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Chapter 4: Stonewall Jackson—a memory

Allen C. Redwood Fifty-fifth Virginia Regiment, Confederate States Army

Thomas J. Jackson in the forties a portrait taken during the Mexican War, where Jackson served as a second lieutenant, the year after his graduation from West Point


when the early details of the first important collision between the contending forces in Virginia, in 1861, began to come in, some prominence was given to the item relating how a certain brigade of Virginia troops, recruited mostly from the Shenandoah valley and the region adjacent to the Blue Ridge, had contributed, largely by their steadiness under fire, almost for the first time, to the sustaining of the hard-pressed and wavering Confederate left flank, and the subsequent conversion of what had threatened to be a disastrous defeat to the Southern arms into a disorderly and utter rout of the opposing army.

War was a very new experience to most of that generation, and the capacity for absorbing sensational bulletins was commensurate with the popular expectation, if it did not exceed it. Those of us who were as yet doing the commonplace duty of detached garrisons, were consumed with envy of our more fortunate comrades who had taken part in what then seemed the great battle of the War and which our inexperience even conjectured might determine the pending issues. A man who had ‘been at Manassas’ might quite safely draw upon his imagination to almost any extent in relating its happenings, with no fear that the drafts would not be duly honored by our credulity. As to the civilian element, its appetite was bounded only by the supply; like poor little Oliver Twist, it continually presented its porringer, eagerly demanding ‘more!’

of this mass of fiction—of unthreshed grain—there remains yet one kernel of veracious history, and the incident was predestined to exercise significant and far-reaching influence [99]

Thomas Jonathan Jackson as first lieutenant, U. S. A.

Jackson's very soul impressed itself on the glass of this early negative through his striking features—more clearly read than later, when a heavy beard had covered the resolute lips, and the habit of command had veiled the deep-seeing, somber eyes. When the quiet Virginia boy with the strong religious bent graduated eighteenth in his class of seventy from West Point in 1846, his comrades little thought that he was destined to become the most suddenly famous of American generals. The year after his graduation he attracted attention by his performances as lieutenant of artillery under General Scott in Mexico, and was brevetted captain and major for bravery at Contreras, Churubusco, and Chapultepec. Fourteen years later he earned his sobriquet of ‘Stonewall’ in the first great battle of the Civil War. Within two years more he had risen to international fame—and received his mortal wound on the field of battle. He was reserved, almost somber with his men, yet he earned the love and enthusiastic devotion of the soldiers who came to be known as ‘Jackson's foot cavalry,’ so unparalleled were the marches they made under his leadership. They came to trust his judgment as infallible, and in spite of overwhelming odds they followed no matter where he led. [100] upon the struggle, then in its very inception. In that fiery baptism, a man still unknown to fame was to receive, at the hands of a gallant soldier about to surrender his soul to the Maker who gave it, the name which, to the world, was to supplant that conferred by his natural sponsors, and by which he will ever be known as among the great captains of his race and of history. The supreme effort of the Federal commander was directed against the left of the army of Johnston and Beauregard and upon the open plateau surrounding the Henry house. The battle was raging furiously, and seemingly the Southern line at that Point was on the verge of utter disaster, when the Carolinian, General Barnard E. Bee, rode from his shattered and wavering brigade over to where Jackson still held fast with his mountain men.

‘General,’ he said in tones of anguish, ‘they are beating us back.’

‘no, sir,’ was the grim reply; ‘we will give them the bayonet.’ Bee rode back and spoke to his brigade: ‘look at Jackson there, standing like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians!’ and the front of battle was restored. The rest is history.

thus it came to pass that popular inquiry began as to who this man Jackson might be, and what were his credentials and antecedents. The young cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, who promptly flocked to the colors of the State and of the Confederacy, could give but little satisfactory information; to their boyish minds he was just ‘old Jack,’ instructor in natural philosophy and artillery tactics, something of a martinet and stickler for observance of regulation, and, on the whole, rather ‘queer’ and not at all approachable. That he should be in command of a brigade seemed to them due far more to some peculiar fortune than to any inherent fitness residing in him. True, he was said to have graduated from the [101]

Jackson—his most revealing photograph: a picture secured only by the urging of General Bradley T. Johnson. Jackson, a modest hero, nearly always shrank from being photographed. At the height of his fame he answered a publisher's letter with a refusal to write the desired magazine article or to send any picture of himself, though the offer was a very flattering one. The photograph above was made in Winchester, in February, 1862, at the Rontzohn gallery, where Jackson had been persuaded to spend a few minutes by the earnest entreaties of General Bradley T. Johnson. Some five months later Jackson was to send Banks whirling down the Shenandoah Valley, to the friendly shelter of the Potomac and Harper's Ferry, keep three armies busy in pursuit of him, and finally turn upon them and defeat two of them. This, with the profile portrait taken near Fredericksburg, shown on page 115 of Volume II, represents the only two sittings of Jackson during the War. Captain Frank P. Clark, who served three years in close association with the General, considered this the best likeness.

[102] United States Military Academy, and was known to have been a some-time officer of the army, serving in Magruder's battery in Mexico during the campaign of Scott from Vera Cruz to the capital city.

it was even intimated that he had won certain brevets there for service at Vera Cruz, Contreras, and Chapultepec, rising from the grade of second lieutenant to that of major within a period of eighteen months, but to the youthful sense all that was very ancient history, of a piece with the Peloponnesian War, for instance, and the mists of antiquity hung about the record and made its outlines very vague. To the young, ten years seems a great while, and during that period their reticent, rigid instructor had been quite out of touch with anything Military other than their cadet battalion or the gun details of the institute battery of 6-pounders, with human teams, which it was his duty to put through their evolutions on the drill-ground.

the human side of this man has almost no record during these years, apart from what comes to us through the letters to his wife; he was not a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, and life seems to have always been to him as a trust, for which he held himself strictly accountable, and which was not to be squandered in trivialities of any sort. As we know now, he had much to do, and the time for it was to be all too brief for its full accomplishment; yet he seems to have been not quite devoid of some sense of humor, in spite of his habitual reserve and aloofness.

it is related that upon one occasion, at this stage of his career, he propounded to his class this question, ‘young gentlemen, can any of you explain to me the reason why it has never been possible to send a telegraphic despatch from Lexington to Staunton?’ several theories were advanced, such as that the presence of iron ore in the surrounding mountains might have had the effect of deflecting the electric current. At last, one boy—the dullard of the class, usually—suggested, [103]

Stonewall’ and the men who bore his orders their honors came not easily to Jackson's staff officers. Tireless himself, regardless of all personal comforts, he seemed to consider others endowed with like qualities. After a day of marching and fighting it was no unusual thing for him to send a staff member on a thirty or forty mile ride. He was on terms of easy friendship and confidence with his aides off duty, but his orders were explicit and irrevocable. He had no confidants as to his military designs—quite the opposite: before starting on his march to Harper's Ferry he called for a map of the Pennsylvania frontier, and made many inquiries as to roads and localities to the north of Frederick, whereas his route lay in the opposite direction. His staff, like his soldiers, First feared his apparent rashness, and then adored him for his success.

[104] diffidently, that it might be owing to the fact that there was no telegraph line then existing between the two points. ‘Yes, sir,’ replied Major Jackson; ‘that is the reason.’

but, in the main, he was eminently practical and almost totally lacking in the minor graces and frivolities which render men socially possible, and, had not the great occasion arisen which was to afford scope for his ability, it seems as if he must have entirely escaped notice for the rest of his life. We are prone to look at things in that light, ignoring the fact that it is the man who has kept up his training who is ready and fit to seize opportunity when it shall present itself. Jackson had been ‘in training’ all the while, even though no one—not even himself—may have suspected to what purpose.

this is the man who, more than any other, saved the day for the Confederacy at Manassas (First Bull Run), in 1861. then he disappeared from view—a way he had, as his antagonists were to learn later—for a while, and at one time it seemed as if the theater of active operations was to know his presence no more, when, in response to an order from the War Department in Richmond, along with his acquiescence, he tendered his resignation from the command he then held.

Fortunately, this document went through the headquarters of his superior, General Joseph E. Johnston, who before forwarding it wrote to Jackson asking reconsideration, and so the services of the latter were retained to the Confederacy, and we were to hear much of his doings from that time until his untimely and tragic death. But in the months immediately succeeding Bull Run, he was almost lost sight of, and it was only at the opening of the campaign of 1862 that he began to loom again upon the military horizon.

the fortunes of the young Confederacy seemed then at a low ebb; from all the western portion came bulletins of disaster. In Virginia, a vast Federal host had been marshaled and was about to begin closing in upon the capital, and [105]

Confederate generals with Jackson at the dawn of his brilliant career

John Echols, Colonel of a ‘Stonewall’ regiment at Bull Run; later led a brigade in Lee's Army.

J. D. Imboden, at Bull Run and always with Jackson; later commanded a Cavalry brigade.

W. B. Taliaferro, with Jackson throughout 1862; last, at Fredericksburg.

Isaac R. Trimble. where ‘Stonewall’ was, there was Trimble also.

Arnold Elzey, a brigade and division commander under Jackson and later.

[106] all the outlying posts of the Confederate line were being severally driven in. Johnston had retired from Manassas to the line of the Rappahannock, presently to proceed to Yorktown, and eventually to retire thence to the Chickahominy. It was while lying there, awaiting McClellan's attack, that we began to get news of very active proceedings in the Valley region, which came to have important bearing upon our fortunes, and in the final issue to determine the contest we were expecting and awaiting in our immediate front.

to those sultry, squalid camps, reeking with malaria and swarming with flies, came from beyond the far-away Blue Ridge stirring and encouraging tidings of rapid march and sudden swoop; of telling blows where least expected; of skilful maneuvering of a small force, resulting in the frustrating of all combinations of one numerically its superior, and paralyzing for the time being all the plans of the Federal War Department and the grand strategy of the ‘young Napoleon’ at the head of its armies in the field.

it seemed as if the sobriquet conferred upon Manassas field had become the veriest of misnomers; the ‘Stonewall’ had acquired a marvelous mobility since that July day not yet a year old and had become a catapult instead. And what, perhaps, appealed to our personal interest more forcibly was the story of the capture of the rich spoil of War, the supplies, of which we were already beginning to feel the need. Our daily diet of unrelieved bread and bacon grew fairly nauseating at the thought of the bounty so generously provided by ‘Commissary-GeneralBanks, and of the extra dainties inviting pillage in the tents of Israel—but we were to get our share, with accrued interest, later on.

we had not yet ceased to marvel over these exploits when Jackson executed one of his mysterious disappearances, puzzling alike to friend and foe, and he next announced himself by the salvo of his guns, driving in McClellan's exposed right. [107]

Confederate generals with Jackson in 1862

Edward Johnson led an independent command under Jackson in 1862.

George H. Steuart, later a brigade commander in Lee's Army.

James A. Walker led a brigade under Jackson at Antietam.

E. M. law, conspicuous at South Mountain and Maryland Heights.

Charles W. field, later in command of one of Longstreet's divisions.

[108] this exposed condition was due to his own activity in the Valley, which had held McDowell inert upon the Rappahannock with thirty-five thousand muskets which should have been with the force north of the Chickahominy, inviting attack. Jackson rarely declined such invitations; he could scent an exposed flank with the nose of a hound and was ‘fast dog’ following the trail when struck. Besides his habitual celerity of movement, was his promptness in delivering attack, which was an element of his success.

‘the first musket upon the ground was fired,’ says a distinguished English authority, ‘without giving the opposing force time to realize that the fight was on and to make its dispositions to meet the attack or even to ascertain in what force it was being made.’ the quiet, retiring pedagogue of the ‘V. M. I.’ had not been wasting those ten years in which most of his leisure had been devoted to the study of the campaigns of the great strategists of history, from Caesar to Napoleon, and his discipline in Mexico had given him some useful suggestions for their application to modern conditions. Also it had afforded the opportunity for giving that invaluable asset, the ability to gage the caliber of the men cooperating with him or opposed to him, with most of whom he had come in contact personally—a peculiarity of our Civil War, and one of important bearing upon all the operations conducted by officers of the regular establishment who, almost without exception, held high command in both armies.

but as yet we had no personal knowledge of this man who had been so rapidly coming to the fore. His work done, and well done, amid the Chickahominy lowlands, he was soon to heed the call coming to him from the hill country which gave him birth, and where his most notable service had so far been rendered. His old antagonists were reassembling there as a formidable army and under a new leader, and the line of direct [109]

Confederate generals with Jackson at Antietam and Chancellorsville

A. R. Lawton led Ewell's old division at the battle of Antietam.

Roswell S. Ripley, wounded at Antietam in defense of Lee's left flank.

R. E. Colston commanded Trimble's division at Chancellorsville.

Henry Heth commanded the light division at Chancellorsville.

Jas. T. Archer commanded a brigade at Chancellorsville.

[110] approach to the Confederate capital was to be attempted from that direction. Already he had proceeded thither with his two divisions which had made the Valley Campaign—his own and Ewell's—when ours, commanded by A. P. Hill, received orders to join them, and all three were thenceforth incorporated in the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, as long as he commanded it.

we had fought the sharp engagement of Cedar Mountain on the 9th of August, 1862, and checked Pope's advance to the Rapidan. Then, after some days of rest, we again took the initiative and, crossing the little river, went after him. But the General who had heretofore ‘seen only the backs of his enemies’ did not see fit to await our coming, but made so prompt and rapid a retrograde movement that even our expeditious ‘foot cavalry’ could not come up with him before he passed the Rappahannock. It was on this hurried pursuit, passing through Brandy Station, that a figure came riding along the toiling column toward the front. He was in no wise remarkable in appearance, and it was with surprise that the writer heard that he was no other than our commander, General ‘StonewallJackson.

he wore a rather faded gray coat and cap to match—the latter of the ‘cadet’ pattern then in vogue and tilted so far over his eyes that they were not visible, and his mount and General appearance were not distinctive of high rank. In fact, he seemed some courier carrying a message to some General officer on ahead. Despite his West Point training, he was never a showy horseman—in which respect he had a precedent in the great Napoleon. When we took Harper's Ferry, in September of that same year, one of the surrendered garrison remarked, when Jackson was pointed out to him, ‘well, he's not much to look at, but if we'd only had him, we'd never have been in this fix.’

but within the interval we were to see much of him, and our appreciation speedily penetrated below the surface indica- [111]

Confederate generals with Jackson at the last— Chancellorsville

B. D. Fry, Colonel of the 13th Alabama; later led a brigade in Pickett's charge.

F. T. Nichols, wounded in the flank attack on Howard's Corps, May 2, 1863.

Harry T. Hays, later charged the batteries at Gettysburg.

Robert F. Hoke, later defender of Petersburg, Richmond and Wilmington.

William Smith, Colonel of the 49th Virginia; later at Gettysburg.

J. R. Jones commanded a brigade of Virginians in Trimble's division.

F. L. Thomas commanded a brigade in A. P. Hill's division.

[112] tions as we came to know and trust the man who conducted us to unfailing victory. Soldiers always forgive the means so that the end may be assured, and no man ever worked his troops harder than did Jackson, or ever awakened in them more intense enthusiasm and devotion. His appearance never failed to call forth that tumultuous cheer which was part of the battle onset. This was mostly, it must be admitted, in a spirit of mischief and for the sake of ‘making “old Jack” run,’ for he never liked an ovation and always spurred out of the demonstration at top speed. Rigid disciplinarian that he was in all essentials, there was not the suspicion of concern with pomp and circumstance in all his make-up. War was to him much too serious an affair to be complicated by anything of the sort, nor was he at all tolerant of excuses when there was work in hand—results alone counted.

at Chantilly, our division commander sent word to him that he was not sure that he could hold his position as his ammunition was wet. ‘my compliments to General Hill and say that the enemy's ammunition is as wet as his, and to hold his ground,’ was Jackson's reply. Yet, unsparing as he was of his men when the urgency of the occasion demanded it, he was equally unsparing of himself, and, moreover, was always concerned for their well-being once the emergency was past, realizing that all warlike preparation is to the end of lavish expenditure at the supreme moment. In Camp he was always solicitous that the troops should be well cared for, but when it came to take the field,

what matter if our shoes are worn,
what matter if our feet are torn,
quick step—we're with him ere the dawn.

that was ‘Stonewall Jackson's way.’ a purposeful man, obstacles were to him but things to be overcome or ignored if they stood in the way of his plans. When one of his [113]

Confederate generals with Jackson in his masterly 1863 campaign

A. H. Colquitt, later conspicuous in the defense of Petersburg.

R. L. Walker, commander of a light artillery brigade.

Alfred Iverson, later at Gettysburg and with Hood at Atlanta.

S. McGowan, later commanded the South Carolina brigade which Immortalized his name.

E. A. O'Neal charged with his brigade in Rodes' First line at Chancellorsville.

[114] subordinates, after the three days hard fighting of the Second Manassas, preceded by a march of almost a hundred miles within a little more than a like period of time, objected that his men could not march further until they should have received rations, he was promptly put under arrest by Jackson, bent as he was upon following up his advantage and overwhelming Pope's defeated army before it could reach the protection of its entrenched lines at Alexandria, some thirty miles distant.

a master of men, Jackson infused those of his command with much of his own indomitable spirit, as expressed in the lines quoted from the old song of the corps, until they came to take pride in their hardships and privations and to profess a Spartan-like contempt for the sybaritic softness, as they considered it, of the other corps of the army. As to their confidence in his ability to meet and to dominate any situation, it simply had no bounds. In the movement on Manassas and during the engagement, with hostile forces coming from almost every direction, and while as yet we had no tidings of Longstreet, we were remote from our base and the foe was in superior force between; we were footsore and fagged nearly to the limit of human endurance, but there was no faltering in the belief that Jackson saw his way out of the toils which seemed to compass him about, as he had aforetime in the Valley campaign. Those thin lines never held their ground more tenaciously nor charged with more élan than during those eventful August days.

the last time my eyes were to behold him—how well it comes to mind!—was upon the morning of the fateful May 2, 1863, before the close of which day was to be ended his career as a soldier. We were moving out by the flank on a little woodland Road, where we had been in bivouac the night before; it was a gloomy, overcast morning, as if giving premonition of the calamity to come to us before the next rising of the sun. Before we reached the Plank Road, in a small opening among [115]

Confederate generals of Longstreet's corps who cooperated with Jackson in 1862 and 1863

Lafayette McLaws with his division supported Jackson's attacks at Harper's Ferry and Chancellorsville; later conspicuous at Gettysburg and Chickamauga.

Joseph Brevard Kershaw captured Maryland Heights, opposite Jackson's position at Harper's Ferry.

James L. Kemper commanded a brigade on Jackson's Right at the Second battle of Manassas.

Ambrose R. Wright with his brigade closed the pass along the Canal at Harper's Ferry.

[116] the pines were two mounted figures whom we recognized as Lee and Jackson. The former was seemingly giving some final instructions, emphasizing with the forefinger of his gantleted right hand in the palm of the left what he was saying—inaudible to us. The other, wearing a long rubber coat over his uniform (it had been raining a little, late in the night), was nodding vivaciously all the while.

After the Confederate success at Chancellorsville came Gettysburg. The question is often asked what would have happened had Jackson been present on that memorable field— Jackson, the man who was always up to time, if he brought but a fragment of his force with him, and whose ‘first musket on the ground was fired.’ As General Fitz Lee significantly related the case, ‘Suppose Jackson to have been four miles off the field at midnight of July 1st and been advised that General Lee wished the key-point of the enemy's position attacked next day; would the time of that attack have approximated more nearly to 4 A. M. or 4 P. M.?’—for answer, see the verse already quoted. For if the other corps commanders did not ‘like to go into battle with one boot off,’ ours would, at a pinch, go in barefoot—but he got there!

In the numerous discussions of the Gettysburg campaign which have come into notice since the event, much space has been given to the comparison of the relative forces of the two armies contending on that field. The disparity under the most liberal estimates inclines always in favor of the Federals, yet it seems to the writer that not enough account has been taken of the most significant shortage on the Confederate side of the balance. Successful battles had been waged and won more than once against greater odds, in point of mere numbers—as at Sharpsburg (Antietam) and Chancellorsville, for instance. But at Gettysburg, we were short just one man—who had been dead just two months-and his name was ‘StonewallJackson.

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