Facts about Stonewall Jackson
Facts, biographical information and articles about Stonewall Jackson, a confederate Civil War General during the American Civil War
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson Facts
Around midnight January 20–21, 1824
May 10, 1863
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Colonel, Virginia Volunteers
Highest Rank Achieved
Lieutenant general, CSA
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Stonewall Jackson summary: Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was a Confederate lieutenant general in the Civil War. He won his nickname at the Battle of First Bull Run (First Manassas), but it was his actions at Harpers Ferry in 1861, his 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, and the flanking maneuver at the Battle of Chancellorsville that made him a military legend. Only General Robert E. Lee occupies a higher place in the Confederate pantheon, and prior to the Seven Days Battles, Jackson was a greater hero to the South than Lee was. A devout Christian who believed in predestination, he saw himself as an instrument of God’s will, an Old Testament–style commander of armies in the service of his Lord. He was mortally wounded by his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville, and many people have speculated that if he had been alive to participate in Lee’s Pennsylvania Campaign the Battle of Gettysburg would have resulted in Confederate victory.
Stonewall Jackson’s Life
He was born around midnight of January 20–21, 1824, in a small house in the heart of Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia). His attorney father always struggled financially. Dying of typhoid when Thomas was two, he left his family impoverished. When his widow, Julia Neale Jackson, remarried four years later, her new husband either could not support or did not wish to raise her older children, who were farmed out to relatives. Thomas was sent to live with his uncle Cummings Jackson, who operated a gristmill and sawmill near the town of Weston some 25 miles from Thomas’ birthplace. (The gristmill still stands, on the grounds of the West Virginia State 4-H Camp at Jackson’s Mill.) Thomas found a home with Cummings but little of familial love. The circumstances of his early life may have contributed to his taciturn nature and self-reliance.
In 1842, at the age of 18, he became constable of Lewis County briefly but was also one of four local residents to test for an appointment to the West Point Military Academy. The appointment went to Gibson Butcher, but Butcher quickly withdrew from the academy and Jackson, hoping to obtain an education he otherwise could not afford, went to see Congressman Samuel Hays about becoming Butcher’s replacement. He got the appointment.
Lieutenant Jackson At West Point And The Mexican War
At West Point, he struggled with his classes and studied well into the night, taking no part in social activities. By the time of his graduation in 1846, he had risen from near the bottom to rank 17th in his class. He was sent to the Mexican War as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Artillery Regiment and was twice breveted for his actions in the war.
After Mexico, Jackson served at Fort Hamilton, New York, and in December 1850 was transferred with his artillery company to Fort Meade, Florida. He and his superior, Major William H. French, engaged in bitter disagreements and each filed accusations of misconduct against the other. Before matters escalated further, Jackson resigned to accept a position as an instructor at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. He memorized his lectures and, if interrupted, would begin again, speaking in a monotone with his high-pitched voice.
Thomas “Tom Fool Jackson”
These and other unusual personality traits—holding one arm aloft to increase circulation and sucking on lemons to name two—earned him such nicknames as “Tom Fool Jackson” among his students. His reputation as a strict disciplinarian didn’t help, but over the course of time they came to respect his conscientiousness and honesty.
Thomas Jackson The Calvinist
Jackson had developed a deep interest in the Christian religion earlier, beginning in Mexico. His views were Calvinistic, including a belief that everything is predetermined by God and that man is utterly depraved, i.e., all human actions, whether “good” or “bad” can never gain God’s favor because the relationship between humanity and God was severed by original sin. Calvinism’s principle of unconditional election teaches that some are chosen by God to be delivered of a knowledge of Himself, and these are selected solely based on His own will and not due to any exceptional behavior or merit of those chosen.
Jackson may have believed he was one of those chosen; elements of Calvinistic beliefs evidenced themselves in his Civil War career. He said it mattered not if he were exposing himself to danger in battle or cowering in bed, when God’s chosen time came for him to die, he would die and not until then. He attributed all victories to God and regarded setbacks as requisite chastisement. After the First Battle of Bull Run he wrote to his wife, “Whilst great credit is due to other parts of our gallant army, God made my brigade more instrumental than any other in repulsing the main attack.”
The belief in predetermination led Jackson to believe the United States was created by God’s will and plan, but that the Confederacy also was created through that same holy will.
Jackson’s View On Slavery
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.
Virginia Secedes And The Start Of The Civil War
When Virginia was preparing to secede from the Union in the spring of 1861, Jackson’s neighbor in Lexington, Virginia’s governor John Letcher, appointed him a colonel of Virginia militia and sent him to secure Harpers Ferry at the mouth of the Shenandoah River. The town was home to a U.S. arsenal and was the entry point of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad into Virginia. Colonel Jackson took charge of the ill-trained militia who had seized the town, deposed their commanders, and ordered their whiskey poured into the streets. He instituted seven hours of drill daily and brought in VMI cadets to assist with training. While at Harpers Ferry he had the equipment of the arsenal shipped to Richmond and captured a large number of locomotives and cars of the B&O. Four suitable locomotives he had dragged by horses down the Valley Turnpike to Strasburg, where they could travel on to Richmond by rail. His energetic leadership went too far for the Richmond government , however, when he ordered cannon emplaced atop Maryland Heights, a tall hill that dominates Harpers Ferry. The heights were in Maryland, which the Confederacy was courting, and his actions aggrieved some of its citizens. He was replaced at Harpers Ferry by Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston, who thought the town could not be defended and withdrew.
General Jackson’s First Battle
Jackson’s first Civil War battle occurred July 2, 1861. Now a brigadier general commanding a brigade commander in the Shenandoah Valley, he stretched his orders so he could intercept a Union probe toward Martinsburg led by Brig. Gen. George Cadwallader. The two small forces met at Falling Waters. Jackson was nearly outflanked by three regiments under Col. George H. Thomas—the future “Rock of Chickamauga”—but timely reinforcements arrived and Cadwallader withdrew. This small affair is most notable because it pitted the future “Rock” against the future “Stonewall.”
General Jackson’s Earns The Nickname “Stonewall”
Jackson acquired his nickname two weeks later, July 21, on Henry Hill outside Manassas, in the Battle of First Bull Run (First Battle of Manassas). Infantry under South Carolinian brigadier general Bernard Bee had been engaged for some time and were falling back; Jackson’s brigade was in reserve. Bee told his men, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall,” but whether he meant it as a compliment or an insult has been long debated. Bee was killed later in the battle. When Jackson threw his troops into the battle, they captured Union artillery atop the hill and fought the Federals until Confederate reinforcements caused a Union rout.
Promoted To Major General
In November he was promoted to major general and placed in charge of the Shenandoah Valley district. In a small house that he used as his headquarters in Winchester, he planned his next moves. The first one, a westward movement to capture Romney, was successful but led to one of many squabbles with subordinates. Brigadier General W. W. Loring, left in command at Romney when Jackson returned to Winchester, complained to Richmond about the hardships and hazards of his position, and Jackson was ordered to have him withdraw. Jackson complied but submitted his resignation. In the end, Loring was transferred and would find himself in conflict with another commander the following year in Mississippi, in the campaign leading up to the Battle of Vicksburg. The War Department did not interfere with Jackson’s decisions again.
On March 11, Jackson withdrew from Winchester in the face of a large Union force. It was the beginning of what would become known as the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. In that campaign—part of larger Confederate plan to prevent a Federal advance down the valley and to prevent additional Union troops from being sent to reinforce George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac that was threatening Richmond from the east—Jackson used the mountains to conceal his forces in order to mislead, confuse and mystify his opponents,.
Jackson struck at Kernstown March 23. He was defeated by a larger than expected Union force, but the battle kept the U.S. War Department from pulling troops from the Shenandoah to reinforce McClellan. The battle was fought on a Sunday, and Jackson’s wife questioned whether it was right to on the Lord’s Day; he felt some compunction over it himself but told her that military necessity sometimes required it.
Three Federal armies totaling 64,000 men were sent to deal with him, approaching from north, east and west. Jackson controlled the macadamized Valley Turnpike and used it to move his 17,000-man force more rapidly than his opponents, and defeat each enemy separately. His rapid movements earned his men the name “Jackson’s foot cavalry.” Between May 8 and June 9, he won victories at McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester (First Battle of Winchester), Cross Keys and Fort Republic, ending the threat to the valley. His actions also led the Lincoln Administration to rescind orders for a 40,000-man army to march on Richmond from the north and link up with McClellan.
General Stonewall Jackson Defends Richmond
Summoned to aid in the defense of Richmond, Jackson and his Army of the Valley joined Confederate forces east of the city that were under a new commander, Gen. Robert E. Lee. Jackson was ordered to strike a Federal detachment at Beaver Dam Creek (Mechanicsville) on June 26 in order to draw more Yankee soldiers to the north side of the Chickahominy River while Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill attacked on the south side. The energetic Jackson and his foot cavalry failed to carry out their part of the plan. Exhausted from weeks of marching and fighting, they did not move with alacrity and Hill was beaten back because his opponent’s forces had not been weakened to reinforce Beaver Dam Creek. At Gaines Mill the next day, Jackson was again late in arriving. On the 30th, Jackson’s attacks at White Oak Swamp failed to produce a victory, but Lee’s goal of driving McClellan’s army back from Richmond had been achieved in a campaign known as the Seven Days Battles. If the Shenandoah Valley Campaign was the height of Jackson’s Civil War career, the Seven Days were the low point.
A less-respected commander might have been reprimanded, perhaps moved to another theater, after such lackluster performance. Instead, Lee sent him north to outflank the Federal Army of Virginia under Maj. Gen. John Pope. At Cedar Mountain, Jackson was nearly beaten by the hapless Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks, but the timely arrival of A. P. Hill’s Light Division saved the day. Jackson, however, filed court-martial charges against Hill for disobeying orders. That wasn’t unusual; Jackson expected complete, blind obedience to his orders—although he kept his plans to himself, so that his subordinates didn’t know what his overall objectives were—and at one time had nearly every one of his brigade commanders under arrest. Even his brother-in-law Richard Garnett fell victim after Kernstown. Hill’s court-martial never occurred.
From August 28 to August 30, Jackson’s men held off uncoordinated Federal attacks near the old Bull Run battlefield in the Second Battle of Bull Run until Lt. Gen. James Longstreet could arrive with the rest of Lee’s army, resulting in another Confederate victory.
Lee then carried the war onto Northern soil by crossing the Potomac into Maryland—which had not joined the Confederacy. To protect his left flank, he sent Jackson back to familiar territory, to capture Harpers Ferry. Knowing well the defensive disadvantages of that place, Jackson captured the entire Union garrison before moving to rejoin Lee behind Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg. There, on September 21, the Battle of Antietam (Battle of Sharpsburg) resulted in the bloodiest single day in all of American history. Jackson’s men successfully held the northern (left) flank of the Confederate position in the fighting in Miller’s Cornfield, the East Woods and the West Woods. The battle was a tactical draw, but Lee withdrew his battered army back into Virginia.
Jackson Promoted To Lieutenant General
In November, Jackson—now a lieutenant general—was elated by personal news: his wife, the former Anna Morrison, had given birth to a daughter. He had lost his first wife, Elinor Junkin, during childbirth just 14 months into their marriage. The first child of his marriage to Anna had died shortly after birth. This time, his wife and daughter would long outlive him.
Battle Of Fredericksburg
In December, defending the right flank of Lee’s army during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Jackson left a small gap in his line that briefly allowed a Union breakthrough but, unreinforced, the Federals withdrew and Jackson filled the gap. Once more, Stonewall had held firm.
In April, Anna brought their five-month-old daughter to visit. For a few days, Jackson experienced one of the happiest times of his life, but then word arrived that the Union’s Army of the Potomac under Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker was on the move and attempting to outflank the Fredericksburg position. Confederate cavalry had skirmished with Union troops near a crossroads where a brick home called Chancellorsville stood. Lee sent Jackson with most of Second Corps to blunt the advance.
Chancellorsville: Stonewall Jackson’s Last Battle
Jackson, riding his favorite horse, Little Sorrel, arrived around 8 a.m., his corps strung out along the road behind him. He observed the defensive positions prepared by the infantry and cavalry and made a fateful decision: instead of waiting on the defensive for all of his troops to arrive, he would go on the attack. At midmorning, he sent two columns, about 6,000 men total, advancing down the Orange Turnpike and Orange Plank Road. The thoroughfares were separated by up to a mile of thick woods and undergrowth in an area known as The Wilderness. In the tangle of brush, Hooker’s men were uncertain how many Confederates were facing them, and Hooker ordered a withdrawal, approximately to where his men had camped the night before. Jackson’s bold move had cost Hooker his nerve.
Fighting continued through the day, and that evening Jackson rode along his front with his staff, making a personal reconnaissance, as he was always inclined to do. That night, Lee rode to join him and the two discussed the strong Federal positions to their front, which were being strengthened hourly with felled trees and earthworks. Word arrived from a cavalry reconnaissance that the right flank of Hooker’s army was “in the air,” not anchored to any defensible terrain feature. Lee ordered Jackson to march around that flank and attack it. (Some writers credit Jackson with this plan, but the most reliable evidence indicates it was Lee’s.) When Lee asked how many men Jackson would use for the maneuver, he surprised his commander by responding, “My whole corps.”
The next morning, operating on about two hours sleep, Jackson set out on what many regard as his greatest tactical maneuver. His column was spotted on the march and its rearguard attacked, but he continued on.
The flank he was going to attack was that of the XI Corps, under the command of Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard, who had lost an arm at the Battle of Seven Pines (Battle of Fair Oaks). Howard and several of his subordinates ignored warnings that a large Rebel force was on his flanks. Between 5 and 5:30 that evening, Jackson’s men advanced in three lines, each about one and a half miles long and separated from each other by a few hundred yards.
He’d ordered no drums, no bugles, no yells as they advanced. The first warning Federals cooking supper had of the storm that was about to strike them came when deer and rabbits, flushed from cover by the Confederate advance, began running into the camps. Regiments and batteries were quickly overrun as the XI Corps tumbled back in disarray.
Around 7:15, the first two Confederate lines had intermingled and become confused. They paused to sort themselves out while A. P. Hill’s fresh division came forward to fight. The pause bought time for Union commanders to form a defensive position near Hazel Grove.
General Jackson Shot By Friendly Fire
About 8:30, Jackson ordered Hill to, “Press them, cut them off from the United States Ford (over the Rappahannock), Hill; press them.” Jackson then rode off with his staff to reconnoiter the situation. Sometime after 9:00 they rode up behind the skirmishers of the 33rd North Carolina Regiment and turned back. Aware Federal cavalry was in the area, the North Carolinians mistook the riders for enemy horsemen and opened fire. From somewhere, probably the men of the 18th North Carolina, came another volley. Jackson was hit in his right hand and left wrist. A third ball broke his upper left arm.
Taken to a field hospital, his arm was amputated sometime after midnight. Lee, hearing the news, remarked, “Jackson has lost his left arm; I have lost my right.” On the afternoon of May 3, the wounded general was moved to a home at Guinea Station. At first, he seemed to be healing but by the time Anna arrived with their daughter on the 7th, pneumonia had set in. By the 10th, he felt the end was near and reportedly said, “My wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on a Sunday.” By midafternoon, he spoke his last intelligible words, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” His body was laid in state in the Confederate capital before being buried at Lexington.
The Death Of Stonewall Jackson
He had been a man of many contrasts. A rigid disciplinarian with both himself and those around him, he had often clashed with subordinates. A deeply religious man, he accepted killing as a necessity of war. He accepted slavery but made an effort to educate slaves, at least in religious matters. An aggressive fighter and brilliant tactician, he sometimes overextended himself and had demonstrated mediocrity or worse during the Seven Days Campaign. At Falling Waters, Cedar Mountain and Second Bull Run his success was due in no small part to the timely arrival of reinforcements. But he remains second only to Lee in the adoration of the Southern people, in relation to the war, and is held in high regard around the world for his military maneuvers.
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