Category Archive 'Stonewall Jackson'

04 Sep 2016

Still Audible Defeatism

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John C. Frémont

S.C. Gwynne, Rebel Yell — The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, 2014, p. 319, on the impending Battle of Cross Keys, June 8, 1862:

(emphasis added)

Frémont should’ve won the battle quickly. He had a two-to-one numerical advantage, and better than that in artillery. If he had thrown his entire force at Ewell’s line, which was set up on a long ridge, he would very likely have broken it. But with Frémont nothing was ever that simple. He was facing not just Stonewall Jackson now but also the myth of Stonewall Jackson, and the myth told him and his officers that they were facing twenty thousand battle-hardened Confederate troops instead of the five-thousand-plus effectives in front of them. At Frémont’s council of war he and his brigade commanders worried about this terrible numerical disadvantage and bemoaned the poor condition of their ragged, starved-out, exhausted army. A hundred and fifty years later, you can almost hear the defeatism.

Result: Decisive Confederate Victory.


24 Feb 2016

Lieutenant Thomas J. Jackson During War With Mexico

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I’d never seen this photograph before. He was actually a good-looking young man.

06 May 2013

Stonewall Jackson’s Arm

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Ellwood Manor

Randon Billings Noble (Now, that is a Southern name!) commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville and Stonewall Jackson’s accidental wounding and death by searching for the internment site of General Jackson’s amputated arm.

I was walking through a cornfield in search of a cemetery in the middle of Virginia. A fox trotted across the path in front of me and disappeared in the forest of stalks with barely a rustle. I was searching for Stonewall Jackson’s lost arm. …

In Chancellorsville, 150 years later, the story of this arm is surprisingly well documented. A large quartz boulder marks the place where Jackson fell and signs along Route 3 mark the “Wounding of Jackson” and “Jackson’s Amputation.” But the cemetery in which the arm was buried is not marked. I knew that an aide had taken the arm to his own family graveyard, and I learned from one of the markers that the cemetery was called Ellwood, but I didn’t know where it was—only that it was nearby.

I drove through Chancellorsville National Military Park with my eyes open for anything that looked like it might lead to a cemetery. Late in the day, in a gray misty rain, having already given up, I pulled into a driveway to turn around and stopped short at a rusty iron gate with soldered block letters, E L L W O O D.

I hesitated. It was clearly a locked gate, but a faint trail led around it and continued through dense woods. While I didn’t want to trespass, I didn’t want to retreat either. The mystery of the arm was too great; I left the car in the driveway.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Fred Lapides.

02 May 2013

The South Lost the Civil War 150 Years Ago Today

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On this day in History:

May 2, 1863, was one of the greatest days of Robert E. Lee’s military career. It was also one of the worst. A little after 5:00 that afternoon a Confederate flank attack led by Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had slammed into the Union right flank at the Battle of Chancellorsville. It was key to what would be Lee’s greatest victory. But later that night General Jackson, Lee’s “right arm,” was badly wounded in a case of mistaken identity.

The attack should not have worked. General Lee divided his army in the face of an enemy that had more than twice his numbers. It was something a military leader should never do. The Union army even saw the flanking march being made. Instead of attacking, which likely would have brought disaster upon the Southern forces, maybe even destroying the Army of Northern Virginia, the Federals were happy with what they thought was a Confederate retreat.

When Jackson’s men burst out of the woods upon the unsuspecting Union flank, the soldiers in blue crumbled. The attack overwhelmed them and the Rebels pushed hard, taking advantage of their success. The only thing stopping them was the fading light.

The men were tired from their twelve-mile dusty march through the Wilderness and the following attack. Darkness brought on a welcome reprieve, but it wasn’t to last. Jackson, always aggressive, was not finished. He had the enemy ahead of him on the ropes and he wanted to finish him off.

Night attacks in the Civil War were rare. But Jackson saw an opportunity to inflict a damaging blow to the enemy. The following night was to be a full moon, so on the 2nd it should be quite bright. In preparation for the continued assault, Jackson, Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill, and a party of aides and guides rode out in front of the Confederate line to reconnoiter.

Read the whole thing.

Two months later, had Jackson survived the Battle of Chancellorsville, he would have been in command of his Corps, which would have arrived down the Carlisle Pike in the middle of the afternoon of July 1st at Gettysburg on the flank of Buford’s Cavalry and the Union First Corps who were, at that point, beginning to retreat.

Jackson would have seized the opportunity aggressively, unlike his successor Ewell, and would undoubtedly have pursued and driven the Union forces, denying them possession of the high ground of Cemetery Ridge and Culp’s Hill. The First Day of Gettysburg would then have been the only day of Gettysburg, and would have represented a significant Confederate victory on Northern soil. There would have been no Second Day: no indecisive struggle at the Peach Orchard, Devil’s Den, and Little Round Top, and no Third Day: no Pickett’s Charge.

Mead would have retreated to the Pipe Clay Creek in Maryland, but he would soon have found himself under intense pressure from Lincoln to attack the Confederates in order to save Northern cities, like Philadelphia, from occupation. A Northern attack on well-chosen Confederate defensive position would probably have led to another debacle like Fredericksburg. Two major defeats on Northern soil, the destruction of the railroad bridge over the Susquehanna which linked the East and West, the fall of a major Northern city, such a string of events might well have brought European recognition and a negotiated peace.

The bishop of New Orleans reputedly began a prayer shortly after the war: “O Lord, when Thou didst decide to defeat the Confederate States of America, Thou first had to remove Thy servant Stonewall Jackson.”

21 Jul 2011

First Battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861

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Brigadier General Thomas Jackson was still wearing his blue uniform.

The cannonade of Fort Sumter occurred way back on April 12th. There have occurred a few minor battles in remote locations, but so far the War for Southern Independence or the War to Preserve the Union, depending upon how you look at it, has not amounted to very much. But 150 years ago today the first great battle of the war took place.

I expect they had nicer weather for it that day.

As far back as May, the military high commands of both the Union and the Confederacy had envisioned a climactic battle occurring with a Union advance from Washington to come to grips with Confederate forces along the banks of Bull Run near the railroad junction of Manassas and the Warrenton Pike.

The commanders, for the Union, Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, for the Confederacy, Gen. Pierre Gustave Toussaint Beauregard, were both classmates of the West Point Class of 1838. Perhaps therefore it was not surprising that both commanders proposed essentially the same strategy.

Both generals intended to flank the opposing army on the left, roll up its lines, and thereby defeat it. Both generals failed to reckon with the difficulty of achieving complex military evolutions with inexperienced troops and staffs. Had both initiated their attacks at exactly the same time, spectators might have seen the two armies engage and begin to revolve, one around the other, like dancers.

As it happened, McDowell initiated his advance a little earlier, but the Confederacy was to be more favored by fate.

At 9 AM, the tardy Beauregard received a dispatch from a signal officer, reporting that he saw “a body of [Union] troops crossing Bull Run two miles above the Stone Bridge.” He observed both infantry and artillery.

Beauregard was caught unprepared, but as Douglas Southall Freeman observes, in “Lee’s Lieutenants:”

[T]he threat of a Federal turning movement far above the Stone Bridge had been met by the convergence of four small columns [those of Evans, Bee, Hampton, and Jackson]. Each had moved swiftly and to precisely the right point, but none had acted on specific orders or with the full knowledge of the Generals at field headquarters.”

When Beauregard hurried to the front, and arrived atop “an eminence from which was visible a wide range of smoke-covered landscape,’

In front was a long, curving Federal front, ablaze at intervals with musketry fire and artillery. To the right and North… on an adjoining ridge, a short, thin line of Confederate infantry was in action. … To the left… admirably placed behind the crest of the hill, was a waiting Confederate Brigade. Some of its men were lying down; others were in ranks. Near the center of this perfectly aligned Brigade, six field guns were barking viciously at the enemy. In the rear of these troops and streaming backward over the shoulder of the ridge to the North, were broken units that had evidently been in the fight.”

As his men, routed and in panic, fled toward safety and the rear, the desperate Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee attempting to stop their flight, placed himself in their path, and pointed with his sword toward that “perfectly aligned” Brigade. “There,” he cried, “stands Jackson, like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians.”

Faced with the approaching victorious Union infantry, Jackson commanded his Brigade to reserve its fire until they approached within 50 yards, then to fire and charge with the bayonet. “And when you charge,” Jackson instructed, “yell like Furies.”

The approaching Northern infantry ranks were shattered by well-aimed fire, and then the strange cry of Southern foxhunters broke from 1700 throats.

Jackson later reported with satisfaction that his Brigade “met the thus far victorious enemy and turned the fortunes of the day.” The Union Army broke into a disorganized mob, abandoning weapons and supplies, and fleeing back to Washington.

Despite the high temperatures, there are being conducted commemorative ceremonies and reenactments today. Washington Post

19 Apr 2007

Harry Reid: “War in Iraq is Lost”

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The war in Iraq “is lost” and a US troop surge is failing to bring peace to the country, the leader of the Democratic majority in the US Congress, Harry Reid, said Thursday.

“I believe … that this war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything, as is shown by the extreme violence in Iraq this week,” Reid said, on the same day US President George W. Bush was giving a speech at an Ohio town hall meeting defending the war on terror.

At the First Battle of Manassas, it is reported that General Barnard Bee, whose troops were beginning to break under the attack of superior Union forces, informed General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, “General, sir, the day is going against us,” to which Jackson replied: “If you think so, sir, you had better not say anything about it.”

Jackson kept his brigade standing there steady (like a stone wall), then attacked with the bayonet and won the day.

If Harry Reid had been commanding the First Virginia Brigade at the First Battle of Manassas, the American Civil War would have been very short.

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