The victory at Manassas made Johnston one of the Confederacy's first military heroes. Six weeks later, he and four other Confederate officers were promoted to the newly created rank of full general. Johnston, however, expressed great anger with the details of these promotions. As he understood Confederate law, the seniority of Confederate military officers of the same rank was supposed to be based on the relative position they held back in the federal army. According to Johnston, this meant that he should be "top-ranked" of all the new Confederate generals. But Confederate president Jefferson Davis ranked Johnston fourth in seniority, ahead of only one other general.
Johnston responded to news of the promotions by writing Davis a furious letter. He claimed that the president's rankings had been made "in violation of my rights as an officer, of the plighted [promised] faith of the Confederacy and of the Constitution and laws of the land." Johnston concluded his note by stating that "I now and here declare my claim that . . . I still rightfully hold the rank of first general in the armies of the Southern Confederacy." But Davis refused to reconsider his decision. In fact, he sent Johnston an insulting reply in which he called the general's arguments and state ments "one-sided" and "as unfounded [without a factual base] as they are unbecoming [unattractive]."
Prior to the promotion controversy, relations between the two men had been cool and mildly distrustful. But the uproar over Johnston's ranking dramatically worsened tensions between the two men. In fact, it created a cloud of animosity between Davis and Johnston that remained in place for years to come. Stubborn and proud, the two men spent the rest of the war believing the worst about each other.
Was this article helpful?