Next to Robert E. Lee himself, Thomas J. Jackson is the most revered of all Confederate commanders. A graduate of West Point (1846), he had served in the artillery in the Mexican War, earning two brevets, before resigning to accept a professorship at the Virginia Military Institute. Thought strange by the cadets, he earned “Tom Fool Jackson” and “Old Blue Light” as nicknames.
Upon the outbreak of the Civil War he was commissioned a colonel in the Virginia forces and dispatched to Harpers Ferry where he was active in organizing the raw recruits until relieved by Joe Johnston.
Leaving Harpers Ferry, his brigade moved with Johnston to join Beauregard at Manassas. In the fight at 1st Bull Run they were so distinguished that both the brigade and its commander were dubbed “Stonewall” by General Barnard Bee. (However, Bee may have been complaining that Jackson was not coming to his support). The 1st Brigade was the only Confederate brigade to have its nickname become its official designation. That fall Jackson was given command of the Valley with a promotion to major general.
That winter he launched a dismal campaign into the western part of the state that resulted in a long feud with General William Loring and caused Jackson to submit his resignation, which he was talked out of. In March he launched an attack on what he thought was a Union rear guard at Kernstown. Faulty intelligence from his cavalry chief, Turner Ashby, led to a defeat. A religious man, Jackson always regretted having fought on a Sunday. But the defeat had the desired result, halting reinforcements being sent to McClellan’s army from the Valley. In May Jackson defeated Fremont’s advance at McDowell and later that month launched a brilliant campaign that kept several Union commanders in the area off balance. He won victories at Front Royal, 1st Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic. He then joined Lee in the defense of Richmond but displayed a lack of vigor during the Seven Days.
Detached from Lee, he swung off to the north to face John Pope’s army and after a slipshod battle at Cedar Mountain, slipped behind Pope and captured his Manassas junction supply base. He then hid along an incomplete branch railroad and awaited Lee and Longstreet. Attacked before they arrived, he held on until Longstreet could launch a devastating attack which brought a second Bull Run victory.
In the invasion of Maryland, Jackson was detached to capture Harpers Ferry and was afterwards distinguished at Antietam with Lee. He was promoted after this and given command of the now-official 2nd Corps. It had been known as a wing or command before this. He was disappointed with the victory at Fredericksburg because it could not be followed up. In his greatest day he led his corps around the Union right flank at Chancellorsville and routed the 11th Corps. Reconnoitering that night, he was returning to his own lines when he was mortally wounded by some of his own men.
Following the amputation of his arm, he died eight days later on May 10, 1863, from pneumonia. Lee wrote of him with deep feeling: ” He has lost his left arm; but I have lost my right arm.” A superb commander, he had several faults. Personnel problems haunted him, as in the feuds with Loring and with Garnett after Kernstown. His choices for promotion were often not first rate. He did not give his subordinates enough latitude, which denied them the training for higher positions under Lee’s loose command style. This was especially devastating in the case of his immediate successor, Richard Ewell. Although he was sometimes balky when in a subordinate position, Jackson was supreme on his own hook. Stonewall Jackson is buried in Lexington, Virginia.
- Commanding lst Brigade, Army of the Shenandoah (May – July 20, 1861)
- Brigadier General, CSA (June 17, 1861)
- Commanding 1st Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac July 20 – October 1861)
- Major General, CSA (October 7, 1861)
- Commanding Valley District, Department of Northern Virginia (November 4, 1861 – June 26, 1862)
- Commanding 2nd Corps, Army of Northern Virginia (June 26, 1862-May 2, 1863)
- Lieutenant General, CSA (October 10, 1862)