Gen. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson Mistakenly Shot by Confederate Troops
During the first week of May 1863, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia achieved what its leader, Gen. Robert E. Lee, called “a great victory” at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia. Although twice as large as its opponents, the Union Army of the Potomac was defeated primarily because its leader, Gen. Joseph Hooker, was timid while Lee—and his trusty associate, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson—were bold. The jubilation that lit up the Confederacy as news of the victory spread was tempered by a serious announcement: Stonewall Jackson had been severely wounded.
Jackson was enormously popular, both with his men and with the public. He performed brilliantly during his Valley Campaign of 1862, and at such major battles as the First Battle of Bull Run, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Lee completely trusted and relied upon Jackson’s leadership and courage—he considered Jackson his “right hand man.”
On May 2, 1863, Jackson achieved perhaps his greatest glory by leading his men on a magnificent charge to storm the Union right flank, routing the surprised Federals. Tragedy followed closely on the heels of triumph, however. That night, while reconnoitering the front lines with his staff, Jackson was mistakenly shot by Confederate troops, once in the right hand and twice in the left arm.
The badly mangled arm had to be amputated. Lee told an associate to deliver a message to Jackson saying “he has lost his left arm but I my right.” Everyone assumed that after recovering from the amputation, Jackson would return to lead his men once again. What no one knew, however, was that Jackson had contracted pneumonia. He died eight days after being shot, on May 10, 1863.
The following newspaper articles show how worried the South was when it learned that Jackson had been wounded, and how relieved it was when the arm was amputated and it looked as though Jackson would recover. These articles were published by the Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia).
This article announcing the wounding of Jackson was published on May 6, 1863:
From the Rappahannock
Our first edition is apparently going to press without an additional word from the great victory upon the Rappahannock. We know not what had been done, but are content with the assurance given by Gen. Lee, in his official dispatch, that it is a great victory. He is no boaster and does not use words carelessly. Hence we take encouragement when we read that Gen. Jackson was “severely” wounded. We assume that the hurt, though serious, is not dangerous, and the Confederacy will not sustain the fearful loss of this heroic and sagacious chieftain. But still we are anxious and would like to know the character and extent of his wounds.
…We also infer that Hooker crossed his entire army, and that the engagement was a general one. It appears that Hooker was really rash and vain enough to undertake what had previously failed in much abler hands—a march to Richmond. Their fate has been his, and we suppose from the past that the crazy Yankee nation will repeat the folly as long as they shall be able to find a General who is fool enough to offer himself as a victim.
Whilst this renewed triumph of our arms invests the brow of our great Captain with a fresh halo, and sheds an additional luster on the name of the Confederate soldier, it was won with a price which will carry regret to every heart. The death of the gallant Paxton is to be lamented, whilst the intelligence that the invincible Stonewall Jackson has been seriously wounded will occasion even a greater pang, for no man has a deeper hold on the confidence and affections of the Southern people. Every heart is agonized lest his injuries may prove fatal, and one universal prayer will ascend that his precious life may be spared to the country. The death of Jackson would be a serious blow to the cause, and spread mourning throughout the land. With painful apprehensions all will await the result.—Sav. Rep.
This was published on May 7, 1863:
A telegraphic dispatch informed us last night that this distinguished General had his arm amputated below the shoulder, and was doing well. How many hearts that announcement thrilled with pleasure! How many hearts were relieved of a heavy load, by the announcement that the favorite of the people—the hero of so many battles, although deprived of an arm is doing well! When we heard that he who seemed the favorite of heaven in so many battles, was severely wounded, our hearts sank within us, and we dreaded the revelations of the next dispatch. While the people were thus waiting, with feelings of sadness and gloomy forebodings, the news comes that Jackson is doing well. Our faces brighten up and we say, certainly he is. Who ever heard of his doing anything else? Doesn’t he always do well? Why that’s the same message we used to hear from him when he was in the Valley. That was what the soldiers said about him when they heard the measured tread of his veterans coming to their assistance in the battles around Richmond. Old Stonewall never does anything else but well. Cheer up friends! Jackson will live, and you will always hear the same report of him—he is doing well.
This was published on May 9, 1863:
Stonewall Jackson’s Wounds
The Examiner of the 6th gives these painful particulars:
A telegram on yesterday morning announced the fact that General Jackson’s arm had been amputated, and that he was doing well. Mrs. Jackson, who is at present in the city, has been informed by a letter of the melancholy circumstances under which the General received his wounds.
The following are the facts of the most unhappy affair, as detailed in the letter: At midnight, on Saturday night, his men being drawn up in line of battle, a body of troops was seen a short distance in advance of our line. It being doubtful whether they were friends or enemies, Gen. Jackson and staff rode forward to ascertain. Whilst he was engaged in reconnoitering, his men being unaware of his movement, mistook himself and staff for enemies and fired a volley into them, instantly killing one of his staff and severely wounding Gen. Jackson and Major Crutchfield.
One bullet passed through the General’s right hand, whilst another struck his left arm below the elbow, and ranging upward, shattered the bone near the shoulder. He instantly fell to the ground. His brother-in-law, who was with him, laid down beside him to ascertain the character of his wounds. In a moment the unknown troops in front, who proved to be the enemy, advanced and captured two other staff officers who were standing over the General, without noticing him. Soon after, four of our men placed him on a stretcher, and were bearing him to the rear, when they were all shot down. The injury to the right hand is severe, one of the bones having been shot away, but it is believed he will ultimately recover its use.
Click here for more articles about the American Civil War.