Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William Preston Johnston

Kentucky, Virginia, Louisiana

William Preston Johnston was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of General Albert Sidney Johnston. His mother, Henrietta (Preston) Johnston), died when he was four, and he was raised by General William Preston and a relative of his mother's. He graduated from Yale in 1852, studied law at the University of Louisville, and took up the practice of law in Louisville.

During the Civil War, Johnston served as an aide-de-camp to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate states.

After the war, Johnston became a professor at Washington and Lee University, where he was offered a chair of history and English literature by the university's president, General Robert E. Lee. Johnston chaired the Department of History and English Literature from 1867 to 1877. While at Washington and Lee he authored a biography of his father, The Life of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston (1878). In 1880 he became president of Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. He resigned three years later to become, in 1884, the first president of Tulane University of Louisiana in New Orleans. In his Louisiana days, Johnston published several volumes of poetry and contributed to the periodicals of the day. He died at Lexington, Virginia; he was the father of six children.

[Source: Stanley J. Kunitz & Howard Haycraft (eds.), American Authors 1600-1900: A Biographical Dictionary of American Literature 423 (New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1938)]

William Preston Johnston (1831-1899)

William Preston Johnston

William Preston Johnston

Robert E. Lee Letter to Johnston

Report of Col. William P. Johnston, Aide-de-Camp


Wm. Preston Johnston, My Garden Walk (New Orleans: F.F. Hansell & Bro., 1894) [online text]

_________________, Pictures of the Patriarchs and Other Poems (New Orleans: F. F. Hansell & Bro., 1895) [online text]

_________________, Seekers After God, Sonnets (Louisville, Kentucky: John P. Morton & Company, 1898) [online text]


Wm. Preston Johnston, "Mary Queen of Scots' Farewell," in Thomas M'Caleb, The Louisiana Book: Selections from the Literature of the State 502-503 (New Orleans: R.F. Straughan, Publisher, 1894)


William Preston Johnston, The Origin of Myth: A Lecture (Louisville: John P. Morton and Co., 1872)

___________________, The Life of Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1878) [online text] (D. Appleton, 1880)(Austin, Texas: State House Press, 1997)(New York: Da Capo Press, 1997)

___________________, The work of the university in America : an address before the South Carolina College on Commencement Day, June 25th, 1884 (Columbia, South Carolina: : Printed at the Presbyterian Pub. House, 1884) [online text]

___________________, MacBeth, a Study (New Orleans: E.A Brandao & Co., 1887)

___________________, The Prototype of Hamlet and Other Shakespearian Problems (New York: Belford Company, 1890)

___________________, High Schools in Louisiana and Tulane University (New Orleans: L. Graham, 1893)

___________________ (compiler), The Johnstons of Salisbury: With a Brief Supplement Concerning the Hancock, Strother and Preston Families (New Orleans: Press of L. Graham & Son, Ltd., 1897)


Arthur Marvin Shaw, William Preston Johnston: A Transitional Figure of the Confederacy (Baton Rogue: Louisiana State University Press, 1943)

Research Resources

Johnston Family Papers
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky

William Preston Johnston Papers
Special Collections
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Kentucky

Edwin Whitfield Fay, The History of Education in Louisiana
(Washington: Govt. Printing Office, 1898)