The Civil War Connections Blog

Jackson

A few weeks ago I posted about the role the United States Military Academy at West Point played in supplying both the Union and the Confederacy with many of its leaders, pitting classmate against classmate. The West Point class of 1846 produced a number of Civil War leaders, including George B. McClellan, George E. Pickett and Thomas J. Jackson. “Stonewall” Jackson, as he was dubbed during the Civil War, is arguably one of the most famous and well known Confederate leaders. Not only was he one of the men who was firing on old classmates, he had also taught at the Virginia Military Institute in the years prior to the war and therefore had pupils who were involved in the war as well.

 

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson CSA, accessed through the Library of Congress online.

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson CSA, accessed through the Library of Congress online.

 

Born in 1824, Jackson grew up in what is now West Virginia, and his father died of typhoid fever when he was two years old, along with his older sister Elizabeth. In 1846, Jackson left to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, and served in the Mexican War following his graduation. He remained in the army until 1851, when he was offered a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. Unfortunately, Jackson had poor reviews as a teacher, and was thought to be humorless and dull, often making him the target for cadet pranks. During this time prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, Jackson experienced much personal grief. His first wife, Elinor Junkin, died while giving birth to a stillborn son in 1854. Jackson remarried in 1857, to Mary Anna Morrison, who gave birth to a baby girl in 1858. Unfortunately, the child died less than a month after its birth.

 

Following the start of the war, Jackson served in a number of command positions. It was at the First Battle of Bull Run that Jackson received the nickname “Stonewall,” when someone said “Look, there stands Jackson like a stone wall.”[1] In addition to Bull Run, Jackson was also involved in the Shenandoah campaign and Peninsula campaign of 1862, along with the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and other battles. Unfortunately, it was at the Battle of Chancellorsville when Jackson was accidentally hit by friendly fire when regrouping with troops. One of his arms was amputated, and he was soon moved off of the battlefield to a nearby home. On May 10, 1863 Jackson died, with his last reported words being, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”[2] He is buried in Lexington, VA, along with his wife Mary Anna.

 

Jackson is an interesting character of the Civil War. While mostly described as a highly successful battlefield leader, he struggled to live up to that brilliance during the Peninsula campaign and as a teacher at VMI. His personal life was filled with the loss of loved ones, and he was estranged from his sister whom he was extremely close with, at the start of the Civil War due to her dedication to the Union cause. While an obviously interesting man, reading about Jackson makes me wonder if he was a happy one.

 

Statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Lexington, Virginia. Accessed through the Library of Congress online.

Statue of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Lexington, Virginia. Accessed through the Library of Congress online.

 


[1] “Stonewall Jackson Timeline,” Virginia Military Institute, Accessed February 28, 2013. http://www.vmi.edu/Archives/Jackson/Stonewall_Jackson_Biographical_Summary/

[2] “Stonewall Jackson Timeline,” Virginia Military Institute.