Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/152

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


146 Southern Historical Society Papers.

While he had, by hard work, mastered the subject which he taught, he had but little capacity for imparting instruction, and showed so little tact and skill as a teacher that just before the break- ing out of the war a committee of the alumni of the Virginia Military Institute, headed by Colonel John B. Strange, who was killed at Sharpsburg, waited on the board of visitors and " demanded the re- moval of Professor Jackson for utter incompetency." There were traditions that he greatly distinguished himself in the Mexican war, and stories were told of his walking back and forth on a road plowed by the enemy's artillery to inspire his men with courage ; sitting all alone on one of his guns after his men had been driven off, because " he had received no orders to leave, and of his standing to his guns on another occasion after his infantry support had fled, and driving off a greatly superior force of the enemy. But his brilliant career and rapid promotion in Mexico had been well nigh lost sight of, and when, in the early days of the war, his old neighbor and friend, Goy- ernor John Letcher, nominated him to the Virginia convention for a commission as colonel, a member arose and asked : "Who is this Major Jackson, anyhow ? " and it took all the eloquence of the Rock- bridge delegates to secure his confirmation.

I remember that the soldiers at Harper's Ferry, when he was sent to command us, also asked, " Who is this Colonel Jackson ? " but that before he had been in command forty-eight hours we felt his strong hand, recognized the difference between him and certain militia officers who had previously had charge of the post, and real- ized that we were at least under the command of a real soldier and a rigid disciplinarian.

MY FIRST MEETING WITH HIM.

I saw him frequently at Harper's Ferry sometimes paced the lonely sentinel's beat in front of his headquarters but the first time I ever came in personal contact with him was at Darkesville on the 4th of July, 1861, when we were drawn up in line of battle to meet General Patterson. The skill and tact with which he had reduced the high-spirited rabble which rushed to Harper's Ferry at the first tap of the drum into the respectable "Army of the Shenandoah," which he turned over to General J. E. Johnston the last of May, and his skirmish at Falling Waters (which we then exaggerated into an important victory), had won him some reputation, and I was anxious to see him again.

I have a vivid recollection of how he impressed me. Dressed in