Hennessy on the Naming of “Stonewall”

16 04 2009

The following appeared in Vol. VIII, No. 2 of Civil War: The Magazine of the Civil War Society, March-April 1990, and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.  My notes in {brackets}.

Stonewall Jackson’s Nickname

What did General Bee really say at First Manassas?  And what did he mean?

By John Hennessy

This is the way the story goes: At noontime on July 21, 1861, a bright, warm summer day, the brash young Confederacy seemed on the brink of woeful disaster.  The brushy fields behind widow Judith Henry’s house were crowded with fugitives, gray-clad and blue-clad Confederates milling about, sweat-soaked, bleeding, confused, and dazed.  Officers rushed among them trying to restore formations shattered in the morning fight, but their yelling, cursing, and speechmaking did little good.

The tangled, frightened mob refused organization.  On the hills a mile to the north were 17,000 Federals, ready to advance, their muskets and bayonets glinting in the mid-day sun and their cannon steadily lobbing shells toward the Confederates.  The battle — the War itself — was only two hours old.  Could all be lost already?

So it seemed.  But then, suddenly, a column of men appeared, marching four abreast up a rutted road on the rear slope of Mrs. Henry’s hill.  Emerging from the timber, the column filed right, then left, the men lying down in the tall grass and pine thickets lining the eastern edge of Henry’s farm.  It consisted of five regiments, nearly 2500 men, all Virginians.  The man at their head was an obscure brigadier, no long ago a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, named Thomas J. Jackson.

Jackson’s arrival did not go unnoticed by those thousands of Confederates milling about in widow Henry’s meadow.  One of them, South Carolinian Barnard Bee, whose commission as Brigadier General carried the same date as Jackson’s, frantically rode up to the Virginian.  “General, they are beating us back”, Bee exclaimed, as if he were appealing to a superior officer.  Jackson, his eyes flashing in that soon-to-be-familiar way, coolly intoned his reply: “Sir, we will give them the bayonet.”  Reassured, Bee wheeled his horse and galloped back to the sorry mob behind Henry’s house.  To the north, the Federals prepared to attack.

Bee dashed among his troops, finding the remnants of the 4th Alabama, and beseeched them to fall in.  But the men, tired and scared, would have none of it.  Then Bee, in desperation, rose in his saddle, drew his sword and pointed through the roiling smoke toward Jackson.  “There stands Jackson like a stone wall!” he bellowed.  “Rally around the Virginians!”

Drummers beat the rally.  Tangled knots of soldiers shook themselves out into ragged lines.  In a short time the dazed mob of Alabamians had formed up into steady ranks, anchored on Jackson’s rock solid regiments.  The Confederates gripped their rifles tightly and peered down their barrels.  After what seemed like an interminable wait, the enemy appeared, stepping ever closer.  At the last possible moment, the Confederate line exploded in a blaze of fire that drove the Federals back.

Again the attack came on, and again Jackson’s men, assisted by Bee’s reformed mob, drove them back.  This time the Confederates rose and dashed headlong in pursuit, toward the Federal cannon.  The enemy troops began to flee in wanton panic.

Teetering on the edge of disaster at mid-day, the Confederates had by late afternoon won a stunning victory on the Plains of Manassas.  And it was largely thanks to a man who, because of his performance that day, would soon be known to the world as “Stonewall” Jackson.  At least, so the story goes.

***

This account of how Jackson received his nickname is one of the enduring legends of the War.  With its high drama and cool heroism, it has thrilled countless school children and battlefield visitors, inspired generations of writers, sculptors, orators and soldiers.

But a century of enthusiastic retellings and embellishments — along with some festering skepticism — have taken their toll.  Fact and fiction have been melded into the story until they are indistinguishable.  And trying to separate them is not merely difficult; it is construed by worshipers of Jackson as a kind of historical blasphemy.  Yet his detractors persist, telling us that the story is overblown or misconstrued — that only the faintest strands of truth remain.

Clearly, it is time for a re-examination.  We must see whether we can find out what, exactly, Bee said — if indeed he said anything.  We must inquire into when he said it, and why.

The story gained notoriety quickly.  Only four days after the battle, a correspondent of the Charleston Mercury informed his readers of Jackson’s stoic retort to Bee, and Bee’s comparison of Jackson to a stone wall.  The story, and the inevitable nickname, spread quickly through the army, and within a few months General Jackson had become simply “Stonewall.”  And as such, by the end of the War, he had become one of the most famous men in the world.

As a foremost martyr to the Lost Cause, Jackson became after the War a subject of veneration, as did the legend of his christening at First Manassas.  Alleged eyewitnesses to the event (most of them members of the Stonewall Brigade) stepped forward by the dozens to reiterate and embroider the now-unshakeable myth.   Sanitized and polished, the story became a treasured piece of Virginiana, a staple of Southern lore.

Lurking in the shadows of the rosy glow, however, was a small but growing army of skeptics who, with considerable vigor, questioned the basic circumstances and meaning of the events of July 21, 1861.  Some, claiming that no reliable eyewitnesses ever emerged, went so far as to insist the Bee-Jackson incident never occurred.  North Carolinian D. H. Hill, for example, probably motivated as much by the age-old Carolinian resentment of Virginia gentility as by the absence of verifiable sources, labeled the entire episode “sheer fabrication.”

Others chose to re-interpret the legend, perhaps to reflect their own regional loyalties.  Bee’s fellow South Carolinian, Colonel John Cheves Haskell, said that according to sources he deemed reliable, Bee was actually denouncing Jackson by calling him a “stone wall,” because Jackson had refused to come to the aid of Bee’s “hard pressed” troops.  Virginians, on the other hand, put special emphasis on the postscript to the stone-wall reference – the part that went “rally around the Virginians.”  It is not surprising that the impressive statue of Jackson that today commands Henry Hill bears those very words.  It was erected by the State of Virginia.

Historians picking their way through this minefield of sectional and personal partisanship had to step carefully.  Most referred to the incident vaguely enough to avoid error; as R. M. Johnston put it in 1913, “something was said by somebody, during or immediately after the battle, that likened Jackson or his men or both to a stone wall.”  What these writers lacked was not the will to tackle the issue, but rather two essentials: reliable eyewitness accounts of the Jackson-Bee exchange, and comprehensive details of the events on Henry Hill that Sunday.

For some time, in fact, there was available only one primary account of what Jackson said to Bee, and vice versa.  It was written long after the war, in the 1890s, by Lieutenant William Robbins of Bee’s 4th Alabama Infantry.  By the time it appeared, the legend was already in place, and historians tended either to interpret the Robbins account to fit the legend, or in the case of a lack of fit, to discount Robbins’s account altogether.

Recently, however, three new eyewitness accounts have come to light, all written by members of the 4th Alabama, that confirm and expand upon Robbins’s account.  Two of them, a diary kept by Chaplain James G. Hudson {James G. Hudson, A Story of Company D, 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment, C.S.A., edited by Alma H. Pate, Alabama Historical Quarterly, (Spring 1961), XXIII} and the official report of Captain Thomas Goldsby, were in all probability written within a week of the battle.  The other account is an unpublished history of the 4th Alabama, by Robert T. Coles, written in 1909 {since published: Robert T. Coles, From Huntsville to Appomattox: R. T. Coles’s History of 4th Regiment, Alabama Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A., Army of Northern Virginia, edited by Jeffrey D. Stocker, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996}.  Together, these four memoirs provide a clear and consistent picture of a very trying day for the 4th Alabama Infantry.

That July Sunday began full of hope and excitement for the men of the 4th Alabama, poised as they were near the center of the Confederate line at Blackburn’s Ford, certain they would be in the thick of the day’s fighting.  At 7 a.m., however, anticipation turned to disappointment.  The 4th was ordered into column and marched several miles north to the Stone Bridge — away, the grumbling men were sure, from the combat and the glory they craved.

As they neared the Stone Bridge, however, their mood changed yet again.  In front they could hear the rattle of musketry, and word came down the line of a potential crisis.  The Federals were trying to outflank the Confederates by crossing Bull Run two miles to above the Southerner’s left.  Eager for what one man called, “a chance to get a dab at the Yankees”, Bee’s men hurried over narrow roads and fence-studded farmland and, after only the briefest halt, threw themselves into the desperate fight on Matthew’s Hill.

Bee’s bloody attempt to drive back the Federal flanking column failed miserably.  By 11:30 a.m., the wreck of the 4th Alabama, along with two or three thousand other overwhelmed Confederates, was streaming back across the Warrenton Turnpike and up the slope of Mrs. Henry’s hill.

Once there, as the legend correctly holds, the Confederates milled about in disorganized mobs, edging toward the rear.  Then Jackson and his five regiments arrived.  Bee saw him, rode to him and, as related by a correspondent of the Mercury, told him of his plight.  “Sir, we will give them the bayonet”, Jackson told him.  Jackson in his after-action report confirmed the meeting with Bee: “Before arriving within cannon range of the enemy I met General Bee’s forces falling back.  I continued to advance with the understanding he would form in my rear.”

Here the legend and the eyewitness accounts begin to differ dramatically.  In the legendary version of the story it was at this time, about noon, that Bee returned to his troops and launched Jackson toward immortality.  But according to all four eyewitness accounts, Bee’s famous words were not spoken until two or three hours later.  By that time the tactical situation, and hence the meaning of what Bee said, were fundamentally changed.

The eyewitnesses recalled that Bee’s men, in serious trouble, continued rearward and formed 400 yards behind the right of Jackson’s line.  Captain Goldsby, on command of the 4th Alabama, wrote in his report, “Without any field officers, and almost surrounded by the enemy, we again fell back through a pine woods to an open field where we halted and awaited orders.  The thirst of the men was intense and almost intolerable.”

Meanwhile, one-quarter of a mile away, Jackson hurried to patch together a line of artillery in front of his now-prone infantrymen along the eastern edge of Henry Hill.  Benefitted greatly by a propitious lull granted him by the Federals, by 2 p.m. he had between 13 and 16 guns (no one knows for sure precisely how many) blazing away, including Alburtis’s Battery (the Wise Artillery), commanded by young Lieutenant John Pelham.

At about 2:30 p.m., 11 Union guns unexpectedly wheeled into position abreast of Widow Henry’s house, not 500 yards from Jackson’s line, and opened fire.  They were soon followed by Federal infantry.  The blueclad troops slowly closed with Jackson’s line, but hesitated, unsure of what they were facing.  Jackson’s men — at least a good number of them — rose and fired the first volley.

It was a savage firefight for a few minutes, but soon the Federals beat a hasty retreat to the cover of Sudley Road.  Jackson’s men, well satisfied by the apparent ease of their success, did not pursue.  In a few minutes yet another line of Unionists appeared, and again the Yankees approached Jackson’s line.  The Virginians’ task would not be so simple this time.

Meanwhile, Captain Goldsby and his tired band of Alabamians lay in the fields to Jackson’s right rear, waiting for someone to tell them what to do.  Soon General Bee galloped up to the regiment.  He had apparently been lost for some time, unable to find any familiar troops, and was anxious to get back into the fight.

All four eyewitnesses noted Bee’s bewildered arrival.  According to Goldsby, “At this place, a half mile behind our original position amid the bursting shells and the rattling storm of musketry, our heroic General Bee rode up to the regiment and inquired what troops we were.  Being told that ‘it was what remained of the 4th Alabama,’ he replied with an expressive gesture, ‘This is all of my brigade that I can find — will you follow me back to where the firing is going on?’  ‘To the death’ was the response.”

Regimental Chaplain Hudson, writing in his diary soon after the battle, recalled Bee’s arrival similarly: “While the 4th Regiment was recovering, General Bee rode up and asked who would follow him to the conflict.  Every man rose up, raised a shout and replied, ‘We will follow you to the death.’”

Lieutenant Robbins, writing in the 1890s, left yet another description that helps fix the position of the 4th Alabama and clearly indicates that by now Jackson’s men had become heavily engaged.  General Bee, wrote Robbins, ‘galloped up to the remnant of the 4th Alabama Regiment, which was so cut to pieces that Bee seemed not to recognize us at first, and he asked the question, ‘What regiment is this?’  We answered him, ‘The Fourth Alabama.’  At that time the heaviest masses of the Federals had so inclined to the left as to leave us comparatively unengaged, with little more than a skirmish line in our immediate front; but Jackson and his brigade, who were in position on high ground about 500 yards to our left, were being assailed by mighty masses of the enemy.  It was plainly the crisis of the day.  Bee then said to us, ‘Men can you make a charge of the bayonet?’ to which our poor battered regiment still had the pluck to respond, ‘Yes General; we’ll go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.’”

Private Robert Coles wrote in 1909 that at 2 p.m. “General Bee, very much depressed at the unfortunate turn of affairs, then proceeded to collect his forces.  Riding up to the 4th Alabama, he inquired what regiment is this; Captain Richard Clark and Captain Porter King quickly replied, ‘Why General, don’t you know your own men — this is what is left of the 4th Alabama.’”

These four accounts, remarkably consistent, point out two important facts that belie the legendery version of the story.  First, it is clear that at the time Bee spoke to the 4th, it was the general, not the regiment, who was discombobulated.  The regiment was simply lying still, waiting for orders.  There was, contrary to the legend, no rallying to be done (a point stressed by Lieutenant Robbins in another of his descriptions published in the Southern Historical Society Papers).

Bee, on the other hand, had been separated from his command for quite some time and was frantically trying to hunt up troops to bring back into the battle.  Which leads to the next point.  As Robbins explicitly states and the rest of the chroniclers imply, Jackson’s men were mightily engaged at the time of the incident.  It was Jackson, not Bee, who needed help.

Of Bee’s famous words, interestingly (and perhaps revealingly), the two men who wrote their recollections soon after the event said nothing, although clearly they were describing the same event as the post-war chroniclers.  Captain Goldsby wrote that after Bee spoke to the regiment, “he put himself on the left of our line and marched us by the left flank to where the fight was ranging around Sherman’s Battery.”  (Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries, the two Union batteries engaged on Henry Hill, were erroneously referred to by the Confederates as “Sherman’s Battery.”)  Parson Hudson remembered in his diary, “General Bee then led off in the direction of the house where the old lady [Mrs. Henry] was killed, and near where Sherman’s Battery was taken.”

But both of the post-war writers remembered that before Bee led the regiment into the fight he had something else to say.  Private Coles wrote: “After stating that this was the only part of his command he could find, he then said, “Come with me and go yonder where Jackson stands like a stone wall.”  Lieutenant Robbins described the moment more precisely, and only slightly differently: “Bee then pointed to the conflict going on upon the elevated ground to our left and said: ‘Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall; Let’s go to his assistance.’  I, myself, was there and heard the words.”

These descriptions, the only eyewitness accounts available, put a distinctly different light on the entire incident.  Rather than the Virginians helping the Alabamians, as the legend generally holds, Bee’s men were instead going to help the Virginians.  This rather revolutionary perspective — guaranteed to raise a Virginians hackles and warm the heart of a Carolinian or Alabamian — is borne out further by the descriptions of Bee’s and his men’s subsequent activities.

Following Bee’s words the 4th Alabama rose, fell into column, and marched to Jackson’s assistance.  En route the regiment became confused when Alburtis’s battery of artillery left Jackson’s line and split the Alabama regiment.  Bee rallied them, and with 100 men joined Jackson in the counterattack that captured much of the Federal artillery on Henry Hill.  In this attack Bee was mortally wounded.

It is the descriptions of Bee’s march to Jackson’s aid that remove virtually all question of the timing of the “stone wall” incident, placing it at nearly 3 p.m., several hours later than the legend holds.  The key event that times Bee’s move, witnessed by all four writers, is the withdrawal of Jackson’s artillery, led by Alburtis’s battery, from Henry Hill.  That artillery, as related to William Nelson Pendleton’s after-action report, pulled out only when Jackson’s men became heavily involved with Yankee infantry.

Goldsby wrote of the 4th’s march to aid Jackson’s counterattack, “[Bee] put himself on the left of our line and marched us by the flank to where the fight was going on around Sherman’s Battery.  As we were nearing the scene, a train of artillery that was falling back cut our line, thus separating the left company from the rest of the regiment.  This company, with our general at its head, obliqued to the right, upon the open plain, and proceeded about 100 yards, when our gallant and beloved commander fell mortally wounded.”

Chaplain Hudson’s diary reads, “As the regiment was moving up a narrow road, through a pine thicket, Alburtis’s battery, which had been driven from the position, came dashing down the road under full headway.  The men were compelled to file right and left into the thicket to prevent being run over.”  Hudson goes on to add, supporting Goldsby, that Bee then gathered about a company and led them to “where the battle was raging hottest,” where he was very soon mortally wounded.

Robbins also describes the advance: “General Bee at once placed himself at our left and led the 4th Alabamians towards Jackson’s position.  During this movement Alburtis’s Battery was compelled to fall back and galloped right through our ranks, producing considerable confusion.”  And Robbins also says that Bee was wounded shortly thereafter.

Finally, Private Coles remembered the incident briefly, his account varying only to the extent that he claimed Alburtis’s battery was then going into position rather than leaving it, as is so clearly stated by the others.

This then is the evidence.  The four accounts – two wartime and two post-war — are convincingly consistent.  They lack even a hint of the speculation, fabrication, or embellishment so apparent in most descriptions of the affair, most of which were written by Virginians who were nowhere near Bee that day.  Moreover, the Alabamian’s descriptions dovetail precisely with the terrain (including the monument marking the spot of Bee’s mortal wounding) and the known sequence of events.  In short, there is no reason to doubt their veracity.  They make sense.  Where does all this leave the legend?

Clearly the circumstances surrounding Bee’s words were not nearly as dramatic as depicted in the legend.  The event took place about three hours later than is commonly believed.  The crisis of the day — the mayhem following the retreat from Matthew’s Hill — had long since passed.  There were no disorganized mobs, and the Confederacy was not gasping its last.  Instead, the 4th Alabama, with only a captain in command, lay quietly waiting for orders, hundreds of yards behind the main battle lines.  If anyone needed rallying at that moment it was Bee, not the 4th.  The general had been separated from his battered command for at least an hour and by all accounts was confused and discouraged.

The general’s language, and its impact on the battle, is perhaps disappointing to those fond of the more dramatic tradition.  “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall: let’s go to his assistance,” is hardly the stuff novelists, movie-makers, or sculptors would wish for, or would have you believe.  And while tradition tells us the image of Jackson standing like a stone wall electrified thousands of retreating Confederates and helped turn the battle’s tide, the evidence suggests that instead Bee’s words — some of the most famous uttered by any American — were probably heard by no more than 50 men and had not the slightest impact on the outcome of the battle.

On the other hand the circumstance of Jackson’s command at the time, according to the Alabamians, was significantly more trying than is commonly portrayed.  The Virginians were not lying quietly while the fight raged in front of them.  (There is no support for the Carolinians’ charge that Bee was damning Jackson’s inactivity by referring to him as a “stone wall”.)  Rather, they were heavily engaged in driving back a Union attack; even more literally than in the traditional versions, they were indeed standing like a stone wall.  And following the Federal repulse, Jackson’s men, joined by the ill-fated Bee, launched a counterattack that was in fact one of the day’s decisive moments.

So while this legend, like most, is not entirely accurate, devotees of Jackson and of romantic legend need not be disappointed, for neither is it apocryphal.  When Bee turned in his saddle, pointed through the billowing smoke toward Jackson’s battling men and yelled, “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall,” he established Jackson and his men as a standard of excellence, objects for emulation.  To this day their conduct, at First Manassas and on a dozen other fields, remains the soldier’s benchmark for excellence.  Even when stripped of hyperbole and bias to the bare-bones eyewitness accounts, the sentiment of the legend, if not its details, survives intact.





Whadyousay?

9 04 2009

clint_eastwoodIn this article we have yet another version of what Barnard Bee said to his men that resulted in the bestowing of the name “Stonewall” on Thomas J.  Jackson and his command.  If you click on the Stonewall Jackson tag in the list at the bottom of the column on the right of this page (or just click here if you’re lazy), you’ll find other discussions and accounts of the incident.

There seem to be two questions – what did Bee say, and what did Bee mean by what he said?  Did he want his men to “determine to die here”, to “rally behind the Virginians”, or to “go to his assistance”?  Did he mean that Jackson was holding firm, or that he wasn’t moving forward?  What do you all think, and why?





SHSP – The Soubriquet “Stonewall”

8 04 2009

Southern Historical Society Papers

Vol. XIX. Richmond, Va. 1891, pp. 164-167

The Soubriquet “Stonewall”

[From the Richmond Dispatch, July 29, 1891]

HOW IT WAS ACQUIRED

A few more years will forever seal the lips of all who can speak from personal knowledge of the incidents of the “War Between the States.” Any of them, therefore, who can now contribute to the perfect accuracy of history may be pardoned for doing so, even at the risk of incurring the charge of egotism. This is my only motive for troubling you with this brief article. I am one of those who heard General Barnard E. Bee utter the words which gave Jackson the name of “Stonewall.”

THE EXACT FACTS

The speech of General Early (as I have seen it reported) at Lexington on the 21st instant is slightly inaccurate in its account of this matter in two particulars. As this inaccuracy does injustice to other Confederate soldiers no less gallant than the “Stonewall” brigade, I am sure the chivalric old General and all others like him, with hearts in the right place, will be glad to have it corrected and the exact facts stated.

THE FOURTH ALABAMA

It was to the FourthAlabama regiment that the words were spoken by General Bee, about 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon of July 21, 1861. This regiment, with the Sixth North Carolina and Second and Eleventh Mississippi, constituted Bee’s brigade; and as the brigade arrived at Manassas from the Valley in detachments, so it went into and fought through the battle, not as a whole, but by separate regiments. The Fourth Alabama having arrived at Manassas on Saturday, the 20th, was in movement very early on Sunday morning, the 21st, from near the junction towards the upper fords of Bull Run. The dust raised by the march of the Federal army to Sudley’s ford having attracted attention, the Fourth Alabama was hurried by General Bee in that direction, and we reached before 11 A. M. the plateau of the Henry House, whereon the main conflict occurred afterwards.

A GREAT SACRIFICE

Bee seeing that this was a good position for defence, but that the Federals would capture it unless delayed before the Confederate forces could reach there in sufficient numbers, ordered the Fourth Alabama to hasten a half mile further north beyond Young’s branch and the wood over there to aid Evans, Wheat, and others in detaining the Federal army.

This duty we performed at great sacrifice, standing fast for an hour or more against overwhelming numbers, losing our Colonel, Egbert Jones, mortally wounded; Lieutenant-Colonel Law and Major Scott, disabled, and a great number of other officers and men killed and wounded.

Then in obedience to orders we withdrew from our advanced position and took position on the Confederate battle-line and in rear of the Robinson House.

GENERAL JOHNSTON SEIZES THE FLAG

Here, without field-officers and under command of a captain, the Fourth Alabama maintained its ground and did its part in resisting the enemy. General Johnston at one time came to us there and led us forward on a charge against the enemy, bearing our flag in his own hand. That glorious old warrior never appeared more magnificent than he did at that moment on his prancing horse and flaunting our colors in the face of the foe, who fell back before us.

SMITTEN WITH FIRE

Soon after this, the leading design of the Federals all day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting veered in that direction, and in consequence the enemy disappeared from the immediate front of our regiment, leaving us unengaged; but the fearful crash after crash of the Federal musketry, as fresh troops poured in against the Confederate centre and left, can never be forgotten by those who heard it. Farther and farther round its awful thunders rolled as if nothing could stay it. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina separated, from us in the manœuvres of the day, had rushed in single handed and been smitten as with fire, and their gallant Colonel Fisher and many of his men were no more. Jackson and his glorious brigade were struggling like giants to withstand the fierce onslaught.

THE WORDS OF BEE

It was just at this moment our Brigadier-General Bee came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field, and you are all of it now at hand. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor, battered, and bloody-nosed Alabamians, inspired by the lion like bearing of that heroic officer, responded promptly, “Yes, General, we will go wherever you lead, and do whatever you say.” Bee then said, pointing towards where Jackson and his men were so valiantly battling about a quarter of a mile to the west and left of us,” Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall. Let us go to his assistance.” Saying this, he dismounted, placed himself at the left of the Fourth Alabama, and led the regiment (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on to his right.

A CHARGE

Some other reinforcements coming up, a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded, leading the Fourth Alabama. Barrow fell, not far from the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot, leading his Georgians. All the world knows how the Federals shortly thereafter were seized with a panic and fled incontinently from the field.

THE ERROR COMPLAINED OF

It is not true that General Bee said “rally behind the Virginians,” or behind anybody else. It is not true that he was rallying his men at all, for they were not retiring. The glory of the Stonewall Brigade does not need to be enhanced by any depreciation of the equal firmness and heroism of other men on that historic field. Let it never be forgotten that the Fourth Alabama lost more men on that day than any other regiment but one in the Confederate army, and every field from there to Appomattox was moistened with the blood of her heroes. But several of them still survive to corroborate, to the letter, the statement I have given you above.

Very respectfully,

WILLIAM M. ROBINS,

Former Major Fourth Alabama

Statesville, N. C., July 14, 1891





Facts and Incidents of the Battle

26 11 2008

Richmond Daily Dispatch, July 29, 1861 (see source here, see notes here)

Facts and incidents of the battle.

Our exchanges furnish some interesting facts connected with the great battle, which we copy:

Gallant feat of arms.

The Fredericksburg News records a feat performed by W. C. Scott, of that town, as follows:

Though not strictly speaking in the fight, his position being that of Private Secretary to Gen. Holmes, whose command was not engaged in the action, his proximity to the scene of conflict was rewarded by an unexpected encounter with four straggling Yankees, whose muskets were somewhat out of order and who were endeavoring to escape. Our young Virginia hero “surrounded” the squad, instantly dispatched two with his revolver, and marched the other two into camp as his prisoners. We’ll venture to say not a man of his inches did as much on that great day of triumph. The soul makes the hero and one Southern boy is good for a dozen Yankees at any time.

Latham’s Battery.

A correspondent of the Lynchburg Republican writes that “God never made a braver man than Capt. Gray Latham.” He noticed him frequently in the battle, and says the Latham Battery saved the 28th Regiment, (Preston’s.) He believes they did as much or more execution than the famous Washington Battery. He saw one shot from Latham’s Battery kill 40 men. This is the testimony of one competent to judge, and not connected with the Battery or any of its members.

Seventh Virginia Regiment.

The killed and wounded of Capt. James H. French’s company, from the county of Giles, Va., 7th Regiment, Col. James L. Kemper:

Killed.–Edward Bane.

Wounded.–Lloyd Fry, Harvey Bane, Stuart Johnson, William Lewey, Mr. Lee, (son of Rev. J. B. Lee, of the Baptist Church,) Samuel Shannen and Lewis Skenes.

The Botetourt troops.

The Valley Sentinel says that out of some four hundred Botetourt men upon the field, young Calvin Utz is the only one that is certainly known to have been killed. He was struck in the head by a fragment of a shell.

Capt. Rippetoe’s Company.

Among the killed in the battle of Manassas was Robert Newman, Esq., formerly one of the editors of the Front Royal (Va.) Gazette. He was a member of Capt. Rippetoe’s company. Some twenty or more of this gallant company were killed and wounded. Capt. Rippetoe’s escape was miraculous, his sword and belt being shot off.

Gen. Barnard E. Bee.

The following is from the Richmond correspondence of the Charleston Mercury:

The name of this officer deserves a place in the highest niche of fame. He displayed a gallantly that scarcely has a parallel in history. The brunt of the morning’s battle was sustained by his command until past 2 o’clk. Overwhelmed by superior numbers, and compelled to yield before a fire that swept everything before it, Gen. Bee rode up and down his lines, encouraging his troops, by everything that was dear to them, to stand up and repel the tide which threatened them with destruction. At last his own brigade dwindled to a mere handful, with every field officer killed or disabled. He rode up to Gen. Jackson and said: “General, they are beating us back.”

The reply was: “Sir, we’ll give them the bayonet”

Gen. Bee immediately rallied the remnant of his brigade, and his last words to them were: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”

His men obeyed the call; and, at the head of his column, the very moment when the battle was turning in our favor, he fell, mortally wounded. Gen. Beauregard was heard to say he had never seen such gallantry. He never murmured at his suffering, but seemed to be consoled by the reflection that he was doing his duty.

“Victory or death.”

The Rockingham Register contains the following:

Among the gallant spirits who fell in the battle at the Junction on Sunday last, was Wm. C. Woodward, of the West Augusta Guards. To those who knew him, it is need less to say that he died like a patriot and fell at his post. He was in the battle from its commencement until three o’clock in the afternoon, when he fell in the ranks, struck by a musket ball and buck shot in the head, just above the left ear. Throughout the whole fight he evidenced the highest gallantry, all the time urging his comrades to deeds of heroism and bravery. His last words to his friends before he fell were, “Victory or death.” He was a noble, generous spirit, and was a favorite of his company. His remains were brought to Staunton on Monday and followed to their last resting place by a large concourse of sincere friends, amongst them the I. O. O. F., of which he was a faithful and worthy member, and Captain Skinner’s company.

Another gallant soldier gone.

We learn (says the Register) that our young friends, George W. Messick, son of Gessner Messick, of this vicinity, a member of Capt. T. L. Yancey’s troop of cavalry, was killed in the battle of Sunday last, near Manassas Junction. He had, we learn, been ordered to make a charge for the rescue of some prisoners, when he received a shot in the head, which killed him instantly. He was a gallant soldier, and met his death like a patriot.

The Rockingham boys.

We are proud to learn that all the boys from Rockingham, in the late battle, conducted themselves with spirit and gallantry.–Not a man quailed — not a nerve that trembled. They were in the thickest of the fight, and at one time were assailed by three times their number; but they stood their ground like men, and drove the enemy back.

Deceived the enemy.

During the fight on Sunday last, Maurice Guiheen, of the Valley Guards, was captured by the Lincolnites; but his wit saved him — He succeeded in persuading his captors that they had a friend, and they let him off.

Record of brave men.

The Winchester Republican, alluding to the gallant conduct of Colonel Allen’s regiment, says:

Capt. Wm. L. Clarke received a painful but not dangerous wound. Capt. W. N. Nelson, of Clarke, was seriously wounded in the breast. Hopes are, however, entertained of his recovery.

The “Winchester Riflemen” lost 5 killed and 14 wounded. The bodies of the killed reached here Tuesday evening. They were Lloyd Powell, Isaac Glaize, Owen Burgess, Chas. Mitchell and Chas. Young.

Capt. Nadenbousch’s company, of Martinsburg, performed good service. The bodies of four of his company were sent on through here Tuesday. We were pained to learn that two of them were the sons of Holmes Conrad, Esq. They were killed by the same fire and fell side by side Peyton R. Harrison was also one of the killed: the name of the fourth we could not learn.

The Rockingham Regiment.

The Harrisonburg (Va.) Register furnishes the annexed list of the killed and wounded of the Rockingham Regiment, which was in the thickest of the fight:

Killed.–Southern Greys, Edinburg.–Lt. John W. Heaton, shot in the heart with a musket ball; died a few hours after he was shot.

Valley Guards, Harrisonburg–Privates John W. Bowles, printer, of New Market, and Isminius A. Moore, of Mt. Jackson. Mr. Bowles was instantly killed by a musket shot through the heart. Mr. Moore was shot and received a bayonet wound. He died on Monday morning.

Page Volunteers, Luray.–Privates Ambrose Comer, John W. Kite, and James H. Gaines, all instantly killed by musket shots.

Wounded–Southern Grays.–Geo. W. Sibert, badly wounded — shot through the breast. P. H. Grandstaff, flesh wound in the thigh.

Valley Guards.–Lieut P. Bryan, slightly wounded in the head. Corporal M. D. Coffman, severely wounded through the left side. Private John J. Roof, badly wounded in the foot, Private David Harrigan, badly wounded in the foot and ankle.

Bridgewater Grays–Private Jas. Minnick, wounded slightly in the heel.

Chrisman’s Infantry.–Lieut. Jas. Ralston, slightly wounded in the forehead. Private William Whitmore slightly wounded in the left hand.

Page Volunteers.–Corporal Trinton O. Graves, badly wounded in the leg. Private James H. Cubbage, badly wounded in the thigh.

Second Regiment Virginia Volunteers.

The Winchester Republican furnishes the annexed list of the killed, wounded and missing of the Second Regiment (Col. Allen) Virginia Volunteers:

Company A, of Jefferson County–Capt. J. W. Roan–Wounded–Capt. J. W. Roan, wounded in the ankle; Privates T. J. Hurst, shot through the body; Ogden, in the hip; Edmonds, in the hip; Triplett, thumb shot off; G. N. Myers, shot through the leg.

Company B, Jefferson County.–Capt. V. N. Butler–Wounded–Private A. R. Botles wounded slightly on the knee by a piece of spent shell.

Company C., Clarks County.–Capt. W. N. Nelson. –Killed–Privates George S. Whitter, Benjamin E. Grubbs, Scott Dishmar Wounded–Captain W. N. Nelson, severely wounded in the left breast; Corporal T. H. Randolph, wounded in left breast; Corporal Hibbard, thigh; Privates Basil Burnett, in the right shoulder; Alex Parkins, left arm Bush Fuller, in shoulder Samuel Ritter in neck, breast and arm; Adam Thompson, in the back; C. F. Whiting; left arm and stomach; J. E. Ware, left arm; John Welsh left breast; Noland, in the neck.

Company D, Berkeley County–Captain J. Q. A. Nadenbousch–Killed.–Lieutenant Peyton R. Harrison. Sergeant Holmes A. Conrad, Privates H. Tucker Conrad and John Fryatt. Wounded.–Sergeant J. A. Dugan, in the thigh; Privates William Light, face an neck; W. H. McGary, neck; J. H. Lashort in the head; J. S. Armstrong, in the arm; T. E. Buchanan, in shoulder; George D. White man, in thigh; Color Sergeant Edmund P. Dandridge, in foot; David Hunter, slightly or left arm; Lambert S. McMullen, in foot; Charles McFarly, in the leg; Joseph C. Simmons, in two places.

Co. E, Berkeley County–Capt. R. T. Colston. Killed–Lieut. D. H. Manor. Wounded-Privates C. Manor, in the face; G. Miller mortally. Missing — E. Tobin, J. Frizer, J. Turner, N. Keesecker.

Co. F. Winchester–Capt. Wm. L. Clark, Jr. –Killed — Serg’t E. O. Burgess, Serg’t I. N. Glaize, Privates Lloyd Powell, William Young, Charles Mitchell. Wounded–Capt. W. L. Clark, Jr., in the thigh; Privates R. Meade, lost an arm; S. Barton, in the leg, McCarty, head; Kidd, back; Beatty, leg; Hobson, leg; Coontz, ankle; J. Sherrard. slightly wounded; James Rines lost a leg. Missing–Ten men, supposed to be at the Junction.

Co. G. Jefferson County–Capt. E. L. Moore Wounded–Lieut Robert M. English, wounded in the arm, leg and breast; Sergeant Middlecough, in forehead; Privates Aisquith, in neck; F. G. Butler, in chest, since dead; Foster, in both legs; W. Manning, in breast and face; L. Page, mortally, in arm and abdomen; Painter, in the thigh; J. Timberlake, neck; S. Timberlake, both legs; C. Wiltshire, in the leg; T. Briscoe in the side.

Co. H., Jefferson County, (near Daffield’s)–Capt. J. H. L. Hunter.–Killed–Private Hendricks. Wounded–Privates H. M. Snyder, wounded in the thigh; G. E. Curry flesh wound; George Gall, in thigh; James Crussell, leg broken; Joseph Colbert, George Ashby, breast and arm; John Christfield flesh wound; Corporal Henry Billings, flesh wound.

Company I, Clarke County.–Capt. S. H. Bowen. –Wounded–Corporal Holmes McCuire; in the arm; Privates Geo. W. Ketly, in the leg; A. May, in the cheek; Wm. Niswanner, bayonet wound in the arm and breast.

Company K. Jefferson County, (Harper’s Ferry,)–Capt. G. W. Chambers–Killed–Corporal McArdell. Wounded–Privates McCabe, dangerously; Foley, slightly; Kennedy, Hudson, Dovle.

Total killed, 2 officers and 13 men. Total wounded, 72. Missing, 14.

The Wythe Grays.

This company was in the hottest of the fight. The following list of killed and wounded is from the Wytheville Telegraph:

Killed — N. D. Oglesby, James R. Pattison, Thos. J. Kavenagn, T. W. Cooper Wounded — Samuel Crockett, badly; W. H. Locket, Sanders Harsh, W. H. Harrison, Wise, Ferguson and Bryant, wounded slightly. Balance all safe — officers not touched.





Bull Run on Film

25 11 2008

Oh, just for the hell of it.  If you like, we can discuss the accuracy of this clip in the comments section here.  It might be fun!  But let’s limit the discussion to the clip, please.  I don’t want to rehash bad acting, bad screenwriting, bad cinematography, or the whole general badness of this film.

By the way, Ride with the Devil is on AMC tonight.  I think it’s an under rated film, skillfully directed by Ang Lee with some fine, nuanced performances and beautifully filmed.  In my opinion, the writers skillfully and thoughtfully handled the characterization of a free black man who fought alongside his former master, though I’m sure it angered some folks and caused quite a few knees to jerk.  Here’s the raid on Lawrence (look for the Eldridge Hotel):





Artilleryman Clement D. Fishburne’s Account of the Campaign

5 09 2008

This letter from Clement D. Fishburne to Dr. P. B. Barringer appeared in the October, 2008 edition of Civil War Times magazine, and this portion is reprinted with the magazine’s kind permission.  The complete article can be found here.  The original letter is situated in Special Collections, University of Virginia, MSS #3569.  The excerpt below excludes the first part of the letter describing the author’s pre-war observations of T. J. Jackson.

Charlottesville Va. 8th April 1903

Dr. P. B. Barringer

University of Va

Dear Ari:

Whilst I do not doubt that I met them after wards from time to time before our “civil war” began I do not distinctly recall any other interview with him till in May 1861 when I went to Harper’s Ferry to make inquiry about my younger brother, who a private in the Col. J.E.B. Stuart’s 1st Regt of Va. Cavalry, had been accidentally shot by one of his comrades. This Regt. was part of Major (then Colonel) Jackson’s Command. Here I found the Colonel busily engaged with his work, organizing his command. He was cordial and hospitable, but after ascertaining that my brother had been sent to a hospital at Winchester, I hur-ried on to that town and from there returned in a few days to the University of Va., where I had begun the study of Law in the preceding fall. I soon discovered that it would be difficult for me to find profit in trying to study there, where all the students and Professors were thoroughly interested in the preparations then making in the State of Virginia for the inevitable conflict, and I accordingly decided to join the army and to cast my lot with the Rockbridge Artillery. This Battery had been organized at Lexington Va. and had in it a large number of young men who had been educated atWashington College. It was commanded by Rev. W.N. Pendleton, the Rector of the Episcopal Church at Lexington, who had graduated some years before at West Point and had been a fellow cadet with Genl. Ro. E. Lee, Gen. Joseph E. Johnson & other distinguished graduates, some of whom had already been called to prominent positions in the two armies which were then preparing for the great conflict.

Maj. Jackson had been commissioned a Col. when he was called to the command of the forces at Harpers Ferry. Soon after my trip to that place he moved his troops up the river, the Potomac, so as to command the crossing places. His cavalry under Col. Stuart picketed the river and the infantry was stationed at convenient places from Williamsport down to Harper’s Ferry. I went down the Valley by stage coach to Winchester and from that town went with a wagon train toward Martinsburg. Some three or four miles south of this town I found the Rockbridge Artillery, on the 21st June, resumming its march and there I joined it.We passed through the town and went into camp in an oak grove about four miles north of the town. Here we found several regiments of infantry belonging to a Brigade under Command of Col. Jackson, the nucleus of the Brigade which was afterwards known as Jackson’s Brigade and after the battle ofManassas known as the “Stonewall brigade.” My recollection is that this Brigade at first was composed of Col. JEB Stuart’s regiment of Cavalry, the 2nd, the 4th, the 5th, the 27th, & the 33rd regiments of Virginia Infantry and the Rockbridge Artillery.

As soon as I could conveniently do so I called on the Col. who was a very busy man and found him cheerful and pleasant as usual—and always cordial toward the men of his brigade who had before been personally known to him.

Genl. Patterson was reported as advancing toward us by the Ferry & ford at Williamsport and after some of his troops had crossed the Potomac Col. Jackson met him near the “Falling Waters” several miles north of our Camp. His troops, the Cavalry and Infantry, were deployed in front of what would be Gen Patterson’s line of march and the four guns of our artillery were moved forward on the turnpike-road which connected Martinsburg and Williamsport and here halted for further developments. Very soon we saw the 5th regiment moved forward and one of our guns, a six pounder brass gun was also advanced.  They were soon hidden from us by a patch of wood land but we had not long to wait for news from them. The battle begun by Patterson’s troops was continued by Jackson’s infantry and the one gun. Jackson was in direct command and his troops were highly elated by his coolness & promptness. The 5th Va Regt. and the one gun did considerable execution and delayed Gen. Patterson’s advance so that, at Col. Jacksons command, his troops began to fall back slowly & in perfect order.

Corporal M. tells the story that during this backward movement, the enemy’s artillery sent some shots intended to hasten our march, or at least to let us know that they were following us, and that, as a spent ball rolled near us, one of our privates approached himand exclaimed in indignant tones against the conduct of Gen. Patterson—“was any thing like this ever heard of in civilized warfare!— firing on a retreating foe!!” The Corporal was pretty amused but did not stop to discuss the outrage— Our brigade slowly fell back, through Martinsburg and, when we reached a place called Darkesville, we met for the first time Genl. Joseph E. Johnson to whom, as we understand it, Genl. Jackson reported. We were much impressed by the soldierly bearing of our new Commander in Chief. He was a man of medium height, a handsome man and a skillful, accomplished horseman. He had with him his staff and probably other troops besides Jackson’s brigade, but of this I am not sure. On a beautiful meadow East of the Valley turnpike, our brigade was deployed and Col. Jackson’s brigade-Quartermaster was provided with strips of white callon cloth with which each of the members of the brigade was decorated for the purpose of distinguishing us from the troops of Gen. Patterson who were expected to make an attack on us. The ordinary uniforms then worn by the troops of both armies were very similar and this mode of designating our troops was adopted in order to prevent confusion and the possible mistaking the enemy for friends & vice versa. Gen Jackson was frequently among us during our demonstration while awaiting the advance of Genl. Pattersons forces. We thus remained in line for a day or two, but the Enemy did not advance and we slowly resumed our march toward Winchester which place we reached on the 8 or 10th of July. Here we remained a few days, making demonstrations of readiness to begin battle, till the after noon of the 18th when, after orders to prepare three day’s ration’s, we set out from Winchester east ward. When we had gone a few miles, each body of our troops was halted long enough to hear an order from Gen. Johnson to the effect that ‘Our troops under the command of Gen Beauregard were already attacked by the Enemy at “Bulls run” and we were urged to “gird up our loins”: and march with all possible speed to aid our fellow soldiers near Manassas.

Each body responded with a shout and the march was resummed. The brigade reached the top of the mountain after midnight and [bivouacked] as best it could along the top and eastern slope of the Blue ridge awaiting further orders. Gen. Jackson was “inevidence” occasionally giving orders for the further march east-ward. About sunset the march was resumed— the infantry (as we were informed) taking the trains on the R.R. and the Rockbridge Artillery followed the dirt road and marched all night, halting an hour or so at “the Plains” to rest the horses, and again about sun rise to rest and feed them.

About the middle of the afternoon of the 20th we were halted at the Manassas station to rest and receive our further orders. The infantry of the Brigade had already arrived in that vicinity and were bivouacked on the South bank of “Bulls run” where we supposed Jackson was. After a tedious and unsatisfactory halting without water, we resumed the march and about dusk reached the banks of the “Bull’s run” where, without unnecessary delay, we made ourselves and our horses as comfortable as possible and went to sleep near that small stream. About break of day we were aroused by the Enemy’s artillery which was located north of us at Centreville and which was amusing itself firing in our direction as was made manifest by the occasional arrival in our vicinity of their shots or shells. Gen. Jackson took command of the infantry of his brigade and led them toward the place where they were after wards engaged on the ground where the first battle of Manassas was fought—not far from the celebrated “Henry House,” and there the Battery joined them.

We found Gen. Jackson on the field riding from one end of the line of his Infantry regiments to the other. He personally superintended the placing of the Rockbridge Artillery into position on the crest of the Hill in front of his infantry. He was riding a small bay horse, which limped from a wound it had rec. in a hind leg. The General had also been wounded in a finger and was riding about with his hand elevated and wrapped in a silk handkerchief. I supposed that he held his hand up to prevent bleeding, but the newspaper correspondents afterward described him as riding about with his hand elevated in prayer for the success of our cause. He probably prayed then as he was known to be a praying man, but he did not fail to watch as well as pray and he saluted me and other acquaintances who met him on the field.

At the proper time he gave orders for the Artillery to fall back and for the Infantry to rise and take position on the crest of hill preparatory to attacking the Enemy in the direction of the “Henry house.” I do not remember distinctly seeing him for some days after this battle but I doubt not that we all saw him frequently, as he was much interested in our getting out of the captured guns enough of the newly acquired cannon to equip anew the battery with six guns in place of the four which we had at the beginning.

During the week following the battle, Maj. John A. Harman, the quarter master of the Brigade, which was beginning to be known as “the Stonewall Brigade,” selected for it a Camp north of the battlefield and a few miles north of Centreville, in the direction of Fairfax Court House. Here we were encamped more than a month and Gen. Jackson’s Head Quarters were within half-mile of the Battery, at a substantial farm house.  In the yard were his tents in which his staff lodged and where the business of the Brigade was transacted. Every Sunday some religious services were conducted to which all the members of the Brigade were welcomed. At these services Gen. Jackson occupied a camp chair and it was said that on one occasion the chair upset with him, which gave rise to the conjecture which was expressed by some who had known his  habits—that he had slept & lost his balance while asleep.

From this camp he marched with his brigade northward to the vicinity of Fairfax Court House, but no skirmishing with the Enemy followed this march and after a few days in which our gun carriages were overhauled and harness mended & greased and new horses obtained, we fell back to Centreville at night reaching it in the very early morning. We bivouacked on grassy hills near the Headquarters of Gen Jos. E. Johnson and next day pitched our tents & went into camp where we spent several weeks.

Whilst here the whole Command was reviewed by our general officers and the display of troops was very encouraging to us raw veterans. We thought we could whip all the troops that the Federals could muster against us. “It was a child’s ignorance then, but it was pleasant.”





Three Days in the Shenandoah

1 05 2008

Three Days in the ShenandoahThe University of Oklahoma Press has finally released my friend Gary Ecelbarger’s (see here) Three Days in the Shenandoah: Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester.  It’s been a long time in the making, and I think it will be worth the wait.  While I haven’t seen the book yet, I have toured the Valley with Gary and think his take on the critical three days of May 23, 24, & 25, 1862 is exactly what the story of Jackson’s Valley Campaign has needed.  The real earth shattering discovery that Gary has made is one that has evaded historians like G. F. R. Henderson, Robert G. Tanner, Robert K. Krick and James I. Robertson all these years: there were Yankee soldiers in the Valley at the same time Jackson was there!!!  No, really; there were!  But don’t take my word for it – buy this book!

Gary, if you’re out there, how in the heck did Ol’ Blue Light wind up in the title and on the dust jacket?  Did you fight the good fight?





Still Standing – The Stonewall Jackson Story

8 03 2008

 

acw_may_08.jpg still-standing.jpg

As discussed here, the version of my review of Still Standing – The Stonewall Jackson Story that appears in the May 2008 issue of America’s Civil War - on newsstands now – was edited about 35% for length.  To perhaps (though probably not) nip in the bud any questions regarding my opinion of the film, I’m posting the original text of the review below.  But don’t let this stop you from sending letters to the magazine.

Let me preface this by saying that I was predisposed to dislike the film prior to viewing, based on some things I had heard about it.  This to me was problematic, so before viewing it I posted a question to the Civil War Discussion Group (CWDG), a Yahoo email group to which I’ve belonged since its inception about seven years ago.  After discussing my problem with a few posters there, I determined that the proper course was to review the film on its own merits: what was the message it was trying to convey, and how well did it argue its case.  The review is not a simple reflection of my thoughts on the message, and has nothing to do with liking or disliking, but is rather an analysis of the presentation.  Note that each paragraph ends with an unexplored paradox.

Irony and paradox: those are the words used to characterize the life of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in the documentary “Still Standing – The Stonewall Jackson Story”.   They are used specifically to describe the story of Jackson as one of a very ordinary man, arising from ordinary, even humble circumstances to accomplish extraordinary things. Beautifully filmed, the DVD has a pleasant musical score and relies more on live action video of sites from the general’s life than on the Ken Burns trademark still photograph panning that has become S.O.P. for historical documentaries.  All in all, this is an attractive package.  But it is perhaps more rife with irony and paradox than the producers intended – paradoxes and ironies ultimately left unexplored or unconvincingly explained.

Focusing on Jackson’s spiritual life, and based on the book “Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man’s Friend” by Richard Williams, the program features a number of “talking heads”, first and foremost Jackson biographer James I. Robertson.  Jackson’s story is broken down into chronological phases of his life, beginning with his traumatic separation from his mother at  age seven to be sent to live with his uncle Cummins at Jackson’s Mill in what is now West Virginia.    Robertson describes Jackson’s boyhood as one of solitude and loneliness, and tells us that he never got over the separation from his mother, that his uncle was an uncaring, selfish man and that, while he later said his uncle loved him, Jackson “did not know what love was.”  At the same time, his boyhood is also described as shaped by his close friendship with future Union general Joseph Lightburn who, along with Cummins’s slaves, influenced Jackson to accept the gospel.

Jackson’s time at West Point is covered briefly, described as spent engrossed in study, and discussion of his Mexican War service is limited to his three brevet promotions, his dalliance with Catholicism, and the influence on his religious development of his superior officer Francis Taylor.  As for his post-war career, we learn of his baptism while stationed at Ft. Hamilton and of his leaving the army to take a teaching job at VMI, but nothing of why he left or any role his ambition – later described by Dr. Hunter McGuire as “far beyond what ordinary men possess” – may have played in his decision.  At VMI, while Jackson continued his personal voyage of faith, he distinguished himself as possibly the worst teacher in the history of the school.  Despite that, evidence suggests that his students saw something special in “Tom Fool”.

While Jackson’s role at First Manassas and in the Valley Campaign is explored, there is really little analysis of his Civil War record.   In fact, the film jumps from the Valley Campaign straight to Chancellorsville and his mortal wounding, avoiding entirely the paradox of Jackson’s spotty performance during the Seven Days.

At the center of the documentary is Jackson as husband, father, and benefactor of a Sunday school for slaves and free blacks in Lexington, Va.  While establishing himself in the town, he joined the Presbyterian Church and married Eleanor Junkin.  Fourteen months later, his wife and new son were dead, and Jackson’s faith is said to be all that pulled him through a difficult time.  He toured Europe, and on his return quickly courted and married Mary Anna Morrison.  By all accounts Jackson, earlier described as not knowing what love was, deeply, even romantically, loved his wife.

Jackson, who believed that every human being was a child of God, helped to fund a Sunday school to teach slaves and free blacks to read, in order for them to more closely follow the teachings of the bible.  While in violation of Virginia law, he felt that God’s law trumped the law of man.  Committed to the project, he sent his monthly stipend for the school from the battlefield of Manassas.  This scenario presents perhaps the most significant paradox of Jackson’s life.  While Robertson asserts that Jackson did not, in fact could not, fight for slavery, the fact remains that his actions helped sustain a government dedicated to the preservation of that institution; that while the beneficiaries of Stonewall’s bible school would become the freedmen of post-war Lexington, his actions helped delay their attainment of that status; that while Jackson was traumatized by his separation as a child from his beloved mother, his actions helped to perpetuate a system that methodically separated mother from child.

Perhaps a case can be made that for his time and community Jackson was in fact progressive in his views on and treatment of slaves and free blacks.  However, “Still Standing” does not attempt to view Jackson in the context of his circumstances, instead boldly proclaiming him a “champion of enslaved men and women”.  The glaring paradox is that he was at the same time on the battlefield a champion of slavery.   That’s a paradox worth exploring.

Thanks to Senior Editor Tobin Beck for his kind permission to post this.

(UPDATE:  Blogger Richard Williams, on whose book Still Standing is based, has “not commented” on this review here.  He suggests that I can find explorations of all the paradoxes in the film in his book.  As I said, I reviewed the film on its own merits.  Sweet cross-marketing pitch though!  I’m not sure what you found “curious” about my comments but no, I didn’t consider the review a “dreadful undertaking”, just a challenging one.  As for my comments speaking for themselves, I sure hope they do - that’s what I was going for!)





Jackson’s Report

20 01 2008

T. J. Jackson’s report is pretty concise.  In it he recognizes a man who would play a prominent role in the remaining 22 months of Stonewall’s life, Dr. Hunter McGuire.  The report closes with: I respectfully call attention to the accompanying reports of the commanders of the regiments and battery composing this brigade.(*)  The asterisk found at the bottom of the report, placed there by the compilers of the Official Records, identifies these reports as Not found.  Unfortunately, the compilers had to use lots of these asterisks when assembling the records for First Bull Run.





…but I know what I like

24 04 2007

I know this isn’t Bull Run related (other than in ways itemized here), but it updates somewhat this post.  The other day I picked up a used copy of Daniel Barefoot’s General Robert F. Hoke, Lee’s Modest Warrior for $9.98.  On the back of the dust jacket is a painting titled Ranger Willie, by Jack Amirian.  It depicts a stretcher borne Willie Hardee, his father standing over him, a mounted Hoke nearby.

The painting is not my style.  In fact, most modern day Civil War art is not my style – I generally find it too “cartoony”, and the overwhelming use of soft blues and grays leaves me with the image of a tattoo on the forearm of an 80 year old sailor – a blue-gray blob (though I’m sure it seemed like a good idea that night in Tokyo).  And why does everyone’s hat look like a gentle breeze would blow it off the wearer’s noggin?  Even the works of painters who strive for more realism bug me.  I mean, the subject matter!  Do we really need to see a young Nathan Bedford Forrest carrying a damsel across a creek, and how many paintings of Stonewall Jackson being alternately kind and gentle with his horse and bathed in heavenly light while at prayer – sometimes both at the same time - can the market bear (apparently a bunch)?

I only own one piece of Civil War art, and it’s by one of the few artists working in the genre whose work I like.  Keith Rocco’s Always Ready is hung above the fireplace in my family room.  It depicts the 9th NY Hawkins’ Zouaves at Antietam.  The print appeals to me on several levels:  I like Keith’s work (check it out in this book); I serve on the board of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation; and the model for the officer holding the Stars and Stripes was an e-quaintance of mine, the late Brian Pohanka.

Rocco’s work is often reminiscent of N. C. Wyeth.  If you don’t recognize the name, or can’t remember which Wyeth he is, think pirates.  His illustrations of buccaneers graced the pages of books like Treasure Island.  He also did Civil War work, like this one of Stonewall Jackson:  

wyeth.jpg

Compare that style to Rocco’s Port Republic below (reproduced with his kind permission):    

 This painting illustrates the early stages of an action in which Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat’s Louisianans assaulted Federal artillery on high ground now famous as “The Coaling”.  Wheat was seriously wounded at First Bull Run, leading his men in the critical action on Matthews Hill.  He was shot in the chest, through and through, and was told he would not recover.  The 275 pound commander of the 1st Special Louisiana Battalion responded: “I don’t feel like dying yet.”  So he didn’t.  He recovered and once again led his battalion in Richard Taylor’s brigade of Ewell’s division of Jackson’s army in the Valley in 1862.  On page 412 of R. K. Krick’s Conquering the Valley is this description by a Louisianan of the scene around the Coaling on June 9, 1862:

 Men ceased to be men.  They cheered and screamed like lunatics – they fought like demons – they died like fanatics…It was not war on that spot.  It was a pandemonium of cheers, shouts, shrieks, and groans, lighted by the flames from cannon and muskets – blotched by fragments of men thrown high into trees by bursting shells.  To lose the guns was to lose the battle.  To capture them was to win it.  In every great battle of the war there was a hell-spot.  At Port Republic, it was on the mountain side.

 wheat.jpgWheat (pictured at left) and his even larger cohort, 300 pound Lt. Col. William R. Peck of the 9th LA, moved among the Federal guns on the Coaling.  The Louisianans had determined that killing the battery horses would prevent the enemy from removing the guns should they be able to retake the ground.  Wheat used his own knife, and was reported as looking “as bloody as a butcher” while doing the job.

Rob Wheat would eventually meet his end at Gaines’ Mill on May 25, 1862.  He’s buried in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.  I will get around to a biographical sketch, but it will be awhile yet.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 781 other followers