Johnston Defends His Kindred and State
The Virginians resisted leaving the union of the Founders in 1861 until they were convinced of the revolutionary character of the Lincoln regime then assuming power. Those in Federal military service like Joseph E. Johnston below, would resign their commissions rather than have a hand in subjugating their fellow Americans.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Johnston Defends His Kindred and State:
“The composition of the convention assembled in Richmond in the spring of 1861, to consider the question of secession, proved that the people of Virginia did not regard Mr. Lincoln’s election as a sufficient cause for that measure, for at least two-thirds of its members were elected as “Union” men. And they and their constituents continued to be so, until the determination to “coerce” the seceded States was proclaimed by the President of the United States, and Virginia required to furnish her quota of the troops to be organized for this purpose.
War being then inevitable, and the convention compelled to decide whether the State should aid in the subjugation of the other Southern States, or join them in the defense of principles it had professed since 1789—belong to the invading party, or to that standing on the defensive—it chose the latter, and passed its ordinance of secession. The people confirmed this by an overwhelming vote.
I believed, like most others, that the division of the country would be permanent; and that, apart from any right of secession, the revolution begun was justified by the maxims so often repeated by Americans, that free government is founded on the consent of the governed, and that every community strong enough to establish and maintain its independence has a right to assert it. Having been educated in such opinions, I naturally determined to return to the State of which I was a native, join the people among whom I was born, and live with my kindred, and, if necessary, fight in their defense.”
(Narrative of Military Operations, Joseph E. Johnston, D. Appleton and Company, 1874, pp. 9-10)