In the years following the defeat of the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee emerged as the face of the Lost Cause. In many respects, Lee embodied a defeated South: strong, stubborn, but simply outmanned. However, this interpretation of defeat as a matter of mere numbers and arms did not rest well with many Southerners. To them, the war was a battle of two ever-diverging cultures, each with a strong religious foundation. The fundamental contrast was the same contrast Machen drew years later, not upon regional lines, but theological. It was the contrast between Christianity and Liberalism.
Southerners saw themselves as the defenders of the faith. Their call to arms was that of Moses to the Levites: “Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me” (Exodus 32:26, KJV) For such Southerners, the war was far more than a political skirmish, or even a clashing of cultures; it was a religious war, a crusade. No man embodies this interpretation of the war more than its most tragic martyr: Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.
The eccentric VMI professor turned war hero, was a man revered like no other in the Confederacy. Following a successful career in the United States Army, the West Point graduate returned to his native Virginia to take up a post at the state’s military academy. It was there in Lexington that Jackson was baptized and soon found his home in the Presbyterian Church.
Jackson was far from nominal in his affirmations of Christian dogma. He was a true doer of the faith: a faithful tither, deacon, and instructor of an illegal Sunday School for slaves. The Reformed tradition likewise offered Jackson deep comfort in his immensely painful life. The sovereignty of God over the deaths of his father, mother, and first wife assured Jackson that he was “as safe in battle as in bed,” for “God [had] fixed the time for [his] death.”
Jackson embraced not merely the devotional aspects of his Presbyterian faith, but the political as well. Though he never advocated for secession, Jackson kept with the Calvinist doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate and stood with his state’s decision to leave the Union in April of 1861. If his career in the U.S. Army was successful, then his years fighting for the Confederacy were truly legendary. From his “standing like a stone wall” at First Manassas to his “crossing over the river” after Chancellorsville, Jackson stood fast in the Christian military tradition of Joshua, David, and Mattathias Maccabees.
Jackson’s interpretation of the war was that of the most prominent Southern divines, Dabney, Jones, and Thornwell among them. He saw himself as a leader in the Lord’s army, giving all glory to the Captain of his salvation. As a Christian nationalist of an older stripe, Jackson was sure that the LORD his God would fight for him (Deut. 3:22).
Jackson embodied what Southern religion had become. It was a faith that, for better and for worse, did not cower from the issues of the day. Jackson and his contemporaries sought to apply the Bible to all of life. They rode forth fearless in battle, confident that God was on their side.
Such was the faith of Jackson in the midst of his most glorious victory. On May 2, 1863, Jackson, ever confident that his God would deliver him, rode ahead of his troops. When he turned around, amid confusion, he was fired upon by his own men and struck three times. His arm was soon amputated and on May 10, following a week-long battle with pneumonia, he uttered his final words: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”
Growing up an orphan, Jackson at last experienced the fullness of what it means to have a Father. Though death was to him infinite gain, to the Confederacy it was an insurmountable loss. Jackson was not only a tactical genius but an emblem of God’s presence with the Southern cause. A young Lexington girl, commenting on the news of the General’s death, said it “was the first time it had dawned on us that God would let us be defeated.” This sense of utter despair characterized the whole South upon the arrival of this devastating news. Lee himself said, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.”
Great expense was undertaken to show this fallen hero due honor. In the coming years, much ink would be spilled as great biographical labors were undertaken to contribute to his memory. However, in the Reconstruction era, Jackson was not the preeminent figure of the Lost Cause. Robert E. Lee instead served as something of a living martyr to Southerners, and his image remains today as the quintessential Confederate.
Nevertheless, it is Jackson who best represents the religious consciousness of the Confederate cause. His own loss prefigured the loss to come. Though the purposes of God in taking Jackson are ultimately unknown, it was surely this same mysterious providence that brought about total defeat.
Today, Jackson stands mightily as a symbol of Southern religion. Through all his successes, Stonewall humbly insisted on giving the glory to God. Despite his personal failures, we should all seek to “rally ‘round the Virginian” insofar as he followed after Christ. Surely, no man embodies the religious life of the Confederate memory more than that prayerful warrior: “Old Jack.”
 Hall, Kenneth E. Stonewall Jackson and Religious Faith in Military Command. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005. 37.
 Robertson, James I. Jr. Stonewall Jackson the Man, the Soldier, The Legend. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1997. 755.
 Stowell, Daniel W. Rebuilding Zion: The Religious Reconstruction of the South, 1863-1877.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 202.