“Had Jackson lived to command the right or left wing at Gettysburg, the Confederacy might be approaching its 150th year of independence today.”
– General Wesley Clark, “Stonewall Jackson“, by D. Davis
Two years ago, I was informed by a reader and friend that it is the duty of Every Day’s a Holiday to warn unsuspecting visitors to South Carolina not to bother going to the DMV on May 10. Any such excursions will certainly result in failure. For today state offices, banks, and businesses shut down to honor the memory of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, a man better known by his nickname: “Stonewall”.
Jackson has one-and-a-half holidays devoted to him. South Carolina commemorates the anniversary of his death on May 10, while Virginia combines the birthdays of Jackson (January 21, 1824) and Robert E. Lee (January 19, 1807) to celebrate Lee-Jackson Day.
Jackson lost his father and mother at an early age, and was raised by relatives. The orphan attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and despite starting with an educational handicap, he graduated 17th out of a class of 59. He then served in the Mexican-American War, and taught at the Virginia Military Institute.
Three months after the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Jackson was promoted to Brigider-General.
At the First Battle of Bull Run, when Union forces broke through Confederate lines, Jackson’s troops stood their ground defending the hill, causing Confederate General Barnard Bee to exclaim to his men, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall!” The name stuck. “Stonewall” Jackson and his “Stonewall Brigade” became symbols of Southern bravery.
Of course there may be another reason Jackson stood like a stone wall. As a student at West Point, one of Jackson’s many eccentricities was a belief that, if he bent over, it could damage his internal organs.
Jackson’s odd behaviors and personality traits caused some modern scholars to suggest…
“Stonewall Jackson meets the criteria for Asperger Syndrome, with clear evidence of a qualitative impairment in social interaction and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. Although individuals with Asperger Syndrome demonstrate major problems in social relationships, many are capable of great creativity because of their ability to focus on a single topic — in this case, on the field of battle and in military affairs.”
Genius Genes: How Asperger Talents Changed the World, by Michael Fitzgerald and Brendan O’Brien
Jackson was one of the greatest military strategists in U.S. history. By October he was promoted to Major General. He led his troops to striking victories in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. The Stonewall Brigade distinguished itself at Antietam and numerous other battles. It’s been said that had Jackson lived long enough to assist Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg, the South might have won the war’s bloodiest stalemate, and maybe even the war.
But it wasn’t to be. Jackson met his end at the Battle of Chancelorsville in May 1863. Jackson showed little concern regarding bullets whizzing about him, and on May 2, he was wounded by Confederate troops who mistook his convoy for Yanks. His arm was amputated, and he died of misdiagnosed pneumonia eight days later.
“Sadly, in April of 1865, only 210 men from the original Stonewall Brigade were left at Appomattox. Because of the reputation of the brigade on both sides of the war, the Stonewall Brigade was the first to march through the Federal lines at the surrender.”