Wednesday, August 31, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Confederate Generals Confirmed

There had been few full generals in American history -- George Washington was a rare exception -- but on Saturday, August 31, 1861, the Confederate Congress confirmed five full generals who had been appointed by President Jefferson Davis.

The five, in order of seniority, were Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert Edward Lee, Joseph Eggleston Johnston and Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard.

The appointments would cause some animosity between Davis and Joe Johnston.  Confederate law stated that generals of identical commissions would have seniority according to the rank they had held in the U.S. Army.  Johnston, who had held the rank of brigadier general in the old Army, was insulted to discover that he was now ranked fourth behind men who had been colonels in the U.S. Army.

In Davis's opinion, the determining factor was line commissions versus staff commissions.  Johnston had held a staff position.  Johnston was angered to discover that the three men who outranked him were all close friends of Davis.

Johnston, on September 12, would write a lengthy, passionate letter, "my earnest protest against the wrong which I conceive has been done me."  Davis dismissed it with a two-sentence reply:  "Sir:  I have just received and read your letter of the 12th instant.  Its language is, as you say, unusual; its arguments and its statements utterly one-sided, and its insinuations as unfounded as they are unbecoming."

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