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[145]

Stonewall Jackson. [from the Richmond times, July 19, 21, 22, 1891.]

Personal Reminiscences and anecdotes of his Character—Recollections of him by Dr. J. William Jones, formerly chaplain of the army of Northern Virginia.


The unveiling of Valentine's statue of Stonewall Jackson, the gathering of the veterans of the old Foot Cavalry to gaze on the lifelike presentment of their old commander which the genius of our great artist has given to the world, the-reunion of old comrades, and the recalling of a thousand hallowed memories of the camp, the march, the bivouac, and the battlefield, will excite fresh and wide interest in all that pertains to the career of the great soldier who filled two continents with his fame.

The distinguished orator of the day, General J. A. Early, will doubtless make an able and exhaustive presentation of the military career of his chief, whom he so bravely followed in his great campaigns, and whose name and fame he is so capable of delineating and so ready to defend. All will rejoice that this sturdy old soldier has lived to see this worthy monument to his corps commander, and the full text of Early on Jackson will be eagerly read by thousands who are not privileged to hear it, and will pass into history as highest authority on the great theme of which it treats.

But if it may be permitted one who counts it a high honor to have been one of ‘Stonewall's men’ to recall some personal reminiscences and anecdotes illustrative of the character of our great leader, I shall esteem it a privilege to do so for the readers of The Times.


Major Jackson of the V. M. I.

I used to hear the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute speak of a quiet, eccentric, but hard-working professor, whom they called ‘Old Jack,’ or ‘Fool Tom Jackson,’ and upon whom they delighted to play all sorts of pranks. Stories of his eccentricities were rife—such as his wearing a thick uniform in the sweltering heat of summer because he had ‘received no orders to change it,’ or of his pacing up and down in front of the superintendent's office in a pelting hail storm because he would not deliver his report one minute before the appointed time. 10 [146]

While he had, by hard work, mastered the subject which he taught, he had but little capacity for imparting instruction, and showed so little tact and skill as a teacher that just before the breaking out of the war a committee of the alumni of the Virginia Military Institute, headed by Colonel John B. Strange, who was killed at Sharpsburg, waited on the board of visitors and ‘demanded the removal of Professor Jackson for utter incompetency.’ There were traditions that he greatly distinguished himself in the Mexican war, and stories were told of his walking back and forth on a road plowed by the enemy's artillery to inspire his men with courage; sitting all alone on one of his guns after his men had been driven off, because he had received no orders to leave, and of his standing to his guns on another occasion after his infantry support had fled, and driving off a greatly superior force of the enemy. But his brilliant career and rapid promotion in Mexico had been well nigh lost sight of, and when, in the early days of the war, his old neighbor and friend, Governor John Letcher, nominated him to the Virginia convention for a commission as colonel, a member arose and asked: ‘Who is this Major Jackson, anyhow?’ and it took all the eloquence of the Rockbridge delegates to secure his confirmation.

I remember that the soldiers at Harper's Ferry, when he was sent to command us, also asked, ‘Who is this Colonel Jackson?’ but that before he had been in command forty-eight hours we felt his strong hand, recognized the difference between him and certain militia officers who had previously had charge of the post, and realized that we were at least under the command of a real soldier and a rigid disciplinarian.


My First meeting with him.

I saw him frequently at Harper's Ferry—sometimes paced the lonely sentinel's beat in front of his headquarters—but the first time I ever came in personal contact with him was at Darkesville on the 4th of July, 1861, when we were drawn up in line of battle to meet General Patterson. The skill and tact with which he had reduced the high-spirited rabble which rushed to Harper's Ferry at the first tap of the drum into the respectable ‘Army of the Shenandoah,’ which he turned over to General J. E. Johnston the last of May, and his skirmish at Falling Waters (which we then exaggerated into an important victory), had won him some reputation, and I was anxious to see him again.

I have a vivid recollection of how he impressed me. Dressed in [147] simple Virginia uniform, apparently about thirty-seven years old, six feet high, medium size, gray eyes which seemed to look through you, light brown hair, and a countenance in which deep benevolence seemed mingled with uncompromising sternness, he impressed me as having about him nothing at all of the ‘pomp and circumstance’ of war, but every element which enters into the skilful leader and the indomitable, energetic soldier who was always ready for the fight.

But his appearance a year later is still more vividly impressed upon me. Who that ever belonged to the Foot Cavalry does not remember that old gray uniform, which soon became soiled with the dust of the valley, those cavalry boots and jingling spurs, that old cadet cap which tilted on his nose, and that raw-boned sorrel which he rode, and which the boys used to say ‘could not run except towards the enemy!’

Just before the battle of Fredericksburg his intimate personal friend, the chivalric ‘Jeb Stuart,’ presented him with a beautiful ‘regulation’ Confederate uniform, and when he appeared in it for the first time that day the boys did not recognize him, but soon the word ran down the line, ‘It is old Jack with new clothes on,’ and then cheered him as usual. That magnificent uniform has been forgotten, but that faded old suit of gray, in which we used to see him galloping along the lines, amid the deafening yells of the brave fellows who followed him with loving devotion and enthusiastic confidence, is photographed forever in the memory of every survivor of his old corps, and will be vividly recalled at the unveiling of the monument in Lexington.


The soldier.

Jackson was a born soldier, and it would be for me a pleasant task to sketch his military career, which has been the marvel of the world, and shall be the study of military critics as the years go on, but abler pens than mine will describe him as a soldier, and I shall not, therefore, in these papers attempt any detailed history of his campaigns, his battles, his military achievements—for that were to give the history of the Army of Northern Virginia during the two years that he was connected with it, but I shall rather give a few salient points, which shall illustrate his character as a soldier, and show something of his splendid deeds on the field of Mars.


The rapidity of his movements.

He was noted for the rapidity of his movements. An able Northern writer has said: ‘He moved infantry with the celerity of cavalry,’ and some of his marches have scarcely a parallel in history. [148]

After his march to Cumberland and Romney in the winter of 1861-‘62, when many of his men were frost-bitten, and some perished from the intense cold, he had scarcely rested his weary legions when he begun his famous Valley Campaign of 1862, which won for his men the soubriquet of ‘Jackson's Foot Cavalry,’ and for himself world-wide fame.

When General Banks, supposing that Jackson was in full retreat up the Valley, started a column across the mountains to strike Johnston's army, which was then falling back from Manassas, Jackson suddenly turned, marched thirty miles that afternoon and eighteen early the next morning, and struck a blow at Kernstown which, while he suffered the only defeat that he ever sustained, recalled the column which was moving on Johnston's flank, and disconcerted McClellan's whole plan of campaign.

Pursuit was utterly futile until he took refuge in Swift Run Gap, whence he emerged to make some of the most rapid marches on record, as he defeated Milroy at McDowell, flanked Banks at Front Royal, cut his column at Middletown, routed him at Winchester, and pushed him pell-mell across the Potomac. He was about to cross the river in pursuit when, learning that Shields and Fremont (in response to that famous order of Mr. Lincoln's) were hastening to form a juncture in his rear at Strasburg, he marched sixty miles in a day and a half (one of his brigades marched fifty-two miles in one day), held Fremont back with one hand and Shields with the other, until all of his troops and trains had passed the point of danger, and moved quietly up the Valley, pursued by three armies, until at Cross Keys and at Port Republic he suffered himself to be ‘caught,’ and showed beyond all controversy that the man who caught ‘Stonewall Jackson’ ‘had indeed caught a Tartar.’

One of his biographers well puts it: ‘In thirty-two days he had marched nearly four hundred miles, skirmishing almost daily; fought five battles; defeated three armies, two of whom were completely routed; captured about twenty pieces of artillery, some four thousand prisoners, and immense quantities of stores of all kinds, and had done all this with a loss of less than one thousand men in killed, wounded, and missing.’

The march from the Valley to ‘Seven Days Around Richmond,’ and that to Pope's rear at Manassas; the march to the capture of Harper's Ferry, and thence to Sharpsburg (Antietam); the move from the Valley to first Fredericksburg, and that to Hooker's rear at Chancellorsville, were all famous for their rapidity. It is related of Bedford Forest—‘the Wizard of the Saddle,’ the ‘Stonewall Jack— [149] son of the West’—that when asked the secret of his success, he promptly replied in characteristic, if not classic, phrase: ‘I gits thar fust with the most men.’ Jackson acted on this maxim. His men used to say: ‘Old Jack always starts at early dawn, except when he starts the night before,’ and while he rarely had ‘the most men,’ he nearly always ‘got there fust,’ and struck before the enemy was aware of his presence.


His secrecy.

The secrecy with which Jackson formed and executed his plans was a most important element of his success.

After the defeat of Fremont at Cross Keys, and Shields at Port Republic, he was largely reinforced by General Lee, who took pains to have the fact known to the enemy, and Jackson was not slow to confirm the impression that with these reinforcements he would sweep down the Valley again.

He took into his confidence Colonel T. T. Munford, who commanded the advance of his cavalry, and he detailed for special duty Mr. William Gilmer, of Albemarle, who was widely known in Virginia as a political speaker, and in the army as a gallant soldier.

A number of Federal surgeons, who had come under a flag of truce to look after Banks' wounded, were quartered in a room adjoining Colonel Munford's, when Mr. Gilmer (‘Billy Gilmer’ was his popular subriquet) stalked in with rattling saber and jingling spurs, and in loud tones announced, ‘Dispatches for General Jackson.’ ‘What is the news?’ he was asked loud enough to be heard by surgeons in the next room, who pressed their ears to the key-holes and cracks eager to catch every word. ‘Great news,’ was the loud response. ‘Great news. The whole road from here to Staunton is full of gray people coming to reinforce us. There is General Whiting and General Lawton and General Hill, and I don't know who else, at the head of about thirty thousand men. They will all be up by to-morrow afternoon, and then won't we clean out this Valley, and make the Yankees skedaddle again across the Potomac? Hurrah! for old Stonewall and his foot cavalry, as well as his crittur companies, say I! ’

It is needless to add that when the surgeons were sent back to their own lines early the next morning, they hastened to carry ‘the news’ to headquarters. A hasty retreat of the Federal army followed, and Jackson so skilfully manoeuvered his forces, used his cavalry as a curtain across the Valley, and so secretly conducted his [150] march to Richmond, that at the very time that he was thundering on McClellan's flank at Cold Harbor, Banks was fortifying at Strasburg against an expected attack from him.

I well remember how profoundly ignorant the men, and even the higher officers, on the march were as to our destination. At Charlottesville we expected to march into Madison county to meet a reported move of Banks' across the mountains. At Gordonsville the Presbyterian pastor, Rev. Dr. Ewing, told me, as a profoud secret, which he had ‘gotten from headquarters,’ that we would move at daylight next morning towards Orange Courthouse and Culpeper to threaten ‘Washington.’

We did ‘move at daylight’ (we generally did), but it was towards Louisa Courthouse. There and at Frederick's Hall and at Hanover Junction we expected to move on Fredericksburg to meet McDowell, and it was really only when we heard A. P. Hill's guns at Mechanicsville, on the evening of June 26th, that we took in the full situation, and there rang along our moving columns for miles shouts of anticipated victory, as the Foot Cavalry hurried forward ‘to take their place in the picture near the flashing of the guns.’

The evening that Jackson spent at Frederick's Hall, Mrs. Harris sent him an invitation to take breakfast with her the next morning, and he courteously thanked her and said, ‘If I can, I will be happy to do so.’ But when the good lady sent to summon him to breakfast, his famous body servant Jim met the messenger with a look of astonishment and said, ‘Lor, you surely didn't spec to find the General here at dis hour, did you? You don't know him, den. Why, he left here at 1 o'clock dis morning, and I spec he is whipping de Yankees in de Valley agin by now.’ The truth is, he had ridden into Richmond, a distance of fifty miles, to have an interview with President Davis and General Lee, and receive his final instructions as to the part he was to take in the great battle that was impending, and he did it so secretly that the army knew nothing of his absence, and Richmond nothing of his presence within her walls.

It was on this ride that a characteristic incident occurred. Before day Mr. Mathew Hope, a respected citizen living in the lower part of Louisa county, was awakened by the clatter of horses' hoofs in front of his house. Asking ‘Who is there?’ he received for an answer: ‘Two Confederate officers who are on important business, and want two fresh horses to ride into Richmond. Have you two good horses?’ [151]

‘Yes, I always keep good horses,’ was Mr. Hope's reply; ‘but I cannot lend them to every straggler who claims to be a Confederate officer on important business. You cannot have my horses.’

‘But our business is very urgent. We must and will have them, and you had as well saddle them at once. We will leave our horses in their place’ ‘I do not saddle my own horses,’ was the indignant reply; ‘I keep negroes for that purpose, and I certainly shall not saddle them for you, especially as I have no assurance that you will ever bring them back.’ The officers soon got the horses and galloped off with them, and Mr. Hope was very much astonished when, several days afterward, they were returned in good condition ‘with thanks and compliments of General Jackson,’ and exclaimed, ‘why did he not tell me that he was Stonewall Jackson? If I had known who he was I would have cheerfully given him all of the horses on the place, and have saddled them for him, too.’

This worthy gentleman doubtless felt very much like the old citizen near Richmond, who, seeing a straggling cavalryman (as he supposed) riding across his field, rushed out with something of the vim of Miss Betsey Trotwood when donkeys appeared on her grass, and exclaimed: ‘Come back here, sir! Come back! How dare you ride over my grass? What is your name? I'll report you to the General.’ ‘My name is Jackson,’ was the meek reply. ‘What Jackson, sir? I want your full name and that of your company, that I may report you,’ was the sharp retort of the irate farmer.

‘My name is T. J. Jackson, sir, and I am in command of the Second corps.’ ‘What! Stonewall Jackson? My sakes alive! Why didn't you tell me who you were? Please go back and ride through my wheat field! Ride through my yard!! Ride through my house!!! All that I have is at your service, and I beg you will show that you forgive my rudeness by using it,’ said the now thoroughly excited old Confederate.

It is related that it was on this march that Jackson met one of Hood's Texans struggling from his command, and the following conversation occurred:

‘Where are you going, sir?’

‘I don't know.’

‘What command do you belong to?’

‘Don't know, sir.’

‘What State are you from.’

‘I cannot tell.’

‘What do you know, then, sir?’ [152]

‘Nothing at all, sir, at this time,’ replied the Texan. ‘Old Stonewall says that we are to be know-nothings until after the next fight, and you shall not make me violate his orders.’

Jackson smiled and passed on. Jackson's staff and his higher officers were frequently in as profound ignorance of his plans as the private soldiers.

I remember that General Ewell, second in command, remarked to his chief of staff in my hearing several days before we started from Port Republic on the march to Richmond, ‘We are being largely reinforced, and after resting here for a few days we will proceed to beat up Banks' quarters again down about Strasburg and Winchester.’

I remember that one day in the summer of 1862 General Ewell rode up to the house of Dr. J. L. Jones, near Gordonsville, and asked: ‘Doctor, will you please tell me where we are going to?’ ‘No, General,’ was the reply, ‘but I should like to ask you that, if it were a proper question.’ ‘It is a perfectly proper question to ask,’ replied the grim old soldier, ‘but I should like to see you get an answer. I pledge you my word that I do not know whether we are to march north, south east, or west, or whether we are to march at all or not. General Jackson ordered me to have my division ready to march at early dawn; they have been lying in the turnpike there ever since, and I have had no further orders. And that is about as much as I ever know about General Jackson's movements.’

If I had the space I might illustrate this point at great length, but it must suffice now to say that Jackson kept his movements so secret from his own people that the enemy could not detect his plans, and that in some of his most brilliant and successful movements—such as his march against Fremont, and then against Banks, his march to Seven Days Around Richmond, to Pope's rear at Second Manassas, and to Hooker's flank and rear at Chancellorsville—the element of secrecy entered largely into his success.

Jackson was noted for the quickness with which he formed his decisions, and his crisp, epigramatic orders on the field of battle.

Thirty years ago, on the 21st of July, which has been fitly chosen for the unveiling of his monument, Jackson won his first real laurels in the ‘War between the States,’ and from the plains of Manasas there sounded forth the first trumpet notes that were to fill the world with his fame.

He had led his brigade of heroic Virginians to the plateau near the Henry House, and formed his line of battle to stem the blue torrent [153] that had been sweeping before it the little band of Confederates in its path, when General Bee, the heroic son of the Palmetto State, who had been bearing the brunt of the battle, galloped up to him and exclaimed: ‘General, they are beating us back!’ Jackson, calm and collected, but his eyes glistening beneath the rim of his old cadet cap, replied: ‘Sir, we will not be beaten back. We will give them the bayonet.’ It was then that Bee, about to yield up his noble life, rushed back to his own shattered legions and rallied them by exclaiming: ‘Look, there stands Jackson like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians. Let us determine to die here and we shall conquer.’ Bee fell a few moments later, but he had associated his name with one of deathless fame, and Thomas Jonathan Jackson was to be known henceforth as ‘StonewallJackson.

One of the few, the immortal names
That were not born to die.

But this soubriquet of ‘Stonewall,’ though it has passed into history and will cling to him forever, is really a very inappropriate designation for this impetuous soldier, whose watchword was ‘Forward’ or ‘Charge’ rather than ‘Stand.’ ‘Cyclone,’ or ‘Tornado,’ or ‘Hurricane,’ would more appropriately index Jackson's character as a soldier.

There has been a hot dispute between General Pope and General Banks as to the responsibility for the opening of the battle of Cedar Run (Slaughter's Mountain), in Culpeper county, in the beginning of the Second Manassas campaign, but General J. A. Early could easily settle the question for them. I happened to be sitting on my horse near by when Colonel Pendleton, of Jackson's staff, rode up to General Early and, touching his hat, quietly said: ‘General Jackson sends his compliments to General Early, and says advance on the enemy, and you will be supported by General Winder.’ ‘General Early's compliments to General Jackson, and tell him I will do it,’ was the laconic reply, and thus the battle opened. On the eve of another battle a staff officer rode up to General Jackson, and said: ‘General Ewell sends his compliments, and says he is ready.’ ‘General Jackson's compliments, and tell him to proceed,’ was the quiet reply. And soon the voice of the conflict was heard.

At Cold Harbor on that memorable 27th of June, 1861, after he had gotten his corps in position, the great chieftain spent a few moments in earnest prayer, and then said quietly to one of his staff: ‘Tell General Ewell to drive the enemy.’ Soon the terrible shock of battle was joined, and he sat quietly on his sorrel sucking a lemon [154] and watching through his glass the progress of the fight. Presently a staff officer of General Ewell galloped up and exclaimed: ‘General Ewell says, sir, that it is almost impossible for him to advance further unless that battery (pointing to it) is silenced.’ ‘Go tell Major Andrews to bring sixteen pieces of artillery to bear on that battery and silence it immediately,’ was the prompt reply. Soon the battery was silenced. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘tell General Ewell to drive them,’ and right nobly did General Ewell and his gallant men obey the order.

In the afternoon of the day at Cold Harbor Jackson became very impatient that the enemy did not yield his position more readily, and turning to one of staff said: ‘This thing has hung fire too long. Gallop to every brigade commander in my corps and tell them if the enemy in their front stands at sundown they must cease firing and sweep the field with the bayonet.’

When on his great flank movement at Chancellorsville, General Fitz Lee sent for him to ascend a hill from which he could view the enemy's position. He merely glanced at it once, when he formed his plan, and said quickly to an aide: ‘Tell my column to cross the road.’ Just before he was wounded at Chancellorsville he gave to General A. P. Hill the order: ‘Press them and cut them off from the United States Ford,’ and as he was borne bleeding, mangled, and fainting from the field he roused himself to give, with something of his old fire, his last order: ‘General Pender, you must hold your position.’


A stern disciplinarian.

He was very stern and rigid in his discipline, and would not tolerate for a moment the slightest deviation from the letter of his orders. He put General Garnett under arrest for ordering a retreat at Kernstown, although his ammunition was exhausted and his brigade was about to be surrounded, preferred charges against him, and was prosecuting him with the utmost vigor at the opening of the Chancellorsville campaign.

He insisted that Garnett should have held his position with the bayonet; that the enemy would have retreated if he had not; and that under no circumstances should Garnett have fallen back without orders from him (Jackson).

After the death of Jackson General Lee, without further trial of the case, restored General Garnett to the command of a brigade, and this brave soldier fell in the forefront of Pickett's famous charge on the heights of Gettysburg. [155]

A brigadier once galloped up to Jackson in the midst of battle and said: ‘General Jackson, did you order me to charge that battery?’ pointing to it. ‘Yes, sir; I did. Have you obeyed the order?’ ‘Why, no, General. I thought there must be some mistake. My brigade would be annihilated-literally annihilated, sir — if we should move across that field.’ ‘General——’ said Jackson, his eye flashing fire and his voice and manner betraying intense excitement, and even rage, ‘I always try to bury my dead, and take care of my wounded. Obey that order, sir, and do it at once.’

I heard one day, on the Valley campaign, a colloquy between Jackson and a colonel commanding one of his brigades. Jackson said quietly: ‘I thought, Colonel——, that the orders were for you to move in the rear instead of in the front of General Elzey's brigade this morning.’ ‘Yes, I know that, General, but my fellows were ready before Elzey's, and I thought it would be bad to keep them waiting, and that it really made no difference any way.’ ‘I want you to understand, Colonel,’ was the almost fierce reply, ‘that you must obey my orders first, and reason about them afterwards. Consider yourself under arrest, sir, and march at the rear of your brigade.’ Jackson put General A. P. Hill under arrest (for a cause that was manifestly unjust) on the Second Manassas campaign, and he probably put more officers under arrest than all others of our generals combined.


Personal attention to details.

He was unceasingly active in giving his personal attention to the minutest details. He had an interview with his quartermaster, his commissary, his ordnance, and his medical officer every day, and he was at all times thoroughly familiar with the condition of these departments. It is a remarkable fact that, despite his rapid marches, he rarely ever destroyed any public property, or left so much as a wagon wheel to the enemy.

Not content with simply learning what his maps could teach him of the country and its topography, he was accustomed to have frequent interviews with citizens, and reconnoitre personally the country through which he expected to move, as well as the ground on which he expected to fight. Being called to his quarters one day to give him information concerning a region with which I had been familiar from my boyhood, I soon found that he knew more about the topography of the section than I did, and I was constrained to say: ‘Excuse me, General, I have known this region all my life and [156] thought that I knew all about it, but it is evident that you are more familiar with it than I am, and that I can give you no information about it.’ Often at night when the army was wrapped in sleep he would ride alone to inspect the roads by which on the morrow he expected to move to strike the enemy in flank or rear.

The world's history has probably no other instance of a soldier who won so much fame in so brief a period, and what might have been if God had spared him, it is useless now to speculate.

I have it from an authentic source, that if Jackson had not been killed at Chancellorsville he would have been sent to command the Army of Tennessee. How it would have resulted I may not now discuss, but it is safe to say that if ‘StonewallJackson had been in command of those heroic veterans, there would have been less retreating and more fighting. At all events, as his old veterans gather in Lexington to do him honor and in their intercourse with each other ‘shoulder their crutches and tell how battles were fought and won,’ they heartily indorse the sentiment of brave old ‘Father Hubert,’ of Hays' Louisiana Brigade, who, in his prayer at the unveiling of the Jackson monument in New Orleans, said as his climax: ‘And Thou knowest, O Lord, that when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove Thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.’

The Christian character of this great man is as historic and as widely known as his brilliant military career, but I deem it eminently fitting, amid the general contemplation of his life and services, to recall at least its salient features, that his old soldiers and the young men of the land may contemplate the simple-hearted piety of this stern warrior.


His First prayer.

There is an incident which illustrates so well, not only the Christian character, but the whole career of Jackson, that I give it in detail, as being the very key-note of his action, the very Polar star of his life. The incident has been published in various forms, but I give it as I received it from his old pastor, Rev. Dr. W. S. White, of the Lexington Presbyterian church, whose death in 1871 was so widely lamented.

Not very long after his connection with the church the pastor preached a sermon on Prayer, in which it was urged that every male member of the church ought when occasion required, to lead in public prayer. The next day a faithful elder of the church asked ‘Major Jackson’ what he thought of the doctrine of the sermon, and if he [157] was not convinced that he ought to lead in public prayer. ‘I do not think it my duty,’ he replied, and went on to assign as his reason that he hesitated in his speech to such an extent when excited that he did not think he could ‘pray to edification’ in public. ‘Have you made the matter a subject of secret prayer?’ persisted the elder. ‘No, sir, but I will do so to-night.’ The elder then advised him also to consult his pastor, and he went at once to Dr. White's study and went over with him the arguments and passages of Scripture by which he supported his position. The next day the elder saw him walking rapidly by his place of business, and fearing that he wished to avoid the subject of their previous conversation, he called him back and asked: ‘Have you made that matter a subject of prayerful investigation, Major?’ ‘Yes, sir, and I was just on my way to ask Dr. White to call on me to lead in prayer at the meeting to-night.’ Soon after he was called on and made such a stammering effort that the pastor felt badly for him, and he was greatly mortified. Several subsequent efforts resulted in little better results, and the pastor began to think that perhaps Major Jackson was right—and that he really could not ‘pray to edification’—and that he was, perhaps, an exception to the general rule that members of the church ought to pray in public. Accordingly he said to him one day: ‘Major, we do not wish to make our prayer meetings uncomfortable to you, and if you prefer it. I will not call on you to lead in prayer again.’

The prompt and emphatic reply was: ‘My comfort has nothing in the world to do with it, sir. You, as my pastor, think it my duty to lead in public prayer. I think so too: and by God's grace I mean to do it. I wish that you would be so good as to call on me more frequently.’ Dr. White said that he saw from Jackson's manner that he meant to succeed; that he did call on him more frequently; that he gradually improved until he became one of the most gifted men in prayer whom he had in the church. It my privilege to hear him pray several times in the army, and if I ever heard ‘a fervent, effectual prayer,’ it was offered by this stern soldier.


Deacon Jackson.

He was a ‘deacon’—not an ‘elder,’ as has been frequently asserted—in the Church, and was untiring in the discharge of all the duties of the position. On one occasion he went at the appointed hour to attend a ‘deacons' meeting,’ at which there was important business to be attended to, and after waiting five minutes for several [158] absentees, pacing back and forth, watch in hand, he asked to be excused for a while, and darted off to the house of one of them. Ringing the door-bell violently the gentleman came out, and Jackson accosted him with: ‘Mr.——, it is eight minutes after eight o'clock’ (the hour appointed for the meeting). ‘Yes, Major, I am aware of that, but I didn't have time to come out to-night.’ ‘Didn't have time!’ retorted Deacon Jackson; ‘why, sir, I should not suppose that you had time for anything else. Did we not set apart this hour (only one in the month) for the service of the church? How, then, can you put aside your obligation in the matter?’ With this he abruptly started back to the meeting, and his brother deacon felt so keenly the rebuke that he immediately followed. There was no difficulty in the finances of that church as long as ‘DeaconJackson managed them.

The venerable pastor said to me, with deep emotion, ‘Oh, sir, when Jackson fell I lost not only a warm personal friend, a consistent, active church member, but the best deacon I ever saw.’

He was once collector for the Rockbridge Bible Society, and when the time came to report (to the surprise of his colleagues) he reported contributions from a number of free negroes, remarking in explanation, ‘They are poor, but ought not on that account to be denied the sweet privilege of helping so good a cause.’ He also reported: ‘I have a contribution from every person in my district except one lady. She has been away ever since I have been collector, but she will return home at 12 o'clock to-day, and I will see her at 1 o'clock.’ The next day he reported a contribution from her also.

He frequently sought the counsel and instruction of his pastor, upon whom he looked as his ‘superior officer,’ and to whom he would sometimes ‘report for orders.’ He was never blessed with large pecuniary means, but was always a most liberal contributor to every charitable object, and ever ready to ‘visit the fatherless and the widow in their distress.’


His negro Sunday-school.

Jackson was one of the most thoroughly concientious masters who ever lived. He not only treated his negroes kindly, but devoted himself most assiduously to thier religious instruction. He was not only accustomed (as were Christian masters generally at the South) to invite his servants into family prayers, but he also had a special meeting with them every Sunday afternoon in order to teach them the Scriptures. He made this exercise so interesting to them that [159] other negroes of the town craved the privilege of attending, and he soon had his room filled to overflowing with eager pupils. This suggested to him the idea of organizing a negro Sunday-school, which he did several years before the war, and to which he devoted all of the energies of his mind and all the zeal of his large Christian heart.

He was accustomed to prepare himself for the exercises of this school by the most careful study of the lessons. The day before he left home for the war was Saturday, and he was very busy all day long making every preparation to leave at a moment's warning. He paid all outstanding accounts, and settled up as far as possible his worldly affairs, while his devoted wife was busily plying the needle to prepare him for the field. At the supper table Mrs. Jackson made some remark about the preparations for his expected departure, when he said, with a bright smile: ‘My dear, to-morrow is the blessed Sabbath day. It is also the regular communion season at our church. I hope I shall not be called to leave until Monday. Let us then dismiss from our conversation and our thoughts everything pertaining to the war, and have together one more quiet evening of preparation for our loved Sabbath duties.’

Accordingly the dark cloud of war was pushed aside. He read aloud to her for awhile from religious magazines and newspapers, and then they went to their accustomed studies of the Bible lessons which were to be taught on the morrow to the colored Sunday-school. It was such a bright, happy Saturday evening, as is only known in the well-regulated Christian home. Alas! It has proved the last that he ever spent under his own roof-tree. Early the next morning a telegram from the Governor of the Commonwealth ordered him to march the corps of cadets for Richmond at 12:30 o'clock that day. Not waiting for his breakfast he hurried to the Institute and spent the morning making necessary preparations for the departure of the cadets, not forgetting to send a request to his pastor that he should be present to hold with them a brief service before they marched forth at the call of their sovereign State.

At 11 o'clock he came home to take a hurried breakfast and make a few personal arrangements. The last thing he did before leaving home was to retire with his wife into their chamber, read a part of the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians, beginning: ‘For we know that that if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved we have a building of God—a house not made with hands—eternal in the Heavens,’ and then made an humble, tender, fervent prayer, in which he begged that the dark clouds of war might even then be [160] dissipated; that the God of peace might calm the storm and avert the calamity of war, or that He might at least go forth with him and with the young men under his command to guide, guard, help and bless them.

At 12 o'clock the venerable pastor was present to make the corps of cadets an appropriate address of Christian counsel, and to lead in a fervent, tender prayer.

At the appointed hour, to the exact minute, Major Jackson gave the order: ‘Attention! Forward, march.’

And thus the loving husband bade adieu to his home. The faithful church member turned away from his communion service, the earnest Sunday-school teacher left his lesson untaught, and the peerless soldier marched forth from the parade ground to win immortal fame — to come not back again until his body was borne to its burial in the beautiful cemetery at ‘Lexington, in the Valley of Virginia,’ and two continents were bursting with the fame of ‘StonewallJackson.

Jackson gave a great deal of time to his colored Sunday school. He was accustomed to carry around himself the most carefully prepared reports of the conduct and progress of each pupil, and to do everything in his power to interest the whites of the community in his school.

Soon after one of the great battles a large crowd gathered one day at the postoffice in Lexington, anxiously awaiting the opening of the mail, that they might get the particulars concerning the great battle which they had heard had been fought. The venerable pastor of the Presbyterian Church was of the company, and soon had handed him a letter which he recognized as directed in Jackson's well-known handwriting. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘we will have the news! Here is a letter from General Jackson himself.’ The crowd eagerly gathered around, but heard, to their very great disappointment, a letter which made not the most remote allusion to the battle or the war, but which enclosed a check for $50 with which to buy books for his colored Sunday-school; and was filled with inquiries after the interests of the school and the church. He had no time nor inclination to write of the great victory and the imperishable laurels he was winning, but he found time to remember his noble work among God's poor, and to contribute further to the good of the negro children, whose true friend and benefactor he had always been. And he was accustomed to say that one of the very greatest privations to him which the war brought was that he was taken away from his beloved work in the colored Sunday-school. [161]

Jackson thus acquired a wonderful influence over the colored people of that whole region, and to this day his memory is warmly cherished by them. When Hunter's army was marching into Lexington, the Confederate flag which floated over Jackson's grave was hauled down and concealed by some of the citizens. A lady who stole into the cemetery one morning, while the Federal army was occupying the town, bearing fresh flowers with which to decorate the hero's grave, was surprised to find a miniature Confederate flag planted on the grave, with the verse of a familiar hymn pinned to it. Upon inquiry she found that a colored boy, who had belonged to Jackson's Sunday-school, had procured the flag, gotten some one to copy a stanza of a favorite hymn which Jackson had taught him, and had gone in the night to plant the flag on the grave of his loved teacher.


A man of prayer.

Jackson was equally scrupulous in attending to all of his religious duties. ‘Lord, what will Thou have me to do?’ seemed the motto of his life. Regular in meeting all of his religious obligations, he walked straight along the path of duty, doing with his might whatever his hands found to do. In the army his piety, despite all obstacles, seemed to brighten, as the pure gold is refined by the furnace. He beautifully illustrated in his life the lesson of the great Apostle: ‘Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.’ He was a man of prayer, accustomed in all he did to ask the Divine blessing and guidance. His old body servant said that he ‘could always tell when a battle was near at hand by seeing the General get up a great many times in the night to pray.’ He was frequently observed in the beginning and in the midst of battle to lift up his hands towards Heaven, and those near could hear his ejaculatory prayers. Just before the battle of Fredericksburg he rode out in front of his line of battle and offered an earnest prayer for the success of his arms that day. The morning of the campaign of Chancellorsville he spent a long time in prayer before mounting to ride to the field.

Rev. Dr. Brown, former editor of the Central Presbyterian, related a characteristic anecdote of this ‘man of prayer.’ During a visit to the army around Centreville, in 1861, a friend remarked to Dr. Brown, in speaking of General Jackson, in the strain in which many of his old friends were accustomed to disparage him, ‘The truth is, sir, that Old Jack is crazy. I can account for his conduct in no other way. Why, I frequently meet him out in the woods walking back-11 [162] wards and forth muttering to himself in incoherent sentences and gesticulating wildly, and at such times he seems utterly oblivious of my presence and of every one else.’

Dr. Brown happened next night to share Jackson's blanket, and in a long and tender conversation on the best means of promoting personal holiness in the camp the great soldier said to him: ‘I find that it greatly helps me in fixing my mind and quickening my devotions to give articulate utterance to my prayers, and hence I am in the habit of going off into the woods where I can be alone and speak audibly to myself the prayers I would pour out to my God. I was at first annoyed that I was compelled to keep my eyes open to avoid running against the trees and stumps; but upon investigating the matter I do not find that the Scriptures require us to close our eyes in prayer, and the exercise has proven to me to be very delightful and profitable.’

And thus Dr. Brown got the explanation of the conduct which his friend had cited to prove that ‘Old Jack is crazy.’

A friend was once conversing with him about the difficulty of the Scripture injunction, ‘Pray without ceasing,’ and Jackson insisted that we could so accustom ourselves to it that it could be easily obeyed. ‘When we take our meals there is the Grace. When I take a drink of water I always pause, as my palate receives the refreshment, to lift up my heart in thanks to God for the water of life. Whenever I drop a letter in the box at the postoffice, I send a petition along with it for God's blessing upon its mission and upon the person to whom it is sent. When I break the seal of a letter just received I stop to pray to God that he may prepare me for its contents and make it a messenger of good. When I go to my classroom and await the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede with God for them. And so with every other familiar act of the day.’

‘But,’ said his friend, ‘do you not often forget these seasons, coming so frequently?’

‘No,’ said he; ‘I have made the practice habitual to me, and I can no more forget it than to forget to drink when I am thirsty.’


His unshaken trust.

Jackson had a firm and unshaken trust in the promises of God and His superintending providence under all circumstances, and it was his habitual practice to pray for and trust in divine guidance under every circumstance of trial. [163]

His friend, Elder Lyle, one of the noblest specimens of a noble Christian that ever lived, used to question him very closely on his Christian experience, and one day asked him if he really believed the promise, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, and to them who are the called according to His purpose.’ He said that he did; and the elder asked: ‘If you were to lose your health, would you believe it then?’ ‘Yes, I think I should.’ ‘How if you were to become entirely blind?’ ‘I should still believe it.’ ‘But suppose that, in addition to your loss of health and sight, you should become utterly dependent upon the cold charities of the world?’ He thought for a moment, and then replied with emphasis, ‘If it were the will of God to place me there, He would enable me to lie there peacefully for a hundred years.’ He nobly stood this test when called upon to cross the Jordan of death.

Soon after he was wounded he said to Rev. B. T. Lacy, who exclaimed on seeing him, ‘Oh, General, what a calamity! You see me severely wounded, but not depressed — not unhappy. I believe that it has been done according to God's holy will, and I acquiesce entirely in it. You may think it strange, but you never saw me more perfectly contented than I am to-day, for I am sure that my Heavenly Father designs this affliction for my good. I am perfectly satisfied that, either in this life or in that which is to come, I shall discover that what is now regarded as a calamity is a blessing. And if it appears a great calamity (as it surely will be a great inconvenience) to be deprived of my arm, it will result in a great blessing. I can wait until God, in His own time, shall make known to me the object which He has in thus afflicting me. But why should I not rather rejoice in it as a blessing, and not look on it as a calamity at all? If it were in my power to replace my arm, I would not dare do it unless I could know that it was the will of my Heavenly Father.’

I have not left myself space to illustrate further the Christian character of this great man, by quoting from his official dispatches and private letters, telling of his personal activity in promoting religion in the army, or relating the details of his glorious death.

Suffice it to say that I saw him frequently, heard him converse on religious topics, heard him offer as fervent, tender, and every way appropriate prayers as I ever heard from any one, and can say from my own personal knowledge of him that if I ever came in contact with an humble, earnest child of God, it was this ‘thunderbolt of war,’ who followed with child-like faith the ‘Captain of our Salvation,’ [164] and who humbly laid at the foot of the cross all of his ambitions and honors.

Having lived such a life the logical result was the glorious death which has been so fully described by Dr. Dabney, Dr. Hunter Mc-Guire and others.


His glorious death.

Stonewall Jackson died as he lived — an humble, trusting Christian. Nay! he did not die. The weary, worn marcher simply ‘crossed over the river and rested under the shade of the trees.’ The battle-scarred warrior fought his last battle, won his last victory, and went to wear his ‘bright crown of rejoicing,’ his fadeless laurels of honor, to receive from earth and from Heaven the plaudit:

Servant of God well done,
     Rest from Thy loved employ;
The battle's fought, the victory's won;
     Enter thy Master's joy.

As veterans of the old Stonewall corps gather in Lexington around the grand monument of their old chief, and as comrades scattered all over the land shall read the story of the happy day, God grant that one and all of them may hear the voice of the glorious and glorified leader calling to them in trumpet tones: ‘be Ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ!’

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