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The Southern States of America
Biographies - Thomas Jonathan ("Stonewall") Jackson


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 himself.

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 American army.

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 brigadier-general.

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 end—said 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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