Today in History

Today in History: January 21

Stonewall Jackson

He is one who, if you order him to hold a post, will never leave it alive to be occupied by an enemy.

Samuel McDowell Moore,
delegate to the Virginia Convention,
describing the military qualifications of Thomas Jackson, April 1861.

Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall Jackson, 1863
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Prints and Photographs Division

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (external link), one of Robert E. Lee's most outstanding generals in the Army of Northern Virginia, was born in Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), on January 21, 1824.

Orphaned at a young age, Jackson spent much of his childhood moving between the homes of various family members. In 1842, he was awarded an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A commissioned officer during the Mexican War, he served as a second lieutenant of artillery, was promoted to first lieutenant, and later won brevets to captain and major.

Pvt. John J. Rhodes
Portrait of Private John J. Rhodes,
Company K, 5th Virginia Regiment, C.S.A.
(Stonewall Brigade), circa 1860-1865.
Selected Civil War Photographs

In 1851, Jackson resigned from the U.S. Army to teach military tactics and natural philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. While there, the stern instructor, known to students as "Deacon Jackson," was considered eccentric. In December 1859, Jackson commanded the VMI cadet corps at the hanging of abolitionist John Brown.

When Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861, Jackson volunteered to serve his state and quickly organized a group of amateur soldiers into an effective army brigade. By July of that year, Jackson's men, fighting in the army of Joseph E. Johnston, moved to meet the federal invasion of Virginia at Bull Run. Here, Jackson earned the admiration of fellow soldiers for standing "like a stone wall" in the face of enemy fire. Jackson, in response, is reported to have said, "Let my men have the name, it belongs more to them than to me."

In 1862, Jackson fought with distinction at the Second Battle of Manassas, the siege of Harper's Ferry, the Battle of Antietam, and the Battle of Fredericksburg. Wounded in May 1863 while pursuing Joseph Hooker at the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Jackson died from pneumonia eight days later.

Birds eye view of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia
Panorama of the Seat of War [with Smoke Over the Manassas Battlefield].
lithograph by John Bachmann, 1861.
Civil War Maps

Harper's Ferry, W. Va. Ruins of arsenal
Ruins of Arsenal,
Silas A. Holmes, photographer,
Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, October 1862.
Selected Civil War Photographs

…the old [Confederate] "grayback"…after the surrender, went to the [Union] Provost Marshal…to be paroled. After taking all the oaths required of him, he asked the Provost if he wasn't all right. "Yes," said the Captain, "you are." "Good a Union man as anybody, ain't I." "Yes," replied the Captain, "you are in the Union now as a loyal citizen, and can go ahead all right." "Well, then," said the old sinner; "didn't 'Stonewall' use to give us h--l in the Valley."

How A One-Legged Rebel Lives: Reminiscences of the Civil War: The Story of the Campaigns of Stonewall Jackson (external link),
page 48
by John S. Robson,
First Person Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920