Thomas Jonathan Jackson

The American Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863) was a Confederate hero and one of the outstanding Civil War generals.

Thomas Jackson was born on Jan. 21, 1824, at Clarksburg, Va. After the deaths of his father in 1826 and his mother in 1831, he was raised by his uncle. He went to local schools and then attended the U.S. Military Academy (1842-1846), graduating in time to join the 1st Artillery Regiment as a brevet second lieutenant in the Mexican War. Following service at the siege of Veracruz and at Cerro Gordo, he became a second lieutenant and transferred to a light field battery. While engaged in the fighting around Mexico City, Jackson received promotion to first lieutenant and later won brevets to captain and major.

Military Instructor

After the Mexican War, Jackson served at Ft. Columbus and at Ft. Hamilton. In 1851 he accepted a position as professor of philosophy and artillery tactics at Virginia Military Institute, where he proved a dedicated but inept instructor.

On Aug. 4, 1853, Jackson married Elinor Junkin of Lexington, Va., who died, with her baby, in childbirth in October 1854. After a tour of Europe in 1856, he married Mary Anna Morrison; they had a daughter. In December 1859 he commanded the cadet artillery at the hanging of abolitionist John Brown. He voted for John C. Breckinridge, the presidential candidate of the Southern Democrats in 1860, but hoped the Union would not be dissolved.

First Bull Run

When Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861, Jackson traveled to Richmond with the cadet corps. The state government immediately commissioned him a colonel and sent him to Harpers Ferry. There he relinquished command to Joseph E. Johnston and became a brigade commander and brigadier general. At the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, when Jackson's brigade reinforced the Confederate left to stem the Union attack, Gen. Bernard E. Bee rallied his men with the words, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall." The Confederates drove back the Union advance, and Jackson won a new name.

Shenandoah Valley Campaigns

In October 1861 Jackson became a major general, and in November he received command of the Shenandoah Valley district of Virginia. On March 23 his attack on the Federal army at Kernstown forced the diversion of troops intended to reinforce the Union army moving against Richmond.

Jackson attacked an enemy force at McDowell in May 1862 and then struck another Union army at Front Royal, driving it back to the Potomac. He withdrew and fought off converging Union armies at Cross Keys and at Port Republic. Thus, with 16,000 men he had diverted 60,000 Federal troops from the Richmond campaign.

Seven Days Battles

Jackson then joined his forces with those of Gen. Robert E. Lee outside Richmond and began the Seven Days Battles to defend the Confederate capital against Gen. George McClellan's army. Tired and unfamiliar with the country, Jackson moved slowly and failed to flank the enemy position at Beaver Dam Creek. His troops did participate in the successful attack at Gaines's Mill on June 27 and pursued the Union army to White Oak Swamp. There, because of personal fatigue, he again failed to press the Union retreat as expected. Some of his men were among those repulsed at Malvern Hill on July 1.

Second Bull Run

In mid-July of 1862 Lee detached Jackson and his men to meet the advance of a new Union army under Gen. John Pope in northern Virginia. At Cedar Run on August 9 Jackson defeated part of that command. He led his force around the Union right flank and destroyed its supply base at Manassas on August 27. He then withdrew to Groveton, where he held off attacks while waiting for Lee. When Lee had reunited his forces, Jackson's men joined in a successful counterattack that drove the Union army from the field in the Second Battle of Bull Run on June 30.

Harpers Ferry, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg

In September 1862 Lee advanced into Maryland and sent Jackson ahead with five divisions to capture the Union garrison of 11,000 men at Harpers Ferry. Jackson surrounded the town, which surrendered on September 15, then hurried north to help Lee beat off Union attacks at Sharpsburg on September 17. Lee withdrew into Virginia after the battle to recruit and reorganize his army. In October, Jackson received promotion to lieutenant general and became commander of the new 2d Corps.

In November 1862 the Confederate army moved east to meet a Union advance at Fredericksburg, Va. Lee placed his troops on the hills south of the town, with Jackson's corps on the right. On December 13 Gen. Ambrose Burnside attacked across the Rappahannock River with two columns, one aimed at Jackson's position. Though Burnside broke through a gap between two Confederate brigades, reinforcements drove the attackers back to the river. The entire Union assault was repulsed with heavy losses.

Chancellorsville and Mortal Injury

In late April 1863 Gen. Joseph Hooker decided to turn the Confederate left flank by crossing the Rappahannock River above Fredericksburg, while part of Lee's 1st Corps had been diverted to southern Virginia and North Carolina. Lee sent Jackson's corps around the Union position at Chancellorsville to strike it from the rear. Late in the afternoon of May 2, Jackson launched an attack that routed the Union right wing and drove it back almost to Chancellorsville. As Jackson returned with his staff from scouting Union lines, his left arm was broken by shots from his own men who mistook the riders for Union troops. The arm required amputation before Jackson was removed south to Guiney's Station, Va., for rest and recovery. There he developed pneumonia and died on May 10, 1863.

Stonewall Jackson was a masterful military strategist. He campaigned with aggressiveness and audacity; he moved rapidly; he was tenacious in defense and pursuit. His victories made him a hero in the Confederacy and won him the accolades of military historians, who consider him among America's greatest generals.

Further Reading on Thomas Jonathan Jackson

The most detailed analysis of Jackson's personal life and military campaigns is Lenoir Chambers, Stonewall Jackson (2 vols., 1959). The best one-volume biography is Frank E. Vandiver, Mighty Stonewall (1957). Of the older biographies, two are most useful: one by Jackson's chief of staff (in early 1862), Robert L. Dabney, Life and Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. Thomas J. Jackson (2 vols., 1864-1866); the other by a British army officer, G. F. R. Henderson, Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War (2 vols., 1898).

    Post a comment