Celebrating Gen. T. J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Birthday
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
He was Gen. Robert E. Lee’s strong right arm. He was unarguably one of the best battle field commanders of any army, anywhere, ever. His tactics are still taught in military institutes around the world to this day.
Jackson was a brilliant military strategist. But he was much more. He was the lynch pin upon which southern victory in the War for Southern Independence depended.
Thomas J. Jackson¹ was born in Clarksburg, Virginia (Later to become West Virginia) WV on January 21st, 1824. At the tender age of two years he was at his sister’s bedside when she died of typhoid fever. A few days later, his father died, also. That left Thomas’ mother, Julia, with three small children to support through teaching school and sewing, so she remarried one Blake Woodson. Then, she died in 1830 during the birth of Thomas’ half brother.
Thomas then moved in with his uncle Cummins Jackson and worked on the farm.
Jackson’s education was basic, rudimentary, even. In fact, Thomas taught himself to read. Later he became a school teacher.
|Jackson as a young US Officer|
Thomas was appointed to West Point in 1842 and as a result of his lack of formal education, he had to begin at the very bottom of the class. When he graduated, in 1846, he had worked his way up to 17th in a class of 59 students. By the way, Thomas’ class at West Point supplied 24 generals — for both sides — in the War Between the States.
He served in the Mexican War as a 2nd lieutenant but received brevet promotions to 1st lieutenant and then to major for his bravery.
When the Mexican War was concluded Jackson accept a teaching position at VMI (Virginia Military Institute). He was a professor teaching Natural and Experimental Philosophy, and he was also an artillery instructor. He was a tough, no nonsense, instructor and his students did not like him very much.
When the WBTS began, Jackson was given a colonelcy in the Virginia Militia. A month later Jackson was promoted to brigadier general and given command of a brigade consisting of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th and 33rd Virginia Infantry regiments.
Jackson was utterly fearless under fire. In the early fighting at Manassas, federal troops were making advances and appeared to about to win the day. Jackson refused to budge his troops and eventually the tide of battle turned and the Confederates won a decisive victory.
Jackson’s cool demeanor under fire at Manassas caused Brigadier General Barnard Bee to remark: “There stands Jackson like a stone wall.” The name stuck and Thomas Jackson became “Stonewall” Jackson and his brigade the “Stonewall” Brigade.
” … Jackson’s operations became strategically critical to the entire eastern theater of the war.
Stonewall would march south, to McDowell, and defeat troops under US Brigadier General Robert Schenck. From there, he would move north and defeat Banks’s army at Front Royal, and Winchester. He would push Banks clear out of the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson would turn south, and defeat US Major General John C. Fremont, at Cross Keys, and then turn on US Brigadier General James Shields at Port Republic. Accolades would abound for Jackson after his brilliant Shenandoah Campaign. With the valley secure, Jackson was ordered east, by R.E. Lee to reinforce the Army of Northern Virginia, now under his command. He would arrive in time to participate in the Seven Days battles, pushing McClellan from the peninsula.
Jackson would continue to command brilliantly, with an overwhelming victory at Second Manassas, a tactical, well fought draw at Antietam and another sound victory in December 1862, at Fredericksburg. For his efforts, Jackson would be promoted lieutenant general, along with James Longstreet, in October 1862. — SOURCE: http://thismightyscourge.com/2009/01/21/thomas-j-stonewall-jackson/
May 2nd, 1863 was to be a fateful day for “Stonewall” Jackson and for the South. After successfully routing federal troops under Gen. Joe Hooker near Chancellorsville, ” … after dark on May 2, Stonewall, along with A.P. Hill and staff, were reconnoitering the enemy lines – making plans to finish Hooker off, on May 3. When returning, his contingent would be fired on by his own troops. Jackson was seriously injured in the shoulder. He passed command to A.P. Hill, who due to his injury was unable to command, passed it to J.E.B. Stuart. That night, Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. Hunter McGuire would amputate Jackson’s left arm. Upon hearing of Jackson’s wounding, Lee was heard to say, “he has lost his left arm; but I lost my right arm.” — SOURCE: http://thismightyscourge.com/2009/01/21/thomas-j-stonewall-jackson/
Jackson was taken to Fairfield Plantation near Guinea Station, Jackson appeared to rally, but then contracted pneumonia. When Jackson’s wife told him that Sunday that he was dying, Jackson said: “It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.”
Dr. Hunter McGuire, the attending physician, recorded Jackson;s last words: “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell major Hawks….” Then Jackson stopped. Finally, with a faint smile on his face he said, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” At that point, Jackson stopped breathing. — SOURCE: http://thismightyscourge.com/2009/01/21/thomas-j-stonewall-jackson/
It was a devastating blow to the south. Many believe the WBTS would have had a different ending had “Stonewall” Jackson lived. There has been much speculation that Had Jackson been there to advise General Lee at Gettysburg, that awful battle would likely never have happened. Had it happened, it is fairly certain that Pickett’s Charge would not have occurred.
Jackson was a devout Christian who believed in predestination. Some say he saw himself as an instrument of God’s will, an Old Testament–style commander of armies in the service of his Lord. (http://www.historynet.com/stonewall-jackson)
“Like many Southerners, Jackson struggled with his feelings about the institution of slavery, but it obviously was God’s will that it exist—a belief widely held in the South. In 1855, he began teaching Sunday school classes to slaves in Lexington, a violation of Virginia’s segregation laws. Slaves came to know him through these classes and sometimes begged him to buy them so they wouldn’t be sold into the Deep South where they might be worked literally to death. In 1906, long after Jackson’s death, Reverend L. L. Downing, whose parents had been among the slaves in Jackson’s Sunday school, raised money to have a memorial window dedicated to him in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church of Roanoke, Virginia—likely making “Stonewall” the only Confederate general to have a memorial in an African American church.” — SOURCE: http://www.historynet.com/stonewall-jackson
The only man held in higher esteem than Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson in the South is General Robert E. Lee. He was tough. He demanded nothing less than 100% effort by his men and he got it — every time.
Stonewall is a hero worthy of our praise. We proudly remember him today, on the anniversary of his birth.
J. D. Longstreet
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