Friday, January 10, 2014

January 10, 1864: "Joseph E. Johnston" from Sam Watkins' "Co. Aytch"

At this time in the war, in Northwest Georgia, General Joseph E. Johnston worked to rebuild the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Johnston soon made a powerful impression on his men and one of them left a description of Johnston at this time. From "Co. Aytch" by Sam R. Watkins:

General Joseph E. Johnston now took command of the army. General Bragg was relieved, and had become Jeff Davis' war adviser at Richmond, Virginia. We had followed General Bragg all through this long war. We had got sorter used to his ways, but he was never popular with his troops. I felt sorry for him. Bragg's troops would have loved him, if he had allowed them to do so, for many a word was spoken in his behalf, after he had been relieved of the command. As a general I have spoken of him in these memoirs, not personally. I try to state facts, so that you may see, reader, why our cause was lost. I have no doubt that Bragg ever did what he thought was best. He was but a man, under the authority of another.

But now, allow me to introduce you to old Joe. Fancy, if you please, a man about fifty years old, rather small of stature, but firmly and compactly built, an open and honest countenance, and a keen but restless black eye, that seemed to read your very inmost thoughts. In his dress he was a perfect dandy. He ever wore the very finest clothes that could be obtained, carrying out in every point the dress and paraphernalia of the soldier, as adopted by the war department at Richmond, never omitting anything, even to the trappings of his horse, bridle and saddle. His hat was decorated with a star and feather, his coat with every star and embellishment, and he wore a bright new sash, big gauntlets, and silver spurs. He was the very picture of a general.

But he found the army depleted by battles; and worse, yea, much worse, by desertion. The men were deserting by tens and hundreds, and I might say by thousands. The morale of the army was gone. The spirit of the soldiers was crushed, their hope gone. The future was dark and gloomy. They would not answer at roll call. Discipline had gone. A feeling of mistrust pervaded the whole army.

A train load of provisions came into Dalton. The soldiers stopped it before it rolled into the station, burst open every car, and carried off all the bacon, meal and flour that was on board. Wild riot was the order of the day; everything was confusion, worse confounded. When the news came, like pouring oil upon the troubled waters, that General Joe E. Johnston, of Virginia, had taken command of the Army of Tennessee, men returned to their companies, order was restored, and "Richard was himself again." General Johnston issued a universal amnesty to all soldiers absent without leave. Instead of a scrimp pattern of one day's rations, he ordered two days' rations to be issued, being extra for one day. He ordered tobacco and whisky to be issued twice a week. He ordered sugar and coffee and flour to be issued instead of meal. He ordered old bacon and ham to be issued instead of blue beef. He ordered new tents and marquees. He ordered his soldiers new suits of clothes, shoes and hats. In fact, there had been a revolution, sure enough. He allowed us what General Bragg had never allowed mortal man--a furlough. He gave furloughs to one-third of his army at a time, until the whole had been furloughed. A new era had dawned; a new epoch had
been dated. He passed through the ranks of the common soldiers, shaking hands with every one he met. He restored the soldier's pride; he brought the manhood back to the private's bosom; he changed the order of roll-call, standing guard, drill, and such nonsense as that. The revolution was complete. He was loved, respected, admired; yea, almost worshipped by his troops. I do not believe there was a soldier in his army but would gladly have died for him. With him everything was his soldiers, and the newspapers, criticising him at the time, said, "He would feed his soldiers if the country starved."

We soon got proud; the blood of the old Cavaliers tingled in our veins. We did not feel that we were serfs and vagabonds. We felt that we had a home and a country worth fighting for, and, if need be, worth dying for. One regiment could whip an army, and did do it, in every instance, before the command was taken from him at Atlanta. But of this another time.

No comments: