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.[1]

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.”[2] 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.[3] 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.”


[1] Hall, Kenneth E. Stonewall Jackson and Religious Faith in Military Command. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005. 37.

[2] Robertson, James I. Jr. Stonewall Jackson the Man, the Soldier, The Legend. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1997. 755.

[3] Stowell, Daniel W. Rebuilding Zion: The Religious Reconstruction of the South, 1863-1877.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. 202.

Jacob Ogan

Jacob R. Ogan is a graduate student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.


  • William Quinton Platt III says:

    Thomas Jackson is a great name for a son.

  • Sam McGowan says:

    A great article about a great man.

  • Ainsley Dunn says:

    A truly inspiring article. It moved me to tears. Not negative tears at all but the kind that move one to strive to live a better life and to live up to the ideals our Southern ancestors cherished I cannot express how much I love the South and all she stood for . May those virtues live again among us.

  • Wonderful article articulating that which makes up the “spine” of every true Southerner: an unvarnished and unapologetic belief in the triune God and his sovereignty over all. Stonewall Jackson is, indeed, someone to emulate.

  • Keith Redmon says:

    Great article. Thank you.

  • Matt C. says:

    If Gen. Jackson already hadn’t, it’s a shame he didn’t encounter and talk some with John N. Darby. Gen. Jackson and many in his day, and a great many today, could have benefited a lot from some dispensational thought and teaching; instead of not understanding more thoroughly that God’s program with Israel concerned Israel and Israel only and a gargantuan dispensational change took place upon the conversion of Saul some 1800 years before Gen. Jackson was born. With all due respect to his memory, the General needed to pray over II Tim. 2:15 and not confuse what God did concerning Israel with what was happening in 19th century America. I read James I. Robertson’s bio of the General, and I visited the General’s HQ’s in Winchester, so let me not be misunderstood; I greatly appreciated the General. Thank you for the article.

  • Silas Adams says:

    What an educated and well written article. Clearly this writer has a bright future ahead of him.

  • J. L. Allen says:

    As a Presbyterian, I appreciate the brief overview of Jackson’s faith and outlook. He was thoroughly Westminsterian, which of course means he was thoroughly Christian.

    • Matt C. says:

      Thoroughly Paul-line would be, biblically, more reassuring, as far as General Jackson is concerned, and, every other professing believer. Then, it could be more easily said he was “thoroughly Christian.” That Jackson seemed to be mixed up in O.T. legalism, the Law, is concerning. But. I hope before he got entangled in all that, he had put his faith and trust in Christ alone and His completed work for him at the cross.

      • General Kromwell says:

        Thank you for your insightful comments. I wanted to write your similar comments for some years, but the opportunity never arose. I’ll save my thoughts on the South’s Christian nationalism for another day, God willing. But right now let me add that I’ve always found it concerning to have never read of Jackson’s saving faith in Jesus Christ. I’ve heard it, but I’ve never heard it from Jackson’s own words or those closest to Him. And I too think he was caught up in Old Testament legalism which frankly surprises me. For such an astute Bible scholar, he must known that no one could stand innocent before the Law. For a man who lacked mercy at times with his own men, he needed not only the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, but to also show the taste of mercy to his own men at times. The Law cannot save. I mean no ill will toward Jackson. I’ve just found it odd for over 150 years, a man who has been revered as a dutiful Christian, when I hear him so little speak of Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior…A.P. Hill may have been shunned by post-war writers for showing little outward evidence of faith, but if his faith was that of a mustard seed, then it far surpassed that of his superior who spoke of the LORD, but one is confused did he mean the Israelite God or the God-person of the Trinity who died on a cross to redeem Man from sin by faith in Him through grace…on a last note, for some one as legalistic as Jackson, it seems rather odd he never spoke (to my best knowledge) of the evidence of his faith in Jesus Christ as weighed in a balance-meaning, did he show enough “faith” to warrant evidence of salvation. Instead, it rather seems as if Jackson saw himself as serving the God of the Hebrews; as if the figure-head of the Godhead who died on the Cross for justification and propitiation and rose again didn’t really matter-so long as one strove to keep the Law. Very odd to me. I’m writing as an admirer of Jackson. I just worship one Man-Jesus Christ.

  • Billy P says:

    Like General Lee’s….his picture is and will always be on the wall in my house. A stalwart, example of manhood and a charitable, humble Christian warrior, a true southern hero to who I and every southerner are indebted. Shame be upon us if we ever forget men like Jackson.

  • General Kromwell says:

    My second comment (reply to my reply) to clarify a major point…I do recognize the God of the Hebrews and the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be part of either the same trinity or two of the three parts of the Trinity (I didn’t want to get into that debate here with either side). I just did not mean to imply they are two separate “gods.” But this confusion amongst our heroes is what happens when they use terms like “Almighty God” without much or any reference or Jesus Christ. Nothing wrong with using Old Testament language, but I don’t think we can conclude Jackson had a saving faith in Jesus Christ with all the evidence I have seen in my research. Now Mary Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee’s wife, made it very clear in her private writings she had a saving faith of Jesus Christ. And she didn’t have to use the term “LORD of hosts” to make that point clear. Which rather proves my point.

    • Jacob R. Ogan says:

      Thank you for reading the post and offering some feedback, it is greatly appreciated. However, I would ask that you please consider the following quotation from Jackson’s letter to his sister Laura on February 8, 1858:

      “You wish to know how to come to God; so as to have your sins forgiven, and to receive “the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” Now my dear sister the way is plain: the savior says in Mark XVI chapter, 16th verse “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” But you may ask what is it to believe. To explain this I will quote from an able theologian, and devoted servant of God. To believe in the sense in which the word is used here, “is feeling and acting as if there were a God, a Heaven, a Hell; as if we were sinners and must die; as if we deserve eternal death, and were in danger of it. And in view of all, casting our eternal interests on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. To do this is to be a Christian.
      You speak of having done all that you know in order to be accepted: this is too apt to be our error. We must not depend on making ourselves holy: but just come to the Father, and ask him to forgive our sins for the sake of Jesus, and rely entirely on the merits of Christ for our prayer being answered. The Father loves the Son and for his sake pardons those who plead the Son’s merits. We should never think of presenting any merits of our own for we are all sinners.”

      I believe Jackson’s faith in the Lord Jesus is rather evident in this excerpt. While on the topic of theology, I would likewise caution you not to use the term “parts” when referring to the indivisible Trinity. To do so is to deny the simplicity of God and to fall into the heresy of Partialism. We confess one God, who exists eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. As your response points out: this God alone is worthy of worship. However, Scripture is plain that we are to follow faithful men as they follow Christ, and so I repeat my exhortation regarding Jackson, “may we all seek to ‘rally ‘round the Virginian’ insofar as he followed after Christ.”

      In the Lord’s graces,
      Jacob R. Ogan

      • Matt C. says:

        Mr. Ogan, the letter you published by General Jackson is a little bit more reassuring that Gen. Jackson had believed in and trusted Christ, exclusively, for what He did on the cross. However, the general quoting Mark 16:16 is absolutely not good. Mark 16:16 is not the gospel of grace. It is not the gospel for today which is 1 Cor. 15:1-4. Mark 16:16 is the gospel of the kingdom. That gospel has to do with Gods program with Israel. “…he that believeth…” (Mark 16:16) has to do with the Jew in “time past” believing that the Lord Jesus was the Christ. Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38 is not the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection for the payment of sins. We don’t learn this until Paul, after a major dispensational change had taken place in Acts 9. I’m thinking, hoping, the general, at first, received the correct gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4), but then, unfortunately, got mixed up and turned around like the Galatians.

      • General Kromwell says:

        Thank you so much for the reply. I’m sorry for the delay. I find what you sent very reassuring. It is my humble opinion that Jackson was indeed a Christian, and worthy to be honored as a Christian warrior. Thank you for your time in this matter.

  • t campagna says:

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder of a fine man and warrior of Christian faith. My young son recntly baptized is Jonathan Thomas in honor of the Great General. I had to reverse names to satisfy my wife whose own maternal grandfather was Jonathan Browning of Ogdon, Utah.
    Keep up your fine writing.
    Semper fi

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