13 May 2019

Remembering "Stonewall" Jackson: The Man and the Myth

Remembering "Stonewall" Jackson: The Man and the Myth

156 years ago today, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson succumbed to pneumonia a week after leading his men in an audacious flank attack at the Battle of Chancellorsville. During that fateful battle, Jackson had been accidentally fired upon by his own men. After the amputation of his left arm, Jackson was transported 27 miles south to the rail depot at Guinea Station. After arriving at Guinea Station, Jackson and his staff were made aware that the tracks to Richmond had been torn up by the general's West Point roommate and Union cavalry commander George Stoneman. Jackson spent the last six days of his life in the office building of Thomas Coleman Chandler's sprawling plantation—Fairfield. At 3:15 on the afternoon of May 10, 1863, with his wife and members of his staff by his side, the 39-year-old Jackson uttered his final words. "Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees."

Between his humble roots, battlefield glory, evocative nickname and untimely death, Jackson's mythical status as a symbol of the Confederacy rivals only that of Robert E. Lee. That status also means it can be hard to separate fact from fiction, and the man from the myth. Here are a few facts about the man behind the myth.

According to noted expert Robert K. Krick, Jackson's fame reached new heights in just a 33-day span in 1862. Already noted for his actions at First Manassas, the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign made Jackson a household name in both the north and the south. From the Battle of McDowell to the Battle of Cross Keys. Jackson and his small army bested three Federal commanders, while denying Union reinforcements to George McClellan's army on the Peninsula.
In a speech to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in March of 1861, Jackson reportedly said "The time for war has not yet come, but it will come, and that soon; and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Ironically, a year and a half later, Jackson would raise his sword - with its scabbard rusted fast - to successfully rally his men to victory at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on land saved by the Trust.
There's more to the story of how T.J. "Stonewall" Jackson got his nickname than you might think. While it's true that at the Battle of Bull Run, commander Barnard Bee described Jackson as standing "like a stone wall," Bee wasn't just marveling at Jackson's fortitude – he was likely rallying his men to Jackson's aid.
Jackson's famed flank attack at Chancellorsville and subsequent death that fateful May of 1863 would mark a high point and a low point for the Army of Northern Virginia, which would fight on for two more long years...


American Battlefield Trust

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