Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson


Both in his lifetime and afterward,Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson had been a source of pride and the making of a myth. He was born in Clarksburg, Virginia, in what is now West Virginia. He received lit¬ tle early education and was fortunate to be admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when space opened up after another applicant declined to enter. He grad¬ uated in 1846 and immediately entered the Mexican War as a second lieutenant.

Jackson served in all the important battles from Veracruz to Mexico City in 1847. Returning to the United States, he resigned his commission in 1851 after an altercation with his superior officer at Fort Meade,Florida. Jackson obtained a position teaching philosophy and military tactics at the Virginia Military Institute.

During the Civil War,Jackson remained a firm believer in the Union until Virginia seceded on April 17, 1861. He then cast his lot with the Confederacy and became a colonel of the Virginia state forces.

At the First Battle of Bull Run, Confederate General Bernard E. Bee rallied his men at a critical moment by pointing to Jackson’s fortitude on the battlefield and crying out, “There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer.” The nickname “Stonewall” Jackson stuck, but the irony was that Jackson became far better known for the lightning speed of his maneu¬ vers than for standing fast in position.

Promoted to the rank of Confederate major general, Jackson created the “Stonewall Brigade.” Between April and June of 1862, he won a remarkable string of victories in his famous Shenandoah Valley campaign.

Jackson defeated General Robert Milroy on May 8, General Nathaniel Banks on May 23 and 25, General John C. Fremont on June 8, and General Thomas Shields on June 9. These victories drew 60,000 troops into the Shenandoah Valley region and relieved the pressure on the Confederate capital of Richmond that spring.

Jackson was instrumental in the Confederate victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run. He captured Harper’s Ferry in September 1862. Promoted to lieutenant general, he took part in the defensive victory at Fredericksburg (1862).

The Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 was Jackson’s and Robert E. Lee’s mas¬ terpiece (see no. 75). Outnumbered two-to- one by Union general Joseph Hooker, Lee held Hooker at bay with a mere shadow force while Jackson swooped around Hooker’s right flank and hit him with a dev¬ astating counterattack.

The Union flank reeled, and the Confederates were on their way to a decisive victory when Jackson was hit by bullets from his own troops. They had mistaken him for a Union officer as he rode back to his own lines. His left arm shattered, Jackson sought to recuperate, but pneumonia set in and he died on May 10, 1863.