Albert Sydney Johnston was born in Washington, Kentucky, later attended Transylvania University and graduated from West Point in 1826. Despite these roots, Johnston regarded himself as a Texan.
Johnston saw service in the Black Hawk War in 1832, but resigned his commission in 1834 to move to Texas. At the outbreak of the War for Texas Independence, Johnston enrolled as a private. He rose rapidly and became the secretary of war for the Texan Republic. Following statehood, Johnston served with distinction with U.S. forces in the Mexican War. He returned to private life in Texas, but reentered the army in 1849. His most notable action in this period involved an expedition against the Mormons in Utah in 1857. From 1858 to 1860, Johnston headed the Department of the 2091:Pacific], but resigned from the army after the secession of Texas.
As a close friend of Jefferson Davis, Johnston was given command of Confederate forces in the West. His early encounters were not promising, having been pushed out of Fort Donelson in February 1862. His forces retreated southward to Corinth, Mississippi.
Johnston seized the initiative in April 1862, surprising the Union forces near Pittsburg Landing (Battle of Shiloh). On the first day of fighting, Johnston was shot in the leg and bled to death.
The early loss of Albert Sydney Johnston was a severe blow to the Confederate military leadership.