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Chapter 18: Fredericksburg.

A respite now occurred in the storms of war, when it was permitted to contemplate General Jackson and his soldiers in a more peaceful and pleasing attitude. The army was withdrawn a few miles, to the banks of the Opequon, a tributary of the Potomac, which flows to the eastward of Winchester and Martinsburg, and empties into it a little above Harper's Ferry. Here they encamped for a number of weeks, in the bosom of the most charming regions of the lower Valley. The beauty of the season surpassed even the accustomed glories of the Virginian autumn; and amidst days of unclouded serenity, free alike from the ardors of summer, and the extremes of winter, the tired soldiers recruited their strength, reposing upon the rich meadows and pastures of the Opequon. Man and beast alike revelled in abundance; for the teeming productiveness of those Valley farms seemed to defy the exhaustion of war, and the sweet and luxuriant greensward made the war-horse forget the necessity of other provender. Here, a few days of repose restored the elastic spirits of the men; for the Southern soldier is quick to forget his toils, and resume his hopes. The bivouacs under the golden and crimson foliage of the trees, echoed with exuberant laugthter and mirth; and the heroes of a score of deadly fields, with the light hearts of pleased children, made a jest of every trifle. Their passionate attachment to “Old Stonewall” [583] was now at its height; and his appearance rarely failed to evoke a burst of enthusiasm. As the men heard the mighty cheer rolling toward them like a wave, from the distant camps, they sprung to their feet, saying, “There comes old Jack,” and prepared to join in swelling the chorus. His heart also was soothed and gladdened with the rest, and the society of the people of his beloved District. He was now in the Valley, for which he had fought first and longest, the region of his chosen home, the scenery in which he most delighted, and amidst that sturdy population whose loyalty so cheered his heart. Winchester, that gallant and hospitable town, was near by; and he could once more mingle there with the friends of the first year of the war, and see them emancipated from the hated yoke of the Federals.

But General Jackson's rest was never idleness. He was diligently improving the interval of quiet, in refitting his men with shoes and clothing, in recalling the stragglers to the ranks, and composing the disorders of organization, produced by the arduous service of the summer. His regiments were again rapidly filled up by the return of the foot-sore, the wounded, and the sick, and the addition of new recruits; and his corps was enlarged to the proportions of a gallant army. On the 11th of October, the Government conferred on him the rank of Lieutenant-General, next to the highest military grade in its service. The army of General Lee was now divided into two great corps, or wings, of which the one was permanently assigned to Jackson, and the other to Longstreet. Henceforth these two great soldiers became as the two hands of their Commander, and served him with a generous emulation and mutual respect, as honorable to them as their well proved heroism. The organization of General Jackson's corps, was now confirmed. It consisted of four divisions, the original division commanded by him in the [584] Valley campaign, now led by Brigadier-General Wm. B. Taliaferro; the division of Ewell, commanded by Brigadier-General Early, who was soon after rewarded for his eminent services by the rank of Major-General; the division of Major-General A. P. Hill; and that of Major-General D. H. Hill. To these were attached numerous batteries, arranged into battalions of artillery under the various division Generals, but all supervised by Colonel Crutchfield. A part of the spoils of Harper's Ferry was now assigned to the most meritorious of these batteries; and their equipment became more perfect than ever before. To the famous company of Poague, of the Stonewall Brigade, especially, were assigned four of the heavy rifled guns, upon the construction of which the Federals had exhausted all their resources of skill and wealth; and this battery continued to hold its hardly earned place as the elite body of the corps.

This pleasing leisure was also employed in a manner yet more congenial to the heart of Jackson, in extraordinary labors for the spiritual good of the men. Not only did the chaplains now redouble their diligence in preaching, and instructing the soldiers from tent to tent; but many eminent ministers availed themselves of the lull in the storm of war, and of the genial weather, to visit the camps, and preach the gospel as missionaries. These were received by General Jackson with affectionate hospitality; and while no military duty was neglected for a moment, to make way for their ministrations, his pious ingenuity found abundant openings for them. It was now that the series of labors, and the ingathering of precious souls began in the Confederate army, which have continued ever since so extraordinary a feature of its character. The most enlightened and apostolic clergymen of the country, forgetting for the time the distinctions of sect, joined in these meetings. Nightly, these novel and sacred scenes might be witnessed; after the drill and the labors of the day [585] were over. From the bosom of some moon-lit grove a hymn was heard, raised by a few voices, the signal for the service; and, at this sound, the multitudinous noises of the camps died away, while the men were seen gathering from every side, until the group from which the hymn had arisen was swelled into a great crowd. The man of God then arose, and began his service by the light of a solitary candle, or a fire of resinous pine-wood, elevated on a rude platform. While his face and the pages of the holy Word were illuminated thus, all else was in solemn shadow; and his eye could distinguish nothing of his audience, save the dusky outline of the multitude seated all around, in a wide circle, upon the dry leaves, or the greensward. But though his eye could not mark the impress of the truth, it was drank in by eager ears; and many was the bearded cheek, which had not been blanched amidst the horrors of Sharpsburg, which was now wet with silent tears. At some of these meetings General Jackson was a constant worshipper, seated modestly in an unnoticed corner amidst the common soldiers, but setting the example of the most devout attention. In his letters to his friends, he related the success of the Word among his men, with ascriptions of warm and adoring gratitude to God. One of these, addressed to Mrs. Jackson, must suffice as an instance:--

Bunker Hill, October 13th.
Mr. G — invited me to be present at communion in his church yesterday, but I was prevented from enjoying the privilege. But I heard an Excellent sermon from the Rev. Dr. S---. His text was I. Timothy, chap. II: 5th and 6th verses. “(” For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. “)” It was a powerful exposition of the word of God. He is a great revival minister; and when he came to [586] the word himself he placed an emphasis on it, and gave to it, through God's blessing, a power that I never before felt .... And I felt, with an intensity that I never before recollect having realized, that truly the sinner who does not, under gospel privileges, turn to God, deserves the agonies of perdition. The Doctor several times in appealing to the sinner, repeated the sixth verse “ Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,” What more could God do than give himself a ransom? .... He is laboring in a revival in General Ewell's division. Oh, it is a glorious privilege to be a minister of the gospel of the Prince of Peace! There is no equal position in this world.

Such was the estimate of the worth of the minister's work, by one whose fame was then filling the civilized world. It may be added, once for all, that this religious reformation, which was destined to be spread so widely through the army by General Jackson's efforts, bore the fruits of a true work of God's grace. That there was more apparent bloom than fruit, as in every other ingathering which ever blessed the Church, from the Pentecostal down, is, of course, fully admitted. It is not to be supposed that there were no good people engaged in it, whose mistaken zeal led them to push it on by indiscreet means, and no converts whose temporary warmth was due rather to the gregarious sympathies of the camp, than to the truth and Spirit. But still, there was a glorious reformation in many souls to true holiness, diminishing permanently the wickedness of the camps, turning many finally away from their sins. It was the uniform testimony of even the ungodly, that the commands most largely blessed by this reform became the most efficient in the service of their country; with the best discipline, the fewest stragglers, and the steadiest behavior in battle. It was the general conclusion of the whole people, that the subsequent efficiency [587] of the corps was promoted as much by this work of divine grace as by the professional ability of General Jackson.

It was a little after the date of the letter just quoted, that one of those instances arose in which he disclosed to others his spiritual emotions. The night was damp and rainy, when a brother officer whom he greatly valued visited him on business. After this was despatched, Jackson seemed to have a leisure unwonted for him, and urged his friend to remain, and spend a short time in relaxation. Although the latter did not yet call himself a Christian, indeed, he was one for whose spiritual good the General was greatly concerned. The conversation was soon insensibly turned on the things of Redemption. His friend related how Dr. S.,--the eminent minister mentioned in the last letter,had been understood by him to declare, that the fear of wrath did not enter at all as an element of that godly sorrow for sin, which marks true repentance; but that it was prompted solely by love and gratitude. The General answered, that the doctrine intended by Dr. S. had probably been misapprehended by him. For his part, he supposed that, in the new-born believer, both fear and love actuated his repentance. But as his assurance became more clear of the Redeemer's mercy to his soul, his obedience became less servile, and more affectionate; until, in the most favored saints, perfect love cast out fear. He then declared that he had been, himself, for a long time, a stranger to fear of wrath; because he knew and was assured of the love of Christ to his soul; that he felt not the faintest dread that he should ever fall under the wrath of God, although a great sinner; because he knew that it was forever reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, and that love for God and Christ was now the practical spring of all his penitence. Speaking thus, Jackson arose from his seat, and, with an impressive union of humility and solemn elation, continued in substance thus: “Nothing earthly can mar [588] my happiness. I know that heaven is in store for me; and I should rejoice in the prospect of going there to-morrow. Understand me: I am not sick; I am not sad; God has greatly blessed me; and I have as much to love here as any man, and life is very bright to me. But, still, I am ready to leave it any day, without trepidation or regret, for that heaven which I know awaits me, through the mercy of my Heavenly Father. And I would not agree to the slightest diminution of one shade of my glory there” --[Here he paused, as though to consider what terrestrial measure he might best select to express the largeness of his joys]--“No: not for all the fame which I have acquired, or shall ever win in this world.” With these words he sunk into his chair, and his friend retired-awe-struck, as though he had seen the face of an angel. But he did not fail to notice the revelation made of Jackson's master-passion by nature, in the object he had chosen to express the value of his heavenly inheritance. It was fame! Not wealth, nor domestic joys, nor literature — but well-earned fame. Let the young aspirant consider also, how even this passion, which the world calls the most honorable of all, was chastened and crucified in him by a nobler longing.

It was manifestly about the same time, that the following letter was written to Mrs. Jackson. Mentioning several presents, he says:

Oct. 27.
Our God makes me so many friends I mention these things in order that you may see how much kindness has been shown me; and to express things for which I should be more grateful, and to give you renewed cause for gratitude. ...

Don't trouble yourself about representations that are made of me. These things are earthly and transitory. There are real and glorious blessings, I trust, in reserve for us, beyond this [589] life. It is best for us to keep our eyes fixed upon the throne of God, and the realities of a more glorious existence beyond the verge of time. It is gratifying to be beloved, and to have our conduct approved by our fellow men; bnt this is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is in reservation for us, in the presence of the glorified Redeemer. Let us endeavor to adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour, in all things; knowing that there awaits us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” I would not relinquish the slightest diminution of that glory, for all this world, and all that it can give. My prayer is, that such may ever be the feeling of my heart. It appears to me that it would be better for you not to have any thing written about me. Let us follow the teaching of inspiration: “Let another praise thee, and not thyself.” I appreciate the loving interest that prompted the desire.

On the 18th of October,

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