Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate general under Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War, earned his nickname because of his staunch defensive tactics.
He was a war hero from the age of 24, spent eight years as a professor known for having strange quirks and died aged 39 in a military hospital after being shot by one of his own men.
The military leader, born Thomas Jonathan Jackson on January 21, 1824, and other drivers of the Confederacy in the southern states of the US between 1961 and 1865 have proved to be controversial in recent years.
Civil rights campaigners claim the American Civil War was sparked because President Abraham Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery in the southern states, which relied heavily on slaves for cotton production. Confederate military leaders have since been viewed by some as figureheads of white supremacy.
Others think Confederate generals are a sign of southern strength at a time when the more federal north wanted more power over individual states.
Stonewall Jackson (pictured), a Confederate general under Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War, earned his nickname because of his staunch defensive tactics
Born in Clarkesburg, Virginia, Jackson’s parents, Jonathan Jackson and Julia Beckwith Neale, both died while he was under the age of eight. His father and older sister Elizabeth died from typhoid fever when he was just two years old.
His mother remarried in 1830 but her new husband didn’t like Jackson or his two remaining siblings, and they were sent to live with their father’s uncles. Their mother died of complications in childbirth the next year.
In 1843 Jackson was enrolled in the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, after the candidate originally chosen by the congressional district dropped out the day after school started.
Three years later he graduated 17th in a class of 59 and fought with distinction in the Mexican-American War under General Winfield Scott during the:
- Siege of Veracruz;
- Battle of Contreras;
- Battle of Chapultepec;
- Battle of Mexico City.
After the war ended in 1892 he was promoted to the rank of brevet major and known as a war hero. He retired in 1851 and was offered a professorship at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington Virginia, where he taught natural and experimental philosophy.
His students vehemently disliked his cold demeanor and strange quirks – which included constantly holding one arm in the air as he taught because he thought his arms were uneven lengths.
Jackson died on May 10, 1863, eight days after he was accidentally shot by friendly fire
He married twice during his lifetime. His first wife, Elinor Junkin, died during childbirth a year after their 1853 marriage. She gave birth to a stillborn boy. His second, Mary Ann Morrison, had a daughter two years after their marriage. Born in April 1859, the newborn died a month later.
By November Jackson headed back to the army and served as a VMI officer at abolitionist John Brown’s execution following Harper’s Ferry – when Mr Brown tried to initiate a slave revolt in the southern states by taking over a United States arsenal in the town.
In 1862, four years after their first child died, Jackson’s wife gave birth to another daughter, Julia.
At the same time several southern states had declared their independence and the American Civil War was raging between US federal forces and a Confederate army.
Jackson defended his home state of Virginia, despite originally wanting the state to stay part of the US, against the federal army.
He was put in command of the VMP Corps of Cadets on April 21, 1861, and later prepared troops for what would later be called Stonewall Bridge.
Jackson was promoted to the roles of brigadier commander and brigadier general under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston.
It was during the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, that Jackson earned his nickname. When he charged his army ahead to bridge a gap in the defensive line against a union attack, General Bernard E. Bee, impressed, said: ‘There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.’
He was promoted to major general for his bravery.
After leading the Confederate army to several victories, Jackson was ordered to join General Robert E. Lee – who he had already fought alongside during the Mexican-American War – in 1862.
While there he led his soldiers through a number of unlikely victories, including:
- At the Second Battle of Bull Run in August of 1862, John Pope and his Army of Virginia mistakenly thought Jackson and his soldiers were retreating. It meant General James Longstreet was able to launch a missile assault against the Union Army, ultimately forcing Pope’s forces to retreat.
- Jackson managed to hold his Confederate troops in a defensive position during the bloody battle of Antietam, until Lee ordered his Army of Northern Virginia to withdraw back across the Potomac River.
- In October of 1862, General Lee reorganized his Army of Virginia into two corps. After being promoted to lieutenant general, Jackson took command of the second corps, leading them to a decisive victory at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
- At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, Jackson struck General Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac from the rear. The attack created so many casualties that, within a few days, Hooker had no choice but to withdraw his troops.
Jackson died on May 10, 1863, eight days after he was accidentally shot by friendly fire from the 18th North Carolina Infantry Regiment.
At a nearby field hospital, Jackson’s arm was amputated. On May 4, Jackson was moved to a second field hospital, in Guinea Station, Virginia.
He died there of complications on May 10, 1863, at the age of 39, after uttering the last words, ‘Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of trees.’
The military leader, born Thomas Jonathan Jackson on January 21, 1824, and other drivers of the Confederacy in the southern states of the US between 1961 and 1865 have proved to be controversial in recent years