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His career and character.

An address by Hunter McGuire, M. D., Ll.D.


This address, as felicitous in its delineation of the character of one of the greatest soldiers of the age as it is acute and comprehensive in its recountal of his achievements, has been several times delivered by its distinguished author before large and representative audiences, first on June 23, 1897, at the dedication of the Jackson Memorial Hall, at Lexington, Va., next before R. E. Lee Camp Confederate Veterans, at Richmond, Va., on July 2d, and since, at other places. It has been enthusiastically received on every occasion.

The close official relation of Medical-Director McGuire with General Jackson afforded the best possible advantages for an intimate knowledge of the character of the great leader.

The address itself is a striking evidence of the versatility of the genius of one of the foremost surgeons and physicians in this era of medical progress.

It is now printed from a corrected copy furnished by Dr. McGuire.

I understand, and I beg this audience to understand, that I am here to-day, not because I have any place among the orators, or am able to do anything except ‘to speak right on,’ and ‘tell you that which you yourselves do know;’ but because the noblest heritage I shall hand down to my children is the fact that Stonewall Jackson condescended to hold me and treat me as his friend. I know, and you know, that as long as valor and virtue are honored among men, as long as greatness of mind and grandeur of soul excite our admiration, as long as Virginia parents desire noble examples to set before their sons, and as long as there dwells in the souls of Virginia boys that fire of native nobleness which can be kindled by the tales of heroic endeavor, so long will Virginia men and women be ready to hear of the words and the deeds of Virginia's heroic sons, and therefore ready and glad to hear how valorous and how virtuous, how great and how grand in every thought and action was the Virginian of whom I speak to-night—to know in what awesome Titanic mould [92] was cast that quiet professor who once did his duty here; that silent stranger whom no man knew until ‘the fire of God fell upon him in the battlefield,’ as it did upon Arthur—the fire by which Sir Launce-lot knew him for his king—the fire that like the ‘live coal from off the altar touched the lips’ of Jackson and brought from them that kingly voice which the eagle of victory knew and obeyed. For a king was Stonewall Jackson, if ever royalty, anointed as by fire, appeared among men.

When Egypt, or Persia, or Greece, or Rome was the world; when the fame of a king reached the borders of his own dominion, but scarcely crossed them; when a great conqueror was known as far as his banners could fly; friends (or enemies) could assign a warrior's rank amongst mankind and his place in history. These latter ages have agreed that a Rameses, a Cyrus, an Alexander, or a Constantine shall be styled ‘The Great’—accepting therein the estimate put upon them by the contracted times in which they lived, supported, perchance, by the story of their deeds as laboriously chiseled on some long buried slab, recorded on some hardly recovered sheets of ancient parchment, or written on some dozen pages of a literature, the language of which serves the purposes of the ghost along the Styx, as they tell each other of glories long departed.

To-day the world is wide, and before the world's tribunal each candidate for historic honors must appear. The world's estimate, and that alone, posterity will accept, and even that it will hereafter most carefully revise.

The young Emperor of Germany, seeking to decree his grandfather's place in history, would have him styled ‘William the Great.’ Here and there, in one nation and another, press and people combine to deify some popular hero and offer him for the plaudits or the worship of the age. It is a vain endeavor. The universal judgment cannot be forestalled. No force or artifice can make mankind accept as final the false estimate instead of the true. Money, powerful, dangerous and threatening as it now is in this republic, cannot for long buy a verdict. The unbiased world alone is capable of stamping upon the forehead of man that mark which neither the injustice of adverse interest, nor envy's gnawing tooth, nor the ceaseless flow of the river of time are able to efface.

Therefore, it was with swelling heart and deep thankfulness that I recently heard some of the first soldiers and military students of England declare that within the past two hundred years the English speaking race has produced but five soldiers of the first classborough, [93] Washington, Wellington, Robert Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. I heard them declare that Jackson's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, in which you, and you, and you, and I myself in my subordinate place, followed this Immortal, was the finest specimen of strategy and tactics of which the world has any record; that in this series of marches and battles there was never a blunder committed by Jackson; that this campaign in the Valley was superior to either of those made by Napoleon in Italy. One British officer, who teaches strategy in a great European college, told me that he used this campaign as a model of strategy and tactics, and dwelt upon it for several months in his lectures; that it was taught for months of each session in the schools of Germany; and that Von Moltke, the great strategist, declared it was without rival in the world's history. This same British officer told me that he had ridden on horseback over the battlefields of the Valley, and carefully studied the strategy and tactics there displayed by Jackson. He had followed him to Richmond, where he joined with Lee in the campaign against McClellan in 1862; that he had followed his detour around Pope; his management of his troops at Manassas; that he had studied his environment of Harper's Ferry and its capture; his part of the fight at Sharpsburg, and his flank move around Hooker, and that he had never blundered. ‘Indeed,’ he added, ‘Jackson seemed to me (him) inspired.’ Another British soldier told me that for its numbers the Army of Northern Virginia had more force and power than any other army that ever existed.

High as is my estimate of the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, I heard these opinions with a new elation, for I knew they presented the verdict of impartial history; the verdict that posterity will stamp with its approval; a verdict in itself such a tribute to valor and virtue, devotion and truth, as shall serve to inspire, exalt and ennoble our children and our children's children to the remotest generations.

You will not be surprised to hear of my telling them, that of these five, thus over-topping all the rest, three were born in the State of Virginia; nor wonder that I reverently remember that two of them lie side by side here in Lexington, while one is sleeping by the great river, there to sleep 'till time shall be no more; the three consecrating in death the soil of Virginia, as in life they stamped their mother State as the native home of men who, living as they lived, shall be fit to go on quest for the Holy Grail.

And now I hope I may be able to tell you what evidence of this [94] accredited greatness—what warrant for the justness of this verdict— I, and others with me, saw in the quiet of the camp and in the rush of the battle; and how I saw with my eyes, and stand here to declare, that his greatness vanished not, nor faded, but the brighter shone, when the shadows of evening were falling and the darkness of death gathered round.

In seeking to define Jackson's place in history I accept Lord Wolseley's definition of a great commander. He declares in effect, that the marks of this rare character, are: First of all—the power, the instinct, the inspiration to divine the condition and purposes of your enemy. Secondly—the genius that in strategy instantly devises the combinations most likely to defeat those purposes. Thirdly —the physical and moral courage, the absolute self-reliance that takes the risk of decision, and the skill that promptly and properly delivers the blow that shatters the hostile plans, so managing one's own forces (even when small), as to have the greater number at the point of attack. Fourthly—the cool judgement that is unshaken by the clash and clamor of emergences. And last, but not least, the prevision, the caution that cares for the lives and well-being of the private soldiers, and the personal magnetism that rouses the enthusiasm and affection, that make the commander's presence on the battlefield, the incentive to all that human beings can dare, and the unquestioned hope and sure promise of victory.

Many incidents of Jackson's career prove that he possessed the instinctive power to know the plight, and to foretell the purposes of the Federal army and its commanders. To describe the first that I recall: While dressing his wounded hand at the first Manassas, at the field hospital of the brigade at Young's Branch, near the Lewis house, I saw President Davis ride up from Manassas. He had been told by stragglers, that our army had been defeated. He stopped his horse in the middle of the little stream, stood up in his stirrups (the palest, sternest face I ever saw), and cried to the great crowd of soldiers: ‘I am President Davis; follow me back to the field.’

General Jackson did not hear distinctly. I told him who it was, and what he said. He stood up, took off his cap and cried: ‘We have whipped them; they ran like sheep. Give me 10,000 men and I will take Washington city to-morrow.’ Who doubts now that he could have done so?

When, in May, 1862, he whipped Banks at Winchester and had, what seemed then and even now, the audacity to follow him to Harper's Ferry, he not only knew the number and condition of Banks' [95] army, but in his mind he clearly saw the locality and strength of the armies of Fremont and McDowell, gradually converging from the east and west towards Strasburg to cut of his retreat. He knew the leaders of these hostile forces, their skill and moral courage, and calculated on it, and this so nicely that he was able to pass between them without a moment to spare. Indeed, he held these hosts apart with his skirmishers while his main army passed through, each commander of the Federal army in doubt and dread whether the mighty and mysterous Jackson intended one of his overwhelming blows for him. Both, doubtless, hoping the other one would catch it. Certainly they acted in a way to indicate this.

With the help of Ashby and Stuart he always knew the location and strength of his enemy. He knew the fighting quality of the enemy's forces too. ‘Let the Yankees get very close,’ he said to Ewell at Cross Keys, ‘before your infantry fires, they won't stand long.’ I asked him at Cedar Run if he expected a battle that day. He smiled and said: ‘Banks is in our front and he is generally willing to fight, and,’ he added very slowly, as if to himself, ‘and he generally gets whipped.’

At Malvern Hill, when a portion of our army was beaten and to some extent demoralized, Hill and Ewell and Early came to tell him that they could make no resistance if McClellan attacked them in the morning. It was difficult to wake General Jackson, as he was exhausted and very sound asleep. I tried it myself and after many efforts partly succeeded. When he was made to understand what was wanted, he said: ‘McClellan and his army will be gone by daylight,’ and went to sleep again. The generals thought him mad, but the prediction was true.

At Sharpsburg, when on the 17th, our army had repulsed three great assaults in succession and was reduced to a thin line, happening to have urgent business that took me to the front, I expressed to General Jackson my apprehension lest the surging mass of the enemy might get through. He replied: ‘I think they have done their worst and there is now no danger of the line being broken.’ McClellan's inaction during the long 18th when General Lee stood firm and offered him battle, proves that Jackson knew his enemy's condition.

At Fredericksburg, after Burnside's repulse, he asked me how many bandages I had. I told him, and asked why he wanted to know. He said that he wanted to have a piece of white cloth to tie on each man's arm that his soldiers might recognize each other in a [96] night attack, and he asked to be allowed to make such an attack and drive the foe into the swollen river or capture him. Subsequent events demonstrated that he would have accomplished his purpose.

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