- Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia)
- January 21, 1824 – Born
Life Sketch from The Other Eminent Men of Wilford WoodruffCopyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. American Confederate General 1824-1863 General Jackson trained his troops not only in methods of war but also in the art of prayer. Jackson wrote to his wife, “My prayer is that it may be an army of the living God, as well as of its country.” From the very beginning of the war he asked the Confederate government to provide good chaplains. Under his leadership, Jackson caused that his chaplain, Reverend Lacy, preach every Sabbath when the troops were in camp. All were welcomed to come and worship, though no order was given. Through the constant attendance of General Jackson and frequent appearances of General Lee, these religious gatherings drew vast crowds of soldiers. The soldiers became impressed by Jackson’s devotion and his great desire to lead them not only to do their duty in battle but also to follow the great Captain of their salvation.
“Duty is ours, consequences are Gods.”
– Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
Early LifeThomas Jonathan Jackson’s ancestors came to America from Scotland. Not finding the coastal towns to their liking, his great grandparents settled in the wild country of the Appalachian Valley. His great-grandfather and all of his sons bore arms in the Revolutionary War. They maintained a warm feeling of clanship and developed a capacity for hard work. Jackson was born in Clarksburg, Virginia on 21 January 1824. (Clarksburg is now in West Virginia). He was but three years old when his father died. Since Jackson’s father had been an officer in the Freemasons, they build a one-room log cabin for the family to live in. Here, in this one-room cabin, Jackson’s mother taught a little school and took in sewing in an effort to support her family. In 1830, Mrs. Jackson remarried, this time to a Mr. Woodson. Mr. Woodson’s income was inadequate to support the little family that included not only Jackson but his older brother, Warren, and younger sister, Laura. Jackson and his brother were sent to live with relatives. It was a heart-breaking separation. His mother placed him on a horse to leave for his uncle’s home, then “bidding him goodbye, her yearning heart called him back once more and, clasping him to her bosom, she gave vent to her feelings in a flood of tears. That parting he never forgot; nor could he speak of it in after-years but with the utmost tenderness.” The health of Jackson’s mother was not robust; she lived but a year after her remarriage. In the last moments of her life she sent for her two fatherless boys and at her bedside she gave them her farewell blessing. Jackson said later that his mother lovingly bade them farewell. Major General Fitzhugh Lee, C.S.A., stated: “Great soldiers have been molded into shape by the watchful care of noble mothers…. [Jackson’s] future career was sustained by the dying prayers of his mother.” Jackson named his only surviving child, born during the war, Julia, in memory of his mother. Thomas and his sister, Laura, lived with their grandmother Jackson, passing many happy days together. Laura followed him everywhere, and they spent many hours making maple sugar together. Laura recalled that no matter what he undertook, whether of work or play he “never gave up.” His brother Warren was of a an unruly nature. After Grandmother Jackson died, Laura had to go live with other relatives. This parting was difficult for the young children. Jackson and Warren stayed with Uncle Cumins, a bachelor.
Warren’s DeathWhen Jackson was twelve years old and Warren fourteen, the older brother convinced the younger to leave his kindly Uncle Cumins and accompany him down the Mississippi River to seek their fortune. The trip was a terrible struggle and after near starvation they returned to their relatives in the most pitiful condition. They had contracted fever and chills from having lived on an island. This incident deeply affected both boys’ health. Warren never did recover, and in his nineteenth year he died of consumption. Before his death, he called for his sister and brother to come to his bedside. “They found that this long illness, with the influence of his sainted mother, had changed the ungoverned boy to such gentleness and submission, that he no longer wished to live, but was able to depart in perfect peace.” Jackson’s personal motto was: “You may be whatever you resolve to be.”
Becoming a constableWith the help of friends and the influence of his uncle, young Jackson was able to procure the position of constable when he was seventeen years old. In those days the office of constable was not an easy job, for collecting debts, as the job entailed, was a thankless task. The day after a debter did not show at an arranged meeting the same man rode into town on a new horse. While the horse could be used to pay the debt, the law stated that a man’s horse could not be taken from him while he was on it. Jackson waited until the man had dismounted, then approached him about his breach of payment and took the reins. The man immediatly remounted. Holding onto the bridle, Jackson led the horse to a nearby stable and told the man to either “get off or be knocked off.” The man dismounted.
Entering the ArmyJackson dreamed of attending West Point and pursuing a military career, a dream which was unexpectedly realized just before his nineteenth birthday. An opening for his district occurred at West Point. Learning of this opportunity, Jackson worked hard to obtain the nomination. Jackson’s lack of adequate education was his greatest obstacle. To this he countered that his determination would make up for his missing education. It was the Secretary of War who finally stated: “Sir, you have a good name. Go to West Point, and the first man who insults you, knock him down and have it charged to my account.” Jackson’s reputation as a “peculiar” country boy was immediatly established when he stepped on to West Point’s parade ground in his home spun Virginia wools. Making him seem even more peculiar was his poor health. Due to a disorder of the stomach, he sat “bolt straight” in his chair through each class. So branded, he was often taunted by his classmates. Being ridiculed was just the beginning of Jackson’s troubles at West Point. His meager education, as had been predicted, was a great diadvantage. Afraid he might not make it through his first year, he spent many late nights studying, and that first year he finished fifty-first in a class of over eighty. The next year he clumbed to thirtieth, his junior year he finished twentieth, and his senior year he graduated seventeenth. Some of his friends speculated hthat had there been one more year he would have graduated first in his class. After graduating, he entered the Mexican War as a second lieutenant in the First Artillery. His bravery in this war won him recognition and advancement. At Vera Cruz he won the rank of first lieutenant, and for gallant conduct at Contreras and Chapultepec he was brevetted captain and major, a rank he attained after less than a year’s service. While in Mexico, Jackson was promoted more frequently than any officer of the United States Army. It was in Mexico that Jackson began to search for a spiritual basis to his life. Under the guidance of Colonel Frank Yalor, he was exposed to theologival discussions and fervent prayers. He studied thoroughly the Catholic Chruch, and gained many spiritual insights from the clergy with whom he studied. Returning home to Virginia, he left the army to be a professor at the Military Academy. Once he was settleed there, Jackson renewed his investigation into religion. He visited all the local sects and became a great student of the Bible. Convinced of the need of baptism, he eventually joined the Presbyterian church, although he did not accept all of Presbyterian theology. In particular, the doctrines of predestination and infant baptism seemed unacceptable to him. He felt that he never found the completely true church.
Marriage to Elinor JunkinIn 1853, he met and married Elinor Junkin, the daughter of Reverend Dr. George Junkin. Those who knew her referred to her as a “beautiful type of Christian womanhood.” This marriage brought him great happiness. But his joy was not to last. Within fourteen months Elinor died in giving birth to a child also born dead. But his resignation to God’s will was unshaken. In a letter to his aunt he wrote of his wife: “God’s will was unshaken. In a letter to his aunt he wrote of his wife: “God’s promises change not. She was a child of God, and as such he is enjoying Him forever.” In an attempt to alleviate his grief he left on an extended tour of Europe. On this tour he studied the strategies of Napoleon and stand where that actual battle took place. “Napoleon,” he said, “was the first to show what an army could be made to accomplish.” Here he may have come to understand the great power of being a military strategist as he compare to a mere military tactician, and understanding the later affected his great successes in battle. On the return trip his thoughts turned to a minister’s daughter, Mary Anna Morrison, whom he had once met. Not only after he returned to the States, he traveled to see her, and soon they were married. This union soon produced an additional tragedy for Jackson; their first baby, a daughter, lived only a few weeks.
Entering the Confederate ArmyIn 1861, the Civil War began, and Jackson entered the Confederate Army as a commissioned officer. Napoleon once said: “In war men are nothing; it is the man who is everything. The general is the head, the whole of an army.” A look at history show the truth of this statement: history focuses not upon the great armies, but upon the great leaders—Ceasar, Hannibal, Alexander the Great, Frederick the Great, George Washington. Jackson became such a leader. It was at the first battle of Manassas that Jackson earned the title of “Stonewall.” The tide of the battle had turned against the South and General Barnard F. Bee rode to consult with General Jackson. Jackson reaffirmed to the general his intent to not give way. Inspired by Jackson, General Bee rode back to his troops and shouted, “Look yonder! There is Jackson and his brigade standing like a stone wall. Let us determineto die here and we will rally behind them.” Jackson’s strategy was to march many miles, strike rapidly with great energy, and suprise the enemy at its flanks. A fierce, sudden attack, he felt shortened the conflict thereby saving additional lives. One of his biographers writes of his military action:
In thirty-two days he had marched nearly four hundred miles, skirmishing almost daily; fought five battles; defeated three armies, two of which were completely routed; captured about twenty pieces of artillery, some four thousand prisoners, an immense quantity of stores, and had done all this with a loss of less than on thousand men killed, wounded, and missing.It was the element of secrecy that made Jackson’s surprise attacks so effective. Often the only information his staff received was to “march at dawn.” These scant orders avoided any possibility of “leaks” to the enemy, These early morning marches often appeared to be a retreatm, but were really marches of many miles to arrive undetected in the reat flanks of the enemy. Jackson’s only defeat came from following orders from his superiors. So effective was Jackson, that at the time of his death he was the most trusted leader in Convederacy, and the most dreaded by the Union. After each victory he would write in his report, “God blessed our arms with victory.” Jackson’s men often joked that when the tent flap went down, the general was wrestling with the Lord or that he was always praying when he was not fighting. He inspired his soldiers to feats of bravery, while sitting on his horse as they marched by with heads bowed in prayer and one hands raised to heaven. So noble and pure was this saintly soldier, that it seemed no request of the divine would be denied him. Jackson’s troops, the “Stonewall Brigade,” were the first to build a log chapel formally dedicated to the service God. Other brigades soon followed their example. Protected against the rigors of winter by the cabins, soldiers frequently met during the week for spiritual rejuvenation. It was in this setting that Jackson’s men were often led of him in humble and earnest prayer. The gifts of praying in public, however, had not always been his. When asked by a minister in the early years of his married life, to pray publicly, he faile dmiserably, embarrassing not only hmself but the congregation. He was not asked to pray again. After a few weeks Jackson had approached his minister, who admitted a reluctance to place his good member in further torment. Jackson commented, “Yes, but my comfort or discomfort is not the question if it is my duty to lead in prayer, then I must preserve in it until I learn to do it aright; and I wish you to discard all consideration for my feelings.” Such perseverance was rewarded. Those who heard him Pray in later years felt that when he opened his mouth he took them with him into the presence of the Lord. General J. B. Gorden described the effect his devotion had upon his men: “[These were] men grown old in sin, who never blanched in the presence of the foe, are made to tremble under a sense of guilt, here in the forest and fields, are being converted to God.” As the Civil War loomed overhead Jackson asked: “Should Christians be disturbed? It [the Civil War] can come only by God’s permission, and will only be permitted if for His people’s good; for does He not say, ‘All things work together for the good of them that love God?’” Although war seemed inevitable, he felt it might be averted and proposed: “Do toy not think that all the Christian people of the land could be induced to united in a concert of prayer to avert so great an evil?” Apparently, there was no “uniting” in prayer. Nevertheless, the war did “unite” people together as the wealthy Southerners and well-born privates shouldered their muskets together with those not born to the Southern “aristocracy” ; they ate together, fought together, and died together. By the winter of 1863, two years into the war, class distinction among the armies of the South had all but vanished. The magnanimous example of Christian genrals like “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee, “Jed” Stuart, and others did much in replacing a class aristocracy with brotherhood. God raised these great men up not to divide the union but to reconcile the South. Jackson supported a “states united” philosophy, rather the concept of a “united states.” He was devoted to his native state of Virginia. When Virginia seceded, Jackson went with his state. However, his choice of going with the South should not be misinterpreted to read that he condoned the degradation of any race, especially the blacks. In the autumn of 1855, and in total disregard for the “opinions of the world,” Jackson opened a Sunday School for the black people of the area. This black Sunday School grew rapidly and was well attended. Jackson used his money to support the school, and he and his wife were the main teachers. The school eventually grew large enough to involve twelve more teachers. The Sunday School remained successful until 1861, when the war broke out. In writing to a friend, Jackson said: “My Heavenly Father had condescended to use me as an instument in getting up a large Sabbath-school for Negroes here.” He felt their souls were as important in the sight of God as were any man’s. Long after the war had ended, those who had been part of Jackson’s Sunday School held him in highest esteem. The Negro Baptist Church of Lexington gave the first contirbutions for a large bronze statute of Jackson. This monument stands over his grave today.
Love of the SabbathJackson loved the Sabbath because it was the Lord’s day. For years he had lobbied the government to not deliver the mail on Sunday. Jackson felt that since the Creator had set apart this day for his day, and commanded it be kept holy, it was wrong for individuals or governments to desecrate it.
DeathIt was on a Sabbath that Jackson’s Creator called him home. On 2 May 1863, while engaged in reconnoitering at the battle of Chancellorville, Jackson’s own men mistook him for the enemy and critically shot him several times. Fearing that the knowledge of his fall would create severe reversals for his men, the leaders concealed his identity as he was carried back through his own lines. He lingered two weeks and then died. The South was lost without him. General Lee had lost his “right arm.” This tragic turn of events might be summed up in words offered by a priest, one of Jackson’s chaplains, at the unveiling of the Jackson monument in New Orleans. With these simple words he prayed: “When in thine inscrutable decree it was ordained that the Confederacy should fail, it became necessary for thee to remove the servant Stonewall Jackson.” Before the battle at Chancellorville, Jackson expressed to a friend that “he knew and was assured of the love of Christ to his soul.” He said further, “Nothing earthly can mar my happiness. I know that heaven is in store for me.” Perhaps it had been a premonition of things to come. The South had lost its great warrior and with him went their strength to continue. The love of his staff and men is reflected in the intense feeling of a young staff officer who said, “God knows I would have died for him!” Jackson’s wife and baby daughter, whom he had seen only once, stayed with him during his last days. She reported that General Lee stopped by to relate that the whole army was praying for his recovery and exclaimed with deep feeling “Surely … God will not take him from us, now.” He continued, “When a suitable occasion offers give him my love and tell him that I wrestled in prayer for him last night as I never prayed, I believe, for myself.” Here his voice became choked with emotion, and he turned away to hide his intense feeling. When death was imminent, Mrs. Jackson received permission from the doctors to inform her husband. He had often said that although he was willing and ready to die at the any moment, he preferred to have some notice in order to prepare to enter into the presence of his Maker and Redeemer. When his wife asked him if he was willing for God to do with him according to His own will, he calmly replied: “Yes, I prefer it, I prefer it.” From that moment he sank rapidly into unconsciousness. All at once he spoke out, to some unseen person, very cheerfully and distinctly, his last mortal words: “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” An officer who served with Jackson stated simply:
No General made fewer mistakes. No general so persistently outwitted his opponents. No general better understood the use of ground or value of time. No general was more highly endowed with courage,. both physical and moral, and none ever secured to a greater degree the trust and affection of his troops. And yet, so upright was his life, so profound his faith, so exquisite his tenderness, that Jackson’s many victories are almost his least claim to be ranked amongst the world’s true heroes.1
Inspiring StoriesA number of years after the civil war, two men, a Mr. St. John and General Thomas Jordan, found themselves at the foot of the mountains in a wild and lonely place near the Shenandoah Valley. Lost and hungry they approached a crude shack, hoping to find an “invite” for supper. At last they met a rough gnarly woodsman, who rough as he was invited them to share his food. To the traveler’s astonishment, this rough backwoodsman rapped on the table and bowed his head in prayer. And such a prayer! Said Mr. St. John:
Never did I hear a petition that more evidently came from the heart. It was so simple, so reverent, so full of humility and penitence, as well as of thankfulness. We sat in silence, as as soon as we recovered ourselves I whispered to General Jordan, “Who can he be?” To which he answered, “I don’t know, but he must be one of Stonewall Jackson’s old soldiers.” [When asked, he responded,] “Oh yes, I was out with old Stonewall.”Copyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. 2
VideoGod’s and Generals
- Used with permission: Anderson, Vicki Jo. The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Zichron Historical Research Institute. Cottonwood, AZ 86326
- Anderson, Vicki Jo. (1994). The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Cottonwood, AZ: Zichron Historical Research Institute.