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Posted on May 21, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Great Civil War General Dies at Shiloh

By Phyllis Helphenstine

Once upon a time, February 2nd, 1803 to be exact, in a village of mud-daubed log huts in a rude stockade that had been settled only twenty years before was born a baby boy. It is in his honor that the 1700s village holds an annual Civil War Living History Weekend. This year’s activities are open to the public on August 9th from 9 am until 9 pm and on August 10th from 10 am until 5 pm. Proud parents of this boy were Dr. John Johnston and his second wife, Abigail Harris. Albert’s mother was intelligent and very pretty, with a quiet and gentle nature which Albert inherited. This same boy grew up in Washington, KY and became a famous Confederate General in the Civil War. His home was the first museum in Mason County, and has been open to the public since 1955.

Kentucky molded Albert’s character while he was still in his youth. Mason County had outgrown its rude beginning and was now a thriving community. Favored with rich soil, a pleasing landscape and energetic people, Washington had the grace of a mature society, and was the county seat and on the stage route from the port of Maysville to Lexington. Plantations flourished; elegant houses in the Federal style of architecture adorned the town and countryside. Lawyer-politicians led and served the area in national affairs. Henry Clay of Lexington led the state: John Chambers, Colonel Marshall Key, Judge Adam Beatty and the Marshall brothers were the leaders in Washington. Private academies trained the children who could afford it. There were the Pillsbury Boy’s School and the McMurdy Girl’s School, which was known throughout the country with pupils from almost every state in the country.

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Albert Sidney’s education was sound. He attended a variety of private preparatory schools, mostly either in or near Washington. In 1818, at age 15, Albert entered Transylvania University in Lexington, which was the outstanding college west of the Appalachians, and later attended West Point. He was conspicuous for always knowing his lessons. One of his companions there was Jefferson Davis. In the fall of 1821, he changed his major from medicine to the military.

Johnston was a gentleman, devoted husband and kind father; reared in the chivalric tradition of the Old South; he exalted womanhood as above reproach. Those who served under him respected and loved him. He was referred to as "one of the most unselfish men I ever knew", "high-bred courtesy which gained him the affection of all who came near him" and "one of the most just and considerate to those under his command." The tragic death of Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh on April 6th, 1862, was a great loss for the Confederates.

Civil War Living History Weekend, August 14th-15th is held in the 1700s village of Washington, KY and is unique in that they "camp right in town" and can walk to the shops, food and vendors. Less than a mile’s drive are motels, restaurants, cinemas and shopping centers. We differ from most Civil War events in that we have the battles right in the center of the 1700s village where reenactors rendezvous on the streets of Old Washington. There are always artillery demonstrations. The cannons are back a few blocks on a rise in a field where the Battle on Federal Hill is the highlight of the weekend. Albert Sidney Johnston’s home place, now a museum, is right in the center of the village with the doctor’s tent and others set up on the museum lawn. The Sunday morning service is preached from the porch of this museum. It is a great event.

Registration begins Friday, August 13th at 1:00 p.m. at the Washington Meeting House and Camp Set-ups begin to take shape. At 8:00 pm on Friday evening there is a reception for officers, staff, NCOs, committee members and invited guests.

Saturday, August 14th sees Reveille at 7:00 am. Registration takes place from 8 to 10 am, with the Reenactor Breakfast from 8-9 am.

The Boy Scouts will serve breakfast both days under the direction of their scoutmaster, Dan Crum. Officers’ call and Camps are open to the public at 10 am and the Recruiting Stations open at 10:30. One of many Civil War presenters will speak at the Meeting House at 11, and 12 noon sees artillery demonstrations. A Civil War historian speaks at 12:30 and at 1 pm General Albert Sidney Johnston speaks at the Johnston House Museum, followed by Medical Demonstrations on the lawn. The "Ladies Tea" is at 2 pm with Judy Pierce speaking on "Nurses in the Civil War", followed by the "Hat Contest" in the Meeting House. The Roundtable discussion with General Robert E. Lee, President Jefferson Davis and President Abraham Lincoln is from 2:30 ? 4:00. At 4 the troops form in town and commerce to Federal Hill. Ned Ludwick speaks on "Mascots and Army Pets of the Civil War at 5 pm at the Meeting House. 7:30 ? 9:30 is the Street Dance in the Town Square and dancers must be in costume.

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