Thomas Jonathan Jackson, often called Stonewall Jackson, was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. After Robert E. Lee, he was the best-known Confederate commander. Highlights of his long military career include the Valley Campaign of 1862 and his corps commander service in the Army of Northern Virginia. He was accidentally shot by Confederate pickets in the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, but he survived. Jackson had to have an arm amputated and died eight days later of pneumonia. His death was a major setback for the Confederates because it affected his military prospects, the army and public morale. He became an icon of commitment and Southern heroism and a mainstay of “The Lost Cause.”
Historians with military interest consider Jackson to be highly gifted in the tactical fields when it comes to commanders in US history. His envelopment of the Union Army at Chancellorsville and his Valley Campaign are studied across the world even today. He set examples of bold and innovative leadership, and he excelled in a variety of battles. He was not a universally successful commander, however, as is shown by his late arrival and confusion in the Seven Days Battles that occurred around Richmond in 1862.
Jackson was accepted into West Point in 1842, but he was at the bottom of his class because he struggled with his entrance exam and his studies. He became a hard-working cadet and moved steadily up to 17th in his class in 1846. His work ethic was so well known that people said that if their classes had taken longer, he would have graduated first. Jackson started his Army career as a second lieutenant. He was sent off to fight in the Mexican-American War and served at the Siege of Veracruz in a variety of battles. He won two promotions and was ranked as first lieutenant in the regular army. He also met Robert E. Lee in Mexico.
Jackson is known for refusing what he thought was a bad order to withdraw his troops during the Chapultepec Castle assault. His superior confronted him and he explained his rationale. His judgment proved to be correct and his brigade was relieved. His strength of character was sometimes contrasted when he obeyed what he felt were bad orders, but it turned out his gut was normally right. After the war, Jackson was assigned to forts in the state of New York and then Florida during the Seminole Wars. He was also stationed briefly at Fort Casey before he was placed second in command at Fort Meade. He disagreed with his commanding officers often and had many complaints lodged against him.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Jackson had become a drill master for new recruits into the Confederate Army. He took command at Harpers Ferry, where he commanded and assembled the now famous “Stonewall Brigade” consisting of many different Virginia Infantry regiments. Jackson was known for his relentlessness in drilling the troops, but he held discipline in the highest regard and credited it for his successes in the battlefield. He became brigadier general in June after raids on the B&O Railroad.
Jackson earned his nickname and his prominence in the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. The Confederate lines were falling apart under Union assault, and his brigade provided crucial reinforcements and demonstrated the discipline he instilled into them. Other troops and generals shouted that he was standing there like a stone wall and no one could get through him. After that, people started to call him “Stonewall” Jackson because of the stand he took in that battle.
Jackson’s military reputation is described as audacious and even offensive, but his methods worked. He was a strong hammer in the army that took the sweeping flank maneuver and succeeded with it on a number of occasions. He died from complications from pneumonia after being injured in battle in 1863. His body was moved to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond for mourners and then onto the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia. His amputated arm was buried separately near a battlefield. His unusual command style and personality leave behind a legacy that is one of the greatest of all the Civil War. He had many successes as a general in battles, and he is revered by military historical societies to this day.