Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review: Stonewall Jackson: The Good Soldier

 Stonewall Jackson has long been one of my heroes.  This book is written by Allen Tate and was originally published in 1928.  This is a subsequent version published by J.S. Sanders and Company.  I do not love Jackson because of the slave issue, but for the type of person he was.  This story tells something about his youth.  Jackson was an orphan, raised by his uncle.  This scene took place in his youth.

“That’s a nice fish you got there, Tom.  What’ll you take for him?” 
“The fish is sold Colonel Talbott.”
“But I’ll give you a dollar for it.”
“I can’t take it, sir.  The fish is sold to Mr. Kester.”
“Now, Tom,” the Colonel said, “I’ll give you a dollar and a quarter.  Surely he won’t give you more’n that.”
Tom said: “Colonol Talbott, I have an agreement with Mr. Kester to sell him fish of a certain length for fifty cents apiece.  He has taken some too short.  Now he’s going’ to get this big one for fifty cents.”

Thomas Jackson was a man of character.  He did not have a lot of schooling, but had a goal of getting into the West Point.  He was not selected, but when the candidate gave up after a few months, he petitioned to take his place.  He had to study hard to be pass the admittance exams.  He started at the bottom of his class, but steadily climbed.  He wasn't the highest graduate, but most of his classmates agree if they had been in school a year longer Jackson would have been at the top.
After graduating Jackson went shortly to Mexico to participate in the Mexican American War.  By the end of the war Jackson had distinguished himself. 
He became a teacher at the Virginia Military Institute.  He was said to be a poor teacher.  However he excelled at working with the boys in artillery training and outside activities.
As the war began, Jackson decided to side with his state, Virginia.  This motto drove him:
Bull Run was the first major battle.  Jackson under Johnston, had been farther west, but arrived for the battle, after the Federals had pushed the Confederates most of the morning.  A fellow officer warmed him they were to be over run.  Jackson responded, “Then, sir, we will give them the bayonet.”  General Bee's group was falling back.  He uttered the famous line, that became a nickname for a brigade and a general.
General Bee, “Look there at Jackson, standing like a stone wall.  Rally behind the Virginians!”
It is a pleasure to read of the Shenandoah Campaign.  Jackson was so brilliant in taking on three armies, with a total men of 60,000 against his 17,000.  He applied several times the concept of bringing the most men to a particular spot and winning battles in that way.  He was able to defeat the federals in detail over and over, while they were unable to pin him down so they could attack him with greater numbers.
After one battle he was asked how he could respond so calmly in the face of danger. Jackson, “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.”
Jackson was a religious man.  He said,  “Every thought should be a prayer.  The attitude of prayer should become a habit.”  When credited with a victory Jackson would say, “No, it has been nothing but the blessing an protection of Providence.”
After Second Bull Run and Antietam Jackson's reputation preceded him.  Northern mothers would discipline their children with, “Keep quiet or Jackson will get you.”
Jackson's men would sing around the campfire:
Come, stack arms, men, pile n the rails;
Stir up the camp-fires bright;
No matter if the canteen fails
We’ll make a roaring night.
Here Shenandoah brawls along,
There lofty Blue Ridge echoes strong,
To swell the Brigade’s roaring song
Of Stonewall Jackson’s way….

Silence!  Ground arms!  Kneel all! Caps off!
Old Blue-Light’s going to pray;
Strangle the fool that dares to scoff.
Attention!  It’s his way!
Appealing from his native sod
In forma pauperis to God,
“Lay bare thine arm—stretch forth the rod,
Amen!”  That’s Stonewall’s way.
Fredericksburg was a high point for the Confederacy.  Jackson made this comment before the battle, when told he should be worried about the enemy.  Jackson, “We shall very soon see if I shall not frighten them.”  After the battle he was asked how to handle the masses of Federals.  Jackson, “Kill them sir!  Kill every man.”
Even though Chancellorsville is Jackson's greatest success, it is a part of the book I most regret.  Jackson lead a flanking attack which was successful.  However he looked for more success, to destroy the Corp in front of him.  To follow up his advantage, Jackson was scouting in front of his troops.  As his group headed back to their lines the were fired upon, and Jackson was wounded.  His left arm was amputated.  As he recuperated Jackson talked about the success of the day.  "Our movement was a great success, the most successful military movement of my life.  But I expect to receive far more credit for it than I deserve....I feel his hand lead me--let us give him the glory."  Due to pneumonia Stonewall Jackson passed away May 10, 1963.  His last words, "Let us cross over the river, and rest in the shade of the trees."
I think this was a turning point in the war.  As Jackson said, everyone's time is numbered.  It was numbered for Jackson to leave the Confederacy.  His absence would be felt in Gettysburg when the Confederacy did not take Cemetery Hill the first day of battle.  Had they taken that hill, likely the results of that battle would have been very different, and consequently very likely the result of the war.  It was past time for slavery to be done, and even though Jackson was not really a supporter of slavery, that may not have happened had he survived.

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