Back of Lee Hall Mansion
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Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807 – 1891)
Johnston graduated 13th in the West Point class of 1829. He earned a reputation for reckless bravery while fighting in the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and the Mexican War. Indeed, Captain Johnston was wounded five times and received three brevets while in Mexico. In the 1850s, Johnston held various assignments including the Chief of Topographical Engineers in Texas and lieutenant colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry. By the secession crisis, Johnston had attained the rank of brigadier general and served as the Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army.
After Virginia left the Union, Johnston resigned his commission on April 22, 1861. On May 14, 1861, Johnston was appointed a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He later commanded the combined Confederate forces at the First Battle of Manassas and advanced to the rank of full general. However, Johnston was outranked by three other general officers. This offended Johnston, who considered himself the highest ranking U.S. Army officer to join the Confederate Army.
In late April 1862, Johnston transferred his three divisions to the lower Peninsula and established his headquarters at Lee Hall. Once there, Johnston counseled President Jefferson Davis that the Warwick-Yorktown Line was untenable and urged a retreat toward Richmond. On May 3, 1862, the Confederates retreated from the lower Peninsula. Johnston, under pressure from Davis, launched a counter-attack on May 31, 1862, at Seven Pines. After receiving two wounds, Johnston was relieved by General Robert E. Lee and did not report for duty until November.
Johnston later directed the Department of the West and commanded the Army of Tennessee. He surrendered the Army of Tennessee to Major General William T. Sherman on April 26, 1865. After the war, Johnston published his memoirs and had a varied career as an insurance salesman, U.S. congressman, and railroad commissioner.