Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born on this date, January 21st, in 1824. A devout Presbyterian, he attended West Point Military Academy and was the most-promoted American officer in the Mexican-American War. He was an instructor at the Virginia Military Institute when the Civil War broke out. Brigadier General Jackson found himself in command of a Virginian brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run. Under heavy Union pressure, Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr. made an exclamation which would forever alter Brig. Gen. Jackson’s life. While several accounts of the quote exist, one of them is as follows: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Rally around the Virginians!”
It is the rare man who can acquire a nickname in the heat of battle from a soldier who dies very soon after (as did Bee). Stonewall Jackson was a rare man indeed. An aggressive and tactically brilliant commander, his troops were known for their discipline and courage under fire. He was the Confederacy’s most celebrated soldier (apart from Gen. Lee), a darling of Confederate women who took the buttons off his worn uniform as souvenirs. A devout Presbyterian, he disliked fighting on Sundays and was not a vocal proponent of slavery. He was known before the war for organizing Sunday School education classes for slaves in Lexington.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, Jackson led a surprise assault on an unguarded flank of a Union army, sending them into retreat. Returning to the Confederate lines after dark on May 2nd, Jackson and his officers were mistaken for Union cavalry and fired upon. Jackson was hit three times, and his injuries were severe enough to require the amputation of his left arm. General Lee, upon hearing of Jackson’s amputation, said that Jackson had lost his left arm but Lee had lost his right (awwwwww).
Jackson developed pneumonia after the surgery, and died on May 10th. His last words, said in delirium, were battle orders to the air. But the last part of his orders, delivered calmly and quietly, were thus: “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”
So if you find yourself drinking in Virginia (or his birth place, West Virginia, where lord knows one should drink), resting under the shade of the trees, pour one out for General Stonewall Jackson.