The Overlooked Legacy of “Stonewall” Jackson

stonewall                                                                                               [1]

The Overlooked Legacy of “Stonewall” Jackson

By: Jacob McCloud

Lieutenant General “Stonewall” Jackson has been recorded as one of the most outstanding generals of the Civil War. He had the ability to lead his men without fear in a way that was different than most, if not all, Confederate leaders. Similar to General Robert E. Lee, Jackson was loved by his men and had the ability to motivate them to fight, but he has definitely not received the same amount of attention that Lee has. Because of these things, two major questions come up. Why was “Stonewall” Jackson so effective as a leader and has his impact been overlooked because of General Lee? Although some disagree, it is hard to argue against the fact that “Stonewall” Jackson played a major role during the Civil War.

Thomas Jonathon “Stonewall” Jackson was born January 21, 1824 in Clarksburg, Virginia.[2] After a difficult childhood, Jackson went to West Point and eventually fought in the Mexican War.[3] In 1861, Jackson’s home state of Virginia seceded from the Union, which led Jackson to join the Confederate army.[4] He quickly made his name at the Battle of the First Manassas when his soldiers witnessed him out on the front lines with the rest of the men. They said, “Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall.”[5] Because of Jackson’s leadership and courage on the battlefield, he was given the nickname “Stonewall” Jackson.  Jackson’s military career continued at Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, Port Republic, Seven Days Battle, Second Manassas, and Sharpsburg where he earned the ranking of lieutenant general.[6] After his promotion, Jackson fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, a major victory for the Confederates, and at Chancellorsville.[7] After the battle, Jackson was accidentally shot in the arm by some of his own men while he was making a reconnaissance.[8] After having his arm amputated, Jackson suffered from pneumonia and eventually died eight days after being shot on May 10, 1863.[9] The loss of Jackson was a devastating blow to the Confederate forces.

When it comes to Jackson’s success as a leader during the Civil War, there were multiple reasons that made him so special. Unlike most commanders who would sit back behind the lines and watch the battles take place, Jackson was right there with his men either sitting on his horse or standing and fighting. This was different from most other officers. Jackson’s men found motivation in his leadership during battles. They cared for their leader and were more willing to fight because of his actions. Also, Jackson’s brilliant battle tactics made him an even bigger threat to the Union forces. Because of this, Jackson’s men were, for the most part, successful throughout the war. All of these things led to Jackson being one of Lee’s most reliable officers until his death in 1863. Although most agree with the information mentioned above, what was the reason that made Jackson so unique during the Civil War? After researching, it is clear that his religion played a major role in his lifestyle, which carried on to the battlefield. Jackson’s strong relationship with God made him courageous and fearless. The text states, “‘Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.’”[10] This belief was clearly portrayed on the battlefield. A mixture of his faith in God, his unique leadership approach, and his brilliant battle tactics led to him being such a successful Confederate leader.

“Stonewall” Jackson’s impact was very prominent during the Civil War, but today, many overlook it. Anytime people refer to the Confederacy, they are more than likely going to talk about General Robert E. Lee. Obviously, he was the Confederate general that was well-know and well-liked by most, but how much credit does he take away from other leaders like Jackson? He was one of Lee’s best men and played a big role in many Confederate victories. After reading the information above, it is hard to argue against the fact that he deserves more credit than what he has been given. Jackson’s impact on the war was unmatched by most, yet it has been consistently overshadowed by Lee. Jackson’s different approach to leadership, superb military tactics, and participation in many Confederate victories are the reasons why this argument is true.

After reading all of the information necessary for this post, some questions come to mind. First, do you agree that Jackson’s impact has been overlooked by many because of General Lee? Secondly, how big of an impact do you believe Jackson had on the Civil War? Clearly, he was influential as a leader, but did his loss seriously hurt the South’s chances of winning the war? Thirdly, why were more leaders not willing to take on the same approach that Jackson took? If Jackson was so successful, you would think that other Confederate leaders would adopt his strategy. In the end, “Stonewall” Jackson was a unique leader and had a huge impact on the Civil War.

[1] Picture from http://www.vahistorical.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/thomas-jonathan-jackson.

[2] “T. J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” Civil War Trust, accessed on October 11, 2014, http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/thomas-jackson.html.

[3] “Stonewall Jackson,” History Website, accessed October 11, 2014, http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/stonewall-jackson.

[4] “Stonewall Jackson,” History Website.

[5] “Stonewall Jackson,” History Website.

[6] “T. J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” Civil War Trust.

[7] “T. J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” Civil War Trust.

[8] “T. J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” Civil War Trust.

[9] “Stonewall Jackson,” History Website.

[10] “Stonewall  Jackson Quotes,” American Civil War Story, accessed October 11, 2014, http://www.americancivilwarstory.com/stonewall-jackson-quotes.html.

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26 thoughts on “The Overlooked Legacy of “Stonewall” Jackson

  1. megans24 says:

    WOW!!! This document is so interesting. I had never really thought about the contributions of Jackson. I do agree with you about the idea that Lee is the first person that comes to mind when the civil war is brought up. I think you are also right that Jackson’s contribution to the war was vastly overlooked. I believe that the reason that more commanders did not take charge like Jackson was they did not want to die. It’s obvious that being in the front like would give a better chance of being hurt/killed. This is a very good blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jmccloud1993 says:

      I completely agree. His fearlessness on the battle is difficult to comprehend. There is no way I would ever be willing to do what he did.

      Like

  2. jacobaloweryuca says:

    You have raised some really interesting questions in your blog post. I was also curious as to how his death impacted the success of the Confederacy and if it potentially changed the outcome of the war. While I find his leadership style admirable, it does seem a bit reckless. He was involved in some of the greatest Confederate victories such as Fredericksburg and obviously played a pivotal role as an impressive and inspiring general. However, his belief that the time of his death was fixed by God might have clouded his judgement and diminished his ability to view the grand strategy of the war. Maybe not though, I’d have to do further research to back up that statement. His death came at such a pivotal time in the war, and the Confederacy’s leadership took a large blow with his death. Great blog post! You’ve raised some very interesting questions that inspire some incredibly riveting counterfactual studies.

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    • jmccloud1993 says:

      I guess it really depends on how you look at it. The way I see it, Jackson’s faith was what made him so successful. Without it, he would not have had the courage to do what he did. The only thing that impacted the grand strategy of the war was his death, which did not even occur during a battle.

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  3. bgoodin1 says:

    Jacob, your post is really interesting. To answer your question, yes. I do believe that Stonewall Jackson’s legacy has been overshadowed by Robert E. Lee and Grant who later became president. I don’t think this has anything to do with Jackson’s resume but more so of Lee’s resume. The leader Jackson was I don’t think will ever be mistaken. He was a different kind of leader who surly earned his nickname. The loss of Stonewall I don’t believe was a deciding factor in the South’s loss, but yet a big blow because no one else was willing to fill his shoes. Jacob, do you think that his strong faith in God was the reason he was such a unique leader?

    Like

    • jmccloud1993 says:

      Based on what I have read, I honestly believe that his faith was what made him so unique. Jackson was not afraid of death because he knew it led to an eternity in Heaven. This led to his fearlessness on the battlefield.

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  4. I believe he was over looked to a point. I do not think he won as big of engagements as Lee but he was still a very valuable asset to the confederacy. This might lead to the oversight and under representation. What should be noted however is that he was kinda crazy. Holding the belief that holding out his arm kept the blood flow equal or something of the sort.

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    • jmccloud1993 says:

      I was not aware of this. Did he hold his arm out after he was shot or just in everyday situations? If it was after he was shot, it is hard to call him crazy. He was losing a lot of blood and wanted to try anything to stay alive. People were obviously not very medically advanced during that time period. Please let me know which situation you were referring to.

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  5. jamesgerdes says:

    Can you describe what made Jackson’s battle tactics so strong? He was only a Lieutenant General so presumably most of what he did was follow Lee’s orders right? I don’t know is the only reason I ask, but if that is the case then you are right in that his ability to instill confidence in his troops made him a good commander in that regard. If you’re not coming up with strategy, then that should be the focus of your leadership as it helps keep your men in the fight and gives them more discipline.

    Regardless, Jackson’s troops WERE instrumental in many battles he fought.

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    • jmccloud1993 says:

      Overall, Jackson received his orders from Lee, but when you are on the front lines with your men, you have to make many decisions on your own. Also, Lee was not always there to tell him what to do. Because of this, he was forced to use his brilliant battle tactics to fight off the Union armies. This, along with his unique leadership style, is what made him so successful.

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    • jmccloud1993 says:

      When it comes to tactics, he was aggressive when he needed to be, and he knew how to motivate his men. Also, his intelligence on the battlefield was unmatched by most. He understood how to take advantage of the land they were fighting on and the opposing forces.

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  6. dberry20 says:

    I do believe that Jackson’s success was overshadowed and somewhat underappreciated after reading this post. I think that Jackson should definitely get a lot of credit for the success that the Confederacy did have. He was a leader that could affect the overall morale of his men just through his bravery and willingness to be on the field in battles with them. I think the respect he must have had from his troops was important to their war effort. I do think that his death was probably devastating for the South because of how much of a difference maker he was.

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  7. Terra Lain Votaw says:

    I agree that Jackson’s success was overshadowed. When I think of the Civil War, the two names from either side of the war are Lee and Grant. I am interested in Jackson, who was a well-liked leader that history hasn’t emphasized. It’s important to realize how important it was to keep the troop’s morale high.

    Like

    • jmccloud1993 says:

      I completely agree. The only people I have learned about are Jefferson Davis, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant. I hope other people eventually get the credit that they deserve.

      Like

  8. I would say he’s overlooked due to General Lee. In my opinion, had Jackson not died and lived to see the end of the war, he would be looked upon as highly as General Lee. Perhaps, had he lived, the war would have been shaped somewhat differently for the Confederacy. As far as other generals not adopting his strategies, I think they were afraid of risking too many Southern lives. By the time Jackson died, the war steadily began to turn against the Confederacy and the number of available men in the South was decreasing due to the high casualties rates in a number of battles.

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  9. moonsierra says:

    I agree with Will. I think that Jackson’s death early in the Civil War has led to many people forgetting about his importance as a general. This post was very interesting because I never have learned much about Jackson, other than his nickname. Another reason he may get overlooked, which is separate from his skill as a general, was that he was not killed in a military scheme, but died due to complications from being shot by his own soldier. Maybe because he did not have a glorious death in battle, and did not really die as a martyr for the Confederacy, he gets overshadowed by the “heroes” of the Civil War, like General Lee. Was Jackson’s death a major catalyst for the failing Confederacy’s war efforts? Did he have that much influence with General Lee that his input made a difference in military tactics and strategy? Do you think the war would have ended differently had Jackson lived longer?

    Like

    • jmccloud1993 says:

      Jackson’s death was a major blow to the Confederate army. Although he played a major role during the Civil War, I do not believe that his death changed the outcome of the war. The North was destined to win with all of the resources they had available to them. The only thing Jackson might have changed if he was not killed was the duration of the war. I feel like it would have maybe lasted a couple of months longer. When it comes to Lee and Jackson, there was a strong bond between the two. Jackson was one of Lee’s most trusted officers, so I do believe Lee listened to the advice that Jackson had to give.

      Like

  10. mmillsapuca says:

    I am not sure if Jackson is overlooked as much as he is always understood in relation to Lee as his superior. I think a more interesting if more difficult question would his motivations for leading in the manner he chose. You mentioned his strong belief in Providence with setting the time of his death and I wonder how much this factored into his tactical acumen and battlefield heroism. Does he consistently allude to God’s timing in a unique way or does he evoke God in the same manner as most people in the nineteenth century?

    Like

    • jmccloud1993 says:

      When it comes to faith and God’s timing, I believe that Jackson was different than other leaders throughout the Civil War. From what I have read, faith was the most important thing in Jackson’s life. The reason I believe that there was nobody else like him has to do with the fact that nobody else was willing to stand on the front lines like he did. They may have had faith but definitely not as much faith as Jackson. He was no ordinary Christian.

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  11. mpthomas10 says:

    Jackson definitely had an interesting way of leading his men into battle. I think that if more Confederate leaders had adopted this style of fighting on the front-lines with the rest of the soldiers, it would have ended even more poorly for the Confederacy. The South was already plagued with a lack of soldiers, the last thing they needed was for the generals to become easy targets. One of the few advantages that they had over the Union was the number and quality of their military leaders. Had more Confederate leaders decided to fight on the front-lines, the Confederacy would have toppled even sooner due to lack of leadership on the battlefield.

    Like

    • jmccloud1993 says:

      You bring up an interesting point. I feel like Jackson’s strategy has a trade-off. If generals die on the front lines motivating and leading their troops, fewer soldiers die. If the generals sit back and let the men fight on their own, more soldiers will die. Either way you look at it, you will be losing an important part of your army. Because the South had such an advantage in educated generals, Jackson’s strategy would be more beneficial. It would be easier to replace one general instead of one hundred soldiers. Also, keep in mind that Jackson was not even killed on the front lines.

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  12. ngarrison123 says:

    I feel like a lot of generals want to be known as unique, or someone that would stand out, but very few of them were genuinely different in the way that Jackson was, and I think that Robert E. Lee knew this and kept him well regarded in hopes that his unique leadership might rub off on Lee, and generally advance the cause of the Confederate military. It’s very interesting to point out that, even though Jackson was the kind of general that fought on the front lines with his men, it wasn’t the enemy that killed him in the end but a very unlucky fellow Confederate soldier.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. jarredhf says:

    I don’t think that Jackson is so much overlooked, but that any accomplishment made by Lee’s army was generally credited to Lee for the sake of a unified Confederate mindset. I also feel a man like Jackson, especially with his fervent religious views, would not have cared so much for personal recognition of his battlefield accomplishments, instead being satisfied that his own actions for more then enough.
    Also, while Jackson’s policy of leading from the front generally leads to higher morale and better battlefield control, it also tends to create martyrs. Some may argue that the benefit of a great man such as Jackson dying for the cause would strengthen morale, but I see it differently. Losing a brilliant tactical mind such as Jackson’s outweighs any benefit of the front line heroics he employed.

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  14. I have always felt that Stonewall Jackson was one of the best, if not the best general in the south. He may have been overshadowed by the enormity of Grant’s reputation, and therefore just never given his whole worth. The fact that he would often accompany his soldiers onto the battlefield speaks volumes to me. He was the only general to use this display of courageousness to rally his troops and boost morale.
    All in all, I thought it was a fantastic blog though! All your sources were credible and easily accessed. You chose a very interesting topic as well. Good job, Jacob!

    Like

  15. It is a downright CRIME that Jackson is not thought of as highly as Lee. However, I don’t think he is nearly as understated or underestimated as you think. He is still highly respected in Civil War history as an amazing general, in fact I’ve heard some people theorize that if he had been at Gettsyburg to offer strategy, Lee would have won. We can only wonder if that would have happened, but there is no doubt Jackson was very influential. He’s definitely a man to admire.

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