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