The Life of General “Stonewall” Jackson
Category: History
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Stonewall Jack was a Confederate general and a major player in the American Civil War. During the war, his soldiers fired upon Jackson accidentally, eventually leading to his death. Jackson was such an influential leader and tactician that his death was a significant blow to the Confederacy. Could Jackson have changed the tide of the war? Read about the life and formulaic years of the legendary man in The Life of General "Stonewall" Jackson.

The Life of General “Stonewall” Jackson

Mary L. Williamson

The Life of General “Stonewall” Jackson

Stonewall Jackson’s Way

Des Rivieres.

Come! stack arms, men; pile on the rails,
Stir up the camp-fires bright;
No matter if the canteen fails,
We’ll make a roaring night.
Here Shenandoah brawls along,
There lofty Blue Ridge echoes strong
To swell the brigade’s rousing song
Of “Stonewall Jackson’s Way.”

We see him now — the old slouched hat
Cocked o’er his eye askew;
The shrewd, dry smile, the speech so pat,
So calm, so blunt, so true.
The “Blue Light Elder” knows them well:
Says he, “That’s Banks — he’s fond of shell;
Lord save his soul! we’ll give him —” Well,
That’s Stonewall Jackson’s Way.

Silence! ground arms! kneel all! caps off!
“Old Blue Light’s” going to pray;
Strangle the fool who dares to scoff!
Attention! it’s his way:
Appealing from his native sod,
In forma pauperis to God —
“Lay bare thine arm, stretch forth thy rod;
Amen!” That’s Stonewall Jackson’s Way.

He’s in the saddle now. Fall in!
Steady! the whole brigade!
Hill’s at the ford, cut off! We’ll win
His way out ball and blade.
What matter if our shoes are worn?
What matter if our feet are torn?
Quick step! we’re with him e’er the morn!
That’s Stonewall Jackson’s Way.

The sun’s bright glances rout the mists
Of morning — and, by George!
There’s Longstreet struggling in the lists,
Hemmed in an ugly gorge.
Pope and his columns whipped before. —
“Bay’nets and grape!” hear Stonewall roar;
“Charge, Stuart! pay off Ashby’s score!”
Is “Stonewall Jackson’s Way.”

Chapter I
An Orphan Boy

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born January 21, 1824, at Clarksburg, West Virginia, which state was then a part of old Virginia. He sprang from Scotch-Irish stock. His great-grandfather, John Jackson, was born in Ireland, but his parents moved to the city of London when John was only two years old. John Jackson grew up to be a great trader. In 1748 he came to the New World to make his fortune, and landed in the State of Maryland. Not long after, he married Elizabeth Cummins, a young woman who was noted for her good looks, fine mind, and great height.

House in which Jackson was Born, Clarksburg, Va.House in which Jackson was Born, Clarksburg, Va.

John Jackson with his wife soon moved West, and at last took up lands in what is now known as Upshur county, West Virginia. As land was then cheap, he soon owned a large tract of country, and was a rich man for those times. He was greatly aided by his brave wife, Elizabeth. In those days the Indians still made war upon the whites, who would flee for safety into the forts or strongholds. It is said that in more than one of those Indian raids Elizabeth Jackson aided in driving off the foe.

Father of “Stonewall” Jackson.Father of “Stonewall” Jackson.

When the great Revolutionary war came on, John Jackson and several of his sons marched to the war; and at its close came back safe to their Virginia home. In these lovely and fertile valleys, John Jackson and his wife Elizabeth passed long and active lives. The husband lived to be eighty-six years old, while his wife lived to the great age of one hundred and five years. Her strength of body and mind fitted her to rear a race of mighty men.

Thomas Jonathan was the great-grandson of these good people. His father, Jonathan Jackson, was a lawyer. He is said to have been a man of good mind and kind heart. Thomas’s mother was Julia Neale, the daughter of a merchant in the then village of Parkersburg, on the Ohio river. Mrs. Jackson was good and beautiful. Thomas had one brother, Warren, and two sisters, Elizabeth and Laura. Not long after the birth of the baby Laura, Elizabeth was taken sick with fever and died. Her father, worn out with nursing, was also taken ill; and two weeks after her death he was laid in a grave by her side.

After his death it was found that he had left no property for his widow and babes. They were now without a home, and the Masonic Order gave the widow a house of one room. Here she sewed, and taught school, caring as well as she could for her little fatherless children.

In the year 1830 she married Mr. Woodson, a lawyer, who was pleased with her youth and beauty. Her children — Warren, Thomas, and Laura — were now claimed by their father’s family, who did not like the second marriage of the mother.

As her new husband was not a rich man, she was at last forced to give them up. Little Jonathan, then only seven years old, was placed behind good, old “Uncle Robinson,” the last of his father’s slaves, and sent away to his aunt, Mrs. Brake, who lived about four miles from Clarksburg.

After being one year at his aunt’s he was sent for to see his mother die. Death for her had no sting; and Thomas, long years after, said that her dying words and prayers had never been erased from his heart. She was laid to rest not far from the famous Hawk’s Nest, on New river, West Virginia.

Jonathan was then a pretty child, with rosy cheeks, wavy brown hair, and deep-blue eyes. It is said of him that, as a child, he was strangely quiet and manly. The sadness of his young life made him grave and thoughtful beyond his years. When he was but eight years old he went one day to the home of his father’s cousin, Judge John G. Jackson, in Clarksburg.

While eating his dinner, he said to Mrs. Jackson in a quiet way, “Uncle and I don’t agree. I have quit him and shall not go back any more.” His kind cousin tried to show him that he was in fault and that he should go back to his Uncle Brake. He only shook his head and said more firmly than ever, “No, uncle and I don’t agree. I have quit him and shall not go back any more.” It seems that his uncle had tried to govern him by force rather than through his sense of right and wrong. So, this strange child calmly made up his mind not to stay where there would be constant warfare.

From Judge Jackson’s he went that evening to the home of another cousin, who also tried to persuade him to return to his Uncle Brake. But Jonathan only said, “I have quit there. I shall not go back there any more.” The next morning he set out alone and on foot, and went eighteen miles to the home of his uncle, Cummins Jackson, the half-brother of his father.

There he found his brother Warren, and soon felt quite at home with his kind uncle and aunts. His Uncle Cummins was a bachelor, who owned a fine farm and mills, and was one of the largest slave-owners in Lewis county.

He was quite fond of his little nephew, and took pains to teach him all the arts of country life. He treated him more as an equal than as a child, for he saw at once the noble nature with which he had to deal. He also sent Thomas and Warren to the nearest county school, but Warren, now a bold lad of fourteen years, did not like such restraint. He at last induced Thomas to go with him from their uncle’s home to seek their fortunes in the great West.

After stopping for a time at the home of their uncle on the Ohio river, they went down that river, and for some months were not heard from.

In the fall of that year, they returned to their kind friends, ragged, and ill with chills and fever.

Their story was that they made a raft and floated down to one of the lonely islands in the Mississippi river near the Kentucky shore, where they cut wood for steamboats on the river. Here they spent the summer alone, with little food, in the midst of a dense forest surrounded by the turbid, rushing waters of the great Mississippi.

At last, illness forced them to seek their way homeward; and Thomas boldly said that he was going back to his good Uncle Cummins. Warren stopped at the home of his Uncle Brake, but disease had laid so firm a hold upon him that, after lingering a few years, he died, aged about nineteen.

Warren and Thomas on the Ohio river.Warren and Thomas on the Ohio river.

Thomas and Laura were now all that were left of the little family. They lived together for several months at their Uncle Cummins’s, and it is told of Thomas that he was very fond of his little sister. Across the brook from the house was a large grove of sugar-maple trees where they would go to play “making sugar.” It was a great pleasure to Thomas to build bridges for his little sister to walk on in crossing the stream, and many were the delights of the cool and fragrant forests. But in a short time Laura was sent to live with her mother’s friends in Wood county, and Thomas was left alone. Though they could not live together, Thomas always cherished the warmest love for his sister, and the very first money he ever earned was spent in buying a silk dress for her.

Thomas now went to school to Mr. Robert P. Ray. He showed no aptness for any study except arithmetic. When called upon to recite a lesson, he would flatly say that he did not understand it and, therefore, was not ready; nor would he go to the next lesson until he had learned the first perfectly. Thus, he was always behind his class. He was never surly at school, but was always ready for a merry romp or play. When there were games of “bat and ball” or “prisoner’s base,” he was sure to be chosen captain of one side, and that side generally won.

As long as he was treated fairly by his playmates, he was gentle and yielding; but, if he thought himself wronged, he did not hesitate to fight it out. It is said that he would never admit that he had been beaten in a fray, and was always ready to renew the contest when his foe assailed him again.

In the summer, Thomas worked on the farm and became of use to his uncle in many ways. One of his most frequent tasks was to haul great logs of oak and pine from the wood to the saw-mill. He, thus, became a famous driver of oxen, and was known throughout the country-side as a young man of great strength and courage.

So his life was passed, from nine to sixteen, between the school and the farm. He was then like his father, of low stature, but he afterwards grew tall like the men of his mother’s race.

About this time, he was made constable of one-half of Lewis county. We see him now with his bag of bills and account books going up and down the hills of Lewis county. In this work he had to be firm and exact, for it was now his task to collect money due for debts.

This story is told of his nerve and skill in doing this unpleasant duty. A man who owed a debt of ten dollars promised to pay it at a given time. The day came and the man failed to keep his word. Young Jackson paid the money out of his own purse, and then watched for the man who would not pay his debt. The very next morning the man came riding up the street on a good horse. Jackson at once taxed him with not keeping his word, and was going to take the horse for the debt, when the latter resisted, and a fierce fight took place in the street. In the midst of the fray the man mounted his horse and was riding off.

Jackson, however, sprang forward and seized the bridle. Seeing that he could get the man off the horse in no other way, he led it to the low door of a stable near by. The man cuffed him right and left, but Jackson clung to the bridle, and pulled the horse into the stable. The man was thus forced to slide off to keep from being knocked off; and Jackson got the horse.

Though this life in the open air was good for the health of our hero, it did not benefit his morals. He was kept much from home, and was thrown with the worst class of people in the county.

The Life of General “Stonewall” Jackson

His aunts had now married, and his Uncle Cummins waskeeping “bachelor’s hall.” He also kept race horses, and nonesave Thomas could ride for him if a contest was close.

It was said through all that country that if a horse could win, he would do so if young Tom Jackson rode him in the race.

It is sad to think of this young man thrown upon the world without mother or sister or any human influence, save his own will, to keep him in the right way. But in this wild, rough life the great wish of his heart was to reach that condition from which he had been thrust when left a poor orphan boy. And even now the great God, who has said that He will be a father to the fatherless, was opening up a way to a great and notable career.

Constable (kun′-sta-ble), an officer of the peace.
Nõ-ta-ble, wonderful.
Ca-reer′, a course.
In′-flu-ence, power not seen.

Do you remember —
The name of Thomas’s father?
The place of his birth?
His early loss of father and mother?
His life at Uncle Cummins’s?
The story told of him when constable?
The wish of his heart in the midst of his wild, rough life?

Chapter II
A Cadet

In 1842, the place of a cadet in the great academy at West Point became vacant. In that school or academy the young men of the United States are trained to become soldiers. Thomas at once sought and secured the place, and very soon set out on horseback to Clarksburg, where he would take the coach going to Washington.

He was clad in home-spun clothes, and his whole wardrobe was packed in a pair of saddle-bags.

When he reached Clarksburg, he found that the coach had passed by; but he rode on until he overtook it and then went on to Washington city.

He was kindly met by his friend Mr. Hays, member of Congress from his district, who took him at once to the Secretary of War. The latter was so pleased with his manly bearing and direct speech that he ordered his warrant to be made out at once.

Mr. Hays wished him to stay in Washington for a few days in order to see the sights of the city, but he was content to climb to the top of the dome of the Capitol, from which he could view the whole scene at once. He was then ready to go on to West Point for examination. His great trouble now was the thought that he might not know enough to stand that examination.

Mr. Hays wrote to his friends at the academy and asked them to be easy in examining the mountain boy, who wished so much to be a soldier; and it is said that they asked him no very hard questions.

Thomas was now eighteen years old. He had a fresh, ruddy face, and was strong and full of courage.

View of West Point from Port Putnam.View of West Point from Port Putnam.

The fourth-class men at this school were called by their school-mates “plebs,” and were made to sweep and scrub the barracks and to do other tasks of the same kind. The third-class men would play pranks upon the new boys, some of which were quite hard to bear. Now, when they saw this country boy in his home-spun clothes, they thought that they would have rare sport out of him. But such were his courage and good temper that they soon let him alone.

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