Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson 1824-1863

Thomas Jonathan Jackson barely passed the entrance examination for the West Point Military Academy. Once in the Academy of West Point, this young man with a limited education distinguished himself academically. Thomas J. Jackson is among the most illustrious tactical military geniuses in American history. He was born in Clarksburg, Virginia in 1824.

Jackson wrote to his uncle Alfred Neale in 1842 concerning the sudden death of his brother Warren.

“I have received no answer to my last communication conveying the sad news of my brother's premature death. He died in the hope of a bright immortality at the right hand of his Redeemer... 
As time is knowledge I must hasten my pen forward. We have received the smile of Bounteous Providence in a favorable Spring. There is a volunteer company being formed here to march to Texas, in order to assist the noble cause of liberty.”

As a youth, Thomas Jackson's developed a Christian faith which intensified during the Mexican War. He publicly declared his personal faith in Jesus Christ on April 29, 1848. Although he was baptized at an Episcopal church; Thomas Jackson chose not to become a member of the Episcopal church for he wasn't certain with which denominational doctrinal position he agreed.

He began to teach at Virginia Military Institute in 1851 which continued for ten years. He became the object of several pranks perpetrated by students who though that he was too pious and inflexible. Some students thought he was strange and sarcastically called “Old Tom Fool” and “Old Blue Light.” During the ten years of teaching at VMI, he chose to join the Presbyterian church where he became a deacon.

As Professor of philosophy and tactics at VMI; Jackson once declared:

“When we take our meals, there is the grace. When I take a draught of water, I always lift up my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life. Whenever I [send] a letter...I send a petition along with it, for God's blessing upon its mission and upon the person to whom it is sent. 
“When I [open] a letter...I stop to pray to God that He may prepare me for its contents...When I go to my class-room and await the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede with God for them.”

In 1852, Jackson wrote to his aunt Mrs. Clementine (Alfred) Neale while he was in Lexington, Virginia.

“The subject of becoming herald of the cross has often seriously engaged my attention, and I regard it as the most noble of all professions. It is the profession of our divine Redeemer, and I should not be surprised where I to die upon a foreign field, clad in ministerial armor fighting under the banner of Jesus. What could be more glorious? 
“But my conviction is that I am doing good here; and that for the present I am where God would have me be. Within the last few days I have felt an unusual religious joy to walk in the love of God. My heavenly Father condescended to use me as an instrument in getting up a large Sabbath school for the Negroes here. He has greatly blessed it, and, I trust, all who are connected with it.”

He was eager to share his devout faith in Christ with all people. When he started his Sunday school in Lexington, Virginia he proudly chose to practice civil disobedience teaching black children the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. He could not alter the social status of slaves but as a Christian he made the commitment to decency pledging to “assist the souls of those held in bondage.”

Jackson was revered among many of the slave and free African-Americans in Lexington. In 1855, Jackson was instrumental in organizing a Sunday School class for black people at the Presbyterian church.

Mary Anna Jackson, his second wife, taught with her husband:

 “...he preferred that my labors should be given to the colored children, believing that it was more important and useful to put the strong hand of the Gospel under the ignorant African race, to lift them up.”

Pastor Dr. William Spottswood White described the relationship that existed between Thomas Jackson and his Sunday afternoon students:

"In their religious instruction he succeeded wonderfully. His discipline was systematic and firm, but very kind. ...His servants reverenced and loved him, as they would have done a brother or father. ...He was emphatically the black man's friend. He addressed his students by name and they in turn referred to him affectionately as "Marse Major'"

His Sunday school outgrew the facilities which were allotted to them. Eventually his school blossomed into new churches for African Americans. Several ex-slaves became preachers and were responsible for some of the wonderful revivals following the end of the Civil War.

His family owned six slaves at the close of the 1850s. He received Hetty and her two teenage sons Cyrus, and George as a wedding present. Albert was a slave who asked Jackson to purchase him and permit him to work for his freedom. Albert became a waiter in a Lexington hotel and on occasion worked at VMI. Amy asked Jackson to purchase her from public auction. Afterward, she served the Jackson family as a cook and housekeeper. Emma, was four-year-old child with a learning disability whom Jackson received from an aged widow. Emma was presented to his wife Mary Anna was a welcome-home gift.

It appears that Jackson either hired out or sold his slaves as the Southern War for Independence began. 

Mary Anna Jackson recorded the following entry in her 1895 memoir: 

“our servants...without the firm guidance and restraint of their master, the excitement of the times proved so demoralizing to them the he deemed it best for me to provide them with good homes among the permanent residents.”

James I. Roberson records in his book Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend

"Jackson neither apologized for nor spoke in favor of the practice of slavery. He probably opposed the institution. Yet in his mind the Creator had sanctioned slavery, and man had no moral right to challenge its existence. The good Christian slaveholder was one who treated his servants fairly and humanely at all times." 

General Jackson wrote to his pastor Reverend Dr. White concerning the Sunday school class in Lexington, Virginia where taught black people.

My Dear Pastor, 

In my tent last night, after a fatiguing day's service, I remembered that I failed to send you my contribution for our colored Sunday School. Enclosed you will find my check for that object, which please acknowledge at your earliest convenience and oblige yours faithfully, 

 T. Jackson

Thomas J. Jackson was an southern gentleman of intense spiritual devotion extremely circumspect in his behavior in his public and private life.

John William Jones in Personal reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1874) quotes Thomas Jackson concerning the use of alcohol:

I like liquor — its taste and its effects — and that is just the reason why I never drink it. 

I am more afraid of King Alcohol than of all the bullets of the enemy.

The joy of his short-lived marriage to Elinor Judkin in 1853 was tragically broken when she died during childbirth the following year. This tragic and devastating loss drove him to seek consolation in his Lord Jesus Christ which resulted in Jackson rededicating his life to his Savior.

He found comfort in the Providence of God which assured him that his loss had a purpose. Thomas Jackson developed a strong sense of God's will and divine purpose throughout his life.

Major William Gilham led a contingent of VMI Cadet Corps to Charles Town in November of 1859 to provide military assistance at the execution of John Brown which occurred on December 2nd. Major Jackson commanded the artillery which consisted of two howitzers manned by twenty-one VMI cadets.

Although he did not support the secession of the southern states; Jackson was a loyal Virginian and chose to follow his state concerning withdraw from the Union. In 1861, Jackson chose to accept a commission in the Army of the Shenandoah when his state seceded from the Union. Jackson was distraught over the impending invasion of Virginia by the Union army. He swore allegiance to the Army of the Shenandoah which absorbed by the Army of Northern Virginia. He vowed to fight for God and country to the bitter end.

His duty as an officer in the Confederate Army did not stifle his religious convictions as a Christian. Many of the members of his brigade became Christians through his example and faith.

As the Southern War for Independence erupted in 1861, Jackson was a drill master for several new recruits in the Confederate army. Governor John Letcher ordered Colonel Jackson to command Harper's Ferry where he assembled and commanded the infamous “Stonewall Brigade.” The “Stonewall Brigade” consisted of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia Infantry regiments. All of the regiments of the “Stonewall Brigade” were from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Jackson earned his infamous nickname “Stonewall” at the battle of First Manassas – First Battle of Bull Run. Jackson's brigade provided crucial reinforcements on Henry House Hill as the Confederate battle line began to crumble under the heavy assault of Union troops. Jackson and his men demonstrated the discipline which he believed would vital to success on the field of battle. His relentless drilling of his troops proved invaluable when finally on the battlefield.

It was Brigadier General Bernard Elliott Bee, Jr. who exhorted his men to reform battle lines declaring: 

“There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!”

Jackson was said to have replied to General Elliott Bee:

 “Sir, we give them the bayonet.”

Bee was killed almost immediately after proclaiming his declaration. Jackson's brigade stopped the Union assault and sustained more casualties than all of the other Southern brigade during the fighting that day.

Throughout the battle, Jackson displayed a gesture which was not uncommon to him. He held his left arm skyward; his palm facing forward which was interpreted by some soldiers under his command as an eccentric entreaty to God for success. Actually, his hand had been struck by a bullet and sustained a small loss of bone in the middle finger. Consequently, he refused medical advice to have the finger amputated.

Following the Battle of 1st Manassas Jackson wrote to his wife on July 22, 1861:

My precious Pet, - Yesterday we fought a great battle and gained a great victory, for which all the glory is due to God alone. Although under a heavy fire for several continuous hours I received only one wound, the breaking of the longest finger of my left hand; but the doctor says the finger may be saved. It was broken about midway between the hand and knuckle, the ball passing on the side next to the forefinger. Had it struck the centre, I should have lost the finger. My horse was wounded, but not killed. Your coat got an ugly wound near the hip, but my servant, who is very handy, has so far repaired it that it doesn't show very much. My preservation was entirely due, as was the glorious victory, to our God, to whom be all the honor, praise, and glory. The battle was the hardest that I have ever been in, but not near so hot in its fire.

While on the Battlefield of Manassas, General Stonewall Jackson prayed:

“Oh God, let this horrible war quickly come to an end that we may all return home and engage in the only work that is worthwhile – and that is the salvation of men.”

Thomas Jackson always maintained his belief that his first duty was as a soldier in “The Army of the Lord” despite his patriotic devotion as a career officer.

Jackson prayed passionately before making a decision. On the evening before a battle; he would wake up several times throughout the night utilizing the time to ask God for his guidance.

His old servant declared: 
“...could always tell when a battle was near at hand, by seeing the general get up a great many times in the night to pray.”

His tactical genius was evident throughout multiple military campaigns: The Peninsular campaign, the Shenandoah Valley, Seven Days Battles, Cross Keys, Port Republic, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredricksburg.

After the battle of Cross Keys, Chaplain Bennett took note of a soldier's remark:

“I saw something today which affected me more than anything I ever saw or read on religion. While the battle was raging and the bullets were flying, Jackson rode by, calm as if he were at home, but his head was raised toward heaven, and his lips were moving, evidently praying.”

During the beginning of the War between the States many of the armies did not have chaplains embedded among the troops. Jackson was dismayed at this situation and recognized the necessity for spiritual strengthening, encouragement, and a saving faith in Christ. He was among the first officers in the army to petition the Confederate government for chaplains. He forcefully argued that a soldiers state of mind directly affected his ability to perform well on the battlefield. Furthermore, he consistently made efforts to introduce his position to his fellow officers in the Confederate army. Whenever possible, he adhered to a strict schedule of Sabbath worship in the morning and evening as well as Wednesday evening prayers. The position was adhered to at all costs. Chaplain Reverend Tucker Lacy, a pastor from Fredricksburg, Maryland often led worship services in which General Jackson and his staff attended.

He was instrumental in forming the Chaplain's Association within the southern troops. After receiving a report concerning how the army responded by attending worship services he declared:

“That is good – very good – we ought to thank God for that.”

Thomas Jackson was a devout Presbyterian who believed in predestination. He insisted that God had determined his time on this earth. Hence, there was no spot on the battlefield that was safer than another. His unwavering conviction of his fate being in the hands of Almighty God which enabled him to lead his men into the heart of a battle without fear of death. Consequently, Jackson inspired his men to rally behind him.

On July 24th 1861, Jackson declared to Captian John D. Imboden

“Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”

In a letter to his wife after the First Battle of Kernstown March 24th 1862, Jackson declared:

“Our men fought bravely, but the enemy repulsed me. Many valuable lives were lost. Our God was my shield. His protecting care is an additional cause for gratitude.”

Jackson was committed to ending the war as soon as possible. Despite his courage, his distaste for war could not be hidden regardless of victories on the battlefield. He believed in a military philosophy of swift and total destruction for the sooner an enemy is destroyed fewer lives would be ultimately lost. He referred to this military philosophy as 'the black flag.' Regardless of a soldiers orders, duty was their responsibility as the consequences belonged to God.

“War means fighting. The business of the soldier is to fight. Armies are not called out to dig trenches, to throw up breastworks, to live in camps, but to find the enemy and strike him; to invade his country, and do him all possible damage in the shortest possible time. This will involve great destruction of life and property while it lasts; but such a war will of necessity be of brief continuance, and so would be an economy of life and property in the end.”

Jackson was a brilliant military strategist which became evident during the Shenandoah Campaign of 1862. He still found time to gather with the senior officers of his brigade for Bible study and sessions of singing hymns.

In a letter to his wife, Stonewall Jackson wrote: 

“Don't trouble yourself...these things are earthly and transitory. There are real and glorious blessings, I trust, in reserve for us, beyond this life. It is best for us to keep our eyes fixed upon the throne of God...It is gratifying to be beloved, and to have our conduct approved by our fellow men; but this is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is in reservation for us, in the presence of the glorified Redeemer...knowing that there awaits us 'a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.'”

Thomas Jackson resisted the urge to 'glorify' war and often quoted 'battle accounts' which he took from the Bible in place of his own records. He eagerly sought opportunities to share his personal relationship with his Father in heaven. He would often write letters urging his countrymen and women to seek God's face through repentance. The following letter which summarizes his faith was written to his sister:

You wish to know how to come to God; so as to have your sins forgiven, and to receive "the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." Now my dear sister the way is plain: the savior says in Mark XVI chapter, 16th verse "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." But you may ask what is it to believe. To explain this I will quote from an able theologian, and devoted servant of God. To believe in the sense in which the word is used here, "is feeling and acting as if there were a God, a Heaven, a Hell; as if we were sinners and must die; as if we deserve eternal death, and were in danger of it. And in view of all, casting our eternal interests on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. To do this is to be a Christian.

Every moment that did not require Jackson's military service was spend in educating the uneducated and uplifting the downtrodden. Thomas Jackson sought to introduce those with whom he served to the glory of God and his redeeming grace through Jesus Christ. His popularity with the men who served under him enabled him to minister to them in ways other men could only hope to accomplish. Jackson was often found praying with the wounded Confederate troops beside their beds.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson always gave God the credit for his victories on the battlefield.

Thomas Jackson letter to Dr. Francis Mcfarland:

July 31st, 1862 
My dear Doctor, 
I am very grateful to you for your prayers to God for the success of the operation which God has entrusted to me. Please continue to pray for me and for the success of the troops entrusted to me. It cheers my heart to think that many of God's people are praying to our very kind Heavenly Father for the success of the army to which I belong. Without God's blessing I look for no success, and for every success my prayer is, that all the glory may be given unto Him to whom it is properly due. If people would but give all the glory to God, and regard his creatures as but unworthy instruments, my heart would rejoice. Alas too frequently the praise is bestowed upon the creature. Whilst we must not forget the superior importance of spiritual victories, yet I trust that you will under God's direction do what you can in securing the prayers of His people for the success of our arms, especially for the success of them which are entrusted to me, an unworthy servant, but who desires to glorify His name even in my present military calling. My trust is in God for success. Praying for a continuation of your usefulness I remain your much attached friend.

In 1862, he wrote to his wife who was ill:

“I trust you and all I have in the hands of an ever kind Providence, knowing that all things work together for the good of His people. So live that your sufferings may be sanctified to you; remember that our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Jackson was accidentally fired upon by his own men during the battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. He suffered three wounds and an amputated arm.

General Lee wrote to Jackson:

 “Could I have directed events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead. I congratulate you on your victory.”

The letter was read to Jackson and he made the following reply:

“General Lee is very kind, but he should give praise to God.”

Chaplain Lacy visited Jackson the day following General Jackson's loss of his arm. Jackson remarked to Chaplain Lacy:

“You see me severely wounded but not depressed...I am sure that my Heavenly Father designs this affliction for my good. I am perfectly satisfied, that either in this life, or in that which is to come, I shall discover that what is now regarded as a calamity, is a blessing...If it were in my power to replace my arm, I would not dare to do it unless I could know it was the will of my Heavenly Father.”

Although at first it looked as if he would make a full recovery but he developed an incurable case of pneumonia.

His beloved wife, Mary Anna Jackson, had been called to his side. She comforted her beloved husband saying:

“Do you not feel willing to acquiesce in God's allotment, if He will you to go today...Well, before the day closes, you will be with the blessed Saviour in His glory.”

Jackson replied “It will be infinite gain to be translated to Heaven” when he heard of his prognosis. Jackson always wanted to die on a Sunday. Thomas Jackson asked his wife to pray for him but encouraged her to always petition God submitting to His will “Thy will be done.”
He accepted his fate as God's will and spent his last hours were reading the Bible and contemplating his journey Heavenward.

Only moments before he died, Thomas Jackson declared: 

“Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action!” A smile spread over his face as he quietly whispered “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

His spirit passed from this world without discomfort or pain into the open arms of God.

When General Lee learned of Jackson's death he declared: “I have lost my right arm.”

Thomas Jackson's greatest achievement was not being victorious on the battlefield. As a sincere true believer in Jesus Christ, his greatest victory was persuading others to surrender their lives to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

General Thomas Jackson collected statements by others which he copied in a small book for his personal use. It was published in Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson by his widow Mary Anna Jackson (1865)

Jackson's personal book of maxims

  • You may be whatever you resolve to be.
  • Through life let your principal object be the discharge of duty.
  • Disregard public opinion when it interferes with your duty.
  • Endeavor to be at peace with all men.
  • Sacrifice your life rather than your word.
  • Endeavor to do well with everything you undertake.
  • Never speak disrespectfully of anyone without a cause.
  • Spare no effort to suppress selfishness, unless that effort would entail sorrow.
  • Let your conduct towards men have some uniformity.
  • Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Speak but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing.
  • Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off unnecessary actions.
  • Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Wrong no man by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries as much as you think they deserve.
  • Be not disturbed at trifles, nor at accidents, common or unavoidable.
  • It is man's highest interest not to violate, or attempt to violate, the rules which Infinite Wisdom has laid down. The means by which men are to attain great elevation may be classed in three divisions — physical, mental, and moral. Whatever relates to health, belongs to the first; whatever relates to the improvement of the mind, belongs to the second. The formation of good manners and virtuous habits constitutes the third.
  • A man is known by the company he keeps.
  • Good-breeding, or true politeness, is the art of showing men by external signs the internal regard we have for them. It arises from good sense, improved by good company. It must be acquired by practice and not by books.
  • Be kind, condescending, and affable. Any one who has anything to say to a fellow-being, to say it with kind feelings and sincere desire to please; and this, whenever it is done, will atone for much awkwardness in the manner of expression.
  • Good-breeding is opposed to selfishness, vanity, or pride. Never weary your company by talking too long or too frequently.
  • Always look people in the face when addressing them, and generally when they address you.
  • Never engross the whole conversation to yourself. Say as little of yourself and friends as possible.
  • Make it a rule never to accuse without due consideration any body or association of men.

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