Thomas J. Jackson, a great Confederate general from the American Civil War.

Jackson first came to prominence in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, where he was nicknamed "Stonewall" for his stand at the First Battle of Bull Run (a.k.a. First Manassas). This was the first major engagement between the Union and Confederate armies, a Confederate victory thanks in no small part to Jackson's cool head in the field.

According to historian Shelby Foote1, as the battle developed, Confederate commanding general Pierre G. T. Beauregard found himself hard pressed on his weak left flank. He ordered his two reserve brigades, under Brigadier Generals Jackson and Barnard Bee to reinforce the flank. Arriving at a Confederate line collapsing under Union pressure, Jackson swiftly positioned his men alongside a gun battery of Bee's which had joined with him. From a protected position just behind the ridge of a low hill, the battery fired their guns. Jackson waited, having called up Colonel J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry elements2 to protect his flanks.

Brooking no talk of defeat as crumpled elements of the Confederate line fled past him, Jackson held firm. Barnard Bee's command, having rushed to the forefront of the fighting, broke and began to retreat. "There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall!" Bee reportedly cried to his men. Whether this comment was made in approval or exasperation is unknown, as Bee was fatally wounded in the battle. Some sources3 append his remark with "Rally behind the Virginians!" which connotes approval.

As the Union advance crested Jackson's hill, the blue-clad soldiers unexpectedly found themselves staring down slope at Jackson's brigade and their levelled muskets, bayonets affixed. The Confederates found their enemies conveniently highlighted against the sky, and unleashed both volleys and bayonet thrusts that broke the Union advance and sent it back over the hill.

By the time the Union army recovered and re-formed, Bee's brigade had reformed as well, and been stiffened by further reinforcements from Beauregard. The Union opportunity to break through was lost. Around 3:30pm the tide of battle turned a final time in favour of the Confederate forces. "The advance of the enemy having reached a position which called for the use of the bayonet"4 as Jackson reported it, he ordered a charge. "Yell like furies!"5 Jackson had instructed his men, and for the first time in the war the ululating Rebel yell echoed across the field of battle. This charge "pierced the enemy's center, and ... soon placed the field essentially in our possession."6 Jackson's Virginian brigade had carried the day for the Confederacy.

Then followed the Shenandoah Valley Campaign7 where he drove his men to such feats of marching that they were called "foot cavalry". Their exploits tied down a large Union force, and prevented it from aiding Union General George B. McClellan and his Army of the Potomac in their Peninsular Campaign, a slow-motion assault on Richmond.

Jackson and his troops were subsequently themselves recalled to the defense of Richmond, and participated in the Seven Days Battles. Jackson arrived late and exhausted to the theatre of battle, and over the seven days he and his troops failed to distinguish themselves, or even to give serious battle to the enemy.

Jackson went on to be instrumental in the South's victories at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and the Battle of Fredricksburg. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville by friendly fire.

Jackson lives on in Harry Turtledove's alternate history novel, How Few Remain.

  1. Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative. Random House, 1958. Pg. 78.
  2. As stated in Jackson's field report, provided at
  3. 18thCandidate's First Battle of Bull Run for one, and that's good enough for me.
  4. Also as stated in Jackson's field report.
  5. Foote, pg. 80.
  6. Also as stated in Jackson's field report.
  7. Thoroughly covered by VT_hawkeye in Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
An excellent historical account of Jackson's life and career can be found in Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend (ISBN: 0028646851) written by James I. Robertson, Jr.. Robertson is an Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at Virginia Tech. If you attend Virginia Tech, or are planning on attending, I'd highly recommend his Civil War classes.

For a historical fiction account of Jackson's career during the Civil War, check out Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals (ISBN: 0345422473). This book relies heavily on Robertson's work as its primary source of information about Jackson. You'll definitely notice this if you read these two works in succession. Gods and Generals gets you inside the head of Jackson, allowing you to imagine the battles of the war as if you were seeing them first hand.

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