With fresh reserves Shiloh was Grant’s, should have been his on day 1 if his reinforcements were on the right side of the river. No doubt Grant would continue to learn lessons from ASJ, had the later not become the late ASJ. And then maybe Bragg gets more time to gel with his fellow generals as equals if ASJ’s adrenaline filled lifeblood doesn’t run out of his sanguinary boot. It should be a lesson to us all, such a minor wound being an unseen deathnell, but ASJ was in his moment and wouldn’t have it any other way. As JFK wrote, just because there’s a history of presidents dying in office every 20 years, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. Did I just digress, soorry.

    Does a Shiloh-surviving Albert Sidney Johnson prevent Lincoln’s re-election? Without the fall of Atlanta, does Lincoln get re-elected? In terms of Grant, with ASJ living through 1863, even if Grant didn’t have Bragg to beat up at Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, HUG still goes East. Lincoln was pretty much down to the felt on Eastern generals after Meade couldn’t bag Lee post-Gettysburg and couldn’t defeat Lee at the end of 1863. 1864 was an election year and more of the same wasn’t going to cut it.

  9. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and openly state my belief that had Johnson not been killed, he would have lived longer!

    That’s it. That all I got!

    1. Absolutely! I grant my esteemed colleague the “I Agree With You 200%” award. If he hadn’t been killed at Shiloh he would have lived til he died.

  10. I think if Albert Sidney isn’t killed you have a more solid Confederate command team after Shiloh that has learned some lessons. If Johnston lives, the criticism coming his way might cause some problems, but with Jeff Davis in charge ASJ probably survives to fight another day. And ASJ had the character to overcome the dings to his leadership. The other benefit might be that he comes to realize Leonidas Polk needs to go and could probably get Davis to sign off on it. So with Polk gone, you’ve got ASJ, PGT, Bragg, Hardee, Breckinridge and somebody replacing Polk. That’s not a bad a team to move forward with.

    I’ve read Tim Smith’s Johnston book, but don’t think it is the final word on ASJ and doesn’t condemn his future if he had survived Shiloh. Lee started off slow too even if ASJ was no RE Lee.

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