Facts, biographical information and articles about Stonewall Jackson, a confederate Civil War General during the American Civil War

Confederate General Stonewall Jackson (Library of Congress)

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson Facts


Around midnight January 20–21, 1824


May 10, 1863
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Beginning Rank

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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Stonewall Jackson’s 11th-Hour Rally

STONEWALL'S 11th-Hour Rally- 3.5 K

By Robert C. Cheeks

“With a rusted sword in one hand and a Confederate battle flag in the other,a grim-faced Stonewall Jackson desperately rallied his faltering troops. What Rebel worthy of the name could abandon ‘Old Jack’ in his hour of need?

It was devilishly hot in the summer of 1862, an oppressive, debilitating heat that ravaged the Union marching columns and left even the strongest soldiers lying by the roadside, gasping like fish pulled out of a creek. The temperature was climbing toward 100 degrees as Major General John Pope’s newly organized Army of Virginia pushed down Culpeper Road. Major General Nathaniel Banks’ II Corps held the van of the army, kicking up a cloud of choking dust that could be seen for miles.

By dawn of August 9, Pope was aware that Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s forces were moving on his front. The blue-clad cavalry of Brig. Gen. George Dashiell Bayard, some 1,200 effectives, covered the front of Brig. Gen. Samuel Crawford’s brigade at its advanced position near Cedar Mountain. Three miles up the road toward Culpeper the remainder of Banks’ II Corps assembled, with Brig. Gen. James Rickett’s division three miles farther back.

Major General Franz Sigel’s I Corps was on its way to Culpeper, as was Brig. Gen. Rufus King’s division of Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell’s III Corps. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalrymen were burning horseflesh in a hasty withdrawal from Madison Court House to Sperryville.

Pope ordered Banks’ corps to join their messmates, Crawford’s brigade, at Cedar Mountain, telling Banks in an order dictated by his aide: “General Banks to move to the front immediately, assume command of forces in the front, deploy his skirmishers if the enemy advances, and attack him immediately as he approaches, and be reinforced from here.” Banks interpreted the order to mean that he should confront Jackson as soon as the armies made contact. That was not what Pope had in mind.

Bayard’s and Buford’s cavalry had been the bane of Stonewall Jackson’s existence for the past several days. The night before, the ubiquitous Yankee horsemen had raided Jackson’s bivouacked column, setting off a firestorm of musketry at 3 o’clock in the morning. Now Jackson fretted constantly about the 1,200 wagons the army had gathered in its train. Brigadier General Jubal A. Early’s Virginia brigade held the van of Maj. Gen. Richard Ewell’s division, and although the irascible “Old Jube” needed help mounting his horse–he’d been wounded in the shoulder at Fort Magruder a few weeks earlier–he was in fine form. Because of the Federal cavalry raids, Early was ordered to picket the road, requiring the services of the 44th Virginia and six companies of the 52nd Virginia.

On Culpeper Road, three-quarters of a mile south of the intersection with the Madison Court House road and just west of Slaughter’s Mountain–named after Captain Phillip Slaughter, who had served in the Revolution, and also referred to as Cedar Mountain–a gathering of Bayard’s cavalry offered battle. Early pushed out his skirmish line, accompanied by a brace of 12-pounders, and proceeded to send the outmanned horsemen flying. With his videttes posted well to the north and his divisional commander informed of the proceedings, Old Jube led the brigade toward the intersection, soon coming under artillery fire from the omnipresent Union cavalry. The Federals gave every indication of preparing for battle at this place.

Jackson arrived on the scene and met with Ewell at a farmhouse just to the rear, where they quickly developed a plan of attack. Ewell was to march Brig. Gen. Isaac Trimble’s brigades and the Louisiana brigade of Brig. Gen. Harry Hays, now under the command of former New Orleans chief of police Colonel Henry Forno, over Cedar Mountain and strike the Federals on their left. Meanwhile, Early would continue to press up Culpeper Road toward the center of the Federal position. Brigadier General John Winder’s division would support Early and press the Federal right.

Jackson’s marching columns, with Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill’s Light Division bringing up the rear, lay strung out over 10 miles of hot, dusty Virginia countryside. Hill’s first indication of contact occurred about six miles from Culpeper Courthouse. The divisional commander, it appears, was not aware of Jackson’s battle plan.

While Early waited for Winder to bring up his division, the general led a reconnaissance. His efforts soon bore fruit, as he was able to locate an old farm lane that exited Culpeper Road and spilled out of the woods directly onto the Crittenden farm, where the Federal cavalry had formed. Early pushed, prodded, swore and cursed the brigade through the forest that shielded the movement. As Early’s men advanced through the woods, Ewell’s artillery, which had kept well closed on the infantry columns, opened up on the unseen Federals who lay beyond the rolling countryside of the farm. The Rebels managed to fire 14 rounds of spherical case shot before the Federals responded with a splendid salvo of counterbattery fire that showered the choleric Early with dirt and dust.

With Colonel James A. Walker’s game 13th Virginia posted as skirmishers and the 12th Georgia of Trimble’s brigade posted on the right flank, the Confederates debouched from the woods, advanced across a farm lane and formed a battle line just north of the clapboard-sided Crittenden farmhouse. Shots were exchanged with the two recalcitrant Federal cavalry regiments, and Early advanced his 1,500-man brigade to a rise that provided a panoramic view of the battlefield. As the brigade appeared across the crest of the ridge, Federal artillerists opened at a range of 1,600 yards and forced the Confederates to withdraw to the west side of the hill.

Ewell’s remaining two brigades (Trimble’s and Forno’s) exited Culpeper Road just beyond the ford and moved on Early’s right, along the north shoulder of the mountain. Well to their left and far below their present position on the mountainside, the infantry could clearly make out Early’s men.

Just after 2 p.m., Winder’s division came up and began the arduous and time-consuming task of linking battle lines with Early. To the rear, along Culpeper Road, the six brigades of A.P. Hill’s enormous Light Division stretched along the dusty road for miles. Ahead, Hill’s veterans could hear the familiar report of brass 12-pounders, and realized that the battle had been joined.

Early had carefully studied the landscape that lay before his command: the rolling wheat fields and immense cornfields directly on his front and right, the undulating swales and gullies that could easily hide a regiment, the north and south forks of Cedar Run and, finally, a copse of cedar trees on his immediate right front that seized his imagination as an ideal post for a well-appointed battery. A runner was sent to Ewell with the call for artillery support, but Ewell’s prescient artillery chief, A.R. Courtney, had already dispatched Captain W.D. Brown of the Chesapeake Artillery, pulling one 3-inch Whitworth rifle, and Captain W.F. Dement of the Maryland line, with two 12-pounder Napoleons. Within minutes the three Confederate pieces were lobbing spherical shells toward their Union counterparts.

Winder began to move his artillery up Culpeper Road with the assistance of his chief of artillery, Major Snowden Andrews. The general wanted as many rifled pieces as they could muster, and Andrews sent Parrott rifles and Napoleons to the gate where the farm lane exited Culpeper Road.

Initially, Early’s line ran all the way to Culpeper Road, but when the van of Winder’s division came up, he quickly shortened his brigade front to the south. Brigadier General W.B. Taliaferro’s amalgamated Virginia and Alabama brigade began to fill in on the left, while Colonel T.S. Garnett’s Virginia brigade, after taking a severe shelling at the gate, moved northeastward across Culpeper Road into a line of woods that fronted an open wheat field. There the brigade formed an “L” facing both south to Early’s left and northeast toward the wheat field.

Far to the south, at Cedar Mountain, Ewell was determined to get Captain Joseph W. Latimer’s Virginia Battery posted on the heights. Assisted by a mixed force of cavalrymen and infantry, Latimer’s artillerists pulled the cannons up the heights and into battery, where they were joined by a section of the Bedford Artillery. They soon drew a bead on the Union batteries firing salvos from across the cornfield.

The Southern cannonade was dramatically increased when two sections of the Light Division’s artillery under the command of Lt. Col. Reuben Walker moved into place on the left of Early’s line. The two sections, one of which belonged to the much-
esteemed Major William Pegram, came under horrific skirmish fire. Lying not 150 yards away in the tall corn, elements of the 8th and 12th U.S. Infantry battalions of Brig. Gen. Henry Prince’s brigade opened a galling and accurate rifle fire, unhorsing a number of cannoneers. Fortunately for the Confederates, Early observed the artillerists’ plight and expeditiously ordered infantry forward in close support.

Winder, reduced to shirtsleeves, was running about near the area of the gate, feverishly working with his artillery. About an hour after the artillery duel had commenced, Winder was struck by a shell and suffered a “tremendous hole torn in his side.” Not long after the splenetic Winder had fallen, Andrews also fell victim to Federal fire. A shell fragment tore across his stomach, nearly gutting him, as he prepared to advance his artillery. Miraculously, Andrews would survive his horrible wound.

The artillery contest had opened around 4 p.m. and continued unabated for over an hour and a half. By 5:45 p.m. Banks sent his infantry toward the Confederate lines. Banks, little more than a rank amateur, failed to follow the fundamental military maxim of the day, that an attacker should possess twice the number of troops as the defender.

Brigadier General Christopher C. Augur’s Union division lay opposite Early’s brigades in the tall corn 1,500 yards away. On Augur’s right was the Ohio brigade of Brig. Gen. John W. Geary. On Geary’s left, Prince’s brigade advanced on Early’s command, battle flags flying in the thick, sultry air as the punishing temperature steadily rose. The assault had just commenced when both Augur and Geary were felled by Confederate shots and forced from the field. Nevertheless, the attack continued. The Ohioans on Geary’s line advanced under a fearsome barrage of Confederate shot and ball. The 29th and 5th regiments were ordered up with the 66th and 7th, although the 29th fell behind as the result of cowardice on the part of its commanding officer. As the bluecoats cleared the cornfield some 300 yards from the Confederate line, the Rebels opened fire on the massed Yankees.

Somehow, the skirmish line held against the fusillade. “Rally on the colors, boys!” the file-closers shouted, trying to force their voices above the cacophony of battle. On the Federals came,
in good order, their ranks well-closed, until vicious and well-aimed fire struck them from the right flank. The 21st Virginia of Brig. Gen. Richard Garnett’s brigade had come into line unnoticed along Culpeper Road and hammered the Union assault into the ground.

The rattle of musketry became continuous along the entire front, joining the roar of artillery. The Confederate guns posted at the gate had succeeded in knocking down the determined Ohioans, and Pegram’s crews had been hard at work since their arrival an hour earlier. On the Confederate right, at Cedar Mountain, 18-year-old Captain Latimer’s Parrott rifles were busy dropping shells into Geary’s and Prince’s advancing blue lines. Soon the field was bathed in blue-gray smoke.

Jackson had kept close to the action himself and, in the midst of a furious barrage, penned an urgent missive to Hill calling for his hard-driving division. But Hill, or rather the van of his division, was already up. Brigadier General Edward L. Thomas’ Georgia brigade was placed to the right of Early’s line after a difficult march at the double-quick.

The Union infantry continued to sweep forward against the enemy, their “huzzahs” screamed against the roar of musket and cannon fire. Prince moved the 111th Pennsylvania and 3rd Maryland through the corn toward Early, then received orders to throw his entire brigade at the Confederates en echelon. The orders, executed under extreme duress, were dispatched with a notation for the 109th Pennsylvania and 102nd New York to take care not to fire into the lead regiments.

But just such a volley was fired. Troopers from the 3rd Maryland fell, shot in the back, and both the Marylanders and the Pennsylvanians broke for the rear. The 109th Pennsylvania and 102nd New York did not hesitate, but moved in good order out of the corn. The 109th volleyed into the 12th Georgia, while the 102nd wheeled right and opened on Thomas’ recently arrived brigade. The Rebels’ return fire was a nearly solid wall of lead, and Prince’s valiant troops were halted, victimized by Thomas’ oblique flanking fire.

Confederate artillery fire bellowed into the faces of the oncoming infantrymen. Their spherical case ammunition had long been used up, and the gunners now were using short-fused canister, double-shotted. The effects were immediate. The Federal assault ground to a halt as the advance troops began to flounder over reddened fields thickly coated with human gore.

Minutes earlier, north of Culpeper Road, Crawford had sprung something of a surprise on the poorly tended Confederate left. Three of his regiments, the 5th Connecticut, 28th New York and 45th Pennsylvania, had formed line with several companies of the 3rd Wisconsin of Brig. Gen. George Gordon’s command. The commingled brigade faced due west, looking across a recently harvested wheat field, into an undeveloped line of Confederate infantry commanded by Lt. Col. T.S. Garnett.

The Federals emerged from the woods at the edge of the wheat field, dressed on their colors and burst with loud cries toward Garnett’s Rebels. On their left, across the road, Geary’s Ohioans were catching hell from Taliaferro’s Virginians and Alabamians. But the Ohioans’ bravery effectively shielded Crawford’s men from enemy flanking fire. The Federals made it to the center of the wheat field without taking any musketry at all. Then came a shrill, apocalyptic volley of musketry, so loud that for a brief moment it drowned out the artillery fire. The Federal casualty lists began to swell. Colonel Dudley Donnelly was hit, then Lt. Col. Edwin F. Brown. Eventually 17 out of 18 field officers of the 28th New York would join their commanders on the list of honor before the sun had set.

Somehow, Crawford’s men kept coming. They met the enemy in close combat at the edge of the wheat field, and the Confederate line began to waver. Garnett’s left collapsed, and within minutes the entire brigade was broken as the 28th New York and 5th Connecticut left the woods and drove down on the 42nd and 48th Virginia. Hit from the front, flank and rear, the Southern troops finally were overrun.

A stygian pall descended over the smoke-filled woodlands. Several Virginians who had been taken prisoner reported, following their release, that Union soldiers had mercilessly murdered a number of Rebels after they surrendered. One soldier stated that he had been bayoneted as he lay wounded and helpless.

The fighting in the wheat field was not yet over. Coming close on the heels of the 5th Connecticut and 28th New York, several companies of the 3rd Wisconsin and 46th Pennsylvania were struck by flanking fire from the renowned Stonewall Brigade, which had tardily arrived on the northern edge of the field. They were too late to halt the two Union regiments now massacring their comrades in the woods, but they did punish the trailing edge of Crawford’s makeshift brigade. The Wisconsin men suffered greatly and were forced to withdraw, leaving behind their dead. The 46th Pennsylvania fought on into the woods, driving back the 10th and 27th Virginia, then turned left and brought up the rear as the 28th New York and 5th Connecticut fell on the unsuspecting Virginians who had formed line on Culpeper Road.

The two Virginia regiments were completely unaware of the assault now gaining momentum on their rear–unaware, that is, until musket balls came crashing into their ranks from a distance of 30 feet.

The fighting became close-in and ugly, harder even than the contest in the woods adjacent to the wheat field. The men fought with swords, clubbed muskets, knives and fists, and the swirling chaos spilled out onto Culpeper Road. The 21st Virginia was broken, but in its demise the regiment had strewn the ground with Federal dead. Survivors of the 48th Virginia streamed toward the gate and presumed safety, while other small bands of Confederates took shelter in the woods northwest of their old line. The Confederate left was now in shambles. Jackson himself came up after ordering the vulnerable artillery away from the gate and watched stoically for a minute as his men fled past him.

Crawford’s troops were understandably ecstatic. They had not often seen the backs of Stonewall Jackson’s troops, and they were richly enjoying their success. They got themselves back into a makeshift line on the left flank of the 47th Alabama and volleyed point-blank into the Rebels. The Alabamians, combat novices, broke under fire and took the 48th Alabama with them. The 23rd and 37th Virginia, brigaded with the Alabamians, sustained their position better, but it was only a matter of minutes before the brigade ceased to exist as a fighting unit.

With Taliaferro’s command broken and fleeing westward, Crawford’s troops fell on Early’s left flank. The brigade was without benefit of its seasoned brigadier–he had ridden to his right to help align Thomas’ brigade just before the Yankees swept across Culpeper Road.

The rout of Taliaferro’s brigade placed Pegram’s guns squarely in harm’s way–not that the effervescent youth minded being placed in such a position. Guns were loaded with double-shotted rounds of canister, short-fused and discharged remorselessly. Still, Pegram’s cannoneers, fighting infantry at less than 100 yards, were taking considerable casualties. Accordingly, his commander, Lt. Col. James A. Walker, ordered him out of the melee.

Crawford’s assault, beginning to peter out, struck Early’s left regiment, Walker’s 13th Virginia. The sweat-covered bluecoats swept around the 13th and routed the remaining regiments, then were forced to turn and fight Walker’s troops, nearly encircling the recalcitrant Virginians.

Early’s fine brigade had broken up nearly as quickly as Taliaferro’s, although Walker, who would later command the Stonewall Brigade at Gettysburg, led the 13th with élan. Unsupported, Walker ordered a breakout and managed to extricate the regiment in good order. The regiment’s efforts slowed down Crawford’s assault and helped in positioning the Federals directly on the flank of Captain William Brown’s 12th Georgia. The Georgians held a unique line along a minor rise that allowed them an easy shot at the vulnerable flanks of Crawford’s fast-advancing regiments. After firing, Brown’s troops had merely to run a few paces down the slope, reload without fear of being hit by enemy fire, and return to the line. When Early arrived on the scene, Brown shouted, “General, my ammunition is nearly out; don’t you think we had better charge them?”

The 12th Georgia, acting in concert with Ewell’s blazing guns on Cedar Mountain, Brown’s and Dement’s artillery, and Thomas’ brigade, sent a chorus of lead and shot into Crawford’s unsupported brigade. The charge slowed, then ground to a halt.

Jackson was standing near the gate, his life in great danger as he tried desperately to rally his shattered line, with sword and scabbard–they were rusted together–raised in one hand and a Confederate battle flag in the other. What Confederate worth the name could abandon “Old Jack” in his time of peril? The routed troops of Garnett’s, Taliaferro’s and Early’s brigades began to halt, then rally. Across the area a cheer rose up: “Jackson! Jackson!”

Brigadier General Lawrence O’Bryan Branch’s North Carolina brigade had been thrown into the melee by Jackson himself, and now entered the woods northwest of the gate, plodding toward the wheat field. Portions of broken Rebel commands came scurrying through Branch’s troops, causing more confusion though not interfering with the lightly opposed advance.

Brigadier General James Jay Archer followed Branch through the thick woods, then obliqued northward and came up on the North Carolinian’s left. There, off to their right front, stood the 10th Maine. The New Englanders, brigaded with Crawford’s sanguinary regiments, had missed the charge an hour earlier and had advanced into the wheat field to cover the withdrawal. The Yankees were taking murderous fire from Branch’s North Carolinians and trying desperately to return the volley. Archer’s amalgamated brigade of Tennesseans, Alabamians and Georgians gleefully added their weight of iron to the fight, and the Federals began to fall in great heaps.

Mercifully, the order to withdraw was given, and the New Englanders bolted for the sanctuary of the woods east of the wheat field, near Culpeper Road. As the ranks were breaking up, another Fed-
eral brigade, Brig. Gen. George Gordon’s, was making its way through the woods toward the wheat field, while a battalion of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry came charging down the road, streamed into the wheat field and proceeded to get itself slaughtered in as glorious and ineffectual a cavalry effort as any that occurred dur-
ing the war.

The galloping Pennsylvanians rode past Branch’s infantry and experienced firsthand the bitter effects of Southern marks-
manship. The horsemen turned in a sweeping arc past Archer’s troops and suffered mightily at their hands, as well. In all, the 1st Cavalry lost 34 of the 164 men who had begun the charge.

In the northern portion of the wheat field, the Stonewall Brigade was busy killing Crawford’s fleeing troopers and sealing the Confederate left. Most of the Union soldiers making a run for safety were either shot down or taken prisoner. The arrival of Gordon’s brigade deflected the Virginians’ attention and helped some Union soldiers escape. Ironically, some of the Northern troops who an hour earlier had participated in the murder of Confederate soldiers who had honorably surrendered, now found themselves in a killing field from which the heavy hand of judgment provided no succor. They fell in heaps. The 5th Virginia captured the battle flags of the 5th Connecticut and 28th New York, along with a number of prisoners who were, by all accounts, humanely treated. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Dorsey Pender’s brigade moved up on the Stonewall Brigade’s rear.

Jackson’s center had been secured for more than half an hour. The efforts of the 14th Georgia of Thomas’ brigade had resulted not only in blunting Crawford’s spearhead but also in providing a rallying point, near the gate, for broken regiments. There, Lt. Col. Robert W. Folsom, commanding the 14th Georgia, had rallied nearly 800 muskets, which provided an effective resistance to the surging Federals.

Walker’s 13th Virginia, which had earlier fought out of a pocket at the original brigade line, was joined by a fragment from the 31st Virginia. Together, both regiments, acting in concert with the 14th Georgia, sallied toward Culpeper Road, driving elements of Crawford’s and Geary’s Federals before them. The three regiments arrived at the road in time to volley into the charging Pennsylvania horsemen.

Meanwhile, at Cedar Mountain, Forno’s and Trimble’s brigades began their sweep across the battlefield, while north of their position, in the bloody wheat field, the antagonists prepared to play out the final act in the drama.

Gordon’s Federals laid their cartridge boxes beside them and awaited the Confederates. Archer’s men came forward, followed by the Stonewall Brigade and, on their left, Dorsey Pender’s seasoned fighters. The Federals volleyed, but the Rebel assault halted only momentarily.

“Take aim. Fire low! Fire!” a Confederate officer screamed, and the roar of 1,100 muskets echoed across the parched field. Archer’s men came on, running hard. On Gordon’s right, Pender’s North Carolinians, eager to join the fray, volleyed into his flank. The Federals broke as Archer’s men came crashing into the fence line.

Archer’s bold charge broke the last major Federal resistance on what would become known as the Cedar Mountain battlefield. Jackson had somehow snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a battle that the brilliant, if dour, Presbyterian would always consider his greatest fight.

Late the next day, a thunderstorm broke the oppressive heat and gave succor to the scores of wounded who lay about the field. The day after that, with the smell of putrefying flesh heavy in the Virginia air, Jackson ordered his command back across the Rapidan, heading for the old killing fields at Manassas, having blunted at Cedar Mountain yet another hopeful Union advance.

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