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[340]

Stonewall's widow. [Mrs. Jefferson Davis in the Ladies' Home journal, Sept. 3, 1893.]


Mrs. Jackson described by Mrs. Jefferson Davis.

Daughter of a North Carolina Clergyman—Her marriage to Jackson— personal characteristics.


No character is so difficult to depict as that of a lady; it can be described only by negations, and these do not convey the charm and beauty which positive virtues impress upon us. This thought has been suggested to me by the request for a sketch of Mrs. Stonewall Jackson. Outside the limits of the States in which she has lived little more has been known of her personally than that she was infinitely dear to her heroic husband, and that she bore him a little daughter, who sat on his bed, cooing and smiling, ‘all unknowing,’ while he was slowly entering into the rest prepared for him.

Mary Anna Morrison—this was Mrs. Jackson's maiden name—was the daughter of the Rev. Dr. R. H. Morrison, a Presbyterian minister, and the first president of Davidson College, North Carolina, which he founded, and which still remains as his memorial. Dr. Morrison graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1818, with President Polk and many other prominent men. Mrs. Morrison was one of six daughters of Gen. Joseph Graham, of Revolutionary fame, who was successively Governor of North Carolina, United States Senator, and Secretary of the Navy under President Fillmore. Mary Anna was one of ten children born to the couple. Dr. Morrison, on account of his large family, removed to a quiet country home near to several churches, at which he officiated for his neighbors as occasion demanded. The society about their home was of exceptional refinement, and the associations of the family were with the best people.

In due course of time the girls married Southerners, who afterwards became—or then were—men of mark, such as General D. H. Hill, General Rufus Barringer, Judge A. C. Avery, and I. E. Brown. In 1853, Anna, with Eugenie, her youngest sister, made a visit to their eldest sister, Mrs. D. H. Hill, at Lexington, Va., escorted thither [341] by one of her father's friends. General—then Major—Jackson was at that time engaged to Miss Elinor Junkin, to whom he was soon to be married. He was a frequent visitor to General Hill's house, and became so friendly with the cheery little country girls that he rendered them every social attention in his power. Major Jackson left Lexington for rest in the summer vacation, but in August suddenly returned, and spent the evening with his young friends, listening to their songs and parrying their teasing questions. In the morning they learned that he had married and gone on a bridal tour that day, so shy and reticent was the grave young Major, even to his intimates. After the marriage of her sister, Eugenie, to Mr.—afterward General—Rufus Barringer, Anna remained at home for three years.

In the interim Major Jackson lost his young wife, his health failed, and he went abroad to recuperate. After making an extended tour, he returned, and wrote to Anna in such ardent fashion that everyone, but the object of his affection, suspected his state of mind. Soon after he followed, and they were quietly married from her father's home. The young couple set out upon an extended Northern tour, returning only in time for the session of the Military Institute, where the Major's duty lay. Major Jackson soon established himself in his own house, and his young wife, in the privacy of their home, pursued the busy tenor of a Southern woman's way. Before the expiration of a year, a little daughter was born to the young couple, which was not long spared to them. Their lives seem to have flowed on unruffled by domestic dissonance. Her husband's letters call her his ‘gentle dove’ and his ‘sunshine,’ and she gives in the life of her husband, which she published some years ago, a pretty picture of her sitting, at his request, and singing ‘Dixie,’ so that he could learn the air. After four years had passed, the dread realities of war broke over the young people. Major Jackson was summoned to take the cadets from the Virginia Military Institute to Richmond for occasional service. The first Military duty was followed by his offering himself to the army of Virginia. After a short time he went into the regular Confederate service, and then the young wife was sent to her father, as it was too lonely for her to remain in Lexington.

Here, practically, ended her married life, save for a few happy weeks at Winchester in the earlier part of her husband's service, and an occasional visit to his camp. These, and the loving letters he wrote to her, were all that was left of her domestic joy. She does not seem [342] to have lost heart, however, but looked forward patiently and prayerfully to a happy end of her many trials and deprivations.

When, in 1862, little Julia was born, Mrs. Jackson met alone and uncomplainingly her illness. The baby was five months old before there was a lull in the fierce strife in which General Jackson was so powerful a motor, which allowed the young wife to take the child to its father, and she, with the infant and a nurse, went to find him in the field. After jolting over miles of new-made road, Mrs. Jackson at length found shelter and the comfort of her husband's companionship, but this indulgence lasted only a little over nine days. The dreaded call to arms was issued to confront General Hooker's advancing army, and the non-combatants were ordered on to Richmond. General Jackson hurried, fasting to the field, after a hasty farewell, expressing the hope that he might find time to return to bid his dear ones loving God-speed, but this privilege was not to be granted. Time passed, and the roar of battle shook to its foundation, and Mrs. Jackson was forced to leave the scenes of her happy reunion, while a procession of litters bearing the wounded was being brought into the yard for medical attention. Haunted by the memory of carnage and death, the poor young wife, with a child's faith and a woman's anguish, left her treasure on the battle-field. Then came the death wound, and after a week's detention, Mrs. Jackson reached her husband's death-bed. Spent with the anguish of his wounds, he lay dying, too near the silence of the grave to do more than murmur to his wife: ‘Speak louder, I want to hear all you say,’ and feebly to caress his baby with a whispered ‘My sweet one, my treasure,’ while the innocent smiled in his dying face. Then was the heartbroken wife and mother given strength to minister both these objects of her love. From her firm lips the dying hero learned that the gates of Heaven were ajar for his entrance. Controlling her bitter grief, she sang for him the sacred songs on which his fainting spirit soared upward to its rest. When all was over and she had followed him to his grave, she again sought her father's roof, and there hid her bowed head among her own people, to live only for her baby. In strict retirement, the young widow husbanded her means until her daughter was grown — a pretty, graceful young woman, and then, to promote her child's happiness, the mother emerged from the privacy in which she had lived since her husband's death, and visited both the Southern and Northern [343] States. In the course of time Julia became engaged to a young Virginian, Mr. Christian, of Richmond, and a few months later was married to him. Shortly after this marriage Mr. and Mrs. Christian removed to California, whither Mrs. Jackson accompanied them. They returned, a short time later, to Charlotte, N. C., where they took a house and lived together. Now, however, the widow's next trial was imminent. Mrs. Christian was attacked by a prostrating fever, and succumbed, after bearing her illness with great fortitude. She died in her twenty-seventh year.

Mrs. Jackson for a time was stunned and inconsolable. Eventually she occupied herself by writing a biography of her husband. When the book was finished she came to New York, and having secured a publisher without difficulty, gave the tragic and tender history of her hero's life to the world.

Then, for the first time, the writer saw her, and was much impressed by her cheerful and simple personality. The most impressive thing about her was her spirit of resignation and contentment—in fact, I left her with the feeling expressed at the outset of this sketch—that the most difficult of all tasks is to depict a lady, but so gently exercised that one does not confess it!

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