Josiah Stoddard Johnston was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 10, 1833. His parents were John Harris (a U. S. Senator) and Eliza Ellen (Davidson) Johnston. His mother died in 1833 and his father in 1838, so he was moved to Kentucky to stay with relatives. Johnston studied at the Western Military Institute in Georgetown, graduated from Yale University in 1853, and received his law degree from the University of Louisville School of Law in 1854.
Johnston then lived six years in Arkansas where he was a successful cotton planter. He returned to Scott County, Kentucky, in 1859. He had a distinguished Civil War career, serving on the staffs of Confederate Generals Braxton Bragg, Simon Bolivar Buckner, and John C. Breckinridge and attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
After the war he practiced law in Arkansas until he moved to Frankfort in 1867. He was editor of the "Kentucky Yeoman" and helped found the Kentucky Press Association. He was influential in Democratic Party politics as chairman and secretary of the party’s state committee. He was Adjutant General in 1871 and was Secretary of State in the administration of Governor James B. McCreary from 1875 to 1879.
In 1889, Johnston moved to Louisville where he spent the remainder of his life. He was associate editor of the "Louisville Courier-Journal", president of the Filson Club, and author of several books, including "The Confederate History of Kentucky" (1898).
Johnston married Eliza Johnson, the daughter of George Johnson, Confederate governor of Kentucky, on June 13, 1854. They had five children: Mary, Eliza, George, Harris, and Stoddard Jr. Johnston died on October 4, 1913, and is buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery.
George Baber, “Colonel J. Stoddard Johnston", "Register of the Kentucky Historical Society", Vol. 14 (1916), pgs 9-16;
L. Frank Johnson, "History of Franklin County Bar", (1932), pgs 93-94;
"Kentucky Encyclopedia", “Johnston, Josiah Stoddard Sr.,” pg 478;
Obituary, "Louisville Courier-Journal", October 5, 1913.