Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson

Stonewall Jackson: Sketch of the Life of Stonewall Jackson Written by Mrs. Emil Shaffer, Nee Miss Anna Jackson Preston, and Presented to the Senate on May 10, 1928, by Hon. Cole L. Blease, Senator From South Carolina [Reprinted from Senate Document No. 173, Seventieth Congress]

From Souvenir Program for unveiling statue of Stonewall Jackson in Clarksburg, West Virginia, The Place Of His Birth, Sunday Afternoon, May 10, 1953, The 90th Anniversary Of His Death

Biography Of Stonewall Jackson

By Mrs. Emil Shaffer Nee Miss Anna Jackson Preston

Thomas Jonathan Jackson, usually known as Stonewall Jackson was born in Clarksburg, Va., now West Virginia, on the 20th day of January 1824. He died at Guinea Station, Va., on the 10th day of May 1863, being 39 years of age. He was the son of Jonathan Jackson) of Clarksburg, a promising and well-to-do young lawyer, and his beautiful and accomplished wife, Julia Beckwith Neale. His great-grandfather, John Jackson, the first of the line in America, by birth a Scotch-Irishman, came from London about 1748, and located first in Maryland and later the western portion of Virginia. The Jacksons became in time quite a numerous family, owning large boundaries of mountain land. They were noted for their honesty, indomitable wills, and physical courage, holding many positions of public trust and honor in what was then known as western Virginia.


When Thomas Jonathan Jackson was 3 years of age his father died with typhoid fever, contracted while he was nursing his little daughter, who also died. He left a widow and three children in very limited circumstances. Mrs. Jackson, after recovering in a degree from the double shock - the death of her daughter and husband - supported her little family as best she could with her needle and by teaching school for about 3 years, when she married Capt. Blake B. Woodson, a gentleman from eastern Virginia, of excellent family and delightful manners, but visionary and unsuccessful. When her health became impaired the children were placed temporarily with relatives. A year later Jackson's mother died, and thus at the ago of 7 he was left a penniless orphan.

One story most characteristic of him is that when about 12 years of age he appeared at the house of Federal Judge John G. Jackson in Clarksburg, and addressed his wife, saying, "Aunt, Uncle Brake (referring to the relative he was then living with) and I don't agree. I have quit him and will never go back any more." He never did, but walked 18 miles to the farm of Cummins Jackson, bachelor half- brother of his father. There he lived happily until he was appointed to West Point through the political influence of his Uncle Cummins, at the age of 18. Before going to West Point he held his only political office, that of constable, and satisfactorily discharged the duties of the office.

The first year at West Point, having had but indifferent preparation, he stood near the foot of the class, but each year by dint of untiring study he advanced steadily until he graduated No. 17 in a class of 60. One of his professors remarked that if there had been 1 more year in the course before graduation he would have led his class.

After graduating at West Point in 1846 he at once went to the Mexican War and served with distinction in the battles there, coming out brevet major, with a noble reputation for bravery and extremely popular with the Mexican people of the higher classes, for whom he entertained to the end of his life great admiration.


In 1851 he became professor of military tactics at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va., known as the West Point of the South, at a salary of $1,200 per year and a residence. Lexington was at that time a small town in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, also the seat of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University. The community at that time was largely dominated by the Presbyterian Church, whose pastor was Rev. William S. White, for whom Jackson formed a great affection. General Jackson was deeply interested in religious matters, and though baptized in the Episcopal Church, joined the Presbyterian Church the first year he was in Lexington.

In 1853 he married Miss Eleanor Junkin, daughter of Dr. George Junkin, president of Washington College. In a year his wife died. The young husband was heartbroken, and his thoughts turned more than ever to religion. In fact, it was at this time that his intense religious nature began to assert itself outwardly.

In 1855 Jackson and Col. J. T. L. Preston, who was subsequently his adjutant general, organized a Sunday school for negroes in Lexington. Some local antagonism was aroused against them because slaves were taught to read and write in this school. The school was carried on successfully, however, up to the outbreak of the war.

On the 16th day of July 1857 he was married to Miss Mary Anna Morrison, of Lincoln County, N. C., the daughter of Dr. Robert Hall Morrison, who founded Davidson College, Davidson, N. C., and Mary Graham Morrison, a sister of Gov. William A. Graham, of North Carolina.


Though opposed to secession, Jackson, like many of the leading citizens of the South, was equally opposed to the coercion of the Southern States; and, therefore, promptly offered his services to the State of Virginia when war was declared against it, believing that his first and highest loyalty was to his native State.

Jackson had been commissioned by the Governor of Virginia to take charge of the State militia detailed to keep the peace during the trial and execution of John Brown at Charles Town in 1859. In a letter to his wife he gave an interesting account of this occurrence. At the actual outbreak of hostilities he spent his time drilling soldiers. He was then made colonel of the Virginia State troops. First at Manassas, he was given his famous sobriquet of "Stonewall", by General Bee, of South Carolina. His promotions to brigadier, major general, and lieutenant general were very rapid. His fame as a soldier rests largely upon what is known as the valley campaign, McDowell, Winchester, Port Republic, Cross Keys, and Cedar Mountain. Of these, he himself is said to have considered Cedar Mountain his greatest victory.

On May 3, 1863, in the midst of the brilliant victory at Chancellorsville, he was wounded by his own men, usually supposed to belong to one of the North Carolina regiments, and died a week later.

After half a century has elapsed, it is hard to realize the feelings of sorrow and hopelessness which swept over the South when the news of Jackson's death flashed along the wires. Everywhere men and women broke down and cried as though a beloved member of their own family had been taken. When the news of his death reached Europe the newsboys and porters in the hotels announced that "Stonewall Jackson was dead", for his was a familiar name throughout the world. The people of all nations felt a great soldier and a noble Christian hero had fallen, while in the hearts of the people of the South there was a deep and unexpressed fear that the cause which they loved so well had suffered an irreparable blow the day his casket with the Confederate flag wrapped around it was placed in the cemetery at Lexington.

It is not our purpose to attempt any eulogy of Jackson's career as a soldier. The English historian, Colonel Henderson, probably the greatest military critic of the nineteenth century, says that he was in no way inferior to Wellington, Napoleon, Lee, or any of the great generals of history. He was one of the few generals who was never defeated, and without any effort on his part maintained the confidence and admiration and, one might say, the adoration of all his troops.


In private life Jackson was a simple, rather silent Scotch-Irish, Presbyterian gentleman, with large blue eyes, pensive and deep; dark-brown hair, which was very slightly curly and worn rather long; about 5 feet 11 1/2 inches in height, with a fine, full figure. His complexion was fair, almost like a girl's except when tanned by outdoor exposure. He was noted for his politeness, gentleness of manner, and love of children. While never talkative, he felt always the duty when in society to be responsive to the conversation of others, and was at times a delightful companion and full of pranks and humor, though these occasions were rare. His habits of life were methodical and rigid. According to Dr. R. L. Dabney's Life of Jackson, he always rose at dawn, had private devotions, and then took a solitary walk. When at home family prayers were held at 7 o'clock, summer and winter, and all members of his household were required to be present, but the absence of anyone did not delay the services a minute. Breakfast followed, and he went to his classroom at 8 o'clock, remaining until 11, when he returned to his study. The first book that then engaged his attention was the Bible, which was studied as he did other courses. Between dinner and supper his attention was occupied by his garden, his farm, and the duties of the church, in which he was a deacon. After supper he devoted his time for half an hour to a mental review of the studies of the next day, without reference to notes, then to reading or conversation until 10 o'clock, at which time he always retired. There was no variation in this daily program.

There were certain maxims of his life which had much to do with framing his character. One was that "you can be what you resolve to be", the other, "do your duty." His last words are supposed to have been, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees", though others of the attendants at his bedside tell us that the last words were, "Soldiers, do your duty."

General Jackson left one infant daughter, 6 months old, whom he had the privilege of seeing upon only one occasion, when Mrs. Jackson visited him in camp. He named her Julia Neale, for his mother, and in 1885 she married Capt. William E. Christian, of Richmond, author and newspaper man, now living in Washington, D. C. She died in 1889, leaving two infant children, the eldest, Mrs. Julia Jackson Christian Preston, wife of Randolph Preston, an attorney, lives in Charlotte, N. C., and has five children; the youngest, a boy 18 months old, bears the name of his great-grandfather. Mrs. Christian's son, Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian, is a major in the United States Army, now stationed (1928) at the University of Chicago. He married Miss Bertha Cook and has two children, a boy, Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian, Jr., aged 11, and a girl, Margaret, aged 7.

General Jackson left surviving him an only sister, Laura, the wife of Mr. Jonathan Arnold, of Beverley, W. Va. This sister survived him until the year 1911, when she passed away at the age of 85 years, leaving one son, Hon. Thomas Jackson Arnold, and a number of grandchildren surviving her.

Mrs. Mary Anna Jackson, the widow, lived in Charlotte with her granddaughter until March 24, 1915, when at the age of 83 she passed to her reward. Her Christian faith, great wisdom, and cheerful, courageous disposition marked her as a most unusual woman. Her plan of life was as simple as her husband's, which consisted of finding out each day what she believed to be her duty, through prayer, Bible reading, and meditation, and then doing it uncomplainingly and with as little affectation as possible.

In 1907, when offered a pension by the Legislature of North Carolina, though she greatly needed it, she authorized one of her relatives, then a member of that body, to say that she preferred the money be given to help needy soldiers, or to found a school for wayward boys. At this session there was chartered the Stonewall Jackson Training School, one of the greatest institutions of its kind in America, and certainly the name it bears is an appropriate and inspiring one for the 500 boys enrolled there.

General Jackson's life was representative of the simple virtues for which the South was noted - honesty in thought, speech, and action, freedom from sordid ambition for wealth or notoriety, a high sense of honor and chivalry, unselfish patriotism, and benevolence toward his fellow men. To these traits were added an absolute reliance upon God, and trust in His providence as guarding, guiding, and controlling the daily lives of His servants.

Civil War

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