~Thomas J. Jackson~


A Biography of one of the South's most beloved and infamous generals

"One day, during the Valley Campaign, a courier bearing orders from Jackson didn’t get through. When Jackson was informed that the man had been killed in the line of duty, the general hesitated a moment as if at a loss for words. Then a solemn look came over his long, bearded face. “Very commendable,” he said gravely. “Very commendable.”"

Shelby Foote on Thomas J."Stonewall" Jackson

Jackson Monument Richmond, VA

Jackson was certainly one of the greatest fighting generals in the Confederacy, and known best by his nickname of "Stonewall," Jackson was born in Clarksburg, Virginia on January 21, 1824. Raised of Scottish-Irish ancestry, his parents died in poverty, and Thomas was raised by his uncle. Although Jackson never had the opportunity to be formally enlightened for higher education, he did have the privilege of entering West Point in July 1842. Although his grades were not great the first year, he applied himself and they improved with each year, whereby he graduated seventeenth in his class of fifty-nine in 1846. During the Mexican War, Jackson served in an exemplary manner at Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo and Chapultepec. Eighteen months after joining the army, he was promoted to major, receiving acclaim from General Winfield Scott. In the late 1840s, Jackson served at Forts in New York and Florida.

In 1851, Jackson became a professor of artillery and natural philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute (V.M.I.) in Lexington, while still a member of the army, but resigned his commission a short time later. In 1859, fiery abolitionist John Brown and his men raided Harper’ Ferry. The uprising was put down the next day when Colonel Robert E. Lee and U.S. troops stormed the engine house which Brown and his men were using as a fort. Brown was tried and convicted of treason, and sentenced to hang. A contingent of VMI cadets were ordered to Charlestown to stand guard during the execution. Jackson accompanied the cadets.

Jackson, now a major in the Virginia Militia, was ordered to go to Richmond on April 21, 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War. Upon his arrival, although he was not well known, he was made a colonel of the Confederate Infantry and assigned to Harpers Ferry. Several weeks later on June 17, he was promoted to brigadier general and assigned to the army of General Joseph Johnston. 

During the Battle of First Bull Run, Jackson was a defiant figure on the field of battle, and when observed by Brigadier General Barnard E. Bee, he said, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall." Consequently, his nickname of "Stonewall" was born. Again, his actions so great at this battle, he was promoted to major general on October 1, 1861.

Less than one month later, on November 5, 1861, Stonewall was placed in command of the Shenandoah Valley, which was a district of the Department of Northern Virginia. As winter was approaching, Jackson was condemned when he assigned men under the command of Brigadier General William Loring to man outposts in the bitter cold. This upset Loring, yet Jackson's proven ability to move his men quickly made him a champion in the Confederacy. Jackson left his headquarters at Winchester, Virginia in March 1862, upon learning that General Johnston had withdrawn from Manassas on March 8 and 9. This would begin Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. Originally, at Kernstown, Jackson, who took the offensive, suffered heavy losses, but in the process, skillfully managed to sidetrack three Union armies. This afforded Jackson praise, as by doing this, he kept a determining number of Union troops in the area, that might have otherwise been sent to aid General McClellan's unsuccessful advance on Richmond.

In the early spring of 1862, from April 17 to May 12, Stonewall began working closely with General Robert E. Lee on a plan to attack Brigadier General Nathaniel Banks and his Union army. This planned attack was designed to prevent Banks from joining with Union General Irvin McDowell in his plight toward Fredericksburg. On May 8, while General McClellan was moving toward Richmond, Jackson first attacked Union Major General John C. Fremont and his troops west of Staunton, Virginia. Meanwhile, General Johnston, Jackson's commander, believed that Union General Banks and his army was too strong and ordered Jackson not to attack him as they had previously planned. However, Jackson believed that he could defeat Banks, so he appealed to Richmond for permission. 

General Robert E. Lee, knowing of the plan he had discussed earlier with Jackson, gave him the approval to attack. On May 23, 1862, Jackson ordered his attack on Banks at Front Royal, Virginia, and in doing so, drove Banks and his army back across the Potomac River. Jackson and Lee's plan was a success. So good was Jackson that many historians site this maneuver in the Shenandoah Valley as the finest example of military strategy and deployment.

 This same month in 1862, General Jackson was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, and while he was recovering, General Lee assumed his command around Richmond. 

In doing so, Lee reorganized the forces into the Army of Northern Virginia. Following several small engagements, Lee and Jackson met again to plan an attack against Union Major General John Pope at Manassas Junction.  

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