Stonewall Jackson: A Biography

Stonewall Jackson: A Biography

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by Donald A. Davis

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Deemed "irreplaceable" by Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson assumed his nickname during the Battle of Bull Run in the Civil War. It is said that The Army of Northern Virginia never fully recovered from the loss of Stonewall's leadership when he was accidentally shot by one of his own men and died in 1863. Davis highlights Stonewall Jackson's a general who emphasized


Deemed "irreplaceable" by Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson assumed his nickname during the Battle of Bull Run in the Civil War. It is said that The Army of Northern Virginia never fully recovered from the loss of Stonewall's leadership when he was accidentally shot by one of his own men and died in 1863. Davis highlights Stonewall Jackson's a general who emphasized the importance of reliable information and early preparedness (he so believed in information that he had a personal mapmaker with him at all times) and details Jackson's many lessons in strategy and leadership.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This reverential biography of Jackson is the latest in Palgrave's Great Generals series, but it's not as concise as its slim volume might suggest. An obscureinstructor at Virginia Military Institute, Jackson was approaching middle age when he joined Confederate forces at the outbreak of the Civil War. He acquired his nickname, Stonewall, after an admirable stand at the first Battle of Bull Run. Transferred to nearby Shenandoah Valley, he made headlines as far away as Europe with a brilliant, fast-moving campaign that befuddled far larger Union forces. He returned to the main body of Lee's command, where his crushing assault was a crucial victory in the second Battle of Bull Run, followed by his legendary flank attack that routed Union forces at Chancellorsville. Author Davis (Lightning Strike) dutifully relates Jackson's unlegendary generalship on the Peninsula and at Fredericksburg, but like many Confederate hero biographers, his unrestrained admiration leads to purple prose ("The blue eyes of Stonewall Jackson again blazed with excitement"). Those seeking more insight into Jackson will find Byron Farwell's 1992 biography longer, but more rewarding. (Sept.)

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Library Journal

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-63) remains an enigma. He was often brilliant on the battlefield, leading the Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War, but at times bewilderingly distant and unresponsive. He could show great initiative and capitalize on strategic advantages, yet he slept during engagements and allowed great opportunities to pass him by. He could be maddeningly stubborn, butting heads with several subordinate generals, but he obeyed orders unquestioningly. These facets and more of the mysterious man are described by Davis (Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission To Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor), who offers insightful analyses of Jackson's tendencies and behavior. Taking an evenhanded approach, he presents differing schools of thought about Jackson's legacy and questions whether Jackson would succeed in today's politically influenced military. Davis intensifies his subject's relevance by interjecting several allusions to the current war in Iraq. While these references may at first seem awkward, they do add valid points of comparison. The book's only drawback is the lack of maps, which would have greatly helped to explain Jackson's strategic maneuvers. An excellent little book nonetheless; recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Matthew J. Wayman

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St. Martin's Press
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Great Generals
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Stonewall Jackson

By Donald A. Davis

Palgrave Macmillan

Copyright © 2007 Donald A. Davis
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-230-60689-0


Frontier Boy

The attention of four smooth young Virginia gentlemen was drawn to the newcomer, who seemed remarkably out of place as he trudged to the barracks for new cadets at West Point. All four were well educated and from prosperous families, and they had the impeccable manners and polish of Old South cultured society. The new arrival was a roughhewn frontiersman awkward in his movements and wearing homespun cloth and a large slouch hat. With his big feet in old shoes, he took big strides. He had large hands calloused from hard work, and the worn saddlebags slung across his shoulder contained everything he owned.

Cadets Ambrose Powell Hill, George E. Pickett, Dabney H. Maury, and Birkett D. Fry were most taken, however, by the stern resolution in the blue eyes and stiff demeanor. A fierce determination was written on the lean face. "There was about him," Dabney Maury wrote many years later, "so sturdy an expression of purpose that I remarked, 'That fellow looks as if he had come to stay.'"

All four of those cadets would become Confederate generals during the Civil War, but the peculiar young man they eyed so warily on that summer day in 1842 would outshine them all. His name was Thomas Jackson, and the world would come to know him by the nickname of "Stonewall." That first walk up from the ferry landing was an early snapshot of the kind of man and leader that Jackson would become: silent, stern, indifferent to what others thought, and caring even less about how he looked. He just moved relentlessly forward, step by step by step, until he reached his goal, be it a cadet barracks bed or a battlefield victory.

* * *

Thomas Jackson's journey to the plains of the United States Military Academy began long before he rode the steamboat up the Hudson from New York City. His purpose there was not to become a soldier but to get the free education, lose his rough edges, and escape his heartbreaking childhood. He yearned not for military honors but for a simple life with a wife and children, professional respect, personal honor, good health, and a stable home where he could smile and laugh with close friends. The profession that would enable him to attain those things was secondary, and if soldiering had to be part of the bargain, then a soldier he would be.

His adventuresome great-grandfather, John Jackson, was born in Ireland, but of English descent, and immigrated to America in 1748 aboard a ship on which he met his future wife, Elizabeth Cummins of London. Twenty years later, they left their home in Maryland and moved the family to rural Virginia, later making the big jump across the Allegheny Mountains to the rugged wilderness that comprised the northwestern part of the state. To mark his land, John Jackson drove his tomahawk into a tree near the Buckhannon River.

They had eight children. Their second boy, Edward, rose to the rank of colonel during the Revolutionary War, but his real talent was making money. He owned property by the age of 17 and eventually held thousands of acres. Successful both as a surveyor and a businessman, he established a center for his business operations and a new home, called Jackson's Mill, near Clark-ston, in what is now West Virginia. Edward married twice and produced a brood of 15 children. He and his first wife, Mary Haddan, named their third child Jonathan.

Blessed with money and a worthy name, young Jonathan became a lawyer, and his family connection opened doors to success, but he did not seize those opportunities. He was a charming scoundrel who wasted his sizeable inheritance through habitual gambling and risky financial schemes, losing his land and most of his belongings except for his slaves, and one of those ran away. He did not change when he married pretty, intelligent, dark-haired Julia Neale in 1817, and before long, he was borrowing money by pledging as collateral almost everything in their three-room brick house in Clarksburg, from the butter churn to the bed. Such a casually irresponsible man would rightfully have been forgotten, but for one thing: He fathered a legend.

Julia gave birth to her first child, daughter Elizabeth, in 1819, and the first boy, Warren, came along in 1821. Details of the birth of their third child, another son, remain a mystery, which is ironic since the father was a lawyer, and the customs of the time would have dictated the recording of births and deaths in family bibles or in the courthouse right across Main Street from the family home. So, on one side or the other of midnight in the cold dark hours bridging January 20 and 21 in the year 1824, the baby boy, Thomas, was born, a blue-eyed child with fair hair. There was no middle name.

* * *

Not much is known about Stonewall Jackson's boyhood, but he learned early about the cycles of death and life. When he was only a little more than two years old, typhoid fever claimed both his six-year-old sister Elizabeth and his father. The day after her husband died, Julia Jackson gave birth to another daughter, Laura Ann.

Though Julia and her children were allowed to continue living in the house, they were almost destitute. To get by, she took in sewing and began teaching, and the family network apparently helped, as did Jonathan's fraternal brothers in the Freemasons. Then a new man swept into her life, another financially fragile Clarksburg lawyer, Blake Woodson, who had eight children of his own, although none lived with him. He and Julia married in 1830 and moved to nearby Fayette County. Soon after, she became pregnant again, and the couple made the difficult decision to send all three of Julia's children to relatives.

Warren, at age ten, was dispatched to Ohio to live with one of Julia's brothers. He became a schoolteacher and had little contact with his siblings before dying a decade later. Thomas and Laura were taken into the family at Jackson's Mill. Within just a few weeks, all three of the children were rushed back to see their mother, who was dying from complications suffered during the birth of her last child. Thomas would long remember standing beside her bed and receiving the final farewell that officially made him an orphan. It was as if his mother were abandoning him all over again.

At Jackson's Mill, in a large house beside a roaring river, Thomas and Laura found themselves in a home without want. The sawmill whined busily, chewing logs taken from the abundant Virginia forests, and the mill had spawned a number of other businesses. The matriarch was Elizabeth Brake, second wife and widow of Edward, who had found success years before after crossing the Alleghenies with his parents. A number of her unmarried children lived with her, and cousins had established homes for miles around. She owned four slaves.

The man of the house was the boisterous Cummins Jackson, a big fellow who ran the business with restless energy, brute strength, and a positive attitude. To a youth searching for a father figure, this hearty uncle seemed larger than life, and the boy admired Cummins without reservation, too young to recognize that his indulgent new hero did not belong on a pedestal. In fact, Cummins was involved in more than a few shady dealings and often demonstrated the Jackson family penchant for lawsuits. If no one else was available, the Jacksons would even sue each other. Within a few years, matriarch Elizabeth went after Cummins with a suit charging that he cheated her by trying to take over Edward's vast estate. In later years, even after he had become the famous Stonewall, Jackson never hesitated to appeal to a higher authority to get what he wanted. Even war would not change that habit.

The childhoods of Laura and Thomas continued to be shaky, for the paradise of Jackson's Mill was changing, and when deaths and marriages left little Laura as the only female in the big house, she was removed to live with an aunt in Parkersburg. An attempt was made to send ten-year-old Thomas to live with still another uncle, but the boy would have no part of that. In the past eight years, he had lost his mother, father, and a sister to death, and had watched helplessly as he was separated from his brother and now from his beloved sister Laura. He had no intention of losing Cummins, too. There might not have been the tender warmth of parental love at Jackson's Mill, but there were people there who accepted him, and that was good enough. He walked out of his foster home and returned on foot to the mill, demonstrating the stubbornness and determination that would mark his entire life.

Thomas flourished under the steady hard regimen of physical work, with plenty of friends and neighbors and the daily frontier routine. He worked the at the mill, cut wood, did chores, labored in the fields, worked with the slaves, and rode as a jockey for Cummins at the races on his uncle's own four-mile track. A tendency toward illness was countered by the outdoor exercise.

At West Point, the homesick cadet wrote longingly to Laura that he was enjoying himself, but felt "deprived of the blessings of a home, the society of the friends of my child-hood, the cordial welcome of relatives and above all the presence of an only sister. Times are now far different from what they once were. Once I was in my native state at my adopted home none to give there mandates none for me to obey but as I chose surrounded by my playmates and natives all apparently eager to promote my happiness."

* * *

Strangely, the two things that Jackson would prize above almost all else as an adult, education and religion, were missing in those early days. Education was the key to bettering himself, and once he began to learn, he never stopped. And the adult Jackson would proudly practice his stern religious views no matter where he was. But in childhood, both were almost absent as formative influences.

His mother was a devout Christian, and any child raised where he was would have done what all of his friends did, what everyone he knew did: go to church on the Sabbath. It was part of life, just like harvesting crops, tending the animals, and sawing logs.

Education had to compete with field work. Teachers in small communities did what they could with a limited number of available days, but imparted little more than the basics of reading and writing. Thomas was good at sports, and popular with his mates, but he received, at best, an unremarkable education. Nevertheless, outside of the classroom, he was learning the hard lessons of life and developing an extremely solid character. Unlike his father, this was a lad who meant what he said, could be trusted on a handshake deal, was generous and protective, and could be depended upon to get a tough job done.

When he was 17, those characteristics and family connections helped him get a job as a Lewis County constable, carrying out duties appropriate for a deputy sheriff. The habit of being precise and exact when collecting outstanding debts and serving warrants taught him the value of paying close attention to detail and numbers.

* * *

Deep down, Thomas Jackson wanted more out of life, although he did not know exactly what. He knew only the towns of his small part of Virginia, but his explorations showed him there was a big world out there, and his extended family taught him that self-reliance could take a young man far. But where? And how?

His father and stepfather had both been lawyers, and he had come in contact with many successful men who had the advantage of an education beyond that of a rustic schoolroom. If he did not want to be tied to the mill, farm, and plow, Thomas had to expand his limited universe of knowledge. One day in early 1842, when he was 19, he learned that his district's congressman, Representative Samuel Lewis Hays, had to fill an opening at the United States Military Academy. The position offered a free university education, and Thomas decided to go after it.

He knew he did not have the formal schooling expected of someone seeking entry to a major university that stressed mathematics and engineering. Obstacles never deterred Jackson. He believed in himself, but with a realistic self-examination of his ability. "I am very ignorant," he admitted in one discussion. "But I know I have the energy and I think I have the intellect."

Jackson was among four applicants in the district, but one dropped out because he was below the minimum age, leaving three. Two of Thomas's friends were also applying, one of them a young man who worked as a clerk for the county. The competitive examination would be overseen by Captain George Washington Jackson, a member of the widespread family. The captain remained neutral, and Gibson Butcher, the courthouse clerk, was appointed on April 19, 1842. Butcher, who was nimble with numbers, took top score, only to be absolutely startled by what he found upon arriving at West Point: rigorous discipline, harsh treatment, and onerous duties among strangers, far from Virginia. Only a day after arriving at West Point on June 4, he left the military academy without even informing Congressman Hays.

Making his way home, Butcher stopped at Jackson's Mill and told Thomas of his decision. The original field of four applicants was now down to two, Thomas and his friend Joe Lightburn, but because of the stakes, friendship could stand in the way. This time the family decided to go into action, and Cummins, the other uncles, family friends, and Captain Jackson, who no longer had to stay neutral, launched a campaign to get Thomas into the open slot. Letters of recommendation were drafted, and numerous signatures were gathered from people who knew the congressman, including Hays's own son, Peregrine Hays, another of Thomas's good friends.

Jackson dashed to Washington by horseback, stagecoach, and train and showed up at the congressman's office, where he handed Hays Gibson Butcher's resignation letter along with a thick bundle of documents recommending him to Hays. The question of his lack of formal schooling was balanced by the boy's steely determination. The next day, June 17, Thomas J. Jackson was appointed to be a cadet at the United States Military Academy.

It was the first time that the initial "J" showed up in correspondence, and Jackson never said what it stood for or used a full middle name. Over time, the assumption became that it stood for the name of his father, Jonathan. No one knows.

He did not have to be at the academy for several more weeks, so Hays invited him to spend a few days in Washington. Thomas declined. The congressman introduced him to the secretary of war, who approved the appointment, but gave Thomas an inkling of how the frontier boy might be received by others at the spit-and-polish military school, offering this bit of advice: "Sir, you have a good name. Go to West Point, and the first man who insults you, knock him down, and have it charged to my account!"


West Point

The West Point class of 1846 began with 123 arrivals as first-year cadets. This number dwindled with the academic and physical tests that preceded formal induction. Thomas Jackson was among the 93 survivors.

Then came summer camp, a mind-numbing experience that immersed the raw cadets in the military lifestyle. Still in civilian clothes, they learned to march, to stay in step and keep a rank dressed, to stand at attention, and to salute. Orders were to be obeyed instantly, and they sweated through exercise and menial chores designed to fatigue and anger them and to teach them discipline. Jackson would always remember his own days as a green beginner and emphasize that his soldiers had to be trained hard before they could be expected to fight.

During those hot summer months, there was little the cadets could do correctly in the eyes of their upperclassmen tormentors, who mocked Jackson as "the General" for having the same last name as the former President Andrew Jackson, the hero of the War of 1812. He would not have been bothered by someone yelling in his face, for he had grown up surrounded by energetic, rowdy men, and was often pushed to his physical limits. He was shy and quiet, a bit older than the average plebe and so obviously capable of standing up for himself that he apparently was not bothered as much as some of his weaker classmates. His troubled childhood had instilled a solid confidence in his self-worth. Jackson had survived things a lot worse than summer camp. Try as they might, the camp leaders could not rattle the dour Virginian. Dabney Maury tried to play a joke. Jackson was on an evening detail picking up trash when Maury, also a plebe, raised his tent flap and barked at him to work harder. Jackson stared back silently with his penetrating blue eyes, and Maury later attempted to "humble" himself and apologize. He said, "Mr. Jackson, I find that I made a mistake just now in speaking to you in a playful manner not justified by our slight acquaintance. I regret that I did so."

Jackson stiffly replied, "That is perfectly satisfactory, sir." He made no further overture. Maury had been rebuffed in an earlier attempt to befriend Jackson, and was at his wit's end with the man. "Cadet Jackson of Virginia is a jackass," he declared to his tent mates.


Excerpted from Stonewall Jackson by Donald A. Davis. Copyright © 2007 Donald A. Davis. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Donald A. Davis is co-author of New York Times bestseller Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper and author of Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor. He lives outside Boulder, Colorado.

Donald A. Davis is co-author of New York Times bestseller Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper and author of Lightning Strike: The Secret Mission to Kill Admiral Yamamoto and Avenge Pearl Harbor. He lives outside Boulder, Colorado.
General Wesley K. Clark served in the United States Army for thirty-four years and rose to the rank of four-star general as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. He is author of the best selling books Waging Modern War and Winning Modern Wars. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Name: ^ Whispersky ^ <br> Gender: -.- &female I'm judging you... <br> Rank: deputy <br> Kin: Amberstar/tail, mother, deceased. Forcemater, father, ?. Talonstrike/paw, brother, deceased. <br> Looks: beautiful white fur with misty silver patches and golden speckles all over. Her eyes are also golden, making the speckles on her fur stand out (or vice versa). <br> Persona: can be crabby and harsh in bad mood. Is great at debating and planning; she's gots teh brains. Has a level of skill at almost everything except medicine. <br> Crush/Mate/Kits: maybe, I'm not saying yes or no/No/No
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