Southern States of America
Biographies - Thomas Jonathan
JACKSON, Thomas Jonathan
("Stonewall"), soldier: b. Clarksburg, Harrison county, Va. (now West
Virginia); d. May 10, 1863. He was descended from Scotch-Irish stock, and,
left a penniless orphan when three years old, he soon showed "the stuff of
which heroes are made" in his manly, self-reliant efforts to support
Hearing of a vacancy at
West Point he determined to apply for it, and making the journey to
Washington, partly on foot, he appeared before the member of Congress from
his district in his homespun suit and with his saddle bags over his
shoulders. The congressman took him to the secretary of war, who was so
much pleased with his manly independence that he gave him the appointment.
He was very poorly prepared and barely squeezed through the entrance
examination, but he made rapid progress and graduated No. 17 in a
brilliant class of which McClellan, Foster, Reno, Stoneman, Couch, Gibbon,
A. P. Hill, Pickett, Maury, D. E. Jones, Wilcox and others were members,
and one who knew him intimately expressed the opinion that "if the course
had been longer 'old jack' would have graduated at the head of his class."
He at once reported for
duty in Mexico, and serving in the artillery won distinction on every
field, being made first lieutenant at Vera Cruz and brevetted captain at
Vera Cruz and Chembusco, and major at Chapultapec, rising to this rank in
seven months and being promoted more rapidly than any other officer in the
In 1851 he was elected
professor of natural science and instructor of military tactics at the
Virginia Military Institute. While in the City of Mexico after the
capture, he had, under the influence of Colonel Taylor, made a public
profession of faith in Christ, and he now became one of the most active
members of the Lexington, Va., Presbyterian church. He was accustomed to
teach the Scriptures every Sunday afternoon to the negroes of his
household, and out of this grew his negro Sunday school, to which he
devoted much time and thought, and which exerted so wide an influence over
the negroes. They were very much devoted to him, and the first
contribution to his monument in Lexington was from the negro Baptist
church, whose pastor had been one of his Sunday school scholars. In the
negro Presbyterian church of Roanoke there is a beautiful memorial window
to Stonewall Jackson.
Jackson, like Lee and most
of the Virginia people, was a "Union man," and opposed to secession as a
remedy for Southern wrongs, but when news was received at Lexington that
Mr. Lincoln had called for 75,000 troops to coerce the sovereign states of
the South which had seceded, and had called on Virginia for her quota of
these troops, and that in response the Virginia convention had passed an
ordinance of secession, Jackson made a speech to a mass meeting in which
he said "I have longed to preserve the Union and would have been willing
to sacrifice much to that end. But now that the North has chosen to
inaugurate war against us, I am in favor of meeting her by drawing the
sword and throwing away the scabbard."
His friend and neighbor,
Gov. John Letcher, made him colonel and sent him to Harpers Ferry where
the skill he showed in reducing the high-spirited rabble who rushed to the
front at the first call of the bugle into the respectable "Army of the
Shenandoah," which he turned over to Gen. J. E. Johnston, marked him as a
real soldier. He was placed in command of the Virginia Brigade, which
afterwards bore his name and became so famous.
He met the advance of
General Patterson at Falling Waters, July 2, checked it and captured a
number of prisoners. Soon after he received his commission as
But it was on the field of
First Manassas that he won his new name and fame, when the gallant Bee
exclaimed: "There stands Jackson like a stone wall," and where he checked
the onward movement of the enemy and did so much to turn the threatened
disaster into the glorious Confederate victory. He was wounded in the hand
but refused to leave the field, and while the surgeons were dressing his
wound President Davis rode on the field, and Jackson pushing aside the
surgeons tossed his cadet cap in the air and exclaimed: "Hurrah for the
President; give me ten thousand men and I will be in Washington to-night!"
In September he was made
major-general and sent soon after to command the Valley District.
'n the early spring of 1862
he began his famous "Valley campaign" which has been studied in the
military schools of Europe as an example of rapid marching, able strategy
and brilliant fighting. That campaign may be summarized as follows: In
thirty-two days, Jackson and his "foot cavalry" marched nearly 400 miles,
skirmishing almost daily, fought five battles, defeated three armies, two
of which were completely routed, captured twenty pieces of artillery,
4,000 prisoners and immense quantities of stores of all kinds, and had
done all this with a loss of fewer than 1,000 men killed, wounded and
missing, and with a force of only 15,000 men, while there were at least
60,000 men opposed to him. He had spread consternation throughout the
North and neutralized McDowell's 40,000 men at Fredericksburg, who were
about to march to aid McClellan in investing Richmond.
He bore a most conspicuous
part in Seven Days around Richmond, the Second Manassas, and First
Maryland, and Fredericksburg.
He captured Harpers Ferry
with 11,000 prisoners, 13,000 stand of small arms, 73 pieces of artillery
and large quantities of provisions and stores of every description, and
hastened to Sharpsburg (Antietam) in time to defeat McClellan in his
attack on the greatly inferior force of Confederates.
He devoted a great deal of
time to supplying his regiments with chaplains and missionaries; had
preaching and prayer meetings at his headquarters regularly and did
everything in his power to promote the religious influence of his command.
His military career closed
with the great Confederate victory at Chancellorsville. General Hooker
with 140,000 men crossed the Rappahanock and Lee with his bare 50,000,
instead of retreating on Richmond, advanced to meet him and sent Jackson
on a flank movement to Hooker's flank and rear, which resulted in the
defeat and utter confusion of that part of his army. Jackson then went on
one of those bold reconnaissances which he was accustomed to make, and on
his return his party was mistaken for a cavalry charge of the enemy and
fired into by his own men, with the fatal result that several were killed
or wounded, and Jackson himself severely wounded. The surgeons thought
that he would recover from his wounds, but a severe case of pneumonia
ensued from which he died.
Calm, peaceful, trustful,
in his last hours, he talked cheerfully of his approaching endsaid that
it "would be infinite gain to be translated and be with Jesus," and that
"it was all right," and that he would "have his cherished wish of dying on
Sunday"then his mind wandered to the battlefield and he exclaimed: "Tell
A. P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry rapidly to the front!
Tell Major Hawks"and then with a sweet smile, he said: "Let us cross over
the river and rest under the shade of the trees!"
He was buried as he had
requested "in Lexington in the Valley of Virginia." Valentine's superb
bronze statue marks his grave, and there stands in capitol square,
Richmond, the statue given by friends in England.
General Lee wrote to
Jackson soon after his wounding: "Could I have dictated events I should
have chosen for the good of the country to have been disabled in your
stead," and the South would generally endorse the sentiment of the priest
who said in his prayer at the unveiling of the Jackson monument at New
Orleans: "Thou knowest, O Lord, that when Thou didst decide that the
Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove that servant,
Stonewall Jackson." And the nations of the earth have decided that Jackson
was one of the greatest soldiers of history.
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