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Full text of "Thomas Jonathan Jackson, 1824-1863; a sketch"

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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 





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I" I 



THOMAS JONATHAN JACKSON 



1824 : : 1863 



A SKETCH 



by EDWARD C SMITH 



SOCIETY OF HISTORICAL ENGRAVINGS 

WESTON, WEST VIRGINIA 



COPYRIGHT 1920 

fe 
JAMES H. BREWSTER 



for private distribution 



"STONEWALL" JACKSON 

A WESTERN VIRGINIA BOY 
WHO ROSE from POVERTY and 
OBSCURITY TO GREATNESS 




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I 

ANCESTORS 

"STONEWALL" Jackson was the 
product of life in the hills of western 
Virginia as it existed in the early part 
of the nineteenth century before the 
isolation of the hollows was broken 
by the coming of the railroads and 
the industrial development which 
followed. His great-grandfather was 
one of the pioneers of the Mononga- 
hela Valley; the descendants of the 
first Jackson had continued to live 
there ; and "Stonewall" Jackson's 
boyhood and youth were spent at the 
old mill which his grandfather built 
on the bank of the West Fork River 
not far below the mouth of Freeman's 
Creek. The character of the great 
Confederate general is a mystery to 
the reader or the writer who does not 
take into account the fact that he was 
a western Virginian. Once realized, 
this fact goes far towards explaining 
points in his character which are 
otherwise inexplicable. 




448111 





John Jackson came to the Buck- 
hannon River Valley among the first 
pioneers in 1770. He was of Scotch- 
Irish descent, the Jacksons having 
lived in the Lowlands of Scotland and 
then in Londonderry, in the north of 
Ireland. In 1748 he emigrated to 
America. On the ship that brought 
him he had as a fellow passenger 
Elizabeth Cummins who had fled 
from her home in London on account 
of her violent dislike for her step- 
father. The acquaintance formed on 
shipboard ripened into a romance, 
and a year or two after their landing 
in America they were married. For 
a time they lived in what is now 
Hardy County, West Virginia, but 
the climate was not to their liking 
and they moved to the Buckhannon 
River settlement which was just then 
being begun. 

For a quarter of a century the 
Buckhannon settlements were sub- 
ject to attacks from the savages. Dur- 
ing the Indian wars, John Jackson 
and his sons took a leading part in 
the defence of the settlements. When 








peace was declared they devoted 
themselves to improving their large 
land claims, among which was a tract 
of 1500 acres at the mouth of Free- 
man's Creek on the West Fork River 
owned by his son, Edward Jack- 
son. Here at the beginning of the 
century he built a mill. One of 
Edward Jackson's sons, Jonathan 
Jackson, studied law in Clarks- 
burg with his cousin, John G. Jack- 
son, and afterwards became an at- 
torney in that pioneer village. About 
1820 he was married to Julia Beck- 
with Neale, of the pioneer Wood 
County family, and of this union 
Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born, 
January 21, 1824. 






The Jacksons were the leading 
citizens of the pioneer community of 
western Virginia. Colonel George 
Jackson had represented Harrison 
County in the Virginia convention 
which ratified the constitution of the 
United States and had sat in the Con- 
gress of the United States. John G. 
Jackson, also a member of Congress 
and a prominent business man, had 
established an aristocratic connec- 
tion for the family by his marriage 
with the sister of Dolly Madison. 
Edward Jackson was a pioneer physi- 
cian, millwright, and surveyor, and 
had represented Harrison and Lewis 
Counties in the State Legislature. 
Jonathan Jackson seemed about to 
enter upon a brilliant career as a 
lawyer, when in 1827 he succumbed 
to a fever contracted while nursing 
one of his children. His property 
having been swept away by security 












debts, the young widow was com- 
pelled to support herself and her 
three small children by "keeping" a 
school in Clarksburg. Her home was 
sold and she was obliged to move into 
a one-room cottage provided by the 
Freemasons. Three years after her 
bereavement, she married a man who 
was as poor as herself and went with 
him to live in Fayette County where 
he held a position as Clerk of the 
County Court. Because the hard- 
ships of the trip on horseback through 
the almost trackless wilderness would 
be too great for the children and also 
because her husband was too poor 
to provide for them properly, the 
mother was obliged to send them to 
her late husband's relatives. Thomas 
was only six years old when he went 
to live* with his uncle, Cummins Jack- 
son, near the mill which his grand- 
father had built. He did not see his 
mother again until a year later when 
he was called to her bedside as she 
lay dying of tuberculosis in her 
Fayette County home. 

The death of his mother made a 




profound impression on the boy's 
mind, and caused his whole life to be 
tinged with melancholy. Forebodings 
of his own death from the same dread 
disease seem to have been ever 
present with him, and caused him to 
take elaborate precautions to avoid 
it. Always melancholy, always a 
fatalist, it is thought that the extreme 
Puritanism which marked his religion 
was due to the bereavements and suf- 
ferings of his boyhood. 




III 

BOYHOOD 

He returned to Lewis County and 
continued to make his home with 
Cummins Jackson except for a brief 
period when he was enticed away by 
his older brother Warren. The two 
boys, aged 14 and 12 years, went 
through the woods to the Ohio river 
and then floated down that stream 
and the Mississippi until they came 
to an island at the southwestern 
corner of Kentucky. They lived here 
a whole winter supporting themselves 
by cutting cordwood for passing 
steamers. The island was malarious, 
and the boys were soon ill. They 
were finally able to return home 
through the kindness of a steamboat 
captain who took pity on their plight. 

For thirteen years the life of the 
future general was spent on his 
uncle's farm and in the old mill. It 
was an existence not unlike that of 
hundreds of boys of that day in 




western Virginia and resembling that 
of boys living in the backwoods coun- 
ties of West Virginia in our own time. 
Tom Jackson, as he was called, did 
much work on his uncle's farm. He 
assisted in the operation of the grist 
and saw mill, and understood the 
business so well that he was some- 
times left in complete charge of the 
establishment to see that the corn 
and wheat were properly ground for 
the neighboring farmers. Cummins 
Jackson's land was almost entirely 
covered with the primeval forest 
which could be cleared only with 
great difficulty. It was to the ad- 
vantage of the owner to preserve the 
giant poplars as long as he could, for 
they furnished him a comparatively 
large amount of the income from the 
estate. He could cut the trees, float 
the logs down Freeman's Creek and 
the West Fork River to the mill pond 
and saw them into weather-boarding 
and ceiling for the straggling village 
of Weston which was situated four 
miles south of the mill. Practically 
all of the twenty or thirty houses in 









1 



the village Kaci been built or finished 
with the lumber sawed at the Jackson 
mill. Whenever an exceptionally large 
log was to be brought out of the 
woods, Tom was placed in charge of 
the work, and it is said that he was 
always successful in directing the 
slaves and the white laborers in their 
task. He also helped by breaking 
horses and oxen to work and when he 
was only ten years old he could drive 
oxen like a man. He also rode his 
uncle's horses in the races which were 
held on the Westfield track, adjoin- 
ing the Jackson estate. At the age 
of twelve, he was the peer of any rider 
on the West Fork. 

The boy's associations with the 
horse-racing crowd of early Lewis 
County were not conducive to his 
best moral development. He seem- 
ed, however, not to have been affect- 
ed by the licentiousness and irreligion 
around him. His honesty and truth- 
fulness are still proverbial in the 
county of his boyhood. There were 
several churches in the neighborhood, 
including one at Broad Run, one on 








Freeman's Creek and one on Hack- 
er's Creek, but there is no tradition 
that he ever attended any of them. 
The rough itinerants who preached 
at these churches were made run of 
by the gentry and by the aristocracy 
of the village of Western, and it is 
little wonder that he did not receive 
religious training. It is hardly prob- 
able either that he received personal 
religious instruction from his uncle 
Cummins. 

Like every other boy in the 
Monongahela Valley in the thirties, 
life was not all work on the farm. 
There were fish of large size in the 
mill pond, and he angled there 
assiduously, even entering into a con- 
tract to furnish fresh fish to citizens 
of Weston. There were plenty of 
deer in the forests within a few miles 
of his home, and he often took part 
in the great deer hunts that were ar- 
ranged every fall. He rode with his 
uncle among the foremost in the fox 
hunts. During the winter he set 
snares for small animals. 

Schools were few and far between 




in western Virginia at that time. It 
was fortunate for the future general 
that the neighborhood in which his 
uncle lived was one of the most thick- 
ly settled between the Alleghanies 
and the Ohio River. For three 
months, every winter, a school was 
taught in an abandoned log house 
near the mill, by whatever teacher 
could be> employed with the slender 
subscription money raised among the 
parents of the pupils. Tom went to 
the Old Field school every winter ex- 
cept the year he spent on the 
Mississippi. He was the leader 
among the pupils in arithmetic but he 
was slow in his other studies, and was 
often unable to recite with the other 
members of the class. The next day 
he would still be unprepared for the 
day's work, but he used to tell his 
teacher triumphantly that he had 
learned the lesson for the day before. 
By the close of the term he was 
usually as far advanced as other 
pupils of his years. 

As he neared manhood he thought 
he could detect symptoms of tuber- 



n 




culosis. His work in the mill was 
not calculated to improve his physical 
condition, and he therefore asked his 
uncle to find other employment for 
him. Being ambitious of distinction 
in his county, he sought the position 
of constable when he was only eigh- 
teen years of age. The law provided 
that the incumbent of the office 
should be twenty-one, but Cummins 
Jackson was a man of influence with 
the County Court, and the appoint- 
ment was given without question. 
His chief duties in the office were in 
connection with collecting debts and 
levying on the property of debtors. 
He was very successful. 












IV 
OPPORTUNITY 

A wider field was soon opened to 
him. Gibson Butcher, a boy from the 
neighborhood, had been appointed a 
cadet at West Point from the district 
which then embraced Lewis County, 
but had failed to pass the physical ex- 
amination, and the position was 
vacant. A Weston blacksmith, know- 
ing of Tom's ambition to secure an 
education, suggested to his uncle that 
Tom should apply for the appoint- 
ment. When the subject was 
broached to him, the juvenile con- 
stable fell in with the idea, and im- 
mediately proceeded to secure letters 
of recommendation from the officers 
of the county court and from leading 
citizens of the county. He also ob- 
tained permission from Matthew 
Edmiston, then a rising young at- 
torney in Weston, to study in his 
library in preparation for his entrance 
examinations. A letter written to the 







Hon. S. D. Hays, then representing 
the district in Congress, brought a 
favorable reply to his inquiries. Young 
Jackson, with the instinct for decisive 
action which impressed itself on the 
world at a later period, resolved to 
set out at once for Washington. He 
borrowed two horses from a neighbor, 
and a negro boy to bring them back 
to their owner, packed his few 
personal effects in a pair of old sad- 
dlebags and set out for Clarksburg 
to catch the Winchester stage. When 
he reached Clarksburg he found that 
the stage had already gone, but noth- 
ing daunted, he rode after it in the 
night and overtook it at the next stop. 
On his arrival at Washington he went 
at once, without changing his muddy 
clothes, to the office of Congressman 
Hays and requested an introduction 
to the Secretary of War. Secretary 
Spencer told Mr. Hays that he was 
holding the position for some worthy, 
but needy descendant of a Revolu- 
tionary soldier. Colonel Hays re- 
plied that his candidate was the man 
he was seeking. "His grandfather 













and great-grandfather served 
throughout the Revolutionary war, * 
said Mr. Hays, "and the 
former, with his brother, continued 
the struggle with the Indians until 
the treaty of 1795 closed the conflict. 
My candidate is poor but ambitious 
to uphold the prestige of an honored 
name." The Secretary was favorably 
impressed, and asked to see the 
youth from the hills of western Vir- 
ginia. After questioning him for 
some time, he was so impressed with 
the boy's evident ambition and de- 
termination to obtain an education 
that he gave him the coveted appoint- 
ment. 

Representative Hays invited the 
awkward and untutored farmer boy 
to remain with him a few days and 
see the sights of the capital city; but 
young Jackson was so anxious to join 
his classes that he set out for West 
Point, only delaying to climb to the 
dome of the unfinished Capitol and 
view Washington and the surround- 
ing country. The impression which 
he made on Washington officials was 




most favorable. Representative Hays 
wrote to the superintendent of the 
Military Academy asking that the 
entrance examinations be made easy 
for him, stating that he was a youth 
who would make up for his lack of 
education by applying himself. The 
letter has its effect, and young Jack- 
son was admitted. 




WEST POINT 

The green country boy from tke 
wilds of the West Fork River pre- 
sented a strange appearance on his 
arrival at the Academy. He was 
then nineteen, and fully three years 
older than the average of his class, 
but far below them in education. His 
appearance when he entered the in- 
stitution is thus described by one of 
the cadets. 

He was apparently about twenty 
years of age and was full grown.; his 
figure was angular and clumsy; his 
gait was awkward ; he was clad in old- 
fashioned Virginia homespun woolen 
cloth ; he bore across his shoulders a 
pair of weather-stained saddlebags ; 
and his hat was one of those heavy, 
low-crowned, broad-brimmed hats 
usually worn in those days by coun- 
ty constables, etc. He tramped along 
by the side of the sergeant with an air 
of resolution, and his stolid look 








added to the inflexible determination 
of his whole aspect, so that one of us 
remarked, "that fellow has come here 
to stay/' 

Few cadets at West Point ever 
had a more difficult time at the start 
than young Jackson. His lack of 
sufficient education told against him 
at every stage. It was only by the 
exercise of his indomitable will that 
he managed to stay in the Academy. 
"You can be whatever you want to 
be", he wrote in one of his notebooks, 
and he set himself to conquer every 
obstacle. Just before taps sounded, 
he piled his grate with anthracite coal 
and, sprawling at full length before 
the fire, continued his studies until 
far into the night. Sometimes he 
would be a day behind his classmates 
in his preparation, but he learned 
thoroughly every lesson as he came 
to it. He had great difficulty in 
mastering the simplest maneuvers on 
the drill field, even the elementary 
principle of keeping step proving a 
bugbear to him. Added to all his 
other difficulties the old affection of 




Kis lungs troubled Kim somewhat 
during the first years at the Academy, 
and he felt obliged to guard his health 
carefully by always sitting bolt up- 
right so that there would be no com- 
pression on his lungs. In spite of all 
obstacles he doggedly pursued his 
way, rising every year a little higher 
in relative rank among his classmates 
until, in 1846, he was graduated 
seventeenth in a class of fifty-nine. 
It was a common saying among his 
classmates that if the course had 
been one year longer he would have 
stood at the head of his class. 









VI 

MEXICAN CAMPAIGN 

A short leave of absence was 
granted him at graduation, which he 
spent among his native hills, assist- 
ing in the organization of a volunteer 
company at Weston for service in 
Mexico. The Mexican War was 
about to break out, and he was order- 
ed to join his regiment for service in 
the field. In General Scott's expedi- 
tion against Mexico City, he was in 
the thick of the fighting in most of 
the desperate battles which marked 
the progress of the army. His fine 
disregard for personal danger and his 
skill in serving his battery caused at- 
tention to be directed toward him, 
and he was promoted successively 
from the rank of brevet second lieu- 
tenant to that of brevet major a 
more rapid rise than that of any other 
officer of his rank in the war. 

Major Jackson's duties with the 
army of occupation in the Mexican 







capital were neither arduous nor im- 
portant. There was no way open in 
which to spend his time except to join 
in the social life of the city. It is 
rather strange that this period of his 
life was marked by the beginning of 
his religious experience which con- 
tinued for the remainder of his life. 
The principal element of his faith was 
duty ; and he was so punctilious in the 
performance of his duty in every walk 
of life that there is little wonder that 
he entered whole-souled into all of 
his religious observances. His devo- 
tions were henceforth a part of his 
daily life. He followed literally the 
injunction "to pray without ceasing". 
In every act of his life from this time 
forth, religion had a tremendous in- 
fluence, so that he has been com- 
pared with Cromwell, Bayard and 
Havelock among the great captains 
whose religion was a supreme pas- 






sion. 






VII 

VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 

After the close of the war, garrison 
life in the regular army did not appeal 
to his ambitious nature, and his post 
at Fort Meade, Florida, was not in a 
climate which suited the delicate 
state of his health. Upon being offer- 
ed a professorship in the Virginia 
Military Institute at Lexington in 
Rockbridge County, he resigned his 
commission and went to live in the 
Valley of Virginia. Here he remain- 
ed, an obscure instructor, until the 
outbreak of the War for Southern In- 
dependence. He seems not to have 
allowed his interest in military af- 
fairs to lapse during this period, for 
it is said that he studied and master- 
ed the campaigns of Napoleon. The 
quiet years of his professorship ripen- 
ed his faculties and gave him a broad- 
er outlook upon life ; but he was still 
essentially a western Virginian. His 
habits of mind seemed to have con- 













formed with as great difficulty to the 
new society in which he found him- 
self as his body had conformed to the 
military movements at West Point. 









VIII 
POLITICS 

In common with most of the other 
intelligent citizens of Virginia, he de- 
plored the existence oi. slavery in the 
state as an economic and social 
evil and desired its abolition by 
state legislation. Yet he never be- 
lieved that the institution was mor- 
ally wrong. He owned a few slaves 
which he used mainly as servants in 
his house, and justified slavery as of 
divine origin supported by statements 
in the Bible. His politics were those 
of the prevailing states' rights school 
of Virginia. When it became evident 
that war between the State of Vir- 
ginia and the Federal government 
could not be averted, he did not 
hesitate for a moment to offer his 
sword to his State. His decision 
seems not to have followed any real- 
ization of a conflict of duty to state 
and to national government as in the 
case of Robert E. Lee and George H. 







Thomas, but was a natural result of 
his residence in the Valley of Vir- 
ginia. Major Jackson was ordered to 
Camp Lee near Richmond at the first 
call of the state government, and de- 
voted a few weeks to the supervision 
of the training of volunteers. He was 
commissioned a colonel of the state 
troops, April 26, 1861, and sent to 
guard the entrance to the Valley of 
Virginia at "Harper's Ferry. This was 
the post he wanted. It led him over 
familiar ground in the lower Shenan- 
doah and gave him an added oppor- 
tunity to acquaint himself with all 
the strategic features of the terrain. 
The Shenandoah Valley was to he the 
scene of his most brilliant campaigns. 



s 




IX 
BULL RUN 

The early summer of 1861 was 
given over to drill and organization 
by the armies on the Virginia border. 
The Confederates were driven out of 
the Monongahela Valley by McClel- 
lan, and the authorities at Washing- 
ton were impatient to begin a forward 
movement through eastern Virginia 
to Richmond. It became evident that 
the position of Beauregard's army 
around Centerville would be attack- 
ed by the Union troops, and Jackson 
and his brigade of Virginians were 
sent to reinforce him. On the 21st 
of July the two armies met in "the 
best planned and the worst fought 
action of the war." The raw troops 
on both sides were difficult to control. 
The superior numbers of the Federals 
began to tell, and the Confederates 
gave ground almost everywhere. 
Some of the regiments were broken, 
and the men quit the field in disor- 









ganized masses. At the crucial point 
on the field, the Henry House 
Plateau, Jackson and his Virginia 
brigade held fast. General Bee in 
rallying his men, pointed to the 
steady line on the plateau and cried, 
"Look, there is Jackson standing like 
a stone wall." The name applied in 
the heat of the action, was remem- 
bered afterwards, and it stuck. 
Henceforth the brilliant leader was 
known as Stonewall Jackson, and the 
First Virginia Brigade, as the Stone- 
wall Brigade. The Federal lines at 
Bull Run were broken toward the 
close of the day, and the troops of 
the South won their first great victory. 








SHENANDOAH VALLEY 

Jackson, now a major-general, re- 
turned to the Valley where the re- 
mainder of the year was spent in 
comparative inaction. At the be- 
ginning of 1862 McClellan planned a 
double invasion of Virginia. He was 
to lead an attack in person on the 
Peninsula, and three armies were to 
concentrate in the Shenandoah Val- 
ley, sweep that region of Con- 
federates, and approach Richmond 
from the west. Jackson had 17,000 
men ; four scattered armies opposing 
him had a total of 64,000. He attack- 
ed Milroy at McDowell, defeated him 
and pursued him northward. Next 
he fell upon Banks at Winchester and 
drove him beyond the Potomac. Fre- 
mont from the west and Shields from 
the east, each with more men than 
Jackson had, and each twenty miles 
from Strasburg, moved toward that 
place, hoping to unite and intercept 





Jackson on his retreat. Jackson was 
sixty-five miles from Strasburg; but 
with his gallant "foot cavalry" he 
reached Strasburg first, defeated 
Fremont at Gross Keys and Shields 
at Front Royal, spread dismay in the 
National Capital and caused more 
military damage to the federals than 
a defeat before Richmond would have 
accomplished. He next moved his 
men by rail to join Lee at Richmond, 
and falling upon McClellan's left, 
helped to force the retreat of the 
Federal army from within sight of the 
Confederate capital. Then moving 
rapidly northward, he interposed his 
army between Pope and Washington, 
at Manassas Junction. Second Bull 
Run, due mainly to Jackson's 
maneuver, was a greater blow to the 
Federals than the first battle. It was 
the same at Fredericksburg, Harper's 
Ferry, Antietam and Chancellors ville. 
His genius impressed itself on every 
campaign, and he was recognized as 
the greatest commander that the war 
had developed. His mere presence 
struck terror to his foes. It has been 







estimated by High military authority 
that his being in command of an army 
added fifty per cent to its effective 
strength. 














HIS PRE-EMINENCE 

At the close of the first day's bat- 
tle at Ckancellorsville, while return- 
ing from a reconnaissance made in 
the direction of the enemy, he was 
wounded in the left arm twice and 
also in the right hand by some of his 
own troops. He was placed on a 
litter and started to the rear while 
the position was still under heavy fire. 
One of his litter bearers was struck 
down, and the general was thrown 
heavily to the ground, the fall produc- 
ing a contusion in his side. His physi- 
cians found it necessary to amputate 
his left arm near the shoulder. The 
wound seemed to be healing satis- 
factorily, and his complete recovery 
was expected. Within a day or two, 
however, he was stricken with 
pleuro-pneumonia, thought to have 
been superinduced by his fall from 
the litter. In spite of the efforts of 
the best physicians of the South he 
succumbed to the disease. 






448111 











So passed away, at the height of 
his fame and in the high tide of the 
success of the Southern arms, the 
general whom Robert E. Lee called 
his "right arm". History acclaims 
"Stonewall" Jackson as one of the 
great military geniuses of the world. 
He has been compared to Napoleon 
more than any later general. His 
campaigns have been studied as text- 
books in the great military academies 
of the world. 

Yet he was the simplest, sweetest, 
most lovable of men. The members 
of his command, particularly the 
Stonewall Brigade, were to him as 
children, upon whom he bestowed 
parental care. It is true that he com- 
pelled them to make rapid marches 
through cold and snow and to charge 
enemy breastworks in the face of the 
most galling fire, but he shared with 
them every hardship and every 
danger. He prayed unceasingly with 
a simple, child-like faith before every 
battle, and he gave thanks to God 
after every victory. His simplicity, 
his disregard for pomp and circum- 





stance and his self-abnegation 
brought him the respect and the ad- 
miration of the world. 

These qualities are inherent in 
the great race from which he sprang ; 
and they were heightened by the ex- 
periences of his youth and early man- 
hood. As a preeminent military 
genius, he belongs to the whole world ; 
but as a man he belongs peculiarly 
to the hills which lie between the 
Alleghanies and the Ohio river. 







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