Johnson was a prominent early Confederate politician. As a Senator from North Carolina, Johnson was influential in persuading the North Carolina legislature to secede from the union. After the war he was an outspoken critic against all forms of manumission and abolition, as well as rapid industrialization, views that made him extremely popular with Conservatives.
After the founding of the Whig Party, Johnson became the Democratic Party's golden boy, and was the Party's Presidential nominee in 1873, ultimateley, however, the only election in Confederate history to be decided by the House of Representatives would result in a loss for Johnson to war hero Robert E. Lee, a loss he is often quoted as attributable to "Damn Unionists" in his own party.
In 1875 Johnson suffered a massive stroke and died.