The Confederacy Mourns the Death of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson
Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was a demanding and inspiring leader, full of religious conviction and unshakeable faith in his men, often sucking on lemons to help with his chronic indigestion. He was brave in battle, and brilliant in military strategy. Jackson’s death—he was mistakenly shot by Southern troops at the Battle of Chancellorsville—was a severe setback to the Confederate cause.
Jackson electrified the South with his Valley Campaign in 1862, when his army of 17,000 defeated Union forces totaling over 60,000 in five impressive battles. He played an instrumental role in the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), where he earned his nickname “Stonewall” because his resolute troops stood as immovable as a stonewall and refused to retreat. He participated in other key battles such as Second Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg.
On May 2, 1863, while riding at night on their way back to camp, Jackson and his staff were mistaken for Union cavalry and shot by Southern pickets. Jackson was struck three times, and his left arm was amputated. Upon hearing the news, General Robert E. Lee sadly remarked that while Jackson had lost his left arm, he had lost his right arm—the indispensable officer he relied upon. Eight days after being wounded, Jackson, 39 years old, died of pneumonia on May 10, 1863. The entire Confederate army, as well as the Southern public and government, deeply mourned his loss.
The Richmond Sentinel published two notes from General Robert E. Lee, the first regarding Jackson’s wounding, and the second addressed to the army following Jackson’s death. These notes were reprinted by the Albany Journal (Albany, New York) on May 14, 1863:
Order from Gen Lee Relative to the Death of Stonewall Jackson
Chancellorville, May 4, 1863.
To Lieutenant General T. J. Jackson:
General—I have just received your note informing me that you were wounded. I cannot express my regret at the occurrence; but could I have directed events, I should have chosen, for the good of the country, to have been disabled in your stead. I congratulate you upon the victory which is due to your skill and energy. Most truly yours,
R. E. Lee
Headquarters of Northern Virginia, May 11, 1863.
General Orders No. 61.
With deep grief the Commanding General announces to the army the death of Lieut. Gen. Jackson, who expired on the 10th inst. at 3:15 P.M. The daring, skill and energy of this great and good solider, by the decree of an all-wise Providence, are now lost to us.
But while we mourn his death, we feel his spirit lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and strength. Let this name be a watchword to his corps who have followed him to victory on so many fields.
Let the officers and soldiers imitate his invincible determination to do everything in defence of our beloved country.
(Signed) R. E. Lee, General
The reaction of the South is expressed in this article, published by the Macon Daily Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) on May 12, 1863:
Stonewall Jackson Dead!
This announcement carries bitter grief and disappointment to millions of patriotic hearts. In camp and throughout the country Stonewall Jackson was almost a popular idol, and his uniform success in scores of hard fought battles had given him the prestige of invincibility. Everybody had learned to feel that wherever Stonewall Jackson struck the foe must fly. Even our enemies had learned a mortal dread of him, and went far beyond the Confederates in their estimation of his relative capacity and prowess as a military leader. They ranked him as the great overshadowing hero of the war, and we doubt not, when they hear that he is dead, they will regard their late misfortune upon the Rappahannock fully compensated. He was, in truth, a military and moral hero of grand proportions—a man of such high excellence as to surround with an atmosphere of grandeur and religious and moral sacredness the cause he espoused and the triumphs he won. He combined the stern religious enthusiasm of the great martialist of the English Commonwealth, with the chivalrous ardor of the cavalier, and infused his own spirit into his legions. He feared and shunned no responsibility, but was never guilty of imprudence or rashness. He was equally prompt, resolute and astute. Wielding the sledgehammer of an Ajax, he never struck a wild blow or missed his mark.
Almost adored by his own soldiers, he was nevertheless the most exacting commander; but he shared with his followers every personal hardship he imposed. With all his fame, popularity and glorious achievements, he was never assuming, egotistical or troublesome. Such a character is not often developed among men. Our loss seems well nigh irreparable, but Heaven will appoint and bring to light other instrumentalities to accomplish its own purposes. The career of Stonewall Jackson is one of the blessings to mankind which has been developed by this terrible war. His character and example will ever shine forth as one of the brightest beacon lights to the Christian soldier and patriot. He has not been lost to the South. His memory is precious. His fame and name are part of our common glory, and will inspire and encourage others to tread in his pathway of moral and military heroism. We have still great military heroes—we have still left to us the great Captains who thus far have so successfully directed the struggle and marshaled the immense hosts, which stand as a rampart between us and the enemy. Let the country lift up its bowed head and, resigned to the will of God in this terrible bereavement, give way to no idle and useless despondency. The cause will go on and prosper, though Stonewall Jackson is dead.
The Northern press paid their respects to Jackson as well. This article was published by the New Haven Daily Palladium (New Haven, Connecticut) on May 13, 1863:
Death of Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall Jackson has died several times since this war began, but in every case has been found, by our troops, too much alive when a battle was to be fought. There seems to be no good reason, however, to distrust the report of his death which now comes to us from Richmond. He had previously been reported wounded, and, it appears, was obliged to undergo amputation of his arm. But while announcing the fact of his death, the rebels could not suffer us to indulge the full measure of our joy, at the thought that Yankee valor slew Stonewall, but we must be told that “he was accidentally shot by one of his own men.” Well, it does not make much difference how he went. If so be he has really gone we are satisfied. And yet he was a man full of generous and noble qualities, whose bravery commanded the admiration even of his enemies. He would have been a good man, if he had not been a traitor. His virtues would have counterbalanced many a fault, if his one great fault had not counterbalanced all virtues. For treason is the very essence of dishonor and meanness, as well as the gravest crime of which man can be guilty.
This article was published by the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts) on May 13, 1863:
Stonewall Jackson Is Dead
A dispatch from the Potomac Army headquarters, May 12th, says the Richmond papers of Thursday announce the death of Stonewall Jackson, on Sunday afternoon, from the effects of his recent amputation and pneumonia. His burial was to take place yesterday. Our army dispatch adds that the rebel military band were performing dirges yesterday afternoon. Next to Jeff. Davis himself, no man was more important in the rebel cause. It is, indeed, a heavy blow to the conspirators, themselves being judges. Beside having his left arm shattered, so as to require amputation, it now appears that Jackson had a severe bullet wound in his right hand.
The [Richmond] Enquirer has this remark: “Our base foe will exult in the disaster to Jackson, yet the accursed bullet that brought him down was never moulded by a Yankee. Through a cruel mistake, in the confusion, the hero received two balls from some of his own men, who would all have died for him.”
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