No leader in the American Civil War was more skilled or gallant than Stonewall Jackson. His earnestness of purpose, determination to do right as he saw it, and military genius made him admired by friend and foe alike.
Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born on Jan. 21, 1824, in Clarksburg, Va. (now West Virginia). When Thomas was 3 years old his parents died penniless, and he went to live with his uncle.
After attending a small country school in Virginia, he decided to go to the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He set out for Washington, D.C., traveling part of the way on foot. When he arrived he presented himself before the secretary of war and asked for an appointment to the academy. The secretary, impressed by the boy's determination, immediately gave him the appointment.
After his graduation, in 1846, he served in the Mexican War. In seven months he rose from second lieutenant to major. In 1851 he resigned from the army to teach at Virginia Military Institute.
He continued teaching until 1861, when the crisis arose between the North and the South. Jackson wanted to see the Union preserved, but he believed that the South had a just cause. He therefore supported it. His record won him a commission as colonel and rapid promotion to brigadier general.
General Barnard E. Bee is credited with giving Jackson his nickname. At the first battle of Bull Run, Jackson's troops held firm when others wavered. Bee rallied his disorganized men with: "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall." Thereafter Jackson was known as Stonewall.
Stonewall Jackson marched his men swiftly and over long distances into battle. Stonewall Jackson's troops became known as "Jackson's foot cavalry." His strict discipline and long marches tested his men to the limits of their endurance, but they admired and loved their commander.
In May 1863 at Chancellorsville, Va., Jackson half-circled the Union Army and surprised it from behind. This attack contributed largely to the Confederate victory. But at dusk on May 2, as Jackson and his escort returned from an observation point, one of his own outposts mistook them for a detachment of Federal cavalry and fired. Jackson fell, seriously wounded, and died eight days later of pneumonia.
Jackson is remembered as a great general and as an earnest and religious man. On the march he carried two books: Napoleon's 'Maxims of War' and the Bible.