Why Some Succeed While Others Fail: Stonewall Jackson

The true name of this most remarkable man was Thomas Jonathan Jackson; few people, however, would recognize by that name to whom was referred. At the battle of Bull Run, when the Confederates seemed about to fly, General Bee suddenly appearing in view of his men, pointing to Jackson’s column exclaimed: “There stands Jackson like a stone-wall.” From that hour the name he received by ordinance of water was supplanted by that received in a baptism of fire.

Stonewall Jackson was born at Clarksburg, Virginia, January 21st, 1824. He graduated at West Point in time to serve in the Mexican war, where he became distinguished for gallant service and was brevetted as captain, and finally major. After serving a number of years in the regular army he resigned to become professor and instructor in military tactics in the Virginia Military Academy, situated at Lexington, Kentucky. He was considered at this time a most peculiar man, being very eccentric in his habits. At the breaking out of the civil war he naturally sided with his State, and it is believed that he was sincere. It is said that Jackson never fought a battle without praying earnestly for the success of his people. As has been intimated, he saved the day for the Confederacy at Bull Run.

McClellan was promised the assistance of General McDowell and forty thousand men who had been left at headquarters for the protection of the capital. It was well-known that a combined attack on Richmond was designed immediately upon the junction of the two great armies. To prevent the execution of this plan Jackson was ordered to drive the Federal forces out of the Shenandoah Valley and threaten Washington. He accomplished this by one of the most brilliant campaigns of the war. He crossed the mountains and drove the army of Fremont back, and returning to the Valley with all speed defeated Banks at every turn; indeed, it was only by the most rapid marching that the Federals escaped across the Potomac.

McDowell was suspended from joining McClellan and ordered to co-operate in crushing Jackson. Jackson, with a force of scarcely twenty thousand men, had opposed to him, bent upon his destruction, fully seventy thousand men, and four major-generals; his defeat seemed certain, yet by a most rapid and skillful march he eluded pursuit until his army had reached a point from which his line of retreat was safe, when he turned upon his enemy and defeated Fremont at Cross Keys June 8th, and Shields at Port Republic the next day. Having thus accomplished the purpose of the campaign, he hastened to join Lee in his attack on McClellan. As before stated, this was a most brilliant campaign. Not only was McDowell prevented from joining McClellan, but McClellan became alarmed as to his own safety, and resolved to change his base from the York to the James. This forced upon him the Peninsula campaign, which resulted in the Union army being driven back to Washington. For this and other important services he was made a major-general. Being placed in immediate control of nearly half of Lee’s entire army, he made one of his characteristic movements; gaining Pope’s rear, fell upon the Union forces with a terrible ferocity which carried all before it. By a rapid movement in the Antietam campaign Jackson captured Harper’s Ferry and eleven thousand men, and then, by a forced march, rejoined Lee in time to take an important part in the battle of Antietam two days afterward.

At Fredericksburg he was made a lieutenant-general. He soon controlled two-thirds of the Confederate forces, and at Chancellorsville he made a secret march of over fifteen miles mostly by forest roads, and gaining Hooker’s right fell upon it by surprise, and drove it in rout upon the main body. The engagement being apparently over he rode into the woods to reconnoiter, having with him a small escort. Upon his return they were mistaken for Union scouts and fired upon by his own men. Several of the escort were killed, and Jackson received three balls, one through each hand and one which shattered his shoulder. He was at length carried to the rear where his arm was amputated. Pneumonia set in, however, which was the immediate cause of his death. His last words were, “Let us cross over and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Stonewall Jackson was considered by the Confederates to have been their most brilliant commander, and his death had much to do with the overthrow of their Government.