General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, CSA — Civil War Snapshot

General Stonewall Jackson. Image Source: Library of Congress.

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (1824–1863) rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army during the Civil War (1861—1865). Widely regarded as a brilliant battlefield tactician, he played a major role in early Confederate victories in the Eastern Theater of the war. However, his life and career were cut short when he was wounded by his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Weakened from his injuries, he developed pneumonia and passed away on May 10, 1863.

Instructor at Virginia Military Institute

When the Civil War started, Thomas Jackson was an instructor at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia. Like many Virginians, he opposed secession — until President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation asking state governors to raise troops to help suppress the Southern secession.

Thomas Jackson, VMI Instructor, Photograph
Thomas Jackson, VMI Instructor, circa 1855. Image Source: Wikipedia.

When Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, 1861, Governor John Letcher ordered Jackson and his VMI cadets to Richmond on April 21, 1861, to serve as drillmasters for new army recruits.

Thomas Jackson Joins the Confederate Army

Eight days later, the governor ordered Jackson to take command at Harpers Ferry, where he organized the troops that would soon comprise the famous “Stonewall Brigade.” On June 17, 1861, Jackson received a commission as a Brigadier General in the Provisional Confederate Army.

General “Stonewall” Jackson

Jackson was promoted to Major General in the Confederate Army on October 7, 1861, which was followed by a promotion to Lieutenant General on October 10, 1862. Jackson earned the nickname “Stonewall” when his brigade stood its ground during the First Battle of Bull Run.

There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!

Brigadier General Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr.

Less than 50 men likely heard Bee, and it had little impact on the outcome of the battle. However, it etched the names of Jackson and his brigade in Confederate folklore. For the rest of the war, the name “Stonewall” represented the standard of excellence for Confederate soldiers.

First Battle of Bull Run, Illustration
This illustration depicts fighting at the First Battle of Bull Run. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Jackson in the Eastern Theater

During his short, storied career, General Jackson led troops during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, the Peninsula Campaign, the Northern Virginia Campaign, and the Maryland Campaign. His performance at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, and the Battle of Fredericksburg is legendary in military annals and the history of the Civil War.

Jackson Wounded at Chancellorsville

On the evening of May 2, 1863, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson rode out on a personal reconnaissance mission and traveled beyond his own lines. As he and his staff returned in the dark, Confederate soldiers mistakenly identified them as Union troops and fired on them. Jackson received three bullet wounds, none of which witnesses considered life-threatening.

Battle of Chancellorsville, Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson, Painting
This illustration depicts Jackson and Lee meeting before the Battle of Chancellorsville. Image Source: Library of Congress.

However, doctors were forced to amputate Jackson’s left arm and evacuate him to a local plantation. While he was there, he developed pneumonia and died on May 10, 1863. Officials took Jackson’s body to Richmond for public mourning before burying it at what is now Oak Grove Cemetery, in Lexington, Virginia.

Battle of Chancellorsville, Stonewall Jackson Wounded
This illustration depicts Jackson after he was wounded at Chancellorsville. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Stonewall Jackson in the Civil War

1861

  • When Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, 1861, Governor John Letcher ordered Jackson and his VMI cadets to Richmond on April 21, 1861, to serve as drillmasters for new army recruits.
  • On April 27, 1861, Virginia Governor Letcher ordered Jackson to take command at Harpers Ferry, where he organized the troops that would soon comprise the famous “Stonewall Brigade.”
  • Jackson was promoted to Brigadier General on June 17, 1861.
  • General Jackson earned the nickname “Stonewall” when his brigade withstood a Union assault at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.
  • Jackson was promoted to Major General on October 7, 1861.

1862

  • Jackson was promoted to Lieutenant General on October 10, 1862.
  • During the spring of 1862, Jackson conducted his famous Shenandoah Valley Campaign, where he successfully engaged three Union armies, preventing them from reinforcing the Union offensive against the Confederate capitol, Richmond.

General Jackson’s leadership skills and battlefield tactics played an important part in Confederate successes at:

1863

Robert E. Lee, Last Visit to Stonewall Jackson's Grave, Painting, Eckhardt
This painting by Louis Eckhardt depicts Robert E. Lee’s last visit to Stonewall Jackson’s grave. Image Source: Library of Congress.