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[642]

Stonewall Jackson and his men.

Major H. Kyd Douglas.
It was on the field of Manassas, a bright Sunday afternoon, the 21st of July, 1861. The armies of McDowell and Beauregard had been grappling with each other since early morning,and, in their mutual slaughter, took no note of the sacredness of the day, nor its brightness. In Washington General Scott was anxiously awaiting the result of his skilful plan of battle, and General Johnston had come down from the Valley of Virginia, in response to Beauregard's appeal-“If you will help me, now is the time.” Hotly had the field been contested, and the hours passed slowly to men who had never tasted of battle before. Wavering had been the fortunes of the day, but it was evident the advantage was with the Federal army, and, before our brigade went into action, it seemed to us the day was lost. After changing position several times, without fighting, General Jackson learned that Bee was hard pressed, and he moved to his assistance, marching through the wounded and the stragglers, who were hurrying to the rear. It was then after two o'clock, and the General formed his brigade along the crest of the hill near the Henry House, the men lying down behind the brow of it, in support of the two pieces of artillery placed in position to play upon the advancing foe.

General Bee, his brigade being crushed and scattered, rode up to General Jackson; and, with the excitement and mortification of an untried but heroic soldier, reported that the enemy were beating him back. [643]

“Very well, General, it can't be helped,” replied Jackson.

“But how do you expect to stop them?”

“We'll give them the bayonet!” was the answer, briefly.

General Bee wheeled his horse, and galloped back to his command. As he did so, General Jackson said to Lieutenant Lee of his staff:

Tell the colonel of this brigade, that the enemy are advancing; that when their heads are seen above the hill, let the whole line rise, move forward with a shout, and trust to the bayonet. I am. tired of this long range work.

In the storm which followed Bee's return to his command, he was soon on foot, his horse shot from under him. With the fury of despair he strode among his men, and tried to rally and to hold them against the torrent which beat upon them; and, finally, in a voice which rivaled the roar of battle, he cried out: “Oh, men, there are Jackson and his Virginians standing behind you like a stone wall.1” Uttering these words of martial baptism, Bee fell dead upon the field, and left behind him a fame which will follow that of Jackson as a shadow.

It would be but the repetition of history to mention, at length, the movements of Jackson's Brigade that day. It was Bee who gave him the name of “Stonewall,” but it was his own Virginians who made that name immortal. This brigade checked the victorious tide of battle, but to turn it back was no easy labor. Around the Henry House and its plateau the contest raged with renewed violence and vacillating success for an hour; and then Jackson led his men in their last bayonet charge, and pierced the enemy's centre. The timely arrival of Kirby Smith and Early upon their flank, finished the work, and defeat was turned into a rout. General Jackson will be forgiven for this sentence in a letter to a friend: “You will find, when my report shall be published, that the First Brigade was to our army what the Imperial Guard was to Napoleon; through the blessings of God it met the victorious enemy, and turned the fortunes of the day.”

And who was Stonewall Jackson, and of what stock? Although he was of sterling and respectable parentage, it matters little, for, in historic fame, “he was his own ancestor.” And it is well enough that Virginia, who gave to the war Robert Edward Lee, of old and aristocratic lineage, should furnish Jackson as the representative of her people. On the 21st of January, 1824, in Clarksburg, among the mountains of Western Virginia, was born this boy, the youngest of four children; and, with no view to his future fame, he was [644] named Thomas Jonathan Jackson. It was a rugged, honest name, but is no cause of regret that it is now merged in the more rugged and euphonious one he afterward made for himself. No comet was seen at his birth, and there is little record of his boyhood, except that he was left an orphan when he was three years old, and, being penniless, had a hard time of it in his youth. But his father had been a lawyer, and he was taken care of by some of his relatives. At sixteen, he was appointed a constable, and two years afterward entered West Point as a cadet. He graduated in 1846, went to Mexico, and served as lieutenant in the battery of Magruder-“Prince John” --who afterward served under Jackson in Virginia. Jackson was twice breveted for gallantry, and returned from Mexico, at the age of twenty-four, with an-enviable reputation and the rank of major. He served a while in Florida, but his health gave way, and he was compelled to quit the army. In 1851 he was appointed Professor in the Virginia Military Institute, at Lexington. He there married a daughter of Rev. George Junkin, D. D., who was President of what is now Washington and Lee University. Dr. Junkin was an earnest Union man, and, at the breaking out of the war, resigned his position, and went back to Pennsylvania; but it is said the loyalty of the old gentleman was not proof against the pride he felt in his famous son-in-law. Major Jackson's wife soon died. He then married a daughter of Rev. Dr. Morrison, another Presbyterian clergyman, of Charlotte, North Carolina. She now lives in Charlotte, with her only child, Julia, who was not six months old when her father died at Chancellorsville. In 1857 Major Jackson went to Europe. While in France, he rode on horseback, with some French officers, over the field of Waterloo. It is said he seemed perfectly familiar with the topography of the ground and the maneuvres of the two armies, and sharply criticised one of the Emperor's movements, by saying, “There's where Napoleon blundered.” Such presumption was unheard of since the time the young Corsican, in Italy, criticised the venerable Wurmser. But what seemed effrontery in Bonaparte was genius in Napoleon, and the name of Stonewall will save his criticism.

After his return from Europe, Jackson led a quiet and unobtrusive life at Lexington, less known than any other professor. His delicate health forbid much social enjoyment. I met him there in 1860, and once said to a classmate in the law school, who had been at the Institute:

It seems to me, Terrill, I'd like to know Major Jackson better; there is something about him I can't make out.

[645]

“Nobody can; but it wouldn't pay,” replied “Bath.” “Old Jack's a character, genius, or just a little crazy, or something of that sort. He lives quietly, and don't meddle with people; but he is as systematic as a multiplication table, and as full of military as an arsenal. Stiff, you see, and never laughs, but kind-hearted as a woman; and, by Jupiter, he teaches a nigger Sunday-school. But, mind what I say, if this John Brown business leads to war, he'll be heard from.”

Well, it did lead to war, and Jackson was heard from, and Colonel Terrill fell fighting under him.

I have referred to Major Jackson's ill-health. It took the form of dyspepsia, and once, during the war, he told me he had suffered with it for twenty years, and he knew of no misery which attacked a man as it did, physically, mentally, and morally, and was as likely to drive one to suicide. It produced in him that simplicity of diet which was as conspicuous as his simplicity of manners. He never was a hearty eater, but often ate of one or two things on the table plentifully, eating some things he did not like, and liking many things he did not eat. In the army, he rarely accepted an invitation to dinner, and when he did, it was generally to oblige his staff. He once said to me that he believed he was fonder of whisky and brandy than any man in his army; and yet he never tasted it. His discipline commenced with himself, and controlled his appetite as firmly as he did his troops.

In face and figure, Stonewall Jackson was not striking. Above the average height, with a frame angular, muscular, and fleshless, he was, in all his movements, from riding a horse to handling a pen, the most ungraceful man in the army. His expression was thoughtful, and generally clouded with an air of fatigue. His eye was small, blue, and in repose as gentle as a young girl's. With high, broad forehead, small, sharp nose, thin, pallid lips, deep set eyes, and dark, rusty beard, he was not a handsome man. His face in the drawing-room or tent, softened by his sweet smile, was as different from itself on the battle-field as a little lake in summer noon differs from the same lake when frozen. Walking or riding the General was ungainly; his main object was to go over the ground, without regard to the manner of his going. His favorite horse was as little like Pegasus as he was like Apollo; he rode boldly and well, but certainly not with grace and ease. He was not a man of style. General Lee, on horseback or off, was the handsomest man I ever saw. It was said of Wade Hampton, that he looked as knightly when mounted as if he had stepped out from an old canvas, horse and all. [646] Breckenridge was a model of manly beauty, and Joe Johnston looked every inch a soldier. None of these things can be said of Jackson.

Akin to his dyspepsia, and perhaps as a consequence, was his ignorance of music. One morning, at Ashland, he startled a young lady from her propriety by gravely asking her if she had ever heard a new piece of music called “Dixie,” and as gravely listening to her while she sang it. He had heard it a thousand times from the army bands, and yet it seemed new to him. Judged by the Shakespearean standard, who could be more “fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils?” And yet there was one kind of music which always interested and delighted him. It was the “rebel yell” of his troops. To this grand chorus he never failed to respond. The difference between the regular “hurrah” of the Federal army, and the irregular, wild yell of the Confederates, was as marked as the difference in their uniforms. The rebel yell was a peculiar mixture of sounds, a kind of weird shout. Jackson was greeted with it whenever he made his appearance to the troops, on the march or in battle; and just as invariably he would seize his old gray cap from his head in acknowledgment, and his “little sorrel,” knowing his habit, would break into a gallop and never halt until the shout had ceased. I remember one night, at tattoo, this cry broke forth in the camp of the Stonewall Brigade, and was taken up by brigades and divisions, until it rolled over field and wood throughout the whole corps. The General came hastily and bareheaded from his tent, and going up to a fence near by, he leaned upon it and listened in quiet to the rise, climax, and conclusion of that strange serenade, raising his head to catch the last sound, as it grew fainter, and until it died away like an echo along the mountains. Then turning toward his tent he muttered, in half soliloquy, “That was the sweetest music I ever heard.”

General Jackson's troops and his enemy's believed he never slept; the fact is, he slept a great deal. Whenever he had nothing else to do, he went to sleep, especially in church. I remember during the invasion of Maryland, on Sunday night he rode three miles in an ambulance to attend church in Frederick, and then fell asleep as soon as the minister began to preach; his head fell upon his breast, and he never awoke until aroused by the organ and choir. He could sleep anywhere and in any position, sitting in his chair, under fire, or on horseback. On a night march toward Richmond, after the battles with McClellan, he was riding along with his drowsy staff, nodding and sleeping as he went. We passed by groups of men sitting along the roadside, and engaged in roasting new corn by fires made of fence-rails. One group took us for cavalrymen, [647] with an inebriated captain, and one of the party, delighted at the sight of a man who had found whisky enough to be drunk, sprang up from the fire and, brandishing a roasting-ear in his hand, leaped down into the road, and seizing the General's horse, cried out: “I say, old fellow, where the devil did you get your liquor?” In an instant, as the General awoke, the fellow saw his mistake; and then bounding from the road he took the fence at a single leap, exclaiming: “Good God, it's old Jack!” and disappeared in the darkness. Yes, General Jackson slept a great deal, but he was never caught napping.

He gave to sleep many moments which other men would have given to conversation. He was essentially a silent man; not morose, but quiet. He smiled often, rarely laughed. He never told a joke, but did not discourage them in others, and if one struck his peculiar fancy, he would smile in mild approval. He did not live apart from his staff, but liked to have them about him, and they were nearly all very young men. Universally polite in manner, he encouraged the liveliest conversation among them, although he took little part in it. He was not a man of words; they seemed to embarrass him. When he had ideas he put them into action, not into language. His military dispatches were as brief as if studied, like the one he sent after the defeat of Milroy: “God blessed our arms with victory at McDowell yesterday.” He never discussed his plans; indeed, he never told them. The next officer under him never knew his intention nor object. He never volunteered his opinion to his superior, nor asked advice of his subordinates. He was as self-reliant as he was silent, and believed “he walks with speed who walks alone.” He was reticent to a fault. “If my coat knew what I intended to do, I'd take it off and throw it away,” was one of his sayings. This reticence often led to embarrassment and complaint from the officer next in command, and might have led to disaster in case of his death; but he evidently thought it better to run that risk than the risk of having his plans discovered. He never called a council of war; when called into council by General Lee, with Longstreet and Stuart, and the Hills, he let the others do the talking. If he made suggestions he did it briefly, and never attempted to sustain them by argument. He advised the flank movement at Chancellorsville, which resulted in the defeat of Hooker and his own death; when it was vigorously opposed he did not defend it. General Lee adopted it, and, as at other times when a hazardous movement was to be undertaken, he ordered Jackson to execute it. I question whether he could have discussed his plans [648] satisfactorily if he had desired, or persuaded any one of the wisdom of those unprecedented and eccentric movements of his, which violated all the rules of war, and always ended so brilliantly. His reticence, his mystery, were necessities of his nature, as much as the result of his unparalleled self-reliance; a self-reliance which can only be appreciated by those who know that the courage necessary to go through a battle is not to be compared with that necessary to inaugurate it. “Audacity, audacity, always audacity,” was the motto of Danton. So thought Jackson, too. After the defeat of Banks at Winchester, and before he moved forward to Harper's Ferry, he knew that McDowell and Fremont were moving against his rear, and what their design was; and yet he marched boldly into the trap prepared for him, and then broke it into pieces and escaped. But as a soldier, he was guided by another principle which he once tersely expressed thus: “Mystery, mystery is the secret of success.” This mystery was not an affectation; it was a policy, a conviction. He was compelled to take his staff and his general officers into his confidence, and when he did so he did it without reluctance or distrust. But they never attempted to force his confidence, and once he ordered one of his body-guard to be dismounted, and “put under arrest as a spy,” for repeating to him an ill-timed question about the movements of a division.

His most popular virtue was swiftness of execution. With him action kept pace with design. He was the rapidest mover in the South, and, from the very outstart of the war, his old brigade and division were known as “Jackson's foot cavalry.” “What sort of man is your Stonewall, anyway?” said one of Pope's men; “are his soldiers made of gutta-percha, or do they run on wheels?” And when the raid once began, or the battle had been joined, he never hesitated, and rarely changed his first plans. He sometimes went at his object with such apparent recklessness that he marched into battle by the flank, and commenced the fight with the first file of four. This kind of movement would not stand the test of military criticism, but it always succeeded. “The fate of a battle is the result of a moment, of a thought,” said Napoleon. The deplorable weakness of indecision, which has wrecked so many military reputations, was unknown to Jackson. Golden opportunities lost have changed many a shout of victory into a cry of defeat, and from Carrick's ford to Gettysburg the track of war is lined with the graves of brave men who died while their generals were deliberating. In absolute freedom from this weakness, Stonewall Jackson deserves a place by the side of Napoleon, the Archduke Charles, and Frederick the Great. [649]

General Jackson was never elated by victory, nor depressed by disaster. It might be said of him, as it was of Massena: “He was endowed with that extraordinary firmness and courage which seemed to increase in excess of danger. When conquered, he was as ready to fight again as if he had been conqueror.” Always victorious, with one exception, General Jackson was not often called upon to illustrate this virtue. But at Strasburg, when he determined to wait for Winder, as Napoleon did for Ney in Russia, while Fremont and Shields were closing in on both flanks, and escape seemed almost impossible, his face was as pale and firm as marble, his thin lips shut, his brow thoughtful and hard; or at second Manassas, where his little corps struggled for hours and days against the army of Pope, and Longstreet did not come; when the sun seemed to stand still, and night would not fall, Jackson spoke not a word of hope nor fear. If he sought counsel of heaven, he asked none of man, and no man dared offer it. Such confidence and faith were contagious. His soldiers believed he could do anything he wished, and he believed they could do anything he commanded. “Jackson's men will follow him to the devil, and he knows it,” said a Federal prisoner, and that was the philosophy of much of his success.

General Jackson was the wonder of the press. No officer, in either army, was the subject of so many newspaper paragraphs, and yet he knew nothing of it, for, as a rule, he never read the papers. No great man of this century has gone to his grave so marvelously ignorant of the wideness of his fame. Regulating his conduct with a view solely to his proper responsibility, he did not care what the world said of it, and never looked to see. At the beginning of the war, he used to glance over the papers to get at the news, but when he became the subject of their praise and speculations he stopped even that. The press, which proved a very Marlborough to some generals, had no effect on him. He had no war correspondents, and when in full command he permitted none in his army, if he knew it. He said he did not want his friends to know his movements, and certainly not his enemies. He wished no pen to write him into fame. It was said the press of the North gave Rosecrans his military reputation, and also took it away. They had no such chance at General Jackson. He made his own fame; but they have generously helped to make it world-wide and lasting.

But the press have done much to give the public a false impression of the religious side of Jackson's character. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church, a strictly Christian, liberal gentleman. But he was neither bigot nor Pharisee. He held his own devotions [650] in secret. He made no parade of his religion, nor pressed his creed upon any one. He was not Cromwellian in this regard; he believed other paths led to heaven just as surely as the one he was traveling. On his staff were the sons of clergymen of the Episcopal, Reformed and Presbyterian Churches, and some others who were very much in the dark as to their religious faith. The fact is, this Presbyterian elder, as he is sometimes called, became such by marriage. The first prayers said over him were those of his pious Methodist mother-although it appears in his youth he was not more pious than the average young man. When in Mexico, he was nearly persuaded to be a Romanist. He afterward was a member of the Episcopal Church, and, finally, settled down in the Presbyterian Church, to which his wife belonged. When the Louisiana Brigade applied for a chaplain, he recommended that a priest be sent them, because a large majority were Roman Catholics. His own devotedness was illustrated by the purity of his life, not by professions, and his faith and simplicity were well known to his troops. He often attended their services and prayer-meetings, night or day, and, kneeling in the midst of the same scarred veterans he had led in so many battles, he led them in prayer to the Lord of Hosts. When he was thus in camp, all noise was hushed. Dropping their cards, and all other amusements, old men and young gathered around him, standing and kneeling, with uncovered heads, in sacred silence. A thousand hands would have been raised to smite the impious wretch who dared to scoff when Stonewall Jackson prayed.

It is not practicable to attempt here any discussion of the campaigns of General Jackson. True, his career was very short. On May 2d, 1861, he took command at Harper's Ferry as colonel in the Virginia service. On May 2d, 1863, he fell at Chancellorsville as lieutenant general in the Confederate army. For these two years he monopolized the admiration of the continent; never blundered, never failed, and perished in the execution of his greatest achievement. No wonder his success bewilders criticism. Where in all history was great renown so quickly won It is an interesting study to follow the successive steps of Jackson's military career, and watch his development as occasion required. There is no more exciting page in the annals of modern warfare than his campaign of thirty days in the Shenandoah Valley. Its strategy, battles, and results, justify the tribute paid to it by Colonel Crozet, who served under Napoleon, and pronounced it “extra-Napoleonic.” In Jackson's military life there was no dangerous precociousness. He never sought promotion, but never [651] expressed a doubt of his ability to manage any command given him. He put forth no useless strength. What was in him we shall never know, for he went to the grave with the richness of the mine unexplored. He was equal to each new occasion as it arose, and in his movements there was no monotony, except in success. Had he survived Chancellorsville, a new field of trial awaited him. Whether it be true or not, as stated, that the order had been written assigning him to the command of the Army of Tennessee, it is more than probable he would have been sent to take command of that, unfortunate army. Had he gone there, with the prestige he had gained and the hopes he would have inspired, who can say to what end the war would have been prolonged. Thus the shot which struck Jackson crippled both armies of the Confederacy, and from that day it tottered to its fall.

I can only refer to the resignation of General Jackson in January, 1862, by which the Confederacy nearly lost his services. This step was caused by the insubordination of General Loring, who now holds a command under the Khedive of Egypt. General Loring had served in Mexico as General Jackson's senior in rank, and he was impatient at being his subordinate in Virginia. Being ordered to Romney by General Jackson, after the “Bath trip,” he prevailed on the War Department to countermand the order. General Jackson promptly resigned, and there was at once a storm. The army became excited, the people of the Valley indignant; Jackson was cool and immovable. The Governor of Virginia interposed, and the Secretary of War yielded. Loring was sent elsewhere, and Jackson resumed his command, and this was the last time the War Department ever undertook to interfere with his proper authority.

There are one or two incidents connected with the campaigns of General Jackson which press upon me for recognition. I ought not to omit to say a word in justice to the memory of Colonel Miles, who fell just before the surrender of Harper's Ferry to General Jackson, in September, 1862. Indignant and chagrined as the North justly was at the capitulation of eleven thousand troops, and the surrender of such immense stores, without a decent defense, it sought to make a holacaust of Colonel Miles, and charged him with both cowardice and treachery. That officer died with his face to the foe, and he should be a man of many scars who calls him a coward. Baser still was the charge of treachery, for baser would have been the crime. It was said he had communicated with General Jackson, and had surrendered according to their agreement. To make such a charge without proof, is like stoning the dead. Having been very [652] closely associated with General Jackson in this movement, it is more than improbable that any serious communication could have passed between him and Colonel Miles without my knowledge; almost impossible it could have been held without the knowledge of some one of the staff. .And yet no one at headquarters ever heard of it; no one in our army ever believed it. The ungrateful charge cannot be true. Colonel Miles was incompetent, but he was no traitor. He was too feeble for the responsibility which fell upon him, but he was too true to his commission to betray his army. The surrender of Harper's Ferry was a deep mortification to the North. If the charges were true, it ought to be greater.

Scarcely in the same connection, but as illustrative of the credulity of people during the war, I recall attention to the beautiful legend of Barbara Fritchie. There are few things among Whittier's poems more touching than this story of the war. It is as tender as the ballad of Maud Muller-and about as true. It seems like iconoclasm to break the poetic image which Mr. Whittier has carved, and if he had not thrown his chippings over Jackson's grave, I would not care to look beyond the beauty of his work. The facts are few. General Jackson's headquarters, in Maryland, were three miles short of Frederick, and, except when he passed through it to leave it, he went into the city but once — on Sunday night to church. On the morning he left, I rode with him through the town. He did not pass the house of Barbara Fritchie; nothing like the fiction of Mr. Whittier ever occurred, and Stonewall Jackson and that historic old lady never saw each other I understand Mr. Whittier has said that if the story, as he told it, is not true, it will go down to posterity as such, until it gets beyond the reach of correction. Exegi monumentum--pardonable loyalty, questionable ambition. It may be suggested with diffidence, that the name of Stonewall Jackson will live as long as that of Mr. Whittier and his poems, and history will teach the poet's children that the Army of Virginia did hot make war upon flags when waved by old women.

The death of General Jackson was characteristic in its singularity. At night, when the battle had ended, just as he had achieved what he believed to be the most successful movement of his career, he, whom the enemy began to believe both invulnerable and invincible, fell at the hands of his own people. It is needless to repeat the painful story of his wounding and death. At first it was not believed his wounds were mortal, and the army thought, in the language of General Lee: “Jackson will not-he cannot die.” But it was written. Pneumonia lent its fearful aid to the enemy, and on [653] Sunday afternoon he closed his eyes and smiled at his own spoken dream-“Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” The dream thus spoken is yet unbroken; and his soul went out to heaven, uplifted by sighs and prayers, rising that hour from altar and cloister, all over the South, for his recovery.

On Friday, the 15th of May, 1863, his body was taken for burial to his home, in Lexington. He had not been there since he left it, two years before, at tile beginning of the war. Only two years, and yet how like romance is the simple story of his growth in fame. And now he lies buried as he directed, “in the Valley of Virginia,” and among the people he loved so well. It were better so. He could not have saved the South, and it was merciful that he should perish first. The tender memory he left behind him in the army, and the stern sense of duty he bequeathed his soldiers, will be told by this little incident, with which I close this unworthy sketch. The army of Lee was on its march to Gettysburg, and the commanding general had given strict orders for its discipline in Pennsylvania. An officer riding to camp from Chambersburg, late at night, was halted by the outposts. Having neither pass nor countersign, in his dilemma he bethought him of an old pass in his pocket-book, signed by General Jackson, whose recent death hung like a cloud over the army. He found it, handed it with confidence to the sentinel. The trusty fellow managed to read it by the light of a match, and as he did so he seemed to linger and hesitate over the signature. And then, as the light went out, he handed it back, and looking up toward the stars beyond, he said, sadly and firmly: “Captain, you can go to heaven on that paper, but you can't pass this post.”

To Jackson's death this whole land has been speedy to do full justice. In this tribute there has been no North, no South. The one admired him greatly, the other loved him dearly. And coming from over the sea, it is said, an affectionate friend planted on his grave, at Lexington, a sprig of laurel brought from the grave of Napoleon. This was most fit; it was appropriate that the greatest general of the Old World should welcome to the tomb and immortality the most brilliant soldier of the New. From his grave, and from kindred others North and South, let us hope that the true spirit of reconstruction, in justice, prosperity, and peace, will come at last.

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