Lieutenant-General Thomas Jonathan ‘Stonewall’ Jackson was the greatest martyr of our Cause, the first icon of the War for Southern Independence. He was the archetypal Christian soldier; there is infinite wisdom to be gleaned from his life. In death, he has ascended to the status of myth; even in life, as a chaplain once expressed, “Nobody seemed to understand him…when we ordinary mortals cannot comprehend a genius, we get even with him by calling him crazy.”
Jackson was a consuming fire, as displayed by one of his favorite maxims, “Press forward.” He did not believe in retreat, but rather in aggressive, vigorous pursuit, to reap “the fruits of victory” and “secure the blessing”; the enemy “never [ran] too fast” for him. As a contemporary observer noted, he “lived by the New Testament, and fought by the Old.” When he first received his commission as Colonel of the Virginians, an official asked, “Who is this Major Jackson?” His query was answered forthwith: “One who, if you order him to hold a post, will never leave it alive to be occupied by the enemy.” A running joke among our men was that Satan himself had sent Jackson a petition urging him to stop inundating him with Yankees; Hell was running out of room. He believed that the Confederacy must wage an offensive war, not the defensive war that his superiors became trapped within; he knew that “we must make it an exceedingly active one. Only thus can a weaker country cope with a stronger; it must make up in activity what it lacks in strength.” He persistently asked for more men, with whom he desired to invade the North and take Washington. Upon assuming his command, he advocated a take-no-prisoners policy, believing that “if the war is carried on with vigor, under the blessing of God, it will not last long.” Defending the Maryland Heights at Harper’s Ferry, Jackson recommended a Thermopylae to evince our determination to resist. This audacity made carnage into his cradle; as R.L. Dabney put it, “as the fire grew hotter, he rejoiced in it as his coveted opportunity.”
He consistently exposed himself to fire, risking his life by riding among his batteries. At Cedar Run, with sword drawn, he cried, “Rally, brave men, and press forward! Your General will lead you…Follow me!” General Longstreet once asked him if the multitudes of Federals did not frighten him; he replied, “We shall see very soon, whether I shall not frighten them.” At First Manassas, South Carolinian General Bee exclaimed, “General, they are beating us back!” Jackson’s stoically replied, “Then we will give them the bayonet.” Bee relayed this perseverance to the men, thereby giving Jackson his moniker: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me.” During this same battle, we have one of the earliest known ‘compositions’ of the fabled rebel yell; Jackson urged his men to “give them the bayonet; when you charge, yell like furies!” We may only imagine what this joyful noise sounded like, as our closest approximation is a Smithsonian Institution recording of Confederate veterans reproducing it at a gathering in the 1930s.
Jackson was a purely brilliant warrior; war was his calling. It is instructive that he was felled not by any Yankee bullet, but rather by his own men; he denied our enemy that pleasure. While Jackson lived, Lee neither won without him nor lost with him; Grant the butcher never faced him. Lee trusted him to accomplish the ends, without ever needing to instruct him as to the means. Indeed, upon hearing of Jackson’s wounding, Lee sent him a note stating that “could I have directed events, I should have chosen, for the good of the country, to have been disabled in your stead.” Lee noted that Jackson had “lost his left arm; but I have lost my right arm.” He was confident that Jackson would recover, because surely, he believed, “God will not take him from us, now that we need him so much.” Somehow, he knew that without Jackson, our Cause would be lost. Jackson, however, knew no such thing; his last order was, “You must keep your men together, and hold your ground.” In delirium as he lay dying, he urged, “Do your duty.” His men did not disappoint; his Stonewall Brigade used as their rallying cry in battles to come, “Charge; and remember Jackson!”
Jackson’s supernatural fearlessness was just that: supernatural. It came not from this fallen world, but from his total faith in that which is to come; in Dabney’s words, his faith was “the substance of things anticipated, and the evidence of things not seen.” He surrendered himself before God; this faith, however, was not the apathy of fatalism, but rather the passionate optimism that comes from trusting God, “who doeth all things well.” Precisely because of God’s promise “to make all things work together for good to them that love Him”, Jackson did not allow his peace to “be disturbed by anything which man can do unto him”; he wrote that “nothing earthly can mar my happiness. I know that heaven is in store for me; and I should rejoice in the prospect of going there tomorrow…life is very bright to me. But, still, I am ready to leave it any day, without trepidation or regret.” He kept his eyes fixed not on the toils of the day, “light afflictions which are but for a moment”, but “upon the throne of God”, “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” After all, as Jackson said, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” It is this from which his unparalleled bravery was derived. God gave him serenity in the midst of chaos, and he was just as at home on the blood-spattered battlefield as if he were in bed. One matron observed that Jackson was “ready to meet his God; his lamp is burning, and he waits for the bridegroom.”
When the bridegroom inevitably arrived, Jackson resigned himself to “whatever is necessary”; remarkably, he said that “it has been a precious experience to me, that I was brought face to face with death, and found all was well.” His death was our loss, but his gain; he, as all Christians must, regarded his death as a reward, a translation. He believed that “it has been done according to God’s holy will, and I acquiesce entirely in it…you never saw me more contented than I am today; for I am sure that my Heavenly Father designs this affliction for my good…what is now regarded as a calamity, is a blessing.” Jackson even went so far as to say that if he could, he would not replace his left arm unless he could be absolutely sure that it was the will of God. He did not fear death, and yet he did not expect to die; he was “persuaded the Almighty has yet a work for me to perform.” And when death slipped over him, when God called him home, with perfect grace, he looked into his beloved wife’s eyes once more and said clearly, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” His attitude is best expressed in an 1859 letter written to his wife: “You must not be discouraged. All things work together for good to God’s children…the afflictions of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 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 with you are right, and for your best interest…the clouds come, pass over us, and are followed by bright sunshine…He permits us 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.”
Jackson’s death was a tragic blow from which we did not, perhaps could not, recover; his mourning country could only ask, “Why?” Dabney captures the shock by describing what Jackson was to his countrymen, “the man of destiny, the anointed of God to bring in deliverance for his oppressed Church and Country”, proof of the righteousness of their Cause. Some believed that God delivered him from the evil that was to come, the calamity that was to unfold. Some saw his death as the translation that was to be rewarded a model Christian. Some felt that we were unworthy of his greatness to walk among us, to serve us. Dabney wrote that “his fall in the midst of the great struggle for the existence of his country, and in the morning of his usefulness and fame, has appeared…a fearful mystery. But if his own interests be regarded, it will appear a time well chosen for God to call him to his rest; when his powers were in their undimmed prime, and his glory at its zenith; when his greatest victory had just been won; and the last sounds which reached him from the outer world were the thanksgivings and blessings of a nation in raptures with his achievements, in tears for his fall.” Jackson himself would most certainly tell us to stop fussing and carry on, as it is only for God to know.
Jackson prayed zealously, asking blessings and offering thanksgivings even in the midst of battle; before every decision, he prayed to God, his only counsel. There probably never was a man who so stringently kept the Sabbath. He assiduously refrained from praising himself; praise was reserved only for God, and for his men; another of his maxims was, “Let another praise thee, and not thyself.” With reference to the supremacy of God, Jackson gave credit where due; as he so often said, “Give God the glory.” He knew that “if we fail to trust in God, and to give Him all the glory, our Cause is ruined”, for God, not luck or even his brilliance, was his shield. After First Manassas, he made sure to write that “all the glory is due to God alone”; at Second Manassas, when a soldier declared that “this day has been won by nothing but stark and stern fighting”, Jackson immediately replied, “No, it has been won by nothing but the blessing and protection of Providence.” Jackson referred to Chancellorsville, his last battle, as “the most successful military movement of my life…I feel that His hand led me; let us give Him the glory.”
For Jackson, the War for Southern Independence was a Crusade, a holy war waged on behalf of the Lord. Having dedicated himself and “all that I have…to the service of God”, he would never have fought for our Cause if he was not absolutely certain that it lay, as Dabney said, “under the disposal of Divine Providence.” With independence, Jackson wanted to “make us that people whose God is the Lord”; the pharisaic apostate Yankees, having turned away from God, “deserve[d] the agonies of perdition”. To Jackson, the War was his, and our, duty to God; another of his guiding maxims was, “Duty is ours; consequences are God’s.” Jackson, a true soldier of the cross, desired to transform the entire Confederate Army into the “Army of the living God, as well as of its country.” He believed that the Christian should “carry his religion into everything”, that “Christianity makes man better in any lawful calling”, and that the Bible “furnished men with rules for everything”, no matter the situation. Jackson saw preaching as the highest calling one could have, a position equal to no other; as such, he was deeply committed to evangelizing and converting the Army; with a Christian Army struggling for the highest Cause, victory would be assured. He believed that if the Confederate government would “acknowledge the God of the Bible as its God, we may expect soon to be a happy and independent people.”
The ultimate goal, service in the name of Christ, was thus never out of mind; as Jackson wrote, “Whilst we attach so much importance to being free from temporal bondage, we must attach far more to being free from the bondage of sin.” He was instrumental in initiating and maintaining the revival that swept like wildfire through the Army. The reformed commands were by all accounts the greatest; profanity and drunkenness gave way to order, discipline, and Biblical study. Dabney wrote that the Army was transformed from the timeless seat of vice and infidelity and “made the home and source of the religious life of a nation, evidence of the favor of God to the afflicted people.” Not since the Crusades had anything like this occurred, and we certainly have no examples after our Cause was lost. This proxy war between God and Satan is fully exposed when we compare the conduct of our soldiers of the cross with the vicious rapine and plunder of our brutal enemy. Hollow war criminals like Sherman and Sheridan, under the banners of the butcher Grant and the tyrant Lincoln, perpetrated and presided over the most massive tragedy our nation has ever experienced. Our livestock massacred wholesale, our farms razed, our homes ransacked, our fields salted, our cities leveled, our women raped, and two generations of our best men extinguished. We still have not recovered the wealth that was systematically looted from us. These villains cannot hold a candle to the incorruptible Jackson, the chivalrous Lee, the honorable Forrest, the uncompromising Davis. As Lord Lindsay remarked, we were “rose nobles of gold, against crooked sixpences.”
As aforementioned, it is of the utmost importance that this, the purest of men, was ours, the hero of our Cause; he was so confident in the divinity of our Cause that he looked forward to presenting himself before the Lord when the time came. Jackson was not a secessionist at first, and prayed to avoid war, which he knew as “the sum of all evils”, but he knew that “if the government should persist in the measures threatened, there must be a war…we shall have no other alternative; we must fight.” War was not something to be sought, but rather the last recourse in a world in which no political defenses remained. After all, Virginia’s motto was and remains sic semper tyrannis. Jackson witnessed the execution of the subsequently canonized terrorist John Brown, that emblem of the Yankee character, or as Dabney put it, “the Moloch of Federal ambition”, “fanaticism set on fire of hell.” He saw the hatred raining upon the Southern people from Northern pulpits and presses; he saw radical egalitarianism on the march, that evil which, again in Dabney’s words, “under the name of equality, would subject all the rights of individuals to the will of the many, and acknowledged no law nor ethics, save the lust of that mob which happens to be the larger.” All of this should sound familiar to those of us who keep abreast of the news in our nation each day. The Christian South, Dabney wrote, “saw the mighty beast gathering his forces for the bound upon his prey, yet they calmly stepped before his jaws”; against odds that would overwhelm anyone else, Jackson and our forefathers nonetheless fought, men against and out of time.
They gave everything for our posterity, for our birthright, because they understood the consequences, the utter devastation that would be wrought by our enemy. They understood that the state had been seized and weaponized against them, that those institutions which should have served as their guarantors had been usurped, made into their devourers. They understood that Northern capitalism stood with knives out for Southern agrarianism. They saw plainly that ruthless mercantile finance disguised as abolitionism hungrily licking its lips in rapturous anticipation of the eviscerated Southern lifeblood that would whet its appetite and slake its thirst, grist for its dark satanic mill. They understood that the Yankees threatened wholesale slaughter and pillage, “the extermination of a whole people’s national life”; they understood that their homes were threatened with annihilation, that, again in Dabney’s words, “the most powerful moral forces of the soul would be evoked to sustain the struggle.” Against the threat of the extended director’s cut of the John Brown raid, against the basest lusts and Mammon-worship, we fought for hearth and home. We fought for the Founding principles, for freedom from, not freedom to; Jackson himself referred to the War as “our second War of Independence”. We fought for God and the organic hierarchy that grounded our society. Jackson was sustained in the struggle through his faith, but also by his outrage at the barbarous inhumanity of the Yankee. As his men entered what was once Romney, Virginia, “scarcely anything appeared by which it could be recognized by its own children, save the everlasting hills which surround it.”
As a cadet at West Point, Jackson kept a book of maxims; chief among them was, “You may be whatever you resolve to be.” Throughout his life, Jackson continued to write, “I can accomplish whatever I will to do.” This optimistic grit defined him; he was happy, never despairing, always, as he said, “expecting the blessing at the last moment.” Another of his maxims: “Hope springs immortal in the human breast.” He was deeply committed to the truth, believing that it, just as Christ, would always prevail. He made sure never to lie; while other officers worried that news of his grievous wounds would spread and demoralize the Army, he ordered them to “tell them simply that you have a wounded Confederate officer”, thus accomplishing the goal without working deception. Jackson inspired extraordinary devotion from his men. When he was wounded, he had to be evacuated on a litter while under enemy fire; three of his attendants laid him down and covered him with their own bodies to protect him. As Jackson’s casket, wreathed with tears and draped by the very first model of the new second national flag, lay in state at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond (now occupied by Leftist infanticide promoter Ralph Northam), a veteran of his old division appeared. He was told that he was too late, that the visitation was over; he lifted the stump of his amputated right arm to heaven, and cried, “By this arm, which I lost for my country, I demand the privilege of seeing my General once more.” Needless to say, his request was complied with.
This devotion was at least partially inspired by Jackson’s sacrificial self-denial. The Bible verse that most accurately serves as a guiding light in our understanding this is Matthew 8:20: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. The disciple cannot, indeed, must not, live a life of comfort. Jackson served God and country, and relinquished that place where he laid his head, precisely for the posterity of Dixieland, so that his countrymen could retain their nests and holes. He placed himself and all that he possessed at the service of his country. He was modest in all things; one of his last requests was that the “Stonewall” moniker be attached to the brigade, and not himself. His self-denial verged on asceticism. He did not drink spirits, saying of liquor, “I like it; I always did; and that is the reason I never use it”, and that he was “more afraid of it than of Federal bullets.” He wholeheartedly subscribed to the maxim, “Govern yourself absolutely, and you will not suffer.” He attended parties as a matter of social duty, but he always politely stood apart; as an observer noted, he was “in the gay throng, but not of it.”
Jackson was also devoted to his men in kind. He once asked, “Who could not conquer, with such troops as these?” He never spoke proudly of himself, but said of his men that they “sometimes fail to drive the enemy from their position; but the enemy are never able to drive my men from theirs.” He led by example, as set forth in yet another of his maxims, “He who would govern must himself set the example”; he never took a furlough, reasoning that “as my officers and soldiers are not permitted to visit their wives and families, I ought not to see mine.” When he was wounded, he made sure that others were attended to first; even when fatally injured, he said, “Don’t trouble yourself about me”, “I can wait”, and, “Never mind, it is a trifle.” He bore his pain silently, only complaining once, groaning when his litter was dropped. After Kernstown, a surgeon suggested that he evacuate the troops. To this, he replied, “The Army stays here till the last wounded man is removed. Before I will leave them to the enemy, I will lose many men more.” This stands in stark contrast to the depraved conduct of Yankee officers like the butcher Grant, throwing wave after wave of men into a meat-grinder to die.
Once, shortly after assuming command, Jackson was approached by a confused young corporal; graciously, he taught the young man all of his salutes and instructions before sending him on his merry way. En route to First Manassas, outside Paris, Virginia, Jackson alone spent the night on guard duty, saying, “Let the poor fellows sleep; I will guard the camp myself.” A final anecdote related by the eminently quotable Dabney relays to us all that we need know of Jackson: the night before Chancellorsville, “Jackson, with his usual self-forgetfulness, had left his quarters, his mind absorbed in the care of the Army, without any of those provisions of overcoat or blanket, which the professional soldier is usually so careful to attach to his saddle. He now lay down at the foot of a pine tree, without covering. An adjutant urged upon him his overcoat; but he, with persistent politeness, declined it. He then detached the large cape, and spread it over the General, retaining the body of the garment for himself. The General remained quiet until the adjutant fell asleep, when he arose and spread the cape upon him, and resumed his place without covering. In the morning he awoke chilled, and found that he had contracted a cold, but made no remark upon it.” When Jackson’s haversack was opened after his death, all that it contained were some official documents and two gospel-tracts.
Our Cause, that for which Jackson gave his life, seems darker now than ever before. We went to war for much less in 1861 than the humiliation and indignities we are forced to suffer today; the same divide still exists, though much amplified and much more intractable. We must wonder what Jackson would do, were he to see what has become of his Virginia. She is fallen, degraded in the ultimate humiliation, though not, we hope, the final defeat. She has been colonized by the Yankee Leviathan, that ever-metastasizing cancerous Blob whose tentacles emanate from Washington, D.C. She has been deluged with aliens, her cities now as Southern as America is American. The fields and forests that our forefathers frolicked in as children have been leveled, dirty parking lots and tenements erected in their place; the farmers are supplanted by MS-13 brutes. Little did the Yankee know that by driving Old Dixie down, he had sown the demise of Old Glory. As Jackson did, though, we must keep the faith and carry the fire. We must heed Lee’s words, offered in memorial to his fallen compatriot: “Lost to us…his spirit still lives…let his name be a watchword… [for our] invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our beloved country.” Charge, and remember Jackson; for long after the rebel yell has ceased to ring through the piney wood, I’ll take my stand to live and die in Dixie.