1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jackson, Thomas Jonathan
|←Jackson, Thomas||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 15
Jackson, Thomas Jonathan
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JACKSON, THOMAS JONATHAN (1824-1863), known as "Stonewall Jackson," American general, was born at Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), on the 21st of January 1824, and was descended from an Ulster family. At an early age he was left a penniless orphan, and his education was acquired in a small country school until he procured, mainly by his own energy, a nomination to the Military Academy. Lack of social graces and the deficiencies of his early education impeded him at first, but "in the end 'Old Jack,' as he was always called, with his desperate earnestness, his unflinching straightforwardness, and his high sense of honour, came to be regarded with something like affection." Such qualities he displayed not less amongst the light-hearted cadets than afterwards at the head of troops in battle. After graduating he took part, as second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery, in the Mexican War. At Vera Cruz he won the rank of first lieutenant, and for gallant conduct at Contreras and Chapultepec respectively he was brevetted captain and major, a rank which he attained with less than one year's service. During his stay in the city of Mexico his thoughts were seriously directed toward religion, and, eventually entering the Presbyterian communion, he ruled every subsequent action of his life by his faith. In 1851 he applied for and obtained a professorship at the Virginia military institute, Lexington; and here, except for a short visit to Europe, he remained for ten years, teaching natural science, the theory of gunnery and battalion drill. Though he was not a good teacher, his influence both on his pupils and on those few intimate friends for whom alone he relaxed the gravity of his manner was profound, and, little as he was known to the white inhabitants of Lexington, he was revered by the slaves, to whom he showed uniform kindness, and for whose moral instruction he worked unceasingly. As to the great question at issue in 1861, Major Jackson's ruling motive was devotion to his state, and when Virginia seceded, on the 17th of April, and the Lexington cadets were ordered to Richmond, Jackson went thither in command of the corps. His intimate friend, Governor Letcher, appreciating his gifts, sent him as a colonel of infantry to Harper's Ferry, where the first collision with the Union forces was hourly expected. In June he received the command of a brigade, and in July promotion to the rank of brigadier-general. He had well employed the short time at his disposal for training his men, and on the first field of Bull Run they won for themselves and their brigadier, by their rigid steadiness at the critical moment of the battle, the historic name of "Stonewall."
After the battle of Bull Run Jackson spent some time in the furthering training of his brigade which, to his infinite regret, he was compelled to leave behind him when, in October, he was assigned as a major-general to command in the Shenandoah Valley. His army had to be formed out of local troops, and few modern weapons were available, but the Valley regiments retained the impress of Jackson's training till the days of Cedar Creek. Discipline was not acquired at once, however, and the first ventures of the force were not very successful. At Kernstown, indeed, Jackson was tactically defeated by the Federals under Shields (March 23, 1862). But the Stonewall brigade had been sent to its old leader in November, and by the time that the famous Valley Campaign (see Shenandoah Valley Campaigns) began, the forces under Jackson's command had acquired cohesion and power of manœuvre. On the 8th of May 1862 was fought the combat of McDowell, won by Jackon against the leading troops of Frémont's command from West Virginia. Three weeks later the forces under Banks were being driven over the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and Jackson was master of the Valley. Every other plan of campain in Virginia was at once subordinated to the scheme of "trapping Jackson." But the Confederates, marching swiftly up the Valley, slipped between the converging columns of Frémont from the west and McDowell from the east, and concluded a most daring campaign by the victorious actions of Cross Keys and Port Republic (8th and 9th of June). While the forces of the North were still scattered, Jackson secretly left the Valley to take a decisive part in Lee's campaign before Richmond. In the "Seven Days" Jackson was frequently at fault, but his driving energy bore no small part in securing the defeat of McClellan's advance on Richmond. Here he passed for the first time under the direct orders of Robert Lee, and the rest of his career was spent in command of the II. corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. As Lee's chief and most trusted subordinate he was throughout charged with the execution of the more delicate and difficult operations of his commander's hazardous strategy. After his victory over Banks at Cedar Mountain, near Culpeper, Virginia, Jackson led the daring march round the flank of General Pope's army, which against all theoretical rules ended in the great victory of second Bull Run. In the Maryland campaign Lieut.-General Jackson was again detached from the main army. Eleven thousand Federals, surrounded in Harper's Ferry, were forced to surrender, and Jackson rejoined Lee just in time to oppose McClellan's advance. At the Antietam his corps bore the brunt of the battle, which was one of the most stubborn of modern warfare, At Fredericksburg his wing of Lee's line of battle was heavily engaged, and his last battle, before Chancellorsville, in the thickets of the Wilderness, was his greatest triumph. By one of his secret and swift flank marches he placed his corps on the flank of the enemy, and on the 2nd of May flung them against the Federal XI. corps, which was utterly routed. At the close of a day of victory he was reconnoitring the hostile positions when suddenly the Confederate outposts opened fire upon his staff, whom they mistook in the dark and tangled forest for Federal cavalry. Jackson fell wounded, and on the 10th of May he died at Guinea's station. He was buried, according to his own wish at Lexington, where a statue and a memorial hall commemorate his connexion with the place; and on the spot where he was mortally wounded stands a plaln granite pillar. The first contribution towards the bronze statue at Richmond was made by the negro Baptist congregation for which Jackson had laboured so earnestly in his Lexington years. He was twice married, first to Eleanor (d. 1854), daughter of George Junkin, president of Washington College, Virginia, and secondly in 1857 to Mary Ann Morrison, daughter of a North Carolina clergyman.
That Jackson's death, at a critical moment in the fortunes of the Confederacy, was an irreparable loss was disputed by no one. Lee said that he had lost his right arm, and, good soldiers as were the other generals, not one amongst them was comparable to Jackson, whose name was dreaded in the North like that of Lee himself. His military character was the enlargement of his personal character—"desperate earnestness, unflinching straightforwardness," and absolute, almost fatalistic, trust in the guidance of providence. At the head of his troops, who idolized him, he was a Cromwell, adding to the zeal of a fanatic and the energy of a born leader the special military skill and trained soldierly spirit which the English commander had to gain by experience. His Christianity was conspicuous, even among deeply religious men like Lee and Stuart, and penetrated every part of his character and conduct.
See lives by R. L. Dabney (New York, 1883), J. E. Cooke (New York, 1866), M. A. Jackson (General Jackson's widow) (New York, 1892); and especially G. F. R. Henderson, Stonewall Jackson (London, 1898), and H. A. White, Stonewall Jackson (Philadelphia, 1909).