A Lament on the Death of Stonewall Jackson
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was very heaven!” So wrote Wordsworth of how his generation felt on first hearing news of the French Revolution.
And so it was when news came of a great victory at the Battle of First Manassas in July of 1861. The Confederacy had a new hero in the person of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, henceforth to be called “Stonewall.” Jackson epitomized the South’s dream of a new fighting faith that would one day drive the Federals out of Virginia and lead the South to victory.
It was not to be.
This weekend commemorates the great Battle of Chancellorsville and the mortal wounding of Jackson. Next to Robert E. Lee himself, Thomas J. Jackson is the most revered of all Confederate commanders. In his greatest day he led his Corps around the Union right flank at Chancellorsville and routed the Eleventh Corps.
Reconnoitering that night, he was returning to his own lines when he was accidentally fired upon by his own men. He lingered for a time, and hopes were high for his eventual recovery. Then pneumonia set in. On May 10, 1863, shortly after 3:00 pm, Jackson said in delirium, “Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front! Tell Major Hawks....” Then the good General paused, smiled, and spoke his last words: “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”
He was 39 years old. His body was carried to Richmond and then to Lexington, where it was buried. It is said that The Army of Northern Virginia never fully recovered from the loss of Jackson’s leadership. General Robert E. Lee believed Jackson was irreplaceable.
Before true conservatives can recapture America, they will have to answer a basic question: What does it mean to be a conservative in America in 2003, and what are we willing to go down to defeat fighting for, as Stonewall Jackson did so very long ago?
Today false prophets cry “Peace” when there is no peace and the optimists of this world proclaim a sham security that is actually the forerunner of certain destruction. The victorious life is not attained in some peaceful retreat away from the stress and the din. Our Lord was under constant pressure and strain throughout His ministry. His peace is ours in the midst of the conflict and we can be at rest within while at work without. We go apart and rest not to escape the duties of life but to refresh our spirits before we return to them.
There is no place for an armistice in our battle. “Ne’er think the victory won nor lay thine armor down/The work of faith will not be done till thou obtain the crown.”
Addendum: Memorable Sayings of Stonewall Jackson
“People who are anxious to bring on war don’t know what they are bargaining for; they don’t see all the horrors that must accompany such an event.”
“It is painful enough to discover with what unconcern they speak of war and threaten it. I have seen enough of it to make me look upon it as the sum of all evils.”
“I am in favor of making a thorough trial for peace, and if we fail in this and our state is invaded, to defend it with terrific resistance.”
“All I am and all I have is at the service of my country.”
“Once you get them running, you can stay on top of them, and that way a small force can defeat a large one every time.”
“Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit. Never fight against heavy odds if you can hurl your own force on only a part of your enemy and crush it. A small army may thus destroy a large one, and repeated victory will make you invincible. To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all fruits of victory is the secret of a successful war.”
“I had rather lose one man in marching than five in fighting.”
“I yield to no man in sympathy for the gallant men under my command; but I am obliged to sweat them tonight, that I may save their blood tomorrow.”
“This army stays here until the last wounded man is removed. Before I will leave them to the enemy, I will lose many more men.”
“So great is my confidence in General Lee that I am willing to follow him blindfolded.”
“Never take counsel of your fears.”
“What is life without honor? Degradation is worse than death.”
“Duty is ours; consequences are God’s.”
“If you desire to be more heavenly minded, think more of the things of heaven, and less of the things of earth.”
“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 always be ready, no matter when it may overtake me.”
April 30, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.