Stonewall Jackson’s Way

“And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”

(Part of the benediction given by Father D. Hubert, who served as a chaplain during the war with Hay’s Lousiana Brigade, at the unveiling of the statue and monument to Stonewall Jackson on May 10th, 1881 in New Orleans.)

Something for the weekend.  Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by the endlessly talented Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.

Of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, nicknamed Stonewall by General Barnard Bee at the battle of Bull Run, it was said he lived by the New Testament and fought by the Old.  Certainly throughout his life he was a convinced Christian.  As a young man he would attend services of various Christian denominations.  In Mexico, during his service in the Mexican War, he attended mass, although sadly he did not convert to Catholicism.  Instead he eventually became a Presbyterian.  His Bible was his constant companion, and he would often speak of God and theological matters in private conversation.

Jackson in his professional life was a soldier.  Just before the Civil War he was a professor of natural and experimental philosophy (science) and artillery instruction at the Virginia Military Institute.  As a teacher he made a good soldier.  His lectures were rather dry.  If his students seemed to fail to grasp a lecture, he would repeat it the next day, word for word. 

His home life was a mixture of sorrow and joy.  His first wife died in childbirth along with their still-born son, a tragedy that would have crushed many a man less iron-willed than  Jackson.  His second marriage, like his first, was happy, but heartache also haunted it.  A daughter died shortly after birth in 1858.  A second daughter was born in 1862, shortly before Jackson’s own death in 1863.

He and his second wife established and taught a Sunday school for black slaves.  At the time it was against the law in Virginia to teach slaves to read, but apparently that is precisely what Jackson and his wife did.   One of the last letters he ever posted was his regular contribution he mailed off throughout the war for the financial support of the Sunday school for slaves he and his wife had founded.

During the war he rose to fame as Stonewall Jackson.  His valley campaign in 1862 in the Shenandoah Valley where he outmarched and outfought numerous Union armies, each larger than the force he led, is still studied in military academies around the world as a classic example of how a weaker force, using mobility and surprise, can defeat vastly superior forces.

His service under Lee established a military partnership that reached its culmination at Chancellorsville where Jackson led his corps around the Union right and into the rear of the Union army, leading to a stunning Confederate victory over an Army of the Potomac that outnumbered the Army of Northern Virginia more than two to one.

Jackson summed up his military philosophy succinctly:  Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.

At Chancellorsville, Jackson was shot accidentally by his own men.  As a result of his wounding Jackson’s left arm was amputated.  Lee learning of it, said that Jackson had lost his left arm, but that he had lost his right.

For a time it looked as if Jackson would recover, but infection, that great killer after any nineteenth century surgery, prevented that happy outcome.  He met the news of his inevitable death with Christian stoicism, bidding farewell to his tearful wife and infant daughter.  In his delirium towards the end he returned in his mind to the battlefields, shouting out commands.  At the very end, his voice grew calm and his face relaxed.  He then gave the last command he would ever utter in this life:  “Let us cross over the  river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

We see him now, — the old slouched hat
Cocked o’er his eye askew;
The shrewd, dry smile, the speech so pat,
So calm, so blunt, so true.
The “Blue-Light Elder” knows ‘em well;
Says he, “That’s Banks, — he’s fond of shell;
Lord save his soul! we’ll give him hell,
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

Silence! ground arms! kneel all! caps off!
Old “Blue Light’s” going to pray.
Strangle the fool that dares to scoff!
Attention! it’s his way.
Appealing from his native sod,
“Hear us, hear us Almighty God,
Lay bare Thine arm; stretch forth Thy rod!”
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

He’s in the saddle now. Fall in!
Steady! the whole brigade!
Hill’s at the ford cut off; we’ll win
His way out, ball and blade!
What matter if our shoes are worn?
What matter if our feet are torn?
“Quick-step! we’re with him before morn!”
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

The sun’s bright lances rout the mists
Of morning, and, by George!
Here’s Longstreet struggling in the lists,
Hemmed in an ugly gorge.
Pope and his Yankees, whipped before,
“Bayonets and grape!” hear Stonewall roar;
“Charge, Stuart! Pay off Ashby’s score!”
In “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”

Ah! Maiden, wait and watch and yearn
For news of Stonewall’s band!
Ah! Widow, read, with eyes that burn,
That ring upon thy hand.
Ah! Wife, sew on, pray on, hope on;
Thy life shall not be all forlorn;
The foe had better ne’er been born
That gets in “Stonewall’s way.”

 

About these ads

4 Comments

  1. Two Jacksons my hometown of NOLA just loves: Andrew and Stonewall.

  2. I am sure both Jacksons reciprocated the sentiment Pauline. Stonewall Jackson had great respect for the courage that the Louisiana Tigers showed in combat, and referred to them as his “iron brigade”.

  3. Thanks for the post. I particularly admire Jackson’s devotion and faithfulness to his “native sod.” Whether you are a Yankee or a Reb sympathizer you have got to admire his moral and physical character.

  4. As a died in the wool Yankee Algernon, General Jackson has always had my sincere admiration, not only as a general, but as a man.


Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 142 other followers

%d bloggers like this: