|Photo taken a week before Jackson|
was mortally wounded at
This post occurs on the 150th anniversary of the death of Stonewall Jackson as a result of wounds received from friendly fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. A feature of this post on Stonewall is that it comes together over a twelve year hunt to collect the various parts of Jackson together in one narrative. Maybe most significant is my less-than-legal after dark gambit in search of Stonewall’s arm. We’ll get to that later. First some bio.
Thomas J. Jackson was born in what is now West Virginia in January 1824. His great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, but Thomas grew up mostly poor and was orphaned as a child. Living with relatives, he was largely self-taught but was able to obtain an appointment to West Point – graduating with the class of 1846 along with other Civil War figures George McClellan, George Pickett and A. P. Hill. Upon graduation Jackson was sent to directly into combat in the Mexican War where he distinguished himself in battle in several engagements.
|Jackson as a young officer - date unknown|
Thomas Jackson entered the Civil War as a colonel responsible for drilling cadets. He was eventually given command over an infantry brigade. His first significant command action was at the Battle of Bull Run in July 1861 where he arrived on the field as reinforcements and effectively turned the tide of the battle toward the Confederates. It was at Bull Run that Jackson received the nickname ‘Stonewall’. It’s actually uncertain whether this was a positive or negative assessment of his performance, since the officer who said it was killed before he had the chance to say anything else. But from then on he was most commonly known as Stonewall Jackson.
|Mort Kunstler painting of Stonewall Jackson in prayer|
"The human side of this man has almost no record during those years (the war); apart from what comes to us through letters to his wife; he was not a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, and life seems to have always been to him a trust, for which he held himself strictly accountable, and which was not to be squandered in trivialities of any sort."
|Your blogger at the Cornfield at Antietam|
where Jackson's corps engaged in some
of the bloodiest fighting of the war. 4/12
|The only other portrait (besides|
the one at the top of this post) of
Stonewall during the war
|Me and the kids at Chandler Plantation. |
building behind us is where
Jackson died. 6/02
|Your blogger at the Jackson Parade Ground at VMI - August 2000|
|Your blogger at original Jackson grave - |
|Me, two of my kids, two nephews and |
my dad at Jackson memorial and
burial spot. 7/06
Stonewall’s missing arm – Visited November 2012
After he was shot, General Jackson was taken to the nearby plantation belonging to Thomas Chandler. Seeking to save his life, Jackson’s surgeon amputated his wounded left arm. The general lingered for several days before he passed away May 10. After his body was moved to Richmond the Jackson’s chaplain felt that his arm should receive a proper Christian funeral. It was buried in a local family’s private cemetery and a stone was eventually placed on the spot where the arm was interred. When offered the chance to rebury the arm with the rest of the general, Jackson’s widow declined because she didn’t want to disturb a Christian burial site. There were rumors that Union soldiers tried to dig up the arm toward the end of the war, but is generally beloved to still be in its original location.
|Jackson's horse 'Little Sorrel' is buried at the base of the Jackson|
statue on the parade ground at VMI. 8/00
I’ve always felt that I couldn’t do a proper post on Stonewall Jackson without getting to his arm. And with the 150th anniversary approaching I was running out of time. So I used a trip south to my mom’s for Thanksgiving to try to get to Ellwood Plantation, a part of the Chancellorsville National Battlefield Park, where the arm is buried. With me in various degrees of enthusiasm were my son Grant and nephew Craig. However my great plan was thwarted by a massive traffic jam on I-95 south of Washington. By the time I reached the park office it was dark and the plantation was closed. Massively bummed, I decided to drive over to the entrance of the plantation and hope to maybe get a technical glimpse of the burial site. But the entrance is just a little driveway into the woods with gate leading to the long driveway to the house. Maybe I was too close to my goal, maybe I was crazed by the traffic. But it was dark and we were alone, so we jumped the fence and embarked on a stealth visit to Ellwood Plantation. Unexpectedly this required a jaunt down a quarter mile driveway across open ground. Not a problem except we were trespassing on government property and had to leave our rental car parked in view of the highway.
|My son Grant at Stone Mountain, GA. Jackson is riding third|
in the giant carving behind Lee and Jefferson Davis. 6/05
We made it to the house and stumbled around the yard in the dark looking for some sign of the cemetery hoping not to break something or injure ourselves. Eventually Craig discovered a marker in the dark pointing to the way to an open field with a small fenced area. Quick jaunt to the spot for the attached picture and then we high-tailed it back up the road to the car. Safe back on the right side of the law I pondered both the morality and sanity of how far I had gone to finish my Jackson pilgrimage. But I kind of rationalized it as a bold Jacksonian flanking maneuver. I'm pretty sure that wouldn't hold up in court, it's my story and I’m sticking with it.
|Your blogger at final resting place for Jackson appendage |
at Ellwood Farm. The marker reads, 'Arm of
Stonewall Jackson. May 3, 1863.
Spooky dark and proof of trespassing
on federal property.