Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson On the March to Manassas, the Battle, and the Aftermath

2 07 2012

[No date]

On the 18th of July I struck my tents, rolled them up, and left them on the ground, and about noon marched through Winchester, as I had been encamped on the other side of the town. About an hour and a half after leaving, I had the following order from General Johnston published to my brigade: “Our gallant army under General Beauregard is now attacked by overwhelming numbers. The commanding general hopes that his troops will step out like men, and make a forced march to save the country.” At this stirring appeal the soldiers rent the air with shouts of joy, and all was eagerness and animation where before there had been only lagging and uninterested obedience.. We continued our march until we reached Millwood, in Clarke County, where we halted for an hour or so, having found an abundance of good water, and there we took a lunch. Resuming the march, my brigade continuing in front, we arrived at the Shenandoah River about dark. The water was waist-deep, but the men gallantly waded the river. This halting and crossing delayed us for some time; but about 2 o’clock in the morning we arrived at the little village of Paris, where we remained sleeping until nearly dawn. I mean the troops slept, as my men were so exhausted that I let them sleep while I kept watch myself.

———-

Manassas, July 22d.

My Precious Pet, — Yesterday we fought a great battle and gained a great victory, for which all the glory is due to God alone. Although under a heavy fire for several continuous hours, I received only one wound, the breaking of the longest finger of my left hand; but the doctor says the finger can be saved. It was broken about midway between the hand and knuckle, the ball passing on the side next the forefinger. Had it struck the centre, I should have lost the finger. My horse was wounded, but not killed. Your coat got an ugly wound near the hip, but my servant, who is very handy, has so far repaired it that it doesn’t show very much. My preservation was entirely due, as was the glorious victory, to our God, to whom be all the honor, praise, and glory. The battle was the hardest that I have ever been in, but not near so hot in its fire. I commanded the centre more particularly, though one of my regiments extended to the right for some distance. There were other commanders on my right and left. Whilst great credit is due to other parts of our gallant army, God made my brigade more instrumental than any other in repulsing the main attack. This is for your information only — say nothing about it. Let others speak praise, not myself.

———-

[Soon after the battle]

Mr. James Davidson’s son, Frederick, and William Page (son of my dear friend) were killed. Young Riley’s life was saved by his Bible, which was in the breast pocket of his coat . . . My finger troubles me considerably, and renders it very difficult for me to write, as the wind blows my paper, and I can only use my right hand. I have an excellent camping-ground about eight miles from Manassas on the road to Fairfax Court House. I am sleeping in a tent, and have requested that the one which my darling had the loving kindness to order for me should not be sent. If it is already made, we can use it in time of peace. . . . General Lee has recently gone to the western part of our State, and I hope we may soon hear that our God has again crowned our arms with victory.

———-

August 5th.

And so you think the papers ought to say more about your husband! My brigade is not a brigade of newspaper correspondents. I know that the First Brigade was the first to meet and pass our retreating forces – to push on with no other aid than the smiles of God; to boldly take its position with the artillery that was under my command – to arrest the victorious foe in his onward progress – to hold him in check until reinforcements arrived – and finally to charge bayonets, and, thus advancing, pierce the enemy’s centre. I am well satisfied with what it did, and so are my generals, Johnston and Beauregard. It is not to be expected that I should receive the credit that General Beauregard and Johnston would, because I was under them; but I am thankful to my ever-kind Heavenly Father that He makes me content to await His own good time and pleasure for commendation – knowing that all things work together for my good. If my brigade can always play so important and useful a part as it did in the last battle, and trust I shall ever be more grateful. As you think the papers do not notice me enough, I send a specimen, which you will see from the upper part of the paper is a leader. My darling, never distrust our God, who doeth all things well. In due time He will make manifest all His pleasure, which is all His people should desire. You must not be concerned at seeing other parts of the army lauded, and my brigade not mentioned. “Truth is mighty and will prevail.” When the official reports are published, if not before, I expect to see justice done this noble body of patriots. My command consists of the Second, Fourth, Fifth , Twenty-seventh, and Thirty-third regiments of Virginia Volunteers, commanded respectively by Colonels, James W. Allen, James F. Preston, Kenton Harper, W. W. Gordon, and A. C. Cummings; and, in addition, we have Colonel Pendleton’s Battery. My staff-officers are Lieutenant-colonel Francis B. Jones, acting adjutant-general; Lieutenant-colonel J. W. Massie, aide; Lieutenant A. S. Pendleton, ordnance officer; Captain John A. Harman, quartermaster; and Captain W. J. Hawkes, commissary.

———-

Jackson, Mary Anna, Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson, pp.177-181

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2 responses

16 07 2012
Dayton

Just curious, based on this comment from Jackson’s entry, “My finger troubles me considerably, and renders it very difficult for me to write, as the wind blows my paper, and I can only use my right hand” can we assume that he normally wrote left-handed?

16 07 2012
Harry Smeltzer

I don’t know if Jackson was left-handed. Another possibility is that he could not hold the blowing paper down with his wounded left hand while he wrote with his right.

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