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Stonewall Jackson — the story of his being an Astrologer refuted — an eye-witness describes how he was wounded.

By General J. A. Early.
There are but few incidents of the late war which have given rise to more conflicting accounts than the unfortunate occurrence which deprived the Army of Northern Virginia of its greatest corps commander. A number of such accounts have appeared in print; in books as well as in a more fleeting form, and no two of them agree as to the circumstances attending the wounding of General Jackson.

A book entitled Keel and Saddle, and written by General Revere, who served in the Army of the Potomac under Hooker, appeared several years since, in which is contained a very remarkable story about General Jackson, in connection with the subject of astrology and his being wounded at Chancellorsville. In this book, General Revere, who seems to have belonged at one time to the United States navy, gives his adventures by sea and land in a variety of characters. Having described his participation in some military operations in the State of Michoacan in Mexico, in the latter part of February, 1852, he says: “The spring of 1852 was now at hand, and the time propitious for a change to a more northern climate, which for various reasons I was desirous of making.” He then tells of his preparations for leaving Mexico, and his departure; and continues as follows: “Arriving in due time at New Orleans, I [262] was soon on my way up the Mississippi, and entered the ‘belle riviere.’ Among my fellow passengers on the steamer was Lieutenant Thomas J. Jackson, of the United States army, who seemed at first a remarkably quiet, reserved, although very intelligent officer, and with whom I soon became acquainted; for there is everywhere a sort of cameraderie among officers of the two services which attracts them to each other in a crowd of strangers. For several days the inland voyage continued, and our nights were partly spent upon the hurricane deck of the steamer, engaged in conversation. One of these conversations was so peculiar that it. fixed itself in my memory, and subsequent events proved it worthy of record, although, I confess, I hesitate to put in writing anything which seems to border so nearly on the marvellous.”

He then proceeds to give the conversation held with Lieutenant Jackson, which was upon the subject of astrology, to which Jackson led the way. The latter is made to converse in a very different manner, as to his language, expression and thoughts, from that for which General Jackson was noted among his acquaintances, and he is made to indicate very clearly some belief in astrology as a science. General Revere then proceeds:

Before we parted at Pittsburg, a day or two after this conversation, I had given Jackson the necessary data for calculating a horoscope; and in a few months I received from him a letter, which I preserved, inclosing a scheme of my nativity.

According to the scheme of nativity furnished by Jackson, it appeared that his and Revere's “destinies seemed to run in parallel lines,” and they were to be exposed to a common danger “during the first days of May, 1863,” and it is stated that Jackson said in his letter: “It is clear to me that we shall both be exposed to a common danger at the time indicated.”

This story is followed by another in reference to the battle of Chancellorsville in these words:

At the battle above named, I was an involuntary witness of an event which had an important bearing on the issue of the war, and which has been the subject of prolonged controversy. I refer to the death of Stonewall Jackson. The circumstances under which I acquired the right to give testimony in the matter were somewhat remarkable, and I here give a full statement of them. The left of my brigade line lay near the Plank road at Chancellorsville, and, after night had fallen, I rode forward, according to my invariable habit, to inspect my picket line. The moon had risen and partially illuminated the woods. I began my inspection on the right [263] of the picket line, progressing gradually to the left, where I stopped to rectify the post of a sentinel not far from the Plank road. While thus engaged I heard the sound of hoofs from the direction of the enemy's line, and paused to listen. Soon a cavalcade appeared approaching us. The foremost horseman detached himself from the main body, which halted not far from us, and riding cautiously nearer, seemed to try to pierce the gloom. He was so close to us that the soldier nearest me levelled his rifle for a shot at him; but I forbade him, as I did not wish to have our position revealed, and it would have been useless to kill the man, whom I judged to be a staff officer making a reconnaissance. Having completed his observations, this person rejoined the group in his rear and all returned in a gallop. The clatter of hoofs soon ceased to be audible, and the silence of the night was unbroken save by the melancholy cries of the whippowil, which were heard in one continuous wail like spirit voices, when the horizon was lighted up by a sudden flash in the direction of the enemy, succeeded by the well-known rattle of a volley of musketry from at least a battalion. A second volley quickly followed the first, and I heard cries in the same direction. Fearing that some of our troops might be in that locality, and that there was danger of our firing upon friends, I left my orderly and rode toward the Confederate line. A riderless horse dashed past me toward our lines, and I reined up in presence of a group of several persons gathered around a man lying upon the ground apparently badly wounded. I saw at once that these were Confederate officers, and visions of the Libby began to flit through my mind; but reflecting that I was well armed and mounted, and that I had on the greatcoat of a private soldier, such as was worn by both parties, I sat still, regarding the group in silence, but prepared to use either my spurs or my sabre as occasion might demand. The silence was broken by one of the Confederates, who appeared to regard me with astonishment; then speaking in a tone of authority, he ordered me “to ride up there and see what troops those were,” indicating the Rebel position. I instantly made a gesture of assent, and rode slowly in the direction indicated until out of sight of the group, then made a circuit round it and returned within my own line. Just as I had answered the challenge of our picket, the section of our artillery on the Plank road began firing, and I could plainly hear the grape crashing through the trees near the spot occupied by the group of Confederate officers.

Then follows a statement that about a fortnight after this occurrence, a Richmond paper was seen by the writer, detailing the circumstances of the death of Stonewall Jackson, and containing the statement about the person on horseback, substantially as it is given in the extract from a Richmond paper of 1865, referred to in the letter of Captain Wilbourn, given hereafter. This convinced General Revere, as he says, that the wounded man seen by him was Stonewall Jackson, and he concludes the story thus: [264]

Jackson's death happened in strange coincidence with his horoscopic prediction made years before; but the coincidence was, I believe, merely fortuitous, and I mention it here only to show what mysterious “givings-out” we sometimes experience in life.

If the story as given by General Revere is true, and it was really he who became so famous as Stonewall Jackson with whom the conversation on astrology was had on the steamer on the trip up the Mississippi and Ohio in 1852, the fulfillment of the remarkable “horoscopic prediction” was something more than a “merely fortuitous coincidence,” and it would undoubtedly go very far towards establishing the genuineness of what is generally regarded as an exploded science. It would also serve to show that opinions were entertained by General Jackson which were very much at war with the sterling piety and practical faith for which he was noted, and that, too, after he had united himself with the Presbyterian Church. In this aspect of it the story is hardly worth noticing, as it can receive no credence from those who knew General Jackson; but as General Revere has given his testimony in regard to the manner in which General Jackson received his wound, the occasion is taken to place in an authentic form the true narrative of that sad occurrence, which is now given in the language of the witness who rode by the side of the General at the time, and who of all others is best able to give an entirely reliable account. In givingthis it has been thought proper to make some allusion to the story in regard to astrology, as it has gone the rounds of the papers, and hence the letter of General Francis H. Smith is given with that of General Jackson accepting the professorship at the Virginia Military Institute. Those letters, and one from Captain R. E. Wilbourn, who was chief signal-officer for Jackson's corps, and was by his side when he was wounded, are as follows:

Virginia military Institute, March 5, 1873.
General J. A. Early, Lynchburg, Va.:
Dear General — I have duly received your valued favor of the 24th ultimo.

It gives me great pleasure to supply you with the information you seek in regard to General Jackson. For this purpose I send you herewith a certified copy of General Jackson's letter of acceptance of the Professorship of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Artillery Tactics in the Virginia Military Institute, dated April 22d, 1851.

General Jackson reported for duty in July, 1851, and entered upon his professorial duties on the 1st of September, 1851. His resignation as Lieutenant and Brevet-Major of Artillery in the United States army took effect March, 1852 [February 29th]. [265]

I do not think he ever went South during his connection with this Institution, except at the time of his marriage to Miss Morrison,1 and then did not go beyond Charlotte, North Carolina.

His professorship was held by him without any interruption until the commencement of the war in April, 1861. Then he was furloughed by the Board of Visitors as long as his services might be required in the army, with the understanding, at his own request, that he would resume his duties at the Institute at the close of hostilities.

His summer vacations were usually spent in visiting his friends in West Virginia or at the Virginia springs. On one or two occasions he visited a “water cure” establishment in Vermont. In the summer of 1856 he went to Europe, his furlough having been extended by the Board of Visitors to the 1st of October. I am very sure he was not in New Orleans between July, 1851, and April, 1861.

I never heard General Jackson allude to astrology, nor have I been able to find any one among his former associates who had. I have had many conversations with him on religious subjects. His views of divine truth were as simple as a child's, and his life was that of an earnest Christian man, taking the word of God as ibis guide, and unhesitatingly accepting all therein revealed.

He was proverbial for extreme reticence, and this was observable in his conversations with his his most intimate friends.

I remain very truly,

Fort Meade, Florida, April 22, 1851.
Colonel — Your letter of the 28th ultimo, informing me that I have been elected Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Artillery Tactics in the Virginia Military Institute, has been received.

The high honor conferred by the Board of Visitors in selecting me unanimously to fill such a professorship, gratified me exceedingly.

I hope to be able to meet the Board on the 25th of June next, but fear that circumstances over which I have no control will prevent my doing so before that time. For your kindness in endeavoring to procure me a leave of absence for six months, as well as for the interest you have otherwise manifested in my behalf, I feel under strong and lasting obligations.

Should I desire a furlough of more than one month, commencing on the 1st July next, it would be for the purpose of visiting Europe.

I regret that recent illness has prevented my giving you an earlier answer. [266]

Any communication which you may have to make previous to the 1st of June, please direct to this place.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. J. Jackson. To Colonel Francis Smith, Supt. Va. M. Institute, Lexington, Rockbrige County, Virginia.
A true copy from the original.

Francis H. Smith, Supt. V. M. I.

Torrance, Mississippi, February 19, 1873.
My Dear General — I will now endeavor to comply with your request (contained in your favor of the 12th instant), to give you the facts relating to the wounding of General T. J. Jackson.

As the details of the battle are familiar to you, I will begin with General Jackson's movements after the battle was over and all seemed quiet — the enemy having disappeared from our immediate front, and all firing having consequently ceased. General Jackson took advantage of this lull in the storm to relieve Rodes' troops, who had been fighting, steadily advancing and making repeated charges from the time the fight began, and hence ordered General Hill to the front to relieve Rodes with his fresh troops — directing the change to be made as quickly as possible.2 We were now within about half a mile of the open fields near Chancellorsville, where the enemy was supposed to be strongly entrenched. While this change was being made, General Jackson manifested great impatience to get Hill's troops into line and ready to move as promply as possible; and to this end, sent every member of his staff with orders to General Hill and other general officers to hurry up the movement. From the orders sent to General Stuart, it was evident that his intention was to storm the enemy's works at Chancellorsville as soon as the lines were formed and before the enemy had recovered from the shock and confusion of the previous fighting, and to place the left of his army between Hooker and the river. While the orders were being issued, General Jackson sat on his horse just in front of the line, on the pike. From this point he sent me with an order to General Hill. I galloped back and met General Hill in about fifty yards, riding along the pike towards General Jackson. I turned and rode with him to his line, and he stopped a few feet in front of it. I rode immediately on to General Jackson, who was then in sight and only a few paces in front of General Hill, just in the position where I left him. As I reached him he sent off the only staff officer present to General Hill, with [267] orders to move forward as soon as possible, and he rode slowly along the pike towards the enemy. I rode at his left side, two of my signal-men being just behind us, followed by couriers, etc. General Jackson thought, while awaiting General Hill's movements, he would ride to the front as far as the skirmish line or pickets,. and ascertain what could be seen or heard of the enemy and his movements, supposing there was certainly a line of skirmishers in front, as his orders were always very imperative to keep a skirmish line in front of the line of battle. When we had ridden only a few rods, and had reached a point nearly opposite an old dismantled house in the woods near the road to our right, and while I was giving him General Hill's reply to the order I had just returned from delivering a few moments before, to our great surprise our little party was fired upon by about a battalion, or perhaps less, of our troops, a little to our right and to the right of the pike — the balls passing diagonally across the pike, and being apparently aimed at us. There seemed to be first one musket discharged, which was followed almost instantly by a volley. The single musket may have been discharged accidentally, but seems to have been taken by the troops as a signal to announce the approach of the enemy. I hardly think the troops saw us, though they could hear the sound of our horses' feet on the pike, and probably fired at random in the supposed direction of the enemy. However, the origin of this firing is mere conjecture, but the fact is that it came as above stated, and many of the escort and their horses were shot down.

At this firing our horses wheeled suddenly to the left, and General Jackson (at whose side I kept), followed by the few who were not dismounted by this first fire, galloped into the woods to get out of range of the bullets, and approached our line a little obliquely; but we had not gone over twenty paces from the edge of the pike, in the thicket, ere the brigade just to the left of the pike (to our right as we approached from the direction of the enemy), drawn up within thirty yards of us, fired a volley also, kneeling on the right knee (as shown by the flash of their muskets) as though prepared to guard against cavalry. By this fire General Jackson was wounded. These troops evidently mistook us for a party of the enemy's cavalry. We could distinctly hear General Hill calling at the top of his voice to his troops to cease firing. He knew we had just passed in front of him, as did the troops immediately in the pike, and I don't think that they fired.

From this point you can adopt the parts which I have marked and included in brackets in the enclosed account, taken from a Richmond paper. All that I have so marked is correct. The account to that extent is nearly literally as I furnished it to J. E. Cooke, by whom it was evidently written. It was sent to me from Richmond, cut from a paper, by Cooke I suppose, or possibly by some friend of mine there. By my sending this you get a correct account, and it saves my writing so much over again. The account as marked is mine, with the language slightly changed; the rest was furnished by Lieutenant Smith and Major Leigh. [268]

Extracts from the printed narrative marked and endorsed by Captain Wilbourn, as on his authority.

By this fire Jackson was wounded in three places. He received one ball in his left arm, two inches below the shoulder joint, shattering the bone and severing the chief artery; a second passed through the same arm between the elbow and wrist, making its exit through the palm of the hand; and a third ball entered the palm of his right hand, about the middle, and passing through broke two of the bones. At the moment when he was struck he was holding his rein in his left hand, and his right was raised either in the singular gesture habitual to him at times of excitement, or to protect his face from the boughs of the trees. His left hand immediately dropped at his side, and his horse, no longer controlled by the rein, and frightened at the firing, wheeled suddenly and ran from the fire in the direction of the Federal lines. Jackson's helpless condition now exposed him to a distressing accident. His horse ran violently between two trees, from one of which a horizontal bough extended, at about the height of his head, to the other; and as he passed between the trees, this bough struck him in the face, tore off his cap, and threw him violently back on his horse. The blow was so violent as nearly to unseat him, but it did not do so, and rising erect again, he caught the bridle with the broken and bleeding fingers of his right hand and succeeded in turning his horse hack into the turnpike. Here Captain Wilbourn, of his staff, succeeded in catching the reins and checking the animal, who was almost frantic from terror, at the moment when, from loss of blood and exhaustion, Jackson was about to fall from the saddle.

The scene at this time was gloomy and depressing. Horses mad with fright at the close firing were seen running in every direction, some riderless, others defying control; and in the woods lay many wounded and dying men. Jackson's whole party, except Captain Wilbourn and a member of the signal corps, had been killed, wounded or dispersed. The man riding just behind Jackson had had his horse killed; a courier near was wounded and his horse ran into the Federal lines; Lieutenant Morrison, Aid-de-Camp, threw himself from the saddle, and his horse fell dead a moment afterwards; Captain Howard was carried by his horse into the Federal camps; Captain Forbes was killed; and Captain Boswell, Jackson's Chief Engineer, was shot through the heart, and his dead body carried by his frightened horse into the lines of the enemy near at hand.

Such was the result of the causeless fire. It had ceased as suddenly as it began, and the position in the road which Jackson now occupied was the same from which he had been driven.

Captain Wilbourn, who was standing by Jackson, now said, “They certainly must be our troops,” to which the General assented with a nod of the head, but said nothing. He was looking up the road towards his lines “with apparent astonishment,” and continued [269] for some time to look in that direction, as if unable to realize that he could have been fired upon and wounded by his own men. His wound was bleeding profusely, the blood streaming down so as to fill his gauntlets, and it was necessary to secure assistance promptly. Captain Wilbourn asked him if he was much injured, and urged him to make an effort to move his fingers, as his ability to do this would prove that his arm was not broken. He endeavored to do so, looking down at his hand during the attempt, but speedily gave it up, announcing that his arm was broken. An effort which his companion made to straighten it caused him great pain, and murmuring, “you had better take me down,” he leaned forward and fell into Captain Wilbourn's arms. He was so much exhausted by loss of blood that he was unable to take his feet out of the stirrups, and this was done by Mr. Wynn.

Captain Wilbourn, who, with Mr. Wynn, of the Signal Corps, was all that was left of the party, notices a singular circumstance which attracted his attention at this moment. The turnpike was utterly deserted with the exception of himself, his companion and Jackson; but in the skirting of thickets on the left he observed some one sitting his horse by the side of the wood, and coolly looking on, motionless and silent. The unknown individual was clad in a dark dress, which strongly resembled the Federal uniform; but it seemed impossible that he could have penetrated to that spot without being discovered, and what followed seemed to prove that he belonged to the Confederates. Captain Wilbourn directed him to “ride up there and see what troops those were” --the men who had fired on Jackson — when the stranger slowly rode in the direction pointed out, but never returned with any answer. Who this silent personage was is left to conjecture.

He [Jackson] was then carried to the side of the road and laid under a small tree, where Captain Wilbourn supported his head while his companion went for a surgeon and ambulance to carry him to the rear, receiving strict instructions, however, not to mention the occurrence to any one but Dr. McGuire or other surgeon. Captain Wilbourn then made an examination of the General's wounds. Removing his field-glasses and haversack, which latter contained some paper and envelopes for dispatches and two religious tracts, he put these on his own person for safety, and with a small pen-knife proceeded to cut away the sleeves of the indiarubber overall, dress-coat and two shirts from the bleeding arm.

While this duty was being performed, General Hill rode up with his staff, and dismounting beside the General expressed his great regret at the accident To the question whether his wound was painful, Jackson replied “very painful,” and added that his “arm was broken.” General Hill pulled off his gauntlets, which were full of blood, and his sabre and belt were also removed. He then seemed easier, and having swallowed a mouthful of whisky which was held to his lips, appeared much refreshed. It seemed impossible to move him without making his wounds bleed afresh, but it was absolutely necessary to do so, as the enemy were not more than [270] a hundred and fifty yards distant and might advance at any moment; and all at once a proof was given of the dangerous position which he occupied. Captain Adams, of General Hill's staff, had ridden ten or fifteen yards ahead of the group, and was now heard calling out, “Halt! surrender! Fire on them if they don't surrender!” At the next moment he came up with two Federal skirmishers who had at once surrendered, with an air of astonishment, declaring that they were not aware they were in the Confederate lines. General Hill had drawn his pistol and mounted his horse, and he now returned to take command of his line and advance, promising Jackson to keep his accident from the knowledge of the troops, for which the General thanked him. He had scarcely gone when Lieutenant Morrison, who had come up, reported the Federal line advancing rapidly and then within about a hundred yards of the spot. He exclaimed, “Let us take the General up in our arms and carry him off!” but Jackson said faintly, “No; if you can help me up I can walk.” He was accordingly lifted up and placed upon his feet, when the Federal batteries in front opened with great violence, and Captain Leigh, who had just arrived with a litter, had his horse killed under him by a shell. He leaped to the ground near Jackson, and the latter, leaning his right arm on Captain Leigh's shoulder, slowly dragged himself along towards the Confederate lines, the blood from his wounded arm flowing profusely over Captain Leigh's uniform.

Hill's lines were now in motion to meet the coming attack, and as the men passed Jackson, they saw from the number and rank of his escort that he must be a.superior officer. “Who is that — who have you there?” was called; to which the reply was, “Oh, it's only a friend of ours who is wounded.” These inquiries became at last so frequent that Jackson said to his escort: “When asked, just say it is a Confederate officer.” It was with the utmost difficulty that the curiosity of the troops was evaded. They seemed to suspect something, and would go around the horses which were led along on each side of the General to conceal him, to see if they could discover who it was. At last one of them caught a glimpse of a man who had lost his cap, as we have seen in the woods, and was walking bareheaded in the moonlight, and suddenly the man exclaimed, “in a most pitiful tone,” says an eye-witness: “Great God, that is General Jackson!” An evasive reply was made, implying that this was a mistake, and the man looked from the speaker to Jackson with a bewildered air; but passed on without further comment. All this occurred before Jackson had been able to drag himself more than twenty steps; but Captain Lee had the litter at hand, and his strength being completely exhausted, the General was placed upon it, and borne toward the rear.

The litter was carried by two officers and two men, the rest of the escort walking beside it and leading the horses. They had scarcely began to move, however, when the Federal artillery opened a furious fire upon the turnpike from the works in front of Chancellorsville, and a hurricance of shell and canister swept down the [271] road. What the eye then saw was a scene of disordered troops, riderless horses, and utter confusion. The intended advance of the Confederates had doubtless been discovered, and this fire was directed along the road over which they would move. By this fire General Hill and some of his staff were wounded, and one of the men carrying the litter was shot through both arms and dropped his burden.

Continuation of Captain Wilbourn's letter.

The part in reference to the solitary rider was changed, however, so as to make it appear more like a romance than reality. Just at the time mentioned a mounted soldier suddenly appeared near us who seemed to have been cut off from his command and lost, and halted just an instant as if at a loss what to do. He seemed to have discovered us just as we discovered him, and it was just as we were in the act of taking General Jackson a little way from the pike into the bushes to conceal him from the view of troops who might be passing, and before Wynn had left for Dr. McGuire and the ambulance. He left for Dr. McGuire as soon as General Jackson was laid on the ground, and this man appeared and disappeared before Wynn left, and it was he who first discovered the man on horseback. As I did not wish our men to know of the wounding of General Jackson, he was directed to “ride and see what troops those are,” pointing towards our troops — thinking, if he should prove to be a Yankee, he would be captured by one of sour own men, and I did not wish him to know who was.wounded. He appeared to be a courier, and he rode off instantly in the direction indicated up the pike. I thought no more of him that night and gave my entire attention to General Jackson; but as General Hill came down the pike to a point opposite me, from which I called him to me, requesting him to dismount and come alone, I supposed the man on horseback had met General Hill and his party, who must have been near enough to see him, and I supposed he was probably one of that party. I made frequent inquiries afterwards and read all the accounts I saw, to see if I could find out who this man was and what became of him, but heard nothing until I saw General Revere's first article, written a year or two after the surrender. I always thought it strange that nothing was heard of the man, and concluded he was captured. It may have been General Revere, though his account is not at all correct as to what immediately preceded the wounding of General Jackson, as will be seen by a comparison of it with mine. Wynn, who was with me and who still lives near here, concurred with me in all the details after the occurrence, and every time we have spoken of it since, and we have done so frequently. When I see him I will ask him his recollections of this solitary rider, which made a great impression on him.

When General Hill came to me, he allowed only one of his escort to dismount and accompany him, viz: Major Leigh, who, I believe, was then called Captain Leigh, and he ordered the rest to remain [272] on their horses in the pike. He sent at once for Dr. Barr, who promptly came up, just as I had finished binding General Jackson's wounds and putting his arm in a sling.

General Jackson was evidently greatly astonished, and did not seem to understand why or how the troops should have fired on us. As soon as I checked his horse I dismounted, as I saw from his looks that he was very faint, and asked him if he could ride into our lines, or what I should do for him. He said, “you had better take me down,” and leaned toward me, and as he did so, fell over on me, partially fainting from loss of blood. We were on the pike, about where we were first fired on. I was on the side of the General's broken arm, and his horse threw back his head, turned towards the enemy, and could not be kept still, as he was frightened and suffering from his own wounds. As the General fell over on me I caught him in my arms, and held him until Wynn could get his feet out of the stirrups. As soon as this was done, Wynn and I carried him in our arms some ten or fifteen steps north of the pike, where he was laid on the ground with his head resting in my lap, while I proceeded to dress his wounds, cutting off his coat-sleeves (he had on an oil-cloth or rubber overcoat), binding a handkerchief tightly above and below his wounds, and putting his arm in a sling, as described by both Dr. Dabney and Cooke. As soon as we laid him down, I sent Wynn after an ambulance and Dr. McGuire, and I was left alone with the General until General Hill came up. Just before Hill reached me, General Jackson revived a little and asked me to have a skillful surgeon to attend him, and not allow any but a skillful one to do anything with him. I told him I had already sent a special messenger for Dr. McGuire, and an ambulance to take him to the rear, to which he replied, “very good.”

While he was being borne off on foot, supported by Captain Leigh and one or two others, I walked between them and the pike, leading three horses and trying to keep them between the General and the troops, then moving down the pike, to keep them from seeing who it was; but it was impossible, and we met some men with a litter before we had gone ten steps, on which we put the General, and while doing so the enemy opened fire on us at short range from the battery planted on the pike, and also with infantry. The horses jerked loose and ran in every direction, and before we had proceeded far, one of the litter-bearers was shot, having both of his arms broken. This man lives in Fluvanna or Louisa county, Virginia, where the citizens made up a purse after the war and bought him a home. While General Jackson lay on the ground after he fell from the litter, he grew so faint from loss of blood, his arm having begun to bleed afresh, that he asked for some whiskey, and I immediately ran over to Melzei Chancellor's, where I had noticed a hospital-flag as we passed, thinking I would get some whiskey from the Yankee surgeons, but they all denied having any;. and as I could get none there, I mounted a horse, determined to find Dr. McGuire and an ambulance. I rode only a short distance before I met Dr. McGuire and Colonel Pendleton, to whom I told [273] what had happened. At the recital as we rode along towards the spot where I left the General lying, Colonel Pendleton fainted. He asked us to hold on a moment and dismounted, but as soon as his feet touched the ground he fell over fainting. The ambulance came up and we hurried it on to the front. Dr. McGuire dismounted and gave Colonel Pendleton some whiskey, and we then rode on and reached the General just as he was put into the ambulance. During the interval while I was gone for Dr. McGuire, Lieutenant Smith and Captain Leigh were left with General Jackson, and I suppose their account of what occurred in this interval is correctly given by Dr. Dabney, to whom each of them sent an account. I will state that when General Hill offered General Jackson whiskey, as soon as or about the time Dr. Barr came up, he at first refused it, or hesitated; but when I told him it was absolutely necessary for him and would revive and sustain him until we could get him safely back to the rear, he then very reluctantly drank a little. As he saw that it revived him, he asked for it himself after falling from the litter, as he felt faint again. He fell on the wounded side, which caused his wound to bleed freely.

As soon as the ambulance left with him, I was ordered by Colonel Pendleton, after he had consulted with General Rodes, to go to General Lee as quickly as possible, communicate to him the intelligence, explain our position and what had been accomplished, inform him of who had taken command, and ask him to come to that flank. I started at once, reaching General Lee before day, and remaining with him by his orders, and hence I did not see General Jackson again until he was being put into the ambulance to go to Guinea station, which was the last time I saw him.

You will find a correct account of my interview with General Lee in Dabney's Life of Jackson, pages 701 and 702, given as I furnished it, except that I was accompanied by Wynn, instead of Captain Hotchkiss--though Captain H. did reach General Lee about an hour or two after I had made my report. When he arrived and began to tell General Lee of the wounding of General Jackson, General Lee checked him, saying, “I know all about it, and do not wish to hear any more — it is too painful a subject,” or something to that effect. When I told General Lee about it, he made me sit by him on his bed, while he raised up, resting on his elbow, and he was very much affected by the news. When I told him that the wounding was by our own troops, he seemed ready to burst into tears, and gave a moan. After a short silence he said, “ah! Captain, don't let us say anything more about it, it is too painful to talk about,” and seemed to give way to grief. It was the saddest night I ever passed in my life; and when I saw this great man so much moved, and look as if he could weep, my cup of sadness was filled to overflowing. I got up and walked out of his tent, or rather from under his blanket, or something of the sort stretched over him for a shelter — I think it was an oil-cloth blanket. Colonel Taylor then called me to him, and the rest of the staff gathered around to hear the sad tidings, and I don't think there [274] was a dry eye in the whole party as I related the affair to them. About the time I had finished relating it, General Lee came out, booted and spurred, and ordered his horse and his staff to be ready to ride as quickly as possible. Calling me to him, he took me in and spread out before me, with his own hands, a nice breakfast, taking it from a basket which had been sent him by some lady in the neighborhood, and made me sit down and eat. He ordered me to lie down right there and sleep and rest as soon as I had eaten. As I finished eating he mounted his horse, and just then Captain Hotchkiss came up---this was just before day. I started off with General Lee, but he made me go back, and told me to lie down and rest, saying, “I know you rode all night, and the greater portion of the night previous, and you must have rest.” So I rested until the battle began, and then joined my command again.

I have written you hurriedly, but have given the facts, which you can put into shape. If there is any part not sufficiently clear, please call my attention to it, and I will explain. If Wynn should remember anything not given, in connection with the solitary rider, or anything different from what I have written, I will write it to you as soon as I see him, which will be very soon.

I have given you a very rough sketch, as I had to write in great haste for want of time, but hope it will answer your purpose.

I think this sketch, with the article endorsed and marked to show the portion furnished by me, and the part referred to in Dabney's Life of Jackson, will be sufficient to give a correct and connected account of the whole transaction.

I am often questioned about the affair, and nearly every one says that it was strange that General Jackson should give an. order to troops to fire at everything, and especially cavalry, approaching from the direction of the enemy, and then go and place himself in a situation to be fired on himself. I heard of no such order, and feel sure no order of the kind was given. If there had been such an order, it would have been given to the skirmishers; and there would have been no necessity for such an order to them, as they would certainly fire anyway. Even if the General had given such an order, he was not going contrary to it, as he thought there was a skirmish line in front to which he was going. There proved to be no such line — not even a picket or a vidette — and hence the wounding of General Jackson. The failure to have out a skirmish line was really the cause of his being fired on, and whoever was at fault in that matter is the party to blame, and is responsible for the accident.3 I don't know whose was the fault, but have an opinion which I don't care to express. The troops who wounded the General were not to blame, and as it would only make them [275] feel badly to know that they had been the innocent cause of his wounds and death, it is best not to give publicity to the fact who they were.

Very truly yours,

It is very manifest from the authorities now furnished that the whole story of General Revere is a fiction, or that the “Lieutenant Jackson” with whom he traveled on the steamer up the Mississippi and Ohio in 1852 was not the same person with the world-renowned commander of the Second corps of the Army of Northern Virginia; as well as that the cavalcade which lode so near to General Revere on his picket line on the night of the 2d of May, 1863, was not composed of General Jackson and his party; and that the “group of several persons gathered around a man lying upon the ground, apparently badly wounded,” alleged to have been seen by General Revere when he rode out alone on the Plank road, did not consist of Captain Wilbourn and his companion Wynn, of the Signal Corps, who were the only persons with General Jackson when their attention was attracted to a man on horseback near them, just as they were bearing the General from the road into the woods.

It must be remembered that General Jackson had been brevetted a major in the United States army in 1847 for his gallant conduct in Mexico, and if he had been in that army in 1852 he would have borne the title of major and would have worn the insignia of his brevet rank, according to the custom then prevailing, though his actual rank in the line may have been only that of a lieutenant. The statement of General Smith, Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, however, puts the question at rest, and shows that it was impossible for the Lieutenant Jackson of whom General Revere speaks to have been Stonewall Jackson, as the latter had located at the Institute in the summer of 1851, and did not make a trip South in 1852. In 1852 General Jackson had severed his connection with the United States army, though it appears from Cullum's biographical register of officers and graduates of West Point that his resignation did not take effect until the 29th of February, 1852; but it was a very frequent occurrence for the time for an officer's resignation to take effect to be postponed for some months after he was relieved from duty. The same register shows that General Jackson was a professor at the Institute in 1851, and Dabney's life of him shows that he was admitted a member of the Presbyterian Church at Lexington, Virginia, on the 22d of November, [276] 1851, he having been baptised as a professing Christian two or three years before at Fort Hamilton, New York.

There was a Lieutenant Thomas K. Jackson who graduated two years after General Jackson, and who was in the United States army in 1852, where he remained until the breaking out of the war, when he joined the Confederate army. It is possible that General Revere may have met that officer under the circumstances stated by him, and may have fallen into the error of supposing that it was he who became known as Stonewall Jackson.

The story of Captain Wilbourn is given as he has related it, though he authorised the writer of this to put it into shape; but it is in so much better shape than one who was not an eye-witness could give to the narrative, that it has been thought best to leave it as it came from the pen of the author; and his statement of minor circumstances, which by some may be thought unnecessary, has been allowed to stand, because those circumstances serve to give in the eyes of the general public that air of entire truthfulness to the whole narrative, for which it will readily be given credit by all who had an opportunity of knowing the most estimable and worthy officer and gentleman by whom it is furnished. In a previous letter he says that he sent to two gentleman whom he names, “at their request, an account of the wounding of General Jackson at the time, as did other members of the staff and Major Leigh, who that night acted as aid-de-camp to General Hill, but both of them got the different accounts so mixed that they gave a somewhat confused idea of it” ; and this furnishes a conclusive reason for not tampering with the very distinct and intelligible narrative of the Captain.

To make that complete, some extracts from an account published in a Richmond paper in 1865 are embodied in the letter of Captain Wilbourn, so distinguished from what he now writes as not to be mistaken for any part of that. These extracts are endorsed by him as substantially correct, though couched in language somewhat changed from his own. The paragraph in regard to the solitary horseman is also given, notwithstanding he says that this, though taken from his own account, is so much changed “as to make it appear more like a romance than reality.” It is, however, now fully explained, and the true coloring is given to it by his very clear statement. With Captain Wilbourn's explanation of the real circumstances of this incident, the whole narrative may be accepted as entirely authentic, subject to the following explanations. [277]

As, in the various accounts of the battle, the Plank road and the old Stone turnpike are frequently mentioned without the distinction between them being always observed, it is thought proper to state that the two roads are nearly parallel to each other for the greater part of the way from Orange Courthouse, the old Stone turnpike being north of the Plank road; but at the Wilderness Church, about two miles west of Chancellorsville, the two roads unite and run together from that point to the latter place. West of the Wilderness Church General Jackson had crossed the Plank Toad to the old Stone turnpike and moved along the latter, with his lines across it at right angles, until he struck the enemy, and until the two roads united; so that in the description of the movements made after the enemy's right had been routed, including the circumstances attending his wounding, the two terms indicate the same road. This road is briefly designated by Captain Wilbourn as the “pike.”

His account of the whole affair shows how very erroneous are the generally received accounts; and it now appears that instead of riding to the front to reconnoitre the enemy and then imprudently galloping back towards his own line, General Jackson was slowly riding to the front, while making every effort to hurry forward the troops, when he was fired upon by a portion of his own men on the right (south) of the road and obliquely from the rear, and that then the horses of his party that were not shot down wheeled to the left, and he galloped into the woods on the left to escape the fire, when he was fired upon by another body of troops on the north side of the road. This firing, lamentable as were its consequences, was in both instances the result of accident, or rather of that confusion inevitable in all attempts to operate with troops in the dark while they are under excitement. The writer of this has perhaps been under fire as often as any man of his day, and the result of his experience and observation has been to convince him that the dangers attending offensive movements of troops in the night, especially in the forepart of the night, when the opposite side is on the alert, from mistakes or collision on the part of those taking the offensive, are not counterbalanced by any advantages likely to result; and to sustain him in this opinion he can confidently appeal to the judgment of those who have had any experience. In operating in a thickly-wooded country the dangers are increased very greatly.4 While, therefore, Captain Wilbourn's [278] statement of facts is to be accepted without hesitation, it is not by any means certain that he is right in his opinion that the wounding of General Jackson was due to the failure to leave a line of skirmishers in front, as the troops who commenced the firing were probably not aware of the fact. Captain R. H. T. Adams, the officer mentioned as having caused two of the advancing Federal skirmishers to surrender, is of opinion that the firing from the right (the first in point of time) was at a small detached party of mounted men or cavalry belonging to the enemy, which came in front of our line on the south side of the road, where it was thrown forward, making an obtuse angle with the other part of it, and that the fire was not at General Jackson's party, though it.reached the latter. That firing, however it occurred, was undoubtedly the cause of the other, for when General Jackson's party came crashing through the brushwood in the dark towards the infantry in line of battle expecting soon to encounter the enemy, a fire upon it was inevitable. In the current accounts of the affair it is generally represented that a number of officers were shot at the same time the General was shot, in such a manner as to produce the impression that they were with him; but the fact is, that the only officer with General Jackson at the time was Captain Wilbourn, the rest of the party being composed of couriers and signal-men. The firing, however, as usual in case of false alarms, passed along the line, and some officers with the party of General Hill in the road were shot; Captain Boswell and Lieutenant Morrison were with this party, or were going forward to join General Jackson.5 General Hill and some others were subsequently struck by the enemy's fire. The spirit given to General Jackson by General Hill was not whiskey, but was brandy furnished by Captain Adams from a flask given him by a Federal officer captured in the engagement. This mistake was a very natural one under the circumstances. When Captain Adams advanced to the front and forced the two Federal soldiers to surrender, he was not on horseback, but was on foot, having just before escaped the fire by which some of General Hill's party were shot by spurring his horse to the rear through the line on the road; he had then dismounted and advanced to the front on foot. These facts are given on his information, as he resides in the [279] same town with the undersigned, and is known to be thoroughly reliable.

A comparison of Captain Wilbourn's narrative with that of General Revere will show that it was utterly impossible for the party of mounted men of which the latter speaks to be that with General Jackson, and that it was equally impossible for the group of several persons around the wounded man, which he claims to have seen, to be Captain Wilbourn and his companion Wynn. General Revere says that the cavalcade that rode up near to him when he was on his picket-line near the Plank road, after being rejoined by the horseman who detached himself from the party “to pierce the gloom,” returned at a gallop, and “the clatter of hoofs soon ceased to be audible.” When it is considered that, besides this clatter of hoofs, “the silence of the night was unbroken save by the melancholy cries of the whippowil,” which latter were still heard when the clatter of horses' hoofs had ceased to be audible, before the firing occurred, it is very apparent that General Revere was quite a long distance from the Confederate lines. Along a straight and hard road as this one was, the sound of the hoofs of horses in a gallop can be heard a long distance. General Jackson did not get out of hearing of his own men, nor out of sight of General Hill's party, and was riding slowly to the front when first fired on. Captain Wilbourn is certain that he was not more than fifty or sixty yards in front of General Hill,6 while Captain Adams thinks he was not more than twenty or thirty yards in front, and the latter walked the whole distance. The difference in their estimates is not unnatural, as it was in the night, and they occupied different stand-points. The question who composed the cavalcade that General Revere claims to have seen, is then involved in a still greatermystery than that which hangs over the man on horseback seen by Wilbourn and Wynn. As to the group of persons alleged to have been seen around a wounded man lying on the ground, it is to be presumed that General Revere did not mistake two men for several, and that the sight of two men dismounted and engaged in administering to another badly wounded would not have caused visions of the dreaded Libby to flit before the imagination of one who was so well mounted, equipped and armed, especially when those two men had no more formidable weapons than the glasses, flags, key or index, pencils, etc., appropriate to them as members of the Signal [280] Corps, and no other men were in sight.7 He says that he rode towards the Confederate position, when ordered to do so, until he got “out of sight of the group, then made a circuit around it, and returned within my [his] own line.” This it was impossible for him to do from the position on the road where Wilbourn and Wynn were with Jackson, which was at the same spot at which the latter was when first fired on, without getting into the Confederate lines; nor could he have made a circuit around the party on the road without encountering the same troops that had. wounded General Jackson, as it must be recollected that he was, after having been taken from his horse, on the north side of the road, and when wounded he had not gone obliquely towards his line more than twenty paces before he was fired on by the troops, not more than thirty yards distant. Therefore, while he was being carried off by Wilbourn and Wynn, he was not more than fifty yards from the troops that had wounded him. The group that General Revere saw must have been a different one altogether from that with General Jackson. As it is possible he may have met another Jackson on the steamer, so it is possible that the cavalcade he saw may have been a party of Federal cavalry or horsemen cut off in the previous rout, and that the group of men around the wounded one he saw may have been likewise Federal officers or soldiers. The coincidence in regard to the order received in each case to ride and see what troops those were, would not be a hundredth part as remarkable as the fulfillment so literally of the “horoscopic prediction.”

But whatever may be the solution of his narrative, he must not expect us to accept as true the coincidence in regard to the “horoscopic prediction,” either as a “merely fortuitous” one, or as a fulfillment produced by “the evil aspect of the square of Saturn,” any more than we can believe that the “continuous wail” of the whippowil was composed of “spirit voices” foreshadowing the impending disaster.

In regard to the supposed mystery connected with the man seen by Wilbourn and Wynn, this is to be said: it would not have been at all remarkable if, in the confusion attending the rout of the Eleventh corps, some courier or other horseman belonging to the Federal army had been cut off and bewildered, and that when he found himself in the presence of the persons with General Jackson, [281] he was at a loss what to do, and rode to the Confederate lines when ordered to do so, where he became a prisoner; or it may have been that this man was a Confederate who, in the confusion produced by the fire that had done so much mischief to the mounted parties with Generals Jackson and Hill, became separated from the Test, and when he saw Wilbourn and Wynn attending to a wounded man, he may have stopped to see who it was, being in doubt whether he was in the presence of friends or enemies. If such was the case, he may, when ordered to do so, have ridden to see what troops were indicated by Captain Wilbourn, and meeting General Hill's party, did not return to report, as that party went immediately to where General Jackson was. This man may have occupied such a position as not to have heard of the inquiries afterwards made, or he may have been killed by the subsequent firing that night or in the battle of next day. There is really nothing mysterious about the circumstance, and the importance attached to it by both Captain Wilbourn and Mr. Wynn resulted very naturally from the excited state of mind in which they were, under the very trying circumstances in which they were placed. All engaged in the war have experienced the great difficulty of distinguishing between the Confederate gray and the Federal blue in the night, and this difficulty sometimes occurred in the day, at a distance. This incident of the man on horseback certainly attracted very little attention in the army, and the present writer, though he commanded a division in Jackson's corps at the time, and subsequently three divisions of the corps for a considerable period, when both Captain Wilbourn and Wynn were attached to his headquarters, never had his attention called to the affair until since the appearance of Keel and Saddle.

To complete the narrative of the circumstances attending the wounding of General Jackson until he was placed in the ambulance to be carried to the hospital, it is only necessary to state that when Captain Wilbourn left him to obtain some whiskey, after the first fall of the litter, Captain Leigh and the General's to aids, Lieutenants Smith and Morrison, remained with him and faithfully administered to him. The party had to lie down in the road for a time to escape the enemy's fire, and when it ceased along the road, the General was assisted for a short distance to move on foot, but was again placed upon a litter, from which he had a second very painful fall, caused by one of the litter-bearers entangling his foot in a vine as the litter was borne through the brushwood on the [282] side of the road. He was placed a third time upon the litter and carried to the rear, until he met the ambulance Dr. McGuire had provided for him; and in this he was carried to the hospital, along with his Chief of Artillery, Colonel Crutchfield, who had been painfully wounded during the engagement. Dr. Hunter McGuire, General Jackson's Medical Director, has furnished a full account of the incidents occurring from the time he met the General on his way to the rear until his death,8 and it may be relied on as entirely authentic, as may anything which Lieutenant (afterwards Captain) James P. Smith, the General's devoted aid and friend, may have stated or may state in regard to what he witnessed.

The interview between General Lee and Captain Wilbourn, when the latter communicated the sad intelligence, is presented by his own unvarnished statement in a far more touching light than it has ever before appeared in, whatever of the ornaments of rhetoric may have been employed; and the deep feeling which stirred the great heart of the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia on the occasion, was as strikingly manifested in the anxious care exhibited for the comfort of him who had been with his great lieutenant in his terrible calamity, and who had so faithfully and devotedly ministered to him in the trying scenes of the night, as in any other circumstance.

1 July 15th, 1857.--Dabney's Life of Jackson.

2 Rodes' division occupied the front line in the advance, while the division commanded by Brigadier-General Colston followed in a second line, with A. P. Hill's division in the rear of the whole. In assailing the enemy, Rodes' and Colston's divisions mingled together, and hence it became necessary to call up the third line when fresh troops were required.--J. A. E.

3 In advancing upon the enemy, firing, it was impossible to keep a line of skirmishers in front, unless the line of battle was prevented from firing. By getting mixed together, the divisions commanded by Rodes and Colston had been thrown into much confusion, and a skirmish line could not be sent out from either of them. While Hill's division was coming up into line and relieving the other troops, it was impracticable for some time to throw out skirmishers, so that, probably, the failure to have such a line at the time was really the fault of no one, but was inseparable from the situation of affairs.--J. A. E.

4 This opinion is not expressed for the purpose of criti<*>sing the proposed movement by General Jackson. Stimulated by the achievement of victory and inspired by the hope of making it decisive, he, at the moment, perhaps, overlooked the fact that all of his soldiers did not preserve that equipoise of mind necessary to prevent mistakes and accidents under such circumstances. The disaster which befell the army in his own misfortune is a confirmation of the opinion above expressed.

5 It is possible Captain Boswell was struck by the first volley, as he had been with General Hill and was riding to the front to overtake General Jackson.

6 As stated in a letter subsequent to the one herewith given.

7 The road was cleared for a few moments after the second firing, as all persons on it had got out of the way to escape the fire, but General Hill and his staff soon advanced to the front.

8 Battle of Chancellorsville, by Hotchkiss and Allan. Published by Van Nostrand, New York, 1867.

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