By John Trowbridge
resignation of General Frank Wolford, as Adjutant General on March 7, 1870,
Kentucky Governor John W. Stevenson, immediately filled the vacancy with Josiah
Stoddard Johnston, who became Kentucky’s Eleventh Adjutant General when he took
over the office on 8 March 1870.
Johnston, Sr., lawyer, journalist, political figure and soldier was born in New
Orleans, Louisiana, on February 10, 1833, a son of John Harris, and Eliza Ellen
Davidson Johnston. Following the deaths of his mother in 1833
and his father in 1838, Johnston and his two brothers moved to Kentucky to live
attended Samuel V. Womack’s classical school in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and then
the Western Military Institute at Georgetown, in Scott County, Kentucky. In 1850, he began the study of law at Yale
University, graduating in 1853. While at
Yale, he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, founded at the
university in 1844. In 1854, he received
his law degree from the Law School of the University of Louisville. On June 13, 1854, he married Eliza Woolfolk
Johnson, the daughter of George W. Johnson, of Scott County. To this marriage two daughters and three sons
were born: Mary, Eliza, George W., Harris H., and Stoddard Jr.
During the Civil
War, George W. Johnson became Kentucky’s first provisional Confederate Governor.
On April 8, 1862, Governor Johnson died
of wounds he had sustained, while fighting as a private soldier at the Battle
Soon after their
marriage, in 1854, Josiah and Eliza moved to Arkansas, where he became a
successful cotton farmer. In 1859, the family
returned to Kentucky, settling in Scott County to farm.
At the outbreak
of the Civil War, Johnston sided with the southern cause. After joining Confederate Army in 1861, he
served as a Major and Assistant Adjutant General on the staff of General
Braxton Bragg until June 1863. He then
served on General Simon Bolivar Buckner’s staff until after the Battle of
Chickamauga in September 1863, and finally serving as General John C.
Breckinridge’s Chief of Staff.
Lieutenant Colonel Johnston left the service in May 1865.
war, Johnston initially went to Toronto, Canada. In October 1866, he had returned to Memphis,
Tennessee and by December of that year was practicing law at Helena, Arkansas.
Johnston moved to Frankfort, Kentucky, where he became editor of the Kentucky Yeoman, a Democratic newspaper,
until it closed in 1886. He helped
establish the Kentucky Press Association and was its president from 1870 to
Democrat, Johnston was influential in Democratic Party politics serving as
Chairman and Secretary of the party’s state committee, 1868 to 1888.
During the 1870
election for Keeper of the State Penitentiary, Johnston was defeated. But with the resignation of Frank Wolford, in
March 1870, Governor John W. Stevenson appointed Johnston, the State’s Adjutant
General, on March 8, 1870.
Johnston served in the position until September 1871.
In 1875, he was a candidate for Governor, but failed
to receive the nomination. J. Stoddard
Johnson would go on to serve two consecutive terms as Secretary of State for
Kentucky, from August 1, 1875 to September 2, 1879, under Governors Preston H.
Leslie and James B. McCreary.
In 1889, Johnston moved to Louisville, Jefferson
County, Kentucky, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was elected President of the Filson Club
in 1893, a position he held until his death.
During this time he authored several books including, A Memorial History of Louisville (1896);
The Confederate History of Kentucky
(1898); First Explorations of Kentucky
(1898). From 1903 to 1908, he was
Associate Editor of the Louisville
While at the home of his son, Harrison H. Johnston,
in Clayton, near St. Louis, Missouri, J. Stoddard Johnston, died on October 4,
1913. His body was brought back to
Louisville for burial in Cave Hill Cemetery.
Johnston was a nephew of Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston and
a cousin of Colonel William Preston Johnston.
In 1915, the J. Stoddard Johnston Elementary School
opened its doors in Louisville, today the building stands as the Stoddard
Johnston Scholar House, providing apartments for low-income households.
One of his comrades in war and friends in
civil life once wrote of Colonel Johnston: “In personality there are few men
more striking than Col. Johnston. Always
a courtly and dignified gentleman, he never failed to attract attention in any
assembly. Strangers are strongly
impressed by his fine bearing, his apparent high intellectually and his
manifest right of leadership. Such
impressions are never changed by long acquaintanceship. His lifetime friends have found him always the
same. His character is real in all its
features, and his strong convictions, firm principles and native dignity are in
no measure underestimated by the general, open-hearted and frank intercourse of
close association. He is at home
anywhere, alike in the drawing room, the camp or the council, and wherever he
appears his true nature meets with a fine appreciation.”