Skip to comments.Stonewall was one strange dude
Posted on 11/11/2002 7:12:48 AM PST by stainlessbanner
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, perhaps the most feared and respected of Confederate generals, was by most accounts an odd person to have over for dinner.
Awkward, with a thin, almost feminine voice, Jackson was incapable of chatty conversation. He obsessed about digestion and was known to bring his own food -- crusts of stale bread, usually -- to parties.
Aside from his military accomplishments, Jackson's eccentricities are what many acquaintances remembered after his death in 1863. But there was much they didn't see.
Jackson's "Book of Maxims," a collection of slogans and bits of wisdom he compiled as a young officer, reveals the kind of man Jackson hoped to become before the country was split by the Civil War. The book was believed to have disappeared until about 13 years ago, and copies are now available.
"Too often, the popular perception of Jackson was of a religious zealot, a loose cannon, a hypochondriac, the village idiot," said Jackson biographer James Robertson Jr., who rediscovered the maxims in a mislabeled box at Tulane University.
"This book shows he was not. He was a very determined man. He was a man who wanted to be liked, who wanted to be part of society if only he could learn how."
Jackson grew up the orphaned son of a failed lawyer in the mountains of what is now West Virginia. He had less than a fourth-grade education when he entered West Point, and his time in New York was spent mostly alone.
"He'd be invited to an afternoon tea, and he'd go and just stand against the wall," Robertson said. "He didn't know what else to do."
His maxims, which he collected in his late 20s from books he was reading and from his own experience, provide a rare view into Jackson's mind at this awkward time.
There were tips for meeting friends: "A man is known by the company he keeps" and "Never weary your company by talking too long or too frequently."
Longer entries dealt with one of his greater difficulties, how to socialize: "Sit or stand still while another is speaking to you -- (do) not dig in the earth with your foot nor take your knife from your pocket & pare your nales (sic) nor other such actions."
Some of his maxims were meant for inspiration. The most famous, "You may be what ever you will resolve to be," is now displayed on an archway at Virginia Military Institute, where Jackson was a professor.
VMI Cadets at Stonewall Jackson's grave, ca. 1868. From the VMI Archives photograph collection.
Major Gen. F.H. Smith
Supt., Virginia Military Institute
By Command of the Governor I have this day to perform the most painful duty of my official life in announcing to you and through you to the Faculty & Cadets of the Virginia Mil. Institute the death of the great and good--the heroic and illustrious Lieut. General T.J. Jackson at 15 minutes past 3 oclock yesterday afternoon.
This heavy bereavement over which every true heart within the bounds of the Confederacy mourns with inexpressible sorrow--must fall if possible with heavier force upon that Noble State Institution to which he came from the battle-fields of Mexico, and where he gave to his native state the first years service of his modest and unobtrusive but public spirited and useful life.
It would be a senseless waste of words to attempt a eulogy upon this great among the greatest of sons who have immortalized Virginia. To the Corps of Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, what a legacy he has left you, what an example of all that is good and great and true in the character of a Christian Soldier.
The Governor directs that the highest funeral honors be paid to his memory, that the customary outward badges of mourning be worn by all the officers and cadets of the Institution.
By command, W.H. Richardson, A.G.
By Command of Major Genl. Smith. A.G. Hill, Actg. Adjt., V.M.I.
God Bless the Confederacy!!
It is honestly questionable whether the man could make it in today's military heirarchy given this limitation, no joke, but then that may have been true of the antebellum U.S. as well - war tends to bring out the fighters as a peacetime military does not. You wouldn't want to invite Grant to a tea party either.
"...There, clearly in view, was Jackson's Mill! The West Fork River was still curling like a moat around the boundaries of the family home place. ...Look! He could see the little boy: tired, withdrawn, alone.
He knew where the lad was going. It was where he wanted to go. On the other side of the West Fork was the little grove of white poplars that was his solitude---and his refuge---from the cares of the world. The sanctuary beckoned to him now with an intensity he had never felt before.
"Let us cross over the river," he exclaimed, "and rest under the shade of the trees."
-Tom Jackson had come home. (Robertson, pg. 753)
Jackson, at Chanchellorsville before being shot.
I am sure that the quote can be found in Shaara's God's and Generals, the prequel to Killer Angels, from which "Gettysburg" was made, and is to be a theatric release in Feb. 2003.
"Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
Lexington is a great place to visit if you are a history buff. VMI is an inspriation to anyone who values honor. If you go around behind the main barracks building you can still see cannon balls in the wall. These were shot by Northern Aggressors trying to tear down a great Southern monument. There is a museum there in the basement of the chapel. The room that was Stonewall's classroom is on the first floor of the barracks and is an upper class cadets barracks room. You can't go in the barracks, except on vistor days.
Next door to VMI is Washington-Lee University. Robert E. Lee was President there after The War of Northern Aggression. Lee's tomb is in the Lee Chapel there. His horse Travler is buried just outside the back door on the right side of the Chapel. You can see the house that Lee lived in there and Traveler's stable.
The FIRST War of Northern Aggression
Who else did this? George Washington, with his Rules of Behavior.
Stonewall Jackson had a very tough early life, marked by extreme adversity and loss. It's remarkable that he was able to make anything out of himself, much less the great man he became. No surprise that he had little time for chitchat.
He was also an even more complex character than is generally known (and the popular stereotype/caricature is already pretty complex). His Mexican War experience launched him into speaking Spanish fluently and he was fascinated with Mexico. If there had been no American Civil War, or if he had not been killed in it, it's possible he would have ended up back there.
There are some intriguing Stonewall stories that run a bit counter to the hagiography. At the risk of offending the confederates here, there is an account that Stonewall had a child by a black woman. (Free or slave, I don't know.) This was supposedly after the death of his first wife and before his remarriage. I had this from a very eminent Civil War historian, not a southern hater, who was not certain of the story but tended to credit it. I wonder if anyone else has information on this.
Before Standwatie sends out a scalping party, let me acknowledge that I am a great Stonewall admirer. (And with regard to race, I know Jackson taught Sunday school to the local black children in Lexington.) I just think these characters are much more interesting in three dimensions.
It just runs counter to everything that is know about the man's character. Fornication? I don't think so. It is easier to believe of some than others.
Perhaps. I've not made a study of the subject. I am aware that Jubal Early, who never married, had both a white and a black family. Don't know about the others. The antebellum South tolerated a very high degree of miscegenation. In fact, the historic southern white obsession over black men and white women is one of the clearest cases of projection one can find, given that many of those "black" men were actually pretty brown and close cousins to the local white gentry.
Lee and His Generals
I once read a good article in the Christian Science Monitor (I think that was the paper) which showed there were hardly any mulattoes in the South prior to the WBTS. The information was taken from the 1860 or 1850 census which listed mulattoes.
The lemons were said to have been a treat sent to him by a Florida grower. I reckon once the sack or two of them ran out, that was it. But it can get to be a habit.
I would hope there's a good hound around just out of the picture as well, a loved and favoured one.
We'll cross that river when we come to it, I suppose. I wonder if the General will be awaiting us.
It is in some dispute if his habit of compressing cold towels to his body where he felt pain may have contributed to his contracting pneumonia which eventually killed him.
His troops loved him, that says a lot.
I was thinking that if we had before us, for example, the Impeached Ex-President Clinton and George W. Bush; and someone said, "One of them has fathered a child out of wedlock" we might find it easier to believe of the former than of the latter.
The antebellum South tolerated a very high degree of miscegenation.
I still think that as a truly devoted Christian (Presbyterian, BTW), he would not have followed the prevailing culture, whatever it may have been, but the Holy Scriptures, which forbid fornication.
"I like liquor - its taste and its effects - and that is just the reason why I never drink it."
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson
BTW, here's another one from Jackson:
"People who are anxious to bring on war don't know what they are bargaining for; they don't see all the horrors that must accompany such an event."
The world should have heeded those words in 1915 and 1916, and we would never have had Hitler, or the soviet Bloc, or Red China, or many other evils.