Brothers, Enemies, then Brothers Again…a Lesson in Honor

Today in History, April 26: 1865 – Following Robert E. Lee’s action on the 9th, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrenders the largest Confederate army to Union General William T. Sherman at Durham, North Carolina. Wow. An event on a date in history. But there is so much more, as there usually is. Both men had been graduates of West Point, and both had served with distinction in the US Army. Johnston was Quartermaster General when he resigned to return to his home of Virginia at the beginning of the war. Sherman would face off against Johnston several times during the war, most notably at Kennesaw Mountain, where the Union won a strategic, if not technical victory, causing CS President Jefferson Davis to relieve Johnston, which was probably a mistake. After the war, the two men often met in DC for dinner, if not close friends, at least comrades. In February of 1891, Sherman had taken cold and eventually died of pneumonia. At his funeral in New York City, General Johnston stood over him, hat in hand. A fellow attendee asked him to put on his hat, it was cold. Johnston replied, “If I were in his place and he were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat.” Johnston caught cold that day, and within a month shared the fate of his comrade, his adversary, his contemporary. I love history and the people that made it for us.

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