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companion in this truancy was Clement Carrington of Charlotte County. The Legion was composed of three companies of horse and three of foot. It was then on its march from the army of Washington in the north, to take part with Greene in the southern campaigns. Col. Lee had made so favourable an impression on Gen. Washington, as to have been permitted to organize and officer his Legion with men specially known for their courage and efficiency. No command of approximate numbers was ever able to withstand it. Peter Johnston's eagerness to acquire military knowledge, and unceasing efforts at distinction, very speedily attracted attention, and obtained for him the commission of ensign, to which he aspired; while the whole tenor of his conduct evinced that it could not have been more judiciously bestowed. He was brave, enterprising, and where duty called, exemplary in its performance. He bore himself honourably and bravely at Guilford, Eutaw, and Ninety-six, and retained to the day of his death a predilection for his early profession, which not all his subsequent success in a profession of a very different character could entirely obliterate. The captain of his company was Joseph Eggleston of Amelia.
To the end of the war he still acquired an increase of reputation, and so completely gained the favour of the parent whom he had offended, as to be received on his return to the domestic circle of his family, not only with affection but with pride. He chose the profession of law, and soon won an enviable prominence at the bar.
After the war, the names of Lee and Johnston took a temporary divergence. Henry Lee became a strong federalist and vehement assailant of Jefferson, the founder of the opposite school of politics; while we find Peter Johnston a prominent member of the republican party. Both of these names appear in the report of the celebrated debates of the Virginia General Assembly of 1799, on the resolutions which had been adopted in 1798 on the relations of the States to the Union; and appear on opposite sides of the question. Peter Johnston, a delegate from Prince Edward, had been one of the committee who had reported these celebrated resolutions at the session preceding the report of Madison, and the debates of 1799 upon the subject. Peter Johnston was subsequently for many years a Judge of the General Court of Virginia, and moved in 1811 to the Abingdon district, in Southwest Virginia to which he had been assigned.
In 1788, Peter Johnston the younger was married to Mary Wood, the second daughter of Col. Valentine Wood, Clerk of Goochland County, by his wife Lucy, a sister of Patrick Henry, the orator and patriot. Valentine Wood was a wealthy landed proprietor; owning Woodville, an estate on James River, which was the family residence during his life; Buck Island, on Buck Creek in Albemarle, to which place his widow removed after his death; and Fish Creek farm in Louisa County. The father of Valentine Wood was Henry Wood, an Englishman, and man of letters, who was the first Clerk of Goochland County, and whose wife was a Cox of the Chesterfield family.
Lucy Wood (née Henry), sister of Patrick Henry, was a lady of remarkable talent, social influence and piety, and was noted for her cultivated mind, and uncommon conversational powers. Mary Johnston (née Wood) was also of superior intellect and mental cultivation. She inspired all her family with a strong predilection for literary and esthetical studies. She instructed in the rudiments of the ancient languages, and assisted in preparing for college each one of her sons. Such facts can so rarely be said of even the best mothers, that when true, they deserve to be recorded.
Judge and Mrs. Johnston paid the strictest attention to the education of their children, moral and physical, as well as mental. They reared a considerable family. Charles Clement Johnston, the third son, was a man of great eloquence and popular talents, and in the excited year of 1832 was elected to Congress from south-western Virginia, as an advocate of State rights; but he lost his life by accidental drowning, after a very brief service, during which he was rapidly making way to the highest reputation for eloquence and talent.
Valentine Wood Southall, the first cousin of the subject of this biography, was the President of the Virginia Convention of 1861, at the time that body passed the ordinance by which Virginia seceded from the Union. The political facts which have been thus stated sufficiently indicate, in advance, the strong hereditary bias which contributed to decide the course of Gen. Johnston, when Virginia called upon him for the service of his sword : the grandnephew of Patrick Henry, the son of Peter Johnston, the brother of Charles Johnston, and cousin of Valentine Southall.
Joseph Eggleston Johnston, the eighth son of Judge Peter and
Mary Johnston, was born on the 3d day of February, 1807, at Cherry Grove, near Farmville, in Prince Edward County, Virginia. At school he was noted as a boy of quick parts, and bold and enterprising disposition. His parents had taught their children to obtain a complete mastery over their minds and temper. This self-control he exhibited in as remarkable a degree while young, as he did in much later years in some of the most trying situations in which men can find themselves placed. From very early boyhood his passion for a military life was decided and unequivocal. He went always in the family by the nickname of “General.” Naturally of such a disposition as we have recorded, the son, moreover, of an old soldier, whose stirring narratives of his early experience in the army of Greene he must have often heard, his military proclivities grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength. In 1825, through the influence of John C. Calhoun, who had been Secretary of War, he entered as a cadet at the military academy of West Point, at that time in the zenith of its reputation. His application to his studies was earnest and devoted. How successful it proved his after history shows. He graduated in 1829, in the same class with Gen. Robert E. Lee, a circumstance well worthy of note; and was assigned to the Fourth Artillery, with the rank of brevet second-lieutenant. At that time there was no opportunity for distinction in his profession, and therefore we find him still a lieutenant at the close of seven years, when he was appointed assistant commissary of subsistence, a post which he resigned the year after, upon receiving a commission as first-lieutenant in the Topographical Engineers. This rank he held when the Florida War broke out in 1836. He went to Florida in the capacity of adjutant-general to Gen. Scott, and held that position during the period that Scott had the command of that army. His conduct throughout this war merited the highest praise, and drew upon him general notice. Upon one occasion, having been sent, under the escort of a party of infantry, to make a survey or reconnoissance of a region which lay around a lake, and having crossed the lake in boats, the party fell into an ambuscade of In. dians, and all its officers were killed or disabled at the first fire. The men were thrown into complete confusion, when Lieut. Johnston, taking the command, succeeded by his coolness and determination in subduing what was fast becoming a panic. He conducted the retreat for seven miles with consummate skill, showing even then the talent which made him afterwards famous. At one time, whilst closely pressed by the Indians, he took shelter behind a small tree to rally his men. A storm of bullets swept by him, most of them aimed directly at himself; but, strange to say, while many struck the tree, for some time he was unhurt. At last, a ball struck him immediately above the forehead, and ranged back. wards, grazing the skull the whole distance, but not fracturing it. The injury was severe; so much so as to cause him to fall; but the troops had caught his spirit, and repulsed the enemy, bearing off their wounded in safety to the boats. The uniform worn by Lieut. Johnston on this occasion was long preserved by a friend as a curiosity, being perforated by thirty bullets.
For his gallant conduct on this occasion, and throughout the Florida war, Lieut. Johnston was brevetted captain; a meagre recompense for so many and such arduous services; but promotion was slow in the old army. About this time he contracted a marriage with a daughter of the Hon. Louis McLane, of Delaware, who was for ten years a representative and afterwards a senator in Congress from that State; then minister to England; then Secretary of the Treasury in Gen. Jackson's second cabinet; afterwards Secretary of State under the same President; again minister to England under President Polk; and who closed his life as president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
In September, 1846, Lieut. Johnston became a full captain by seniority. The Mexican war had now begun. On the 16th February, 1847, Capt. Johnston was made Lieut.-Col. of Voltigeurs, by brevet, and in that capacity sailed with the expedition under Gen. Scott. After the capture of Vera Cruz, when the army advanced, Col. Johnston made a most daring reconnoissance of the enemy's lines, strongly posted on the heights of Cerro Gordo. In this reconnoissance he was severely wounded, having approached so near the enemy's works that he was struck by three musketballs. It was supposed at first that his wounds were mortal; but a powerful constitution and skilful treatment carried him safely through. His wounds were received six days before the battle of Cerro Gordo, in which, of course, he was unable to take part. He recovered in time to resume his command in the concluding battles of the war. He distinguished himself at Molino del Rey, and was again severely wounded at Chapultepec. These numerous wounds led Gen. Scott, afterwards, to say of him: “Johnston is a great soldier, but he has an unfortunate knack of getting himself shot in nearly every engagement.” He was several times brevetted for gallant and meritorious conduct in this war, and at its conclusion was retained as Captain of Topographical Engineers. In 1855, when Congress authorized two additional regiments of horse, he was on the 3rd March commissioned as lieutenant-colonel in one of the new regiments (First Regiment of Cavalry, commanded by Col. E. V. Sumner); while holding this rank and position, he was temporarily detached to important topographical service west of the Mississippi. He was engaged in this duty when, in June, 1860, he was appointed Quartermaster-General of the United States, with the commission of full brigadier-general.
While the question of this appointment was still pending, General Scott was requested by the Secretary of War to recommend for so important a position and promotion, an officer distinguished for talent and promise in the army. Gen. Scott declined to confine himself to a single name, but recommended for selection one of the following four: Joseph E. Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, and G. F. Smith. Johnston received the appointment, and was engaged in the responsible duties of Quartermaster-General, when his native State seceded from the Union, and imposed upon him the duty of separating himself from a service for which he felt a strong affection.