Stonewall Jackson at Lexington

 

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Stonewall Jackson Free Online Books | Stonewall Jackson in Civil War | Stonewall Jackson Biography | Stonewall Jackson Obituary | Stonewall Jackson's Last Words | Stonewall Jackson Birthday | Stonewall Jackson Quotes

STONEWALL JACKSON
Chapter III
Lexington1

Stonewall Jackson Index | Stonewall Jackson at West Point | Stonewall Jackson and Mexican War | Stonewall Jackson Lexington | Stonewall Jackson and Secession | Stonewall Jackson and Harper's Ferry | Stonewall Jackson at Battle of Bull Run | Stonewall Jackson at Romney | Stonewall Jackson at Kernstown | Battle of McDowell | Battle of Winchester | Battle of Cross Keys and Port Republic | Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign | The Seven Days Battle | Battle of Frayser's Farm and Malvern Hill | Battle of Cedar Run | Second Battle of Bull Run | Battle of Second Bull Run Conclusion | Battle of Harper's Ferry | Battle of Sharpsburg | Battle of Fredericksburg | The Army of Northern Virginia | Stonewall Jackson's Winter Quarters | Battle of Chancellorsville | Battle of Chancellorsville Conclusion


1848   Of Jackson’s life at Fort Hamilton there is little to tell. His friend and mentor, Colonel Taylor, was in command. The chaplain, once an officer of dragoons, was a man of persuasive eloquence and earnest zeal; and surrounded by influences which had now become congenial, the young major of artillery pursued the religious studies he had begun in Mexico. There was some doubt whether he had been baptised as a child. He was anxious that no uncertainty should exist as to his adhesion to Christianity, but he was unwilling that the sacrament should bind him to any particular sect.

1849   On the understanding that no surrender of judgment would be involved, he was baptised and received his first communion in the Episcopal Church.

Two years passed without incident, and then Jackson was transferred to Florida. In his new quarters his stay was brief.

1851   In March 1851 he was appointed Professor of Artillery Tactics and Natural Philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute. His success, for such he deemed it, was due to his own merit. One of his Mexican comrades, Major D. H. Hill, afterwards his brother-in-law, was a professor in a neighbouring institution, Washington College, and had been consulted by the Superintendent of the Institute as to the filling of the vacant chair.

Hill remembered what had been said of Jackson at West Point: “If the course had been one year longer he would have graduated at the head of his class.” This voluntary testimonial of his brother cadets had not passed

LEXINGTON  56

unheeded. It had weight, as the best evidence of his thoroughness and application, with the Board of Visitors, and Jackson was unanimously elected.

The Military Institute, founded twelve years previously on the model of West Point, was attended by several hundred youths from Virginia and other Southern States. At Lexington, in the county of Rockbridge, a hundred miles west of Richmond, stand the castellated buildings and the wide parade ground which formed the nursery of so many Confederate soldiers. To the east rise the lofty masses of the Blue Ridge. To the north successive ranges of rolling hills, green with copse and woodland, fall gently to the lower levels; and stretching far away at their feet, watered by that lovely river which the Indians in melodious syllables called Shenandoah, “bright daughter of the Stars,” the great Valley of Virginia,

Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows,

lies embosomed within its mountain walls. Of all its pleasant market towns, Lexington is not the least attractive; and in this pastoral region, where the great forests stand round about the corn-fields, and the breezes blow untainted from the uplands, had been built the College which Washington, greatest of Virginians and greatest of American soldiers, had endowed. Under the shadow of its towers the State had found an appropriate site for her military school.

The cadets of the Institute, although they wore a uniform, were taught by officers of the regular army, were disciplined as soldiers, and spent some months of their course in camp, were not destined for a military career. All aspirants for commissions in the United States army had to pass through West Point; and the training of the State colleges—for Virginia was not solitary in the possession of such an institution—however much it may have benefited both the minds and bodies of the rising generation, was of immediate value only to those who became officers of the State militia. Still in all essential respects the Military Institute was

WHY STONEWALL JACKSON LEFT THE ARMY  57

little behind West Point. The discipline was as strict, the drill but little less precise. The cadets had their own officers and their own sergeants, and the whole establishment was administered on a military footing. No pains were spared either by the State or the faculty to maintain the peculiar character of the school; and the little battalion, although the members were hardly likely to see service, was as carefully trained as if each private in the ranks might one day become a general officer. It was fortunate indeed for Virginia, when she submitted her destinies to the arbitrament of war, that some amongst her statesmen had been firm to the conviction that to defend one’s country is a task not a whit less honourable than to serve her in the ways of peace. She was unable to avert defeat. But she more than redeemed her honour; and the efficiency of her troops was in no small degree due to the training so many of her officers had received at the Military Institute.

Still, notwithstanding its practical use to the State, the offer of a chair at Lexington would probably have attracted but few of Jackson’s contemporaries. But while campaigning was entirely to his taste, life in barracks was the reverse. In those unenlightened days to be known as an able and zealous soldier was no passport to preferment. So long as an officer escaped censure his promotion was sure; he might reach without further effort the highest prizes the service offered, and the chances of the dull and indolent were quite as good as those of the capable and energetic. The one had no need for, the other no incentive to, self-improvement, and it was very generally neglected. Unless war intervened—and nothing seemed more improbable than another campaign—even a Napoleon would have had to submit to the inevitable. Jackson caught eagerly at the opportunity of freeing himself from an unprofitable groove.

“He believed,” he said, “that a man who had turned, with a good military reputation, to pursuits of a semi-civilian character, and had vigorously prosecuted his mental improvement, would have more chance of success

WHY STONEWALL JACKSON LEFT THE ARMY  58

in war than those who had remained in the treadmill of the garrison.”

It was with a view, then, of fitting himself for command that Jackson broke away from the restraints of regimental life; not because those restraints were burdensome or distasteful in themselves, but because he felt that whilst making the machine they might destroy the man. Those responsible for the efficiency of the United States army had not yet learned that the mind must be trained as well as the body, that drill is not the beginning and the end of the soldier’s education, that unless an officer is trusted with responsibility in peace he is but too apt to lose all power of initiative in war. That Jackson’s ideas were sound may be inferred from the fact that many of the most distinguished generals in the Civil War were men whose previous career had been analogous to his own.1

His duties at Lexington were peculiar. As Professor of Artillery he was responsible for little more than the drill of the cadets and their instruction in the theory of gunnery. The tactics of artillery, as the word is understood in Europe, he was not called upon to impart. Optics, mechanics, and astronomy were his special subjects, and he seems strangely out of place in expounding their dry formulas.

In the well-stocked library of the Institute he found every opportunity of increasing his professional knowledge. He was an untiring reader, and he read to learn. The wars of Napoleon were his constant study. He was an enthusiastic admirer of his genius; the swiftness, the daring, and the energy of his movements appealed to his every instinct. Unfortunately, both for the Institute and his popularity, it was not his business to lecture on military history. We can well imagine him, as a teacher of the art of war, describing to the impressionable youths around

1  Amongst these may be mentioned Grant, Sherman, and McClellan. Lee himself, as an engineer, had but small acquaintance with regimental life. The men who saved India for England in the Great mutiny were of the same type.

THE PROFESSOR  59

him the dramatic incidents of some famous campaign, following step by step the skilful strategy that brought about such victories as Austerlitz and Jena. The advantage would then have been with his pupils; in the work assigned to him it was the teacher that benefited. He was by no means successful as an instructor of the higher mathematics. Although the theories of light and motion were doubtless a branch of learning which the cadets particularly detested, his methods of teaching made it even more repellent. A thorough master of his subject, he lacked altogether the power of aiding others to master it. No flashes of humour relieved the tedium of his long and closely-reasoned demonstrations. He never descended to the level of his pupils’ understanding, nor did he appreciate their difficulties. Facts presented themselves to his intellect in few lights. As one of his chief characteristics as a commander was the clearness with which he perceived the end to be aimed at and the shortest way of reaching it, so, in his explanations to his stumbling class, he could only repeat the process by which he himself had solved the problem at issue. We may well believe that his self-reliant nature, trained to intense application, overlooked the fact that others, weaker and less gifted, could not surmount unaided the obstacles which only aroused his own masterful instincts. Nevertheless, his conscientious industry was not entirely thrown away. To the brighter intellects in his class he communicated accurate scholarship; and although the majority lagged far behind, the thoroughness of his mental drill was most useful, to himself perhaps even more than to the cadets.

1854–57   The death of his first wife, daughter of the reverend Dr. Junkin, President of Washington College, after they had been married but fourteen months, the solution of his religious difficulties, and his reception into the Presbyterian Church; a five months’ tour in Europe, through Scotland, England, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy; his marriage to Miss Morrison, daughter of a North Carolina clergyman: such were the chief landmarks of his life at Lexington. Ten years,

THE PROFESSOR  60

with their burden of joy and sorrow, passed away, of intense interest to the individual, but to the world a story dull and commonplace. Jackson was by no means a man of mark in Rockbridge county. Although his early shyness had somewhat worn off, he was still as reserved as he had been at West Point. His confidence was rarely given outside his own home. Intimates he had few, either at the Institute or elsewhere. Still he was not in the least unsociable, and there were many houses where he was always welcome. The academic atmosphere of Lexington did not preclude a certain amount of gaiety. The presence of Washington College and the Military Institute drew together a large number of families during the summer, and fair visitors thronged the leafy avenues of the little town. During these pleasant months the officers and cadets, as became their cloth, were always well to the fore. Recreation was the order of the day, and a round of entertainments enlivened the “Commencements.” Major Jackson attended these gatherings with unfailing regularity, but soon after his arrival he drew the line at dancing, and musical parties became the limit of his dissipation. He was anything but a convivial companion. He never smoked, he was a strict teetotaller, and he never touched a card. His diet, for reasons of health, was of a most sparing kind; nothing could tempt him to partake of food between his regular hours, and for many years he abstained from both tea and coffee. In those peaceful times, moreover, there was nothing either commanding or captivating about the Professor of Artillery. His little romance in Mexico had given him no taste for trivial pleasures; and his somewhat formal manner was not redeemed by any special charm of feature. The brow and jaw were undoubtedly powerful; but the eyes were gentle, and the voice so mild and soft as to belie altogether the set determination of the thin straight lips. Yet, at the same time, if Jackson was not formed for general society, he was none the less capable of making himself exceedingly agreeable in a restricted and congenial circle. Young and old, when once they had gained his confidence, came under

STONEWALL JACKSON'S RELIGION  61

the spell of his noble nature; and if his friends were few they were very firm.

Why Jackson should have preferred the Presbyterian denomination to all others we are nowhere told. But whatever his reasons may have been, he was a most zealous and hardworking member of his church. He was not content with perfunctory attendances at the services. He became a deacon, and a large portion of his leisure time was devoted to the work which thus devolved on him. His duties were to collect alms and to distribute to the destitute, and nothing was permitted to interfere with their exact performance. He was exceedingly charitable himself—one tenth of his income was laid aside for the church, and he gave freely to all causes of benevolence and public enterprise. At the church meetings, whether for business or prayer, he was a regular attendant, and between himself and his pastor existed the most confidential relations. Nor did he consider that this was all that was demanded of him. In Lexington, as in other Southern towns, there were many poor negroes, and the condition of these ignorant and helpless creatures, especially of the children, excited his compassion. Out of his own means he established a Sunday school, in which he and his wife were the principal teachers. His friends were asked to send their slaves, and the experiment was successful. The benches were always crowded, and the rows of black, bright-eyed faces were a source of as much pride to him as the martial appearance of the cadet battalion.

Jackson’s religion entered into every action of his life. No duty, however trivial, was begun without asking a blessing, or ended without returning thanks. “He had long cultivated,” he said, “the habit of connecting the most trivial and customary acts of life with a silent prayer.” He took the Bible as his guide, and it is possible that his literal interpretation of its precepts caused many to regard him as a fanatic. His observance of the Sabbath was hardly in accordance with ordinary usage. He never read a letter on that day, nor posted one; he believed that the Government in carrying the mails were violating a divine

Stonewall Jackson's LOVE OF TRUTH  62

law, and he considered the suppression of such traffic one of the most important duties of the legislature. Such opinions were uncommon, even amongst the Presbyterians, and his rigid respect for truth served to strengthen the impression that he was morbidly scrupulous. If he unintentionally made a misstatement—even about some trifling matter—as soon as he discovered his mistake he would lose no time and spare no trouble in hastening to correct it. “Why, in the name of reason,” he was asked, “do you walk a mile in the rain for a perfectly unimportant thing?” “Simply because I have discovered that it was a misstatement, and I could not sleep comfortably unless I put it right.”

He had occasion to censure a cadet who had given, as Jackson believed, the wrong solution of a problem. On thinking the matter over at home he found that the pupil was right and the teacher wrong. It was late at night and in the depth of winter, but he immediately started off to the Institute, some distance from his quarters, and sent for the cadet. The delinquent, answering with much trepidation the untimely summons, found himself to his astonishment the recipient of a frank apology. Jackson’s scruples carried him even further. Persons who interlarded their conversation with the unmeaning phrase “you know” were often astonished by the blunt interruption that he did not know; and when he was entreated at parties or receptions to break through his dietary rules, and for courtesy’s sake to accept some delicacy, he would always refuse with the reply that he had “no genius for seeming.” But if he carried his conscientiousness to extremes, if he laid down stringent rules for his own governance, he neither set himself up for a model nor did he attempt to force his convictions upon others. He was always tolerant; he knew his own faults, and his own temptations, and if he could say nothing good of a man he would not speak of him at all. But he was by no means disposed to overlook conduct of which he disapproved, and undue leniency was a weakness to which he never yielded. If he once lost confidence or discovered deception on the

Stonewall Jackson's LOVE OF TRUTH  63

part of one he trusted, he withdrew himself as far as possible from any further dealings with him; and whether with the cadets, or with his brother-officers, if an offence had been committed of which he was called upon to take notice, he was absolutely inflexible. Punishment or report inevitably followed. No excuses, no personal feelings, no appeals to the suffering which might be brought upon the innocent, were permitted to interfere with the execution of his duty.

Such were the chief characteristics of the great Confederate as he appeared to the little world of Lexington. The tall figure, clad in the blue uniform of the United States army, always scrupulously neat, striding to and from the Institute, or standing in the centre of the parade-ground, while the cadet battalion wheeled and deployed at his command, was familiar to the whole community. But Jackson’s heart was not worn on his sleeve. Shy and silent as he was, the knowledge that even his closest acquaintances had of him was hardly more than superficial. A man who was always chary of expressing his opinions, unless they were asked for, who declined argument, and used as few words as possible, attracted but little notice. A few recognised his clear good sense; the majority considered that if he said little it was because he had nothing worth saying. Because he went his own way and lived by his own rules he was considered eccentric; because he was sometimes absent-minded, and apt to become absorbed in his own thoughts, he was set down as unpractical; his literal accuracy of statement was construed as the mark of a narrow intellect, and his exceeding modesty served to keep him in the background.

At the Institute, despite his reputation for courage, he was no favourite even with the cadets. He was hardly in sympathy with them. His temper was always equable. Whatever he may have felt he never betrayed irritation, and in the lecture-room or elsewhere he was kindness itself; but his own life had been filled from boyhood with earnest purpose and high ambition. Hard work was more to his taste than amusement. Time, to his mind, was far

Stonewall Jackson's REAL NATURE  64

too valuable to be wasted, and he made few allowances for the thoughtlessness and indolence of irresponsible youth. As a relief possibly to the educational treadmill, his class delighted in listening to the story of Contreras and Chapultepec; but there was nothing about Jackson which corresponded with a boy’s idea of a hero. His aggressive punctuality, his strict observance of military etiquette, his precise interpretation of orders, seemed to have as little in common with the fierce excitement of battle as the uninteresting occupations of the Presbyterian deacon, who kept a Sunday school for negroes, had with the reckless gaiety of the traditional sabreur.

“And yet,” says one who know him, “they imbibed the principles he taught. Slowly and certainly were they trained in the direction which the teacher wished. Jackson justly believed that the chief value of the Institute consisted in the habits of system and obedience which it impressed on the ductile characters of the cadets, and regarded any relaxation of the rules as tending to destroy its usefulness. His conscientiousness seemed absurd to the young gentlemen who had no idea of the importance of military orders or of the implicit obedience which a good soldier deems it his duty to pay to them. But which was right—the laughing young cadet or the grave major of artillery? Let the thousands who in the bitter and arduous struggle of the Civil War were taught by stern experience the necessity of strict compliance with all orders, to the very letter, answer the question.”1

Stonewall Jackson

“As exact as the multiplication table, and as full of things military as an arsenal,” was the verdict passed on Jackson by one of his townsmen, and it appears to have been the opinion of the community at large.

Jackson, indeed, was as inarticulate as Cromwell. Like the great Protector he “lived silent,” and like him he was often misunderstood. Stories which have been repeated by writer after writer attribute to him the most grotesque eccentricities of manner, and exhibit his lofty piety as the harsh intolerance of a fanatic. He has been

1  Cooke, p. 28.

Stonewall Jackson's  REAL NATURE  65

represented as the narrowest of Calvinists; and so general was the belief in his stern and merciless nature that a great poet did not scruple to link his name with a deed which, had it actually occurred, would have been one of almost unexampled cruelty. Such calumnies as Whittier’s “Barbara Frichtie” may possibly have found their source in the impression made upon some of Jackson’s acquaintances at Lexington, who, out of all sympathy with his high ideal of life and duty, regarded him as morose and morbid; and when in after years the fierce and relentless pursuit of the Confederate general piled the dead high upon the battle-field, this conception of his character was readily accepted. As he rose to fame, men listened greedily to those who could speak of him from personal knowledge; the anecdotes which they related were quickly distorted; the slightest peculiarities of walk, speech, or gesture were greatly exaggerated; and even Virginians seemed to vie with one another in representing the humble and kind-hearted soldier as the most bigoted of Christians and the most pitiless of men.

But just as the majority of ridiculous stories which cluster round his name rest on the very flimsiest foundation, so the popular conception of his character during his life at Lexington was absolutely erroneous. It was only within the portals of his home that his real nature disclosed itself. The simple and pathetic pages in which his widow has recorded the story of their married life unfold an almost ideal picture of domestic happiness, unchequered by the faintest glimpse of austerity or gloom. That quiet home was the abode of much content; the sunshine of sweet temper flooded every nook and corner; and although the pervading atmosphere was essentially religious, mirth and laughter were familiar guests.

“Those who knew General Jackson only as they saw him in public would have found it hard to believe that there could be such a transformation as he exhibited in his domestic life. He luxuriated in the freedom and liberty of his home, and his buoyancy and joyousness often ran into a playfulness and abandon that would have been

Stonewall Jackson's  NATURE  66

incredible to those who saw him only when he put on his official dignity.”1 It was seldom, indeed, except under his own roof, or in the company of his intimates, that his reserve was broken through; in society he was always on his guard, fearful lest any chance word might be misconstrued or give offence. It is no wonder, then, that Lexington misjudged him. Nor were those who knew him only when he was absorbed in the cares of command before the enemy likely to see far below the surface. The dominant trait in Jackson’s character was his intense earnestness, and when work was doing, every faculty of his nature was engrossed in the accomplishment of the task on hand. But precise, methodical, and matter-of-fact as he appeared, his was no commonplace and prosaic nature. He had “the delicacy and the tenderness which are the rarest and most beautiful ornament of the strong.”2 Beneath his habitual gravity a vivid imagination, restrained indeed by strong sense and indulging in no vain visions, was ever at work; and a lofty enthusiasm, which seldom betrayed itself in words, inspired his whole being. He was essentially chivalrous. His deference to woman, even in a land where such deference was still the fashion, was remarkable, and his sympathy with the oppressed was as deep as his loyalty to Virginia. He was an ardent lover of nature. The autumnal glories of the forest, the songs of the birds, the splendours of the sunset, were sources of unfailing pleasure. More than all, the strength of his imagination carried him further than the confines of the material world, and he saw with unclouded vision the radiant heights that lie beyond.

Jackson, then, was something more than a man of virile temperament; he was gifted with other qualities than energy, determination, and common sense. He was not witty. He had no talent for repartee, and the most industrious collector of anecdotes will find few good things attributed to him. But he possessed a kindly humour which found vent in playful expressions of endearment, or in practical jokes of the most innocent description; and if these outbursts of high spirits were confined to the

Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson, p. 108.
2  Marion Crawford.

Stonewall Jackson's SERVANTS  67

precincts of his own home, they proved at least that neither by temperament nor principle was he inclined to look upon the darker side. His eye for a ludicrous situation was very quick, and a joke which told against himself always caused him the most intense amusement. It is impossible to read the letters which Mrs. Jackson has published and to entertain the belief that his temper was ever in the least degree morose. To use her own words, “they are the overflow of a heart full of tenderness;” it is true that they seldom omit some reference to that higher life which both husband and wife were striving hand in hand to lead, but they are instinct from first to last with the serene happiness of a contented mind.

Even more marked than his habitual cheerfulness was his almost feminine sympathy with the poor and feeble. His servants, as was the universal rule in Virginia, were his slaves; but his relations with his black dependents were of almost a paternal character, and his kindness was repaid by that childlike devotion peculiar to the negro race. More than one of these servants—so great was his reputation for kindness—had begged him to buy them from their former owners. Their interests were his special care; in sickness they received all the attention and comfort that the house afforded; to his favourite virtues, politeness and punctuality, they were trained by their master himself, and their moral education was a task he cheerfully undertook. “There was one little servant in the family,” says Mrs. Jackson, “whom my husband took under his sheltering roof at the solicitations of an aged lady; to whom the child became a care after having been left an orphan. She was not bright, but he persevered in drilling her into memorising a child’s catechism, and it was a most amusing picture to see her standing before him with fixed attention, as if she were straining every nerve, and reciting her answers with the drop of a curtsey at each word. She had not been taught to do this, but it was such an effort for her to learn that she assumed the motion involuntarily.”

Jackson’s home was childless. A little daughter, born at Lexington, lived only for a few weeks, and her place

HOME LIFE  68

remained unfilled. His sorrow, although he submitted uncomplainingly, was very bitter, for his love for children was very great. “A gentleman,” says Mrs. Jackson, “who spent the night with us was accompanied by his daughter, but four years of age. It was the first time the child had been separated from her mother, and my husband suggested that she should be committed to my care during the night, but she clung to her father. After our guests had both sunk in slumber, the father was aroused by someone leaning over his little girl and drawing the covering more closely round her. It was only his thoughtful host, who felt anxious lest his little guest should miss her mother’s guardian care under his roof, and could not go to sleep himself until he was satisfied that all was well with the child.”

These incidents are little more than trivial. The attributes they reveal seem of small import. They are not such as go towards building up a successful career either in war or politics. And yet to arrive at a true conception of Jackson’s character it is necessary that such incidents should be recorded. That character will not appear the less admirable because its strength and energy were tempered by softer virtues; and when we remember the great soldier teaching a negro child, or ministering to the comfort of a sick slave, it becomes easy to understand the feelings with which his veterans regarded him. The quiet home at Lexington reveals more of the real man than the camps and conflicts of the Civil War, and no picture of Stonewall Jackson would be complete without some reference to his domestic life.

“His life at home,” says his wife, “was perfectly regular and systematic. He arose about six o’clock, and first knelt in secret prayer; then he took a cold bath, which was never omitted even in the coldest days of winter. This was followed by a brisk walk, in rain or shine.

“Seven o’clock was the hour for family prayers, which he required all his servants to attend promptly and regularly. He never waited for anyone, not even his wife. Breakfast followed prayers, after which he left immediately for the Institute, his classes opening at eight o’clock and continuing to eleven. Upon his return home at eleven

HOME LIFE  69

o’clock he devoted himself to study until one. The first book he took up daily was his Bible, which he read with a commentary, and the many pencil marks upon it showed with what care he bent over its pages. From his Bible lesson he turned to his text-books. During those hours of study he would permit no interruption, and stood all the time in front of a high desk. After dinner he gave himself up for half an hour or more to leisure and conversation, and this was one of the brightest periods in his home life. He then went into his garden, or out to his farm to superintend his servants, and frequently joined them in manual labour. He would often drive me to the farm, and find a shady spot for me under the trees, while he attended to the work of the field. When this was not the case, he always returned in time to take me, if the weather permitted, for an evening walk or drive. In summer we often took our drives by moonlight, and in the beautiful Valley of Virginia the queen of night seemed to shine with more brightness than elsewhere. When at home he would indulge himself in a season of rest and recreation after supper, thinking it was injurious to health to go to work immediately. As it was a rule with him never to use his eyes by artificial light, he formed the habit of studying mentally for an hour or so without a book. After going over his lessons in the morning, he thus reviewed them at night, and in order to abstract his thoughts from surrounding objects—a habit which he had cultivated to a remarkable degree—he would, if alone with his wife, ask that he might not be disturbed by any conversation; he would then take his seat with his face to the wall, and remain in perfect abstraction until he finished his mental task. He was very fond of being read to, and much of our time in the evening was passed in my ministering to him in this way. He had a library, which, though small, was select, composed chiefly of scientific, historical, and religious books, with some of a lighter character, and some in Spanish and French. Nearly all of them were full of his pencil marks, made with a view to future reference.” Next to the Bible, history, both ancient

HOME LIFE  70

and modern, was his favourite study. Plutarch, Josephus, Rollin, Robertson, Hallam, Macaulay, and Bancroft were his constant companions. Shakespeare held an honoured place upon his shelves; and when a novel fell into his hands he became so absorbed in the story that he eventually avoided such literature as a waste of time. “I am anxious,” he wrote to a relative, “to devote myself to study until I shall become master of my profession.”

The Jacksons were far from affluent. The professor had nothing but his salary, and his wife, one of a large family, brought no increase to their income. But the traditional hospitality of Virginia was a virtue by no means neglected. He was generous but unostentatious in his mode of living, and nothing gave him more pleasure than to bid his friends welcome to his own home.

His outdoor recreations were healthful but not exciting. The hills round Lexington teemed with game, the rivers with fish, and shooting and fishing were the favourite amusements of his colleagues. But Jackson found no pleasure in rod or gun; and although fond of riding and a good horseman, he never appears to have joined in any of those equestrian sports to which the Virginians were much addicted. He neither followed the hunt nor tilted at the ring. His exercise was taken after more utilitarian fashion, in the garden or the farm.

It need hardly be said that such a lover of order and method was strictly economical, and the wise administration of the farm and household permitted an annual expenditure on travel. Many of the most beautiful localities and famous cities of the east and north were visited in these excursions. Sometimes he wandered with his wife in search of health; more often the object of their journey was to see with their own eyes the splendid scenery of their native land. The associations which were ever connected in Jackson’s mind with his tour through Europe show how intensely he appreciated the marvels both of nature and of art.

“I would advise you,” he wrote to a friend, “never to name my European trip to me unless you are blest with a superabundance of patience, as its very mention is calculated

Stonewall Jackson's FAITH  71

to bring up with it an almost inexhaustible assemblage of grand and beautiful associations. Passing over the works of the Creator, which are far the most impressive, it is difficult to conceive of the influences which even the works of His creatures exercise over the mind of one who lingers amidst their master productions. Well do I remember the influence of sculpture upon me during my short stay in Florence, and how there I began to realise the sentiment of the Florentine: ‘Take from me my liberty, take what you will, but leave me my statuary, leave me these entrancing productions of art.’ And similar to this is the influence of painting.”

But delightful as were these holiday expeditions, the day of Jackson’s return to Lexington and his duties never came too soon. In the quiet routine of his home life, in his work at the Institute, in the supervision of his farm and garden, in his evenings with his books, and in the services of his church, he was more than contented. Whatever remained of soldierly ambition had long been eradicated. Man of action as he essentially was, he evinced no longing for a wider sphere of intellectual activity or for a more active existence. Under his own roof-tree he found all that he desired. “There,” says his wife, “all that was best in his nature shone forth;” and that temper was surely of the sweetest which could utter no sterner rebuke than “Ah! that is not the way to be happy!”

Nor was it merely his own gentleness of disposition and the many graces of his charming helpmate that secured so large a degree of peace and happiness. Jackson’s religion played even a greater part. It was not of the kind which is more concerned with the terrors of hell than the glories of paradise. The world to him was no place of woe and lamentation, its beauties vanity, and its affections a snare. As he gazed with delight on the gorgeous tints of the autumnal forests, and the lovely landscapes of his mountain home, so he enjoyed to the utmost the life and love which had fallen to his lot, and thanked God for that capacity for happiness with which his nature was so largely gifted. Yet it cannot be said that he practised no self-denial. His life, in many respects, was one of constant self-discipline, and

Stonewall Jackson's FAITH  72

when his time came to sacrifice himself, he submitted without a murmur. But in his creed fear had no place. His faith was great. It was not, however, a mere belief in God’s omnipotence and God’s justice, but a deep and abiding confidence in His infinite compassion and infinite love; and it created in him an almost startling consciousness of the nearness and reality of the invisible world. In a letter to his wife it is revealed in all its strength:

“You must not be discouraged at the slowness of recovery. Look up to Him who giveth liberally for faith to be resigned to His divine will, and trust Him for that measure of health which will most glorify Him, and advance to the greatest extent your own real happiness. We are sometimes suffered to be in a state of perplexity that our faith may be tried and grow stronger. See if you cannot spend a short time after dark in looking out of your window into space, and meditating upon heaven, with all its joys unspeakable and full of glory. . . . ‘All things work together for good’ to God’s children. Try to look up and be cheerful, and not desponding. Trust our kind Heavenly Father, and by the eye of faith see that all things are right and for your best interests. The clouds come, pass over us, and are followed by bright sunshine; so in God’s moral dealings with us, He permits to have trouble awhile. But let us, even in the most trying dispensations of His Providence, be cheered by the brightness which is a little ahead.”

It would serve no useful purpose to discuss Jackson’s views on controversial questions. It may be well, however, to correct a common error. It has been asserted that he was a fatalist, and therefore careless of a future over which he believed he had no control. Not a word, however, either in his letters or in his recorded conversations warrants the assumption. It is true that his favourite maxim was “Duty is ours, consequences are God’s,” and that knowing “all things work together for good,” he looked forward to the future without misgiving or apprehension.

But none the less he believed implicitly that the destiny of men and of nations is in their own hands. His faith

Stonewall Jackson's Faith 73

was as sane as it was humble, without a touch of that presumptuous fanaticism which stains the memory of Cromwell, to whom he has been so often compared. He never imagined, even at the height of his renown, when victory on victory crowned his banners, that he was “the scourge of God,” the chosen instrument of His vengeance. He prayed without ceasing, under fire as in the camp; but he never mistook his own impulse for a revelation of the divine will. He prayed for help to do his duty, and he prayed for success. He knew that:

“More things are wrought by prayer
  Than this world dreams of;”

but he knew, also, that prayer is not always answered in the way which man would have it. He went into battle with supreme confidence, not, as has been alleged, that the Lord had delivered the enemy into his hands, but that whatever happened would be the best that could happen. And he was as free from cant as from self-deception. It may be said of Jackson, as has been said so eloquently of the men whom, in some respects, he closely resembled, that “his Bible was literally food to his understanding and a guide to his conduct. He saw the visible finger of God in every incident of life. . . . That which in our day devout men and women feel in their earnest moments of prayer, the devout Puritan felt, as a second nature, in his rising up and in his lying down; in the market-place and in the home; in society and in business; in Parliament, in Council, and on the field of battle. And feeling this, the Puritan had no shame in uttering the very words of the Bible wherein he had learned so to feel; nay, he would have burned with shame had he faltered in using the words. It is very hard for us now to grasp what this implies. . . . But there was a generation in which this phraseology was the natural speech of men.”1 Of this generation, although later in time, was Stonewall Jackson. To him such language as he used in his letters to his wife, in conversation with his intimates, and not rarely in his official

Oliver Cromwell, by Frederic Harrison, p. 29.

HIS INTELLECTUAL TRAINING  74

correspondence, was “the literal assertion of truths which he felt to the roots of his being,” which absorbed his thoughts, which coloured every action of his life, and which, from the abundance of his heart, rose most naturally to his lips.

There is no need for further allusion to his domestic or religious life. If in general society Jackson was wanting in geniality; if he was so little a man of the world that his example lost much of the influence which, had he stood less aloof from others, it must have exercised, it was the fruit of his early training, his natural reserve, and his extreme humility. It is impossible, however, that so pure a life should have been altogether without reflex upon others. If the cadets profited but indirectly, the slaves had cause to bless his practical Christianity; the poor and the widow knew him as a friend, and his neighbours looked up to him as the soul of sincerity, the enemy of all that was false and vile. And for himself—what share had those years of quiet study, of self-communing, and of self-discipline, in shaping the triumphs of the Confederate arms? The story of his military career is the reply.

Men of action have before now deplored the incessant press of business which leaves them no leisure to think out the problems which may confront them in the future. Experience is of little value without reflection, and leisure has its disadvantages. “One can comprehend,” says Dabney, referring to Jackson’s peculiar form of mental exercise, “how valuable was the training which his mind received for his work as a soldier. Command over his attention was formed into a habit which no tempest of confusion could disturb. His power of abstraction became unrivalled. His imagination was trained and invigorated until it became capable of grouping the most extensive and complex considerations. The power of his mind was drilled like the strength of an athlete, and his self-concentration became unsurpassed.”

Such training was undoubtedly the very best foundation for the intellectual side of a general’s business. War presents a constant succession of problems to be solved by

HIS INTELLECTUAL TRAINING  75

mental processes. For some experience and resource supply a ready solution. Others, involving the movements of large bodies, considerations of time and space, and the thousand and one circumstances, such as food, weather, roads, topography, and morale, which a general must always bear in mind, are composed of so many factors, that only a brain accustomed to hard thinking can deal with them successfully. Of this nature are the problems of strategy—those which confront a general in command of an army or of a detached portion of an army, and which are worked out on the map. The problems of the battle-field are of a different order. The natural characteristics which, when fortified by experience, carry men through any dangerous enterprise, win the majority of victories. But men may win battles and be very poor generals. They may be born leaders of men, and yet absolutely unfitted for independent command. Their courage, coolness, and common sense may accomplish the enemy’s overthrow on the field, but with strategical considerations their intellects may be absolutely incapable of grappling. In the great wars of the early part of the century Ney and Blucher were probably the best fighting generals of France and Prussia. But neither could be trusted to conduct a campaign. Blucher, pre-eminent on the battle-field, knew nothing of the grand combinations which prepare and complete success. If he was the strong right hand of the Prussian army, his chief of staff was the brain. “Gneisenau,” said the old Marshal, “makes the pills which I administer.” “Ney’s best qualities,” says Jomini, who served long on his staff, “his heroic valour, his quick coup d’œil, and his energy, diminished in the same proportion that the extent of his command increased his responsibility. Admirable on the field of battle, he displayed less assurance, not only in council, but whenever he was not actually face to face with the enemy.” It is not of such material as Ney and Blucher, mistrustful of their own ability, that great captains are made. Marked intellectual capacity is the chief characteristic of the most famous soldiers. Alexander, Hannibal, Cæsar, Marlborough, Washington, Frederick, Napoleon, Wellington, and Nelson were each and all of

HIS RESOLUTE CHARACTER  76

them something more than mere fighting men. Few of their age rivalled them in strength of intellect. It was this, combined with the best qualities of Ney and Blucher, that made them masters of strategy, and lifted them high above those who were tacticians and nothing more; and it was strength of intellect that Jackson cultivated at Lexington.

So, in that quiet home amidst the Virginian mountains, the years sped by, peaceful and uneventful, varied only by the holiday excursions of successive summers. By day, the lecture at the Institute, the drill of the cadet battery, the work of the church, the pleasant toil of the farm and garden. When night fell, and the curtains were drawn across the windows that looked upon the quiet street, there in that home where order reigned supreme, where, as the master wished, “each door turned softly on a golden hinge,” came those hours of thought and analysis which were to fit him for great deeds.

The even tenor of this calm existence was broken, however, by an incident which intensified the bitter feeling which already divided the Northern and Southern sections of the United States. During the month of January, 1859, Jackson had marched with the cadet battalion to Harper’s Ferry, where, on the northern frontier of Virginia, the fanatic, John Brown, had attempted to raise an insurrection amongst the negroes, and had been hung after trial in presence of the troops. By the South Brown was regarded as a madman and a murderer; by many in the North he was glorified as a martyr; and so acute was the tension that early in 1860, during a short absence from Lexington, Jackson wrote in a letter to his wife, “What do you think about the state of the country? Viewing things at Washington from human appearances, I think we have great reason for alarm.” A great crisis was indeed at hand. But if to her who was ever beside him, while the storm clouds were rising dark and terrible over the fair skies of the prosperous Republic, the Christian soldier seemed the man best fitted to lead the people, it was not so outside. None doubted his sincerity or questioned his resolution, but few had penetrated his reserve. As the playful tenderness he displayed at home

HIS RESOLUTE CHARACTER  77

was never suspected, so the consuming earnestness, the absolute fearlessness, whether of danger or of responsibility, the utter disregard of man, and the unquestioning faith in the Almighty, which made up the individuality which men called Stonewall Jackson, remained hidden from all but one.

To his wife his inward graces idealised his outward seeming; but others, noting his peculiarities, and deceived by his modesty, saw little that was remarkable and much that was singular in the staid professor. Few detected, beneath that quiet demeanour and absent manner, the existence of energy incarnate and an iron will; and still fewer beheld, in the plain figure of the Presbyterian deacon, the potential leader of great armies, inspiring the devotion of his soldiers, and riding in the forefront of victorious battle.

 

 

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