"STONEWALL" was a nickname given to Thomas J. Jackson, a lieutenant-general in the Confederate army, who was one of the ablest and bravest commanders who took part in the Civil War. Early in the war he was ordered to reinforce the army of General Beauregard, who was fighting at Manassas. He did so, and in the battle that followed the Union army came very near routing the Southern troops by a desperate charge. Jackson and his brigade stood firm, and General Lee, seeing him, called out to his own wavering men, "Look at Jackson -- there he stands like w stone wall; rally behind the Virginians!" The other brigades obeyed the order, and eventually the Confederates carried the day. It was in this way that Jackson and his men won the nickname of "Stonewall Jackson" and the "Stonewall Brigade" that came to be a badge of honor in later campaigns.
"Stonewall Jackson" was a strict Presbyterian and a man of unusual religious feeling. He had graduated at West Point, fought in the Mexican War, and then taught in the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington. There he had been called "The Blue-Light Elder" by his pupils, who were very fond of him, and the name was sometimes used by his soldiers after the Civil War began.
The general was a dashing leader, and his men would follow him anywhere. He rose rapidly in rank, and in a short time had become General Lee's chief mainstay. Many a Confederate victory was due to his personal courage in leading his troops at a decisive moment in battle, and time and again his "Stonewall Brigade" turned a seeming rout into victory.
In the spring of 1863 the Union and Confederate armies prepared to renew the struggle that the winter had partly interrupted. The Union General Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River on April 28th, for the purpose of attacking the Confederates who were near Fredericksburg. The entire Union Army of the Potomac had crossed the river and bivouacked at Chancellorsville by the night of April 30th. The Confederate General Lee at once prepared to attack Hooker, and early on May 1st he sent "Stonewall Jackson" in command of thirty-three thousand men, towards Chancellorsville.
The two armies made ready on that day, some fighting occurring, but the real battle of Chancellorsville did not begin until May 2nd. Late on that afternoon Jackson, who had made a flank movement, burst from the woods and routed the Union right wing. At this point General Pleasanton hurled the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry under Major Keenan, on the Confederate flank. Keenan charged again and again, losing most of his men, but giving the Union artillery time to get into position to fire.
The Confederates were checked by this firing, and Jackson and his staff rode forward to look at the field. As he was riding back to his own lines the general and his companions were mistaken for Union horsemen by his own soldiers and were fired at. Jackson was shot, and died on May 10th. The Confederates won the fighting at Chancellorsville after several days of battle, but the victory was largely offset by the loss of one of their very greatest generals.
The poem, "Stonewall Jackson's Way," is said to have been written within hearing of the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, and was found in the coat of a dead soldier of the "Stonewall Brigade," after one of Jackson's battles in the Shenandoah Valley. It became very popular, but its authorship was unknown until almost twenty-five years later.
|This introduction to "Stonewall Jackson's Way" is reprinted from Historic Poems and Ballads. Ed. Rupert S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.