October 7, 1817|
Belmont County, Ohio
|Died||September 12, 1880
|Place of burial||Old City Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee|
|Allegiance|| United States of America
Confederate States of America
|Service/branch|| United States Army
Confederate States Army
|Years of service||1840–47, 1861–65|
|Rank|| First Lieutenant (USA)
Major General (CSA)
Bushrod Rust Johnson (October 7, 1817 – September 12, 1880) was one of the few Northern-born Confederate generals in the American Civil War. As a university professor, he had been active in the state militias of Kentucky and Tennessee, and on the outbreak of hostilities, he sided with the South. As a divisional commander, he managed to evade capture at Fort Donelson, but was wounded at Shiloh. He served under Lee throughout the 10-month siege of Petersburg, surrendering with him at Appomattox.
Johnson was born in Belmont County, Ohio. He was raised as a Quaker and, before moving to the South, worked on the Underground Railroad with his uncle. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1840 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Infantry. He fought in the Seminole War in Florida and the Mexican-American War. He was forced to resign from the Army in October 1847 after being accused of selling contraband goods. He worked as a professor of natural philosophy, and chemistry at the Western Military Institute, Georgetown, Kentucky (1848-1849), and professor of mathematics and engineering at the University of Nashville (1849-1861). During this period he was active in the state militias of Kentucky and Tennessee, rising to the rank of colonel.
After the start of the Civil War, Johnson entered the service June 28, 1861, as a colonel of engineers in the Tennessee Militia, and a week later this commission was changed to be in the Confederate States Army. He approved the locations of two new river-defenses, Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in Tennessee and Fort Henry on the Kentucky bank of the Tennessee River, and was promoted to brigadier general on January 24, 1862. (Fort Henry would turn out to be a disastrous location on swampy ground, often flooded, and easily captured by U.S. Grant.) Just days before the Battle of Fort Donelson he was placed in command of the fort but served in that capacity only briefly as the higher ranking Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow arrived only hours after Johnson assumed command. He commanded a division of the army at Donelson, but was effectively overshadowed by the more politically astute Pillow, who led the wing in a fierce assault in an attempt to break out and escape from the encircled fort. The fort and its army surrendered to Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on February 16, 1862, but two days later Johnson was able to walk unimpeded out through the porous Union Army lines and escaped capture.
Johnson commanded a brigade of the Army of Mississippi at the Battle of Shiloh, and on the second day of battle, April 7, 1862, he became the division commander, but was severely wounded by the concussion of an artillery shell. After recovering from his injury, he led his brigade in Gen. Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky and the Battle of Perryville, followed by Stones River, the Tullahoma Campaign, Chickamauga, and, under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, the Siege of Knoxville.
Promoted to major general on May 21, 1864, the remainder of Johnson's service was with the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee. Johnson commanded a division in the section of trenches manned by the South Carolinian troops in the Battle of the Crater. They captured three stands of colors and 130 prisoners that day. His men spent the remainder of the Siege of Petersburg in the trenches, ending up at the Battle of White Oak Road and Battle of Five Forks. His division was shattered at Battle of Sayler's Creek on April 6, 1865, although he was able to escape personally. He was paroled at Appomattox Court House without a command.
Johnson returned to teaching to become a professor and co-chancellor (1870) of the University of Nashville with former Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith. His health failing, he retired in 1875 to a farm in Brighton, Illinois, where he died in 1880. He was originally buried in Miles Station, near Brighton, but was reinterred in 1975 to Old City Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee, to be next to the grave of his wife, Mary.
- Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- Gott, Kendall D. Where the South Lost the War: An Analysis of the Fort Henry—Fort Donelson Campaign, February 1862. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003. ISBN 0-8117-0049-6.
- Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.