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Stonewall Jackson- The Greatest Civil war General

Sat Aug 27, 2016 12:51 pm

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson the Best Civil war Commander

“He ranks as one of the supreme military geniuses in world history”
-Bevin Alexander Military historian professor of history at Longwood University

“The most remarkable man in the history of war”
-Richmond Examiner 1862

While it is a minority view I am not the only one. There are some civil war historians who would rate Jackson as the best civil war commander, and a quick Google search will show it also holds among a minority of lay civil war buffs. Jackson is usually ranked anywhere from 1-4 usually sitting at the three spot in the majority opinions that puts Grant and Lee at the top.

“The greatest general ever produced by the American people”
-military historian Brevin Alexander

“One of the few military geniuses”
-Still Standing the Stonewall Jackson story

The Virginian Thomas Jonathan Jackson graduated from west point in 1846 and served in the Mexican -American war with distinction and bravery. Once while under artillery fire Jackson men were scarred and would not fire so Jackson went up ahead of his cannons and stood comely while a cannon ball crashed between his legs. This brave act encouraged his men to fight on. His performances led to promotion to major. After the war he taught at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. He was never considered a great teacher and perhaps the worst in its history, but he was dedicated to study and his students. However faculty and staff saw something about Jackson that separated him from the rest. One student of Jackson's said

“I cant stand the way this man teaches, but if I ever have to go to war, I want to go with him”
-VMI student under Jackson

This student would get his chance and would later die under the command of Jackson during the valley campaign.

Bull Run

Jackson was first given command and orders to hold Haprers Ferry early in the war. He would later command a brigade under Joe Johnson's army in the Shenandoah Valley. His brigade was the first sent by Johnson to aid Beauregard at the battle of Bull run. Jackson was little know at this time however

“Within a year, he would be one of the most famous men in the world”
-John J Hennessy The first battle of Manassas

Bull run had turned into a rout on the confederate flank. McDowell flanking maneuver had crushed the confederates who broke and ran in retreat. It was so decisive the north thought the battle was already won. McDowell rode along the union lines screaming victory, victory, a staff officer yelling “we have done it.” However Jackson was sent to help the flank and without orders decided Henry Hill would be the key to the battlefield and was the only possible place to rally the outnumbered, retreating confederates. He placed his brigade on the reverse side of the hill to hide his men and he had them lie down. He placed his men where his flanks were protected by the terrain and had great line of fire, he simply “read the ground very well” and “utilized all the advantages of Henry Hill.” Jackson The former Artillery officer and instructor placed his artillery in optimal place to be effective. He contacted Calvary General Jeb Stuart to cover his flanks. Because Jackson kept his force hidden McDowell was unaware of the force in front of him and delayed his attack with an artillery barrage to try and draw out the confederates. He than sent his attack one regiments at a time instead of in full force not knowing how much Jackson had hidden and thinking the south already defeated. This gave Johnston and Beauregard time to move bring in more reinforcements.

Jackson becomes Stonewall

Jackson started rallying broken confederate units around his command and placing them in mixed match units. By riding back and fourth in front of his men on his horse saying “all is well men.” He kept his own green troops calm who were scared of the artillery fire and seeing confederates in retreat all around. His men saw their commander oblivious to the danger of artillery fire and bullets [he was shot through the finger] and this encouraged them to stand and fight. When later asked about his bravery Jackson replied

“Captain, 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 be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”

General Bee whose brigade was in full retreat told Jackson they were beaten off the field and it was no use. Jackson replied “Sir, we shall give them the bayonet.” Bee than became confident and rode to his men and told them “Look. Men, there stands Jackson like a stonewall rally behind the Virginians.” Troops from Bees brigade and others started to rally around Jackson command. Seeing what was unfolding Johnston and Beauregard started sending and placing units around Henry Hill to support Jackson. On earning his nickname “Stonewall” Jackson said it

“ought to be attached wholly to the men of the brigade, and not to me, for it was their steadfast heroism which earned it at first manassas”
-Stonewall Jackson

The Rebel Yell

“fire and give them the bayonett, and when you charge, yell like furies”
-Stonewall Jackson to his command on Henry Hill

Jackson told his command to lie down until the enemy comes within 50 yards, than stand, release a single volley, than with bayonets fixed, charge down the hill yelling. This stunned the union attacks who thought the battle all but won and Jackson's counter attack captured some union artillery while federal soldiers fled from the confederates who were yelling “like wild men.” The rebel yell that even union soldiers admitted was very effective throughout the war in demoralizing northern soldiers started at Bull Run, perhaps because of its effectiveness hear by Jackson's men at Henry Hill.

The fighting continued for hours with reinforcements on both sides, but Henry Hill was the turning point and rallying point for the defeated confederates. Jacksons quick placement and leadership helped snatch victory from the hands of defeat for the south. It enabled the confederate high command to place more units to help stave off defeat and eventually order a counterattack that won the day. Had the north won, it is likely resistance in the south would suffer severely and Richmond would not have lasted long. With the loss of Richmond and later Virginia, the rest of the south would have soon followed if not for “Stonewall” Jackson on Henry Hill. Rumors quickly traveled fast throughout the Shenandoah valley that it was not Johnson or Beauregard who won the day, but the brigadier General and VMI professor Thomas J Jackson. Jackson would not take any credit instead he as always said

“all the glory is due to god alone”
-Stonewall Jackson

A Chance to end the war?

“A determined attack would doubtless have carried Arlington heights and placed the city at the mercy of battery of riffled guns. If the secessionist attached any value to the possession of Washington, they committed their greatest error in not following up the victory of bull run”
-George B McClellan 5 days after Bull run

After the confederate victory at Bull Run “the south had a great opportunity to win the war.” Jackson told Jeff Davis as he visited the battlefield, to give him10,000 men and he would capture D.C. The north was in complete rout, its citizen army thorough away their guns and retained no real cohesion. No defensive works had been built and its army completely demoralized. Yet Davis did not want to invade as he wanted Europe's help and wanted them to view the south as fighting a defensive war only. Davis years later admitted it was the biggest mistake of the war.

Jackson's Valley Campaign

“Always mystify,mislead and surprise the enemy if possible, and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as you men have strength to follow, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can your own force on any part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it, such tactics will win every time. Small army defeat a large one in detail”
-Stonewall Jackson

Jackson was sent by Lee to hold the valley, a vital food supply for the confederate armies, starting with only a few thousand men. Later he would be reinforced to 17,000 men with the intent to also pull soldiers away from McClellan's attack on Richmond and to threatened D.C. In the Shenandoah Jackson's 17,000 men faced 60,000 union soldiers in three armies sent to clear the valley and destroy Jackson. Perhaps the one area I think Jackson is overrated was in his Shenandoah Valley campaign. It was not perfect, he lost a battle, he made a few mistakes, men deserted that could not keep up with his foot calvary, but the results cannot be argued with. His valley campaign is still studied in military schools around the world.

Loss at Kernstown

Despite having three separate armies all his own forces size closing in on him the campaign started when Jackson knowing Lincoln was cautious of D.C and wanting the inventive attacked federal forces at Kernstown, the only battle as commander Jackson would lose in the war. Jackson was given information from his Calvary that it was only a small union force. Instead when the battle started it was soon found to be he was vastly outnumbered. Jackson still wanted to fight but to make matters worse one of his brigades retreated without orders. This forced him to call a full retreat. Jackson lost tactically but his aggressive move and attack won the south a strategic victory as it pulled troops from the Richmond campaign, the purpose he was in the valley. The confederate losses were 718 while federal loses were 590.

Foot Calvary

“We must make this campaign an exceedingly active one. Only thus can a weaker country cope with a stronger; it must make up in activity what it lacks in strength.*A defensive campaign can only be made successful by taking the aggressive at the proper time. Napoleon **never waited for his adversary to become fully prepared, but struck him the first blow.”
-Stonewall Jackson

After Kernstown Jackson put on a maneuvering display that revolutionized warfare. When generals needed double march they had the men in constant movement all day. Stonewall found that to allow his men rest in the shade for an hour midday at the hottest time, they would actually cover more ground than a straight march though. He would also give small breaks every hour. He also had a great supporting cast around him that he put in place and teamsters that when other column slowed, Jacksons would not. He made quick, smart decisions to avoid delays and overcame difficulties like logs in the road, swollen rivers etc that many other generals could not. Jackson the devout christian, also had his men rest one day a week, increasing overall production.

“The Sabbath is written in the Constitution of man and horses really as in the bible. I can march my men further in a week, marching six days and resting the seventh, and get through in better condition than if I marched them all seven days”
-Stonewall Jackson

But most important men were more willing to march hard for their general if the general had their respect and brought them victories. Jackson showed his men he could and would do just that.

“I yield to no man in sympathy for the gallant men under my command; but I am obliged to sweat them tonight, so that I may save their blood tomorrow.”
-Stonewall Jackson

His men would grow with excitement when they were on the move confident it would lead to victory. They believed he would put them in a place to win, and trusted him to get them out of any trouble.

“Most unbounded confidence in him. They say that he can take them into harder places and get them out better than any living man”
-Colonel Sam Tukerson 37th Virginia

Not only that but the solider were willing to endure more for a general who equally respected them. Stonewall did not think himself above his common solider. he once said of his soldiers “Who could not conquer with such men as these.”

“His men loved him, not merely because he was the bravest man they had ever known, the strongest, and the most resolute, not because he had given them glory, and had made them heroes whose fame was known beyond the confines of the South, but because he was one of themselves, with no interests apart from their interests; because he raised them to his own level, respecting them not merely as soldiers, but as comrades, Although he ruled them with a rod of iron, he made no secret, either officially or privately, of his deep and abiding admiration for their self-sacrificing valour. His very dispatches showed that he regarded his own skill and courage as small indeed when compared with theirs. Like Napoleon's, his congratulatory orders were conspicuous for the absence of all reference to himself; it was always "we," not "I," and he was among the first to recognise the worth of the rank and file."One day," says Dr. McGuire, "early in the war, when the Second Virginia Regiment marched by, I said to General Johnston, "If these men will not fight, you have no troops that will." He expressed the prevalent opinion of the day in his reply, saying, "I would not give one company of regulars for the whole regiment." When I returned to Jackson I had occasion to quote General Johnston's opinion. "Did he say that?" he asked, "and of those splendid men?" And then he added: "The patriot volunteer, fighting for his country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier upon earth." And his veterans knew more than that their general believed them to be heroes. They knew that this a great, valiant man, this mighty captain, who held the hosts of the enemy in the hollow of his hand, was the kindest and the most considerate of human beings. To them he was "Old Jack" in the same affectionate sense as he had been "Old Jack" to his class-mates at West Point. They followed him willingly, for they knew that the path he trod was the way to victory; but they loved him as children do their parents, because they were his first thought and his last "In season and out of season he laboured for their welfare. To his transport and commissariat officers he was a hard master. The unfortunate wight who had neglected to bring up supplies, or who ventured to make difficulties, discovered, to his cost, that his quiet commander could be very terrible; but those officers who did their duty, in whatever branch of the service they might be serving, found that their zeal was more than appreciated. For himself he asked nothing; on behalf of his subordinates he was a constant and persistent suitor. He was not only ready to support the claims to promotion of those who deserved it, but in the case of those who displayed special merit he took the initiative himself:
- G. F. R. Henderson Stonewall Jackson And The American Civil War

Quick Summary of the Valley campaign

“In a few short months in the shandoah valley, Jackson rewrote military history”
-Bevin Alexander Military historian

Following Kernstown Jackson than faked a retreat that led union commander Banks into a trap. Jackson than twice disappeared fooling banks into thinking he left the valley who telegraphed Jackson was “bound for Richmond.”

“His nature was essentially aggressive. He was never more to be feared than when he was retreating, and where others thought only of strong defensive positions he looked persistently for the opportunity to attack.”
-George Henderson

His disappearance stopped McClellan advance, held McDowell near manasas stuck in between defending D.C and helping attack on Richmond and causes reinforcements to leave the valley. His movements helped keep the enemy separated in the valley and than won the battle of Mcdowell. He than deceiving Banks once more in a flank attack and captured Fort Royal. Routed the enemy at Winchester. Perceived the enemies moves and won at Cross Keys. Lincoln had set a trap for him and what seemed to be a sure trap of Jackson, he instead disappeared and slipped out.

“If stonewall ever gets so completely surrounded that he cannot get out, he will, take wings unto himself and his army and fly out.”
-Union Surgeon

He was successful by keeping own operations hidden, maintained the initiative, he discerned the aims of his opponents, used superior numbers at point of attack, kept the opponents armies separated, transformed slow moving infantry into mobile strike force, masterful use of topography, responded quickly to changing conditions, discerned the key to the enemy's positions, and he hit the enemy where least expected. Jackson put into practice the belief that sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

“Armies are not called out to dig trenches, to throw up breastworks, and live in camps, but to find the enemy and strike him.. to move swiftly, strike vigorously and secure all the fruits of victory, is the secret of successful war”
-Stonewall Jackson

His men in 30 days traveled defeated 3 union armies in five battles causing 5,000 losses on the north to just 2,000 of his own, while capturing large amount of supply. Jackson was able to contain over 70,000 men with his force of under 20,000 for months in the Shenandoah. Jackson also caused Lincoln to send 40,000 more under McDowell and also put a scare into Lincoln and Washington. After the scare he put into Washington mothers in the north put their kids to bed and warned the kids if they were not good, “Jackson would come get them.” His campaign indirectly saved Richmond. Had those forces not been directed towards Jackson, or had he been defeated. Lee would not have had the opportunity to attack Porter and would have lost Richmond due to the massive enemy force. Had Richmond fallen so early in the war, resistance would drop thoughout the south. After the valley Jackson earner the love of the south and respect from his enemies.

“Well sir, when he commenced it, I thought him crazy, before he ended it, I thought hi inspired”
-Richard Ewell

He was called by northern newspapers “the rebel napoleon” and “The scourge of the north.” He also became a household name across the country and in Europe. Jackson's great leadership won sympathy for the south, from Europe, who admired great generals. European military observers spoke in the highest regard for him as a general with comparisons to napoleon. Newspapers all across Europe printed pieces on the great confederate general. Boys in Europe pretended to be Jackson in the streets.

“With such a leader men would go anywhere, and face any amount of difficulties and for myself, I believe that, inspired by the presence of such a man, I should perfectly invincible to fatigue, and reckon upon success as a moral certainty”
-Garnet Wesley English colonel and future Commander of the British Army

Disaster During the Peninsula campaign

The peninsula campaign was by far the worst performance by Jackson of the war. The reason seems to be mental and physical fatigue from fighting in the valley. It started badly when Jackson arrived a few days late joining forces with Lee for Lee's first attacks on McClellan. Lee, to fool the union into thinking he was reinforcing Jackson,[a plan that worked] sent troop to the valley. But this slowed Jackson down in arriving back under cover to the Richmond area. He could not find enough rail cars to transport his men. That and he would not move on Sundays, delayed his arrival. A.P Hill became impatient waiting for Jackson and led a frontal assault that was repulsed with heavy loses. When Jackson did arrive he moved on the flank of the enemy who was than forced to retreat the Beaver Dam entrenchments without a fight.

But it than got worse for Jackson. Jackson once received orders to move forward and when he received his orders, he fell asleep against a tree. Fatigue had caught up with the general. Another instance he was to join Hill in attack and his guide got him lost in the woods and hill was again forced to attack without support ending in high losses. Jackson was than involved in frontal assaults that failed. The peninsula was a dismal display by Jackson and can be attributed to fatigue. However simply being their in name and force did help Lee win the vital strategic victory on the peninsula and pushed McClellan off back towards D.C. Saving Richmond from intimidate danger. Possibly the greatest strategic victory of the war for the south. The victory was celebrated around the south and boasted morale of the nation and confidence in Lee as a general.

In Jackson's defense he never thought Lee should attack in costly frontal assaults. Instead Jackson believe if he had been reinforced in the valley, he could invade into the north and pull McClellan from the peninsula without having to rely on frontal assaults and transfer the war out of Virginia. But he also followed the orders of his ranking officers despite multiple attempt to convince Lee of his plan. Lee's strategy was to meet the enemy on the field of battle, and out maneuver him and if possible, destroy the enemy army. Lee had success with this method but it was not going to win the south the war in the long run. So Jackson was fighting Lee's battle and style on the peninsula.

Jackson the best flank attacker of the war, did not often use frontal assaults other than to hold the enemy. His main tactics were either to hold the center and send a force around the flank. To block the enemy supply or stand in the way of were they wanted to go and force them to attack you, to than send a counter attack at their flank when they tired and exhausted. Or most important while on attack ,hit the enemy where they are weak Jackson ability to use these tactics with great success is what made him successful. These were not the tactics of Lee on the peninsula and not what made Jackson great.

Second Manassas Campaign

“[Jackson] Literally marched circles around popes army...Jacksons bold marches confused pope and were the principle cause of the confederate victory in the campaign”
--David G Martin The Second Bull Run Campaign

After the victory on the Peninsula Lee sought to maneuver the war into northern Virginia and if possible deal with Pope's army of 73,000 before he could combined with McClellan larger army. To do this he “let lose” Stonewall Jackson with a reinforced force of 27,000 men. Jackson than disappeared from Pope, marched 50 miles in two days and cut Popes army supply lines forcing Pope to retreat from the Rappahhanock and the Rapidan. These movements ruined the norths plans of a link up, and took away the initiative from the north.

First he captured Bristole depot with its small garrison. Tore up rail, destroyed rail trains, clogged the track, cut telegraph lines, destroyed bridges and later he captured the massive federal depot at Manassas Junction capturing 300 prisoners 6 cannons while only tacking 4 causalities. This forced Pope to abandon his position and come after Jackson allowing Longstreet and Lee to than safety advance to Jackson.

“Pope was Thoroughly over his head in challenging Stonewall...he had been knocked off first the Rapidan and than the Rappahanock by nothing more than maneuvers deigned by Jackson. Know the enemy occupied his main supply base, and his men were running out of food”
-Bevin Alexander Such Troops as these The Genius and Leadership of confederate General Stonewall Jackson

The aggressive, successful, western commander Pope know Knowing that Jackson was alone and greatly outnumbered him said “we shall bag the whole crowd” at manasas. Instead Jackson destroyed the depot and than disappeared again from pope sight.

“Pope was completely bewildered, he had been certain he had Jackson cornered”
-Bevin Alexander Such Troops as these The Genius and Leadership of confederate General Stonewall Jackson

Cedar Mountain

“Jackson's aggressiveness kept Pope continually off balance during the campaign”
-David G Martin The Second Bull Run Campaign

To prevent reinforcements to Pope from Halleck in D.C and McClellan Jackson split and isolated Banks corps and defeated it at Cedar Mountain. During the battle the confederate lines started to break and run for the rear and Jackson rode out ahead of his men while almost being shot and captured, with saber in the air, and yelled out

“Jackson is with you...rally, brave men, and press forward. Your general will lead you. Jackson will lead you follow me”

“The effects of his bravery was electric on all the troops of both sides who saw him”
-David G Martin The Second Bull Run Campaign

This turned the tide of battle and another confederate victory was had. The USA losses were 2,400 CSA were 1,400. As more forces came in to reinforce Pope Jackson left general Trinbles division hidden in woods and ambushed union commander Bohlen. Than Jackson had a division hide and ambushed Taylors brigade tacking 200 prisoners and inflicting 150 causalities in 30 min. This caused McClellan to take his time to prepare a full corps to face Jackson and slowed McClellan down so he could not help Pope in the upcoming battle.

“I am afraid of Jackson, he will turn up where least expected”
-George McClellan


Jackson had so far destroyed and captured large amounts of supply, forced an army 3 times his size off its river, won 3 small engagements, interrupted the federals plans, prevented the union armies from linking up, outmaneuvered and outfought his opponents, had twice disappeared, and stopped all reinforcements to Pope. His next goal was to draw Pope into a battle to be defeated before he met up with McClellan. However since Jackson had disappeared from Pope he needed to attack to draw Pope into the fight. This was the battle of Groveton a small skirmish with equal causalities [both around 1,200] but Jackson won the field and more important, let Pope know where he was.

“For 24 hours Jackson had been drawing Pope in a noose”
-Bevin Alexander Such Troops as these The Genius and Leadership of confederate General Stonewall Jackson

Jackson than pretended a retreat setting a trap for Pope even though Halleck had warned Pope that Jackson liked to set traps and faked retreated in the valley. But Pope was confident his much larger army would destroy Jacksons command before Lee could arrive.

“I did not see how it was possible for Jackson to escape without very heavy loses, if at all”
-Union Commander John Pope

Battle of Second Mansassas

The main battle started with Jackson command of 22,000 set up behind a unfinished railroad cut and woods. Popes army of 60,000 on the first day tried multiple times to penetrate Jackson's lines that ended in failure. Jackson held his line against a far superior force and inflicted heavy losses. Jackson had organized his reserves in an area that any front line general could call on for help where most needed. So when the few breakthrough that did happen occurred, a massive counter attack would repulse them. Jackson was even able to counter attack and push Popes center back. Day 1 fighting Popes losses were 6,000 while Jackson's just 1,500. Around noon Longstreet and Lee arrived on the battlefield.

Jackson had thought the plan Lee had agreed with was to engage the enemy before they could link up. However Lee had changed his mind to only wanting to displace Pope to northern Virginia since he had the smaller force. Jackson had set up Lee and Longstreet for a perfect opportunity to crush Pope on day 1. Union general George Gordon said “It was fortunate that Jackson was not in command of the confederate forces on the night , for the superior force of the enemy must have overwhelmed us, if we could not have escaped, and escape on that night was impossible.” Escape on day 2 would not be impossible as time would show.

Day 2
On day 2 Jackson pulled his command back into the woods to lure Pope into attacking again further committing his force so Lee could flank Pope. Pope was convinced of Jackson retreat from the field and telegraphed Halleck of the victory. Pope sent his men forward to push Jacksons read [so he thought] and what he thought was a small skirmish line turned into bugles blowing advance by Jackson entire corps. Jackson would than fight off Pope for the remainder of the day. This set up Lee and Longstreet perfectly for a day 2 attack into Popes flank. Lee had wanted to avoid the battle as he had the smaller army, but Popes army spent and demoralized from attacks on Jackson and being on popes flank was an opportunity he could not turn down. Popes army demoralized and beaten from attacks on Jackson could not resist Longstreet's attack and gave way giving the south a great victory. However Lee's delay against Jacksons plan, allowed Popes army to escape after nightfall. Jackson had set Lee up for what could have been a decisive victory.

“The number of union causalities, of course, was due to popes numerous disjointed attacks on Jackson's line for two days...Lee would have been able to inflict many more union casultites had darkness not prohibited him from expanding his victory...within a hairs breath of crushing popes entire army”
-David G Martin The Second Bull Run Campaign

Second Bull run was another victory where the union lost the field, equipment, artillery and 15,000 casualties. The south lost 9,500 causalities. It was Jackson who gave the south the victory.

“[Jackson] He was perhaps more a hero to Virginians at that time than Lee himself”
-David G Martin The Second Bull Run Campaign


Following the two day battle Jackson still had cohesion enough to operate a wide flank maneuver that forced Pope to fully retreat to D.C. And further demoralized his army. Pope was than sent to fight Indians in Minnesota after the campaign.

Harper's Ferry/ Antietam campaign

“If we had him [Jackson] we should whip you in short order”
-Captured union solider to confederates at Harpers ferry

Lee decided to invade the north after the victory at Second Manassas. The campaign started with Jackson capturing federal supply at Martinsburg with the help of “Belle Boyd.” Lee than decided he could capture the vital town of Harpers Ferry and than to unite his army in time to face McClellan, so he sent Jackson. Jackson commanded the operations against Harpers ferry devising a flanking attack from three sides. Jackson captured over 10,000 union soldiers the largest surrender of union forced during the war. Jackson also captured 13,000 small arms, 200 wagons, 73 cannons, as well as large stocks of supplies and much needed food. All while taking less than 300 causalities. Two federal prisoners said after the capture of Harpers Ferry

“Boys hes not much to look at, but if we had him, we wouldn't have been caught in this trap”
-Captured union solider at Harpers ferry

Battle of Antietam

Jackson would meet up with Lee in time for the attack from McClellan. During the battle of Antietam despite the confederates being outnumbered 87,000 to 47,000. Jackson's corps defended the confederate left against 3 federal corps. Bloody and heavy fighting went on for hours and both sides inflicted heavy loses on each other. Jackson skillfully ordered small scale but effective counter attacks against the union lines. The fighting was desperate for both sides, but Jackson withheld against the heavy attack by the federals, showing as he did at Bull Run. That in defense he could be a “stonewall.”


Burnside’s plan for his massive army of 116,683 at Fredericksburg was to hold Longstreet in place at Marye's heights and assault Jackson with a force of 60,000 at Prospect Hill. After the breakthrough at Prospect Hill the attack was to roll up Longstreet. Lee's army of 72,564 sat on great dug in defensive ground. In the battle Jackson again defended well against a superior force. He held his artillery fire from engaging the unions and waited for the advancing federals. The fighting was pretty straight forward with Meade making a small breakthrough that was countered by Jackson's reserves. After repulsing the federals Jackson almost countered attacked but decided against it because of the union artillery. The battle was a great southern victory but had more to do with poor union command and the defensive ground, rather than great southern skill. However the confederates should get credit for the placement of their units and especially their artillery. Union losses were 12,500 to southern of 5,000.


With Longstreet gone with 2 of Lees best divisions, and half of Lee's Calvary gone on various missions, it was the perfect time for the army of the Potomac commander Joseph Hooker to attack Lee. Hooker would take his 133,000 man army and move against Lee's reduced army of 60,000. Not only did Hooker enjoy over a 2-1 advantage in manpower, he had over 400 artillery pieces. Hooker split his army in two leaving a sizable force across Fredricksburg in front of Lee, than maneuvering 70,000 men [ more than Lee's army] around Lee's flank. Hookers plan worked perfectly as he “stole a march” on Lee.

“Hookers flanking movement had caught Lee off guard”
--David G Martin The Chancellorsville Campaign

Hooker had placed 70,000 men on Lee's flank without his knowledge. His men and commanders were jubilant and predicted either a complete victory, or the inglorious and know dangerous retreat of Lee's army back to Richmond. The only other option as they saw it was for Lee to attack Hooker on the defensive that they would believe would destroy Lee's army. Never had been the union army in a better position to destroy Lee than know. Lee was simply out of options.

“God almighty will not be able to prevent the destruction of the rebel army...The rebel army is now the legitimate property of the army of the Potomac”
-Fighting Joe Hooker commander of the Army of the Potomac

“This is splendid... we are on Lees flank and he does does not know it”
-George Meade

Lee was in a terrible spot facing an army his size across the river as well as an army larger than his on his flank ready to attack, with no defenses to stop it. So in response to Hooker, Lee decided not to retreat as many union commanders thought he might instead he sent Jackson with 40,000 men to meet Hooker's 70,000 and dig in and defend the flanking attack.

“Jackson's instinct though, was not to sit on the defensive unless he really had to do so”
-David G Martin The Chancellorsville Campaign

70,000 federals coming at the army's flank was not enough for Jackson in command of 40,000 to stop and defend, he had won against such odds before. He told his men who were wisely when outnumbered digging in to put away their tolls they were attacking. This would change the whole dynamic of the campaign and give the intuitive to Lee. Jackson launched an attack on the federals on Plank Road that would “alter the course of the battle” despite being outnumbered the aggressive Jackson was able to get more men at the point of attack [17,000-12,000] and his attack pushed Sykes corps back and started to surround him. Hooker called Sykes back and put his powerful flanking army on the defensive.

“The moral courage of hooker collapsed as soon as he found himself in the actual presence of lee and Jackson”
- Porter Alexander Confederate Artillery officer

Hooker had given up the initiative to Jackson but still thought victory was assured. He was more than willing to allow Lee to attack outnumbered while his men fought on the ground of their choosing. Hooker also had massive artillery advantage and if Lee was to send more men to the flank, Hookers other army would advance and crush Lee's opposite flank. Lee was still defeated either way in the mind of Hooker. But However had given the initiate to a dangerous enemy, and Jackson would not waste it.

“Never take council of your fears”
-Stonewall Jackson

What Hooker did not imagine was Jackson's planned flank attack. Hooker would not imagine an outnumbered foe to further weaken his front opposite the enemy to march miles away on a flanking maneuver. Jackson's plan involved taking his command around Hookers flank to crush it leaving Lee with only two divisions to defend the intimidate front. Lee said to Jackson “General Jackson what do you propose to do” Jackson pointed on the map where he wished to attack, Lee asked how many troops were needed Jackson said “my whole corps” Lee replied “well go on.” Jackson told his men to make “no noise” for the march as he moved on Hookers flank. Reports came in to Hooker during the day of large confederate movements but they were dismissed as the confederates retreating back towards Richmond. To distract from Jackson Lee kept up a heavy skirmish and aggressive stance to keep Hooker in place.

“Transformed a desperate situation for the confederacy into an opportunity for a great victory...He was without question a military genius”
-David G Martin The Chancellorsville Campaign

Jackson the day before had been on the opposite flank of 70,000 men miles away, he know stood ready and on its flank. Jackson attack completely stunned Hooker within about 2 hours Jackson crushed the entire 11th corps and pushed Hookers flank back miles in danger of being cut off. Only darkness saved the federals from being trapped and their road to retreat blocked off. Jackson's flank attack had been a success and great victory but it was not finished. Jackson's plan called for the capture of the federals road to retreat and cutting off another entire corps while forcing the federals to attack Jackson blocking their retreat. However in the night while scouting the ground he was shot by his own men.

“Could I have directed events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead” -Robert E Lee letter to Jackson in hospital

“Any victory is a dear one that deprives us of the services of Jackson even for a short time”
-Robert E Lee

Lee was forced to replace Jackson with Calvary general J.E.B Stuart. Lee did not have the confidence in Stuart [or anyone else] to complete Jackson's plan. So instead Lee had Stuart attack federal positions reconnecting the confederate lines. Hooker and the union forces than were able to safety retreat. Chancellorsville was a great confederate victory and Jackson had changed a desperate situation for the south into yet another victory. Despite attacking a army over twice its size, USA losses were 17,287 and CSA loses were 12,821. However the majority of those confederate loses came when Stuart reconnected lines with Lee and when the union captured Fredircksburg. Had Jackson survived and had his plan been fully implemented, it may have ended in another entire union army corps being destroyed and similar confederate loses as the historical battle. Jackson had won another battle for the south.

“I congratulate you upon the victory. Which is due to your skill and energy”
-Robert E Lee Letter to Stonewall in the Hospital

The Death of Stonewall Jackson

“Very good it is alright, it will be an infinite gain to be translated to heaven...I thank God, if it is His will, that I am ready to go. … It is the Lord's Day; my wish is fulfilled. … I have always desired to die on Sunday... Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.
-Stonewall Jackson

Jackson would die soon after the battle and he would be mourned throughout the south. Lee was loved but at this point Jackson was seen as the savior of the confederacy by many. He had earned the respect and admiration of not just the south and Europe, but even through the north as well.

"Angels went to receive his body from his grave but he was not there, they left very disappointed but upon return to haven, found he had outflanked them and was already there."
-Northern Newspaper on the death of stonewall Jackson

What the Loss of Stonewall Meant to the Confederacy

“The hero of the confederacy Stonewall Jackson had been accidentally wounded by his own men and died a week later. Jackson's loss soured Lees victory, and forced a major reorganization of the army and its command structure. He knew he would have to rely on several untested commanders in key positions. The effects of Chancellorsville would play a key role in the performance of the confederate army at Gettysburg”
-David martin The Chancellorsville campaign

What if scenarios of course are all hypothetical and unreliable. But I think even a hypothetical can show what impact Jackson had on the confederate army and what a great general he was. Everyone admits the confederate cause started in a downward spiral after the loss of Jackson, but are they connected? While not entirely I believe they are very much cause and effect. The first major impact is the organization of the confederate army of northern Virginia. If one reads the book by David martin The Chancellorsville campaign you will notice in his chapter how well the confederate army is organized. It is streamlined command with veterans at every position. Jackson and Longstreet complimented each other and Lee could trust Jackson on his own giving Lee flexibility t and more options. The whole army was collected into just 2 corps controlled by Jackson and Longstreet. After the Loss of Jackson there was no other commander who could control such a force effectively. Lee was forced to reorganize his entire army.

”I know not how to replace him, gods will be done”
-Robert E Lee

The effects of this on the performance of the army is often under noticed. Lee had to create 2 new corps under Ewell and A.P Hill, neither performed as well as Jackson. This depleted the talent of the army a great deal. New division commanders were needed to replace them, new commanders also to fill in the newly created corps divisions and brigades etc. In the book Receding Tide Vicksburg and Gettysburg by Edwin C Bearss and J Parker Hills you will find just how much these new commanders lacked experience ,and just how much this effected the performance of the confederate army at Gettysburg. Dozens were stepping into new large command they had never controlled before. The book argues, not directly, that the inexperience and performance of so many new leaders from corps command down to company and regimental, was the cause of confederate failure at Gettysburg.

In a hypothetical Gettysburg with Jackson, Jackson would have been in control of Ewell's men at Gettysburg on day 1. Ewell is heavily criticized for his day 1 action at Gettysburg with many blaming the loss on his actions on day 1 alone. Had Jackson been in command he would have been faster [foot Calvary], more aggressive, and taken cemetery hill as Ewell should have on day 1. As historian Edward Bonekemper said in his C-Span talk The Myth of the Lost Cause said Lees orders to Ewell day 1 were if practabel , take cemetery hill. Had it been Jackson Lee's orders would have been take the hill at all costs. There is no question Jackson would have done so without orders anyways. This would have drastically changed the battle.

“He certainly would have taken cemetery hill, its in Jackson's nature to not stop until hes got every ounce of benefit he could get...but that does not mean Gettysburg would have been a confederate victory, it would have been a brief 3-4 hour engagement"
-Historian Shebly Foote

Had cemetery hill been taken the small union force would have fallen back and the main battle would have been somewhere else. But a better question is would Gettysburg have happened at all. Jackson would have approved an invasion of the north as he had called for multiple times. However had he not died Davis very well have got his plan and sent Jackson away to perhaps break the siege of Vicksburg or go on the offensive in Tennessee. But likely with Lee and Jackson pushing the invasion it would have been granted. It is known Jackson had more sway with Lee than Longstreet. Both Longstreet and Jackson wanted to fight a defensive battle in the north. Jackson invasion plan was to sever the main rail line that connected the east coast from Maine all the way down to D.C. In all likelihood with Jackson and Longstreet pushing the confederate army would have ended up somewhere north of Baltimore possibly as far north as Philadelphia cutting rail and finding a good defensive position with an open flank to counter attack on [Jackson's plan]. This would have forced Meade to attack Lee on his ground and likely defeat for the union. Instead with no Jackson, Lee actually marched south to meet the enemy, somewhat fatiguing his men, to do open battle, the results we all know.

Later when Grant came east Grant was able to continuity put pressure on Lee without fear of a counter attack. Had Jackson been their its likely it could have changed the campaign. Jackson's best qualities were being unpredictable, to hit the enemy where they where weak, best flank attacker in the war, and surprise attacks. These were all of Grants weaknesses as he showed t Fort Donaldosn and Shiloh. Grant was a great attacking general but could be caught off guard and not a top notch defender. Jackson's strength would go against Grants weaknesses.


“Jackson demonstrated a transcendent superiority over every other general he encountered”
-Bevin Alexander Such Troops as These: The Genius and Leadership of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson

I believe Jackson was the greatest civil war commander and he saved the confederacy multiple times from what seemed defeat at Bull Run, with his valley campaign, and Chancellorsville. I think he showed Lee how to win and forced Lee to victory at second manasas and Chancellorsville. He showed himself a top notch defender at Bull Run, Second Manasass, Antietam and Fredricksburg. He was a top notch leader and loved by his men.

“It cannot well be denied that Jackson possessed every single attribute which makes for success in war.*Morally and physically he was absolutely fearless. He accepted responsibility with the same equanimity that he faced the bullets of the enemy. He permitted no obstacle to turn him aside from his appointed path, and in seizing an opportunity or in following up a victory he was the very incarnation of untiring energy. … A supreme activity, both of brain and body, was a prominent characteristic of his military life. His idea of strategy was to secure the initiative, however inferior his force; to create opportunities and to utilise them; to waste no time, and to give the enemy no rest. ...That he felt to the full the fascination of war's tremendous game we can hardly doubt. Not only did he derive, as all true soldiers must, an intense intellectual pleasure from handling his troops in battle so as to outwit and defeat his adversary, but from the day he first smelt powder in Mexico until he led that astonishing charge through the dark depths of the Wilderness his spirits never rose higher than when danger and death were rife about him. With all his gentleness there was much of the old Berserker about Stonewall Jackson, not indeed the lust for blood, but the longing to do doughtily and die bravely, as best becomes a man.
-George Henderson *in*Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War*

About Stonewall

Jackson had a tragic life. Born in Clarksburg Virginia at the age of 3 Jackson's father and eldest sister died of a fever. For several years young Jackson grew up in poverty in a one room house. Jackson's mother was unable to care for 3 kids and separated Jackson at the age of 6 from his beloved sister Laura and sent him to live with his aunt and uncle. Jackson's mother Julia died a year later giving birth to a son at the age of 33. Later Jackson married Elinor Junkin. Who gave birth to a stillborn child and died an hour later. A few years later he married his second wife Mary Morrison. Who gave birth to a daughter, the daughterwould die less than a month later. Jackson thanks god that this time, god had speared his wife.

“My prayer is that it [his command] may be an army of the living god...fighting under the banner of Jesus”
-Stonewall Jackson

A deeply religious man of Scotch/Irish decent tried to avoid all military actions on Sundays. Richard Ewell was an agnostic but Jackson influence helped convert him. One night after a council of war, Ewell returned to Jackson tent for his sword he left behind. He found Jackson on his knees praying asking god for guidance in the upcoming campaign. Ewell would say “if that is religion I must have it” and would convert soon after. During the war Stonewall jackson had an old negro man who acted in the capacity of a body servant. It has become common remark in the camp that none knows of the generals plans but this old negro. Asked how he became in such confidence of the general

"Lord sir, "Massa never tells me nothing, but the way I knows is this. Massa says his prayers twice a day, morning and night. But if he gets out of bed three times in the night to pray, you see I just commences packing my sack, for I know there's will be the devil to pay the next day"

Jackson started a bible study for negroes that he contributed to until his death, even though it was against state laws for large numbers of blacks to gather together in town. To Jackson there was god's laws and man's laws, the former were to be followed. Multiple slaves petitioned and asked for Jackson to purchase them. His servants reverenced him and “loved him, as they would have done a brother or father” he was “emphatically the black man's friend.” He is the only confederate to have a memorial built dedicated to him in a African American church raised only by blacks. The descendants of his bible school. Free and slave blacks contributed donations in 1863 to build a statue of Stonewall in Virginia. Of his Sunday school

“I like liquor its taste and its effects and that is just the reason why I never drink it.”
-Stonewall Jackson

Jackson loved lemons as well ,would eat them whole, and always had them, yet none knows were he got them. Jackson fought the war for the same reason most Virginians did.

“He believed the constitutional rights of the states had been invaded, and he never had a doubt as to where his allegiance was due. His sword belonged to his state”
-Anna Jackson Wife of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

“Jackson fought for the constitutional rights of the South, and any one who imagines he fought for slavery knows nothing of Jackson.”
-William C. Chase, in*Story of Stonewall Jackson*: A Narrative of the Career of Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson*

“Jackson neither apologized for nor spoke in favor of the practice of slavery. He probably opposed the institution. Yet in his mind the Creator had sanctioned slavery, and man had no moral right to challenge its existence.*The good Christian slaveholder was one who treated his servants fairly and humanely at all times.”
-James I. Robertson,*Stonewall Jackson*: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend

-Great Campaigns Jackson's Valley Campaign David G Martin Combined Books PA 1994
-Great Campaigns The Peninsula Campaign David G Martin Combined Books PA 1992
-Great Campaigns The Shiloh Campaign David G Martin Combined Books PA 1996
-Great Campaighns The Second Bull Run Campaighn David G Martin Combined Books PA 1997
-Great Campaigns The Chancellorsville campaign David G Martin Combined Books PA 1991
-Great Campaigns the Atlanta campaign John Cannan Combined Books PA 1991 -John J Hennessy The first battle of Manassas Stackpole Books 2015 -Battles for Atlanta Sherman Moves East Ronald H Bailey Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia 1985
-Rebel Resurgent Frederiscksburg to Chancellorsville Willliam K Goolrick Time life Books, Alexandria, Virginia William K Goolrick 1985
-Receding Tide Vicksburg and Gettysburg the Campaigns That changed the civil war Edwin C Bearess and J Parker Hills National Geographic D.C 2010
-Thomas J Rowland George B Mcclellan and Civil war History in the Shadow of grant and Sherman Kent State University Press 1998
-Six Armies in Tennessee the Chickamagua and Chattanooga Campaigns Steven E Woodworth University of Nebraska press 1998
-Such Troops as these The Genius and Leadership of confederate General Stonewall Jackson Bevin Alexander Berkeley Caliber 2014
-How the South Could Have Won the Civil War: The Fatal Errors That Led to Confederate Defeat Bevin Alexander 2008 Crown Forum
-Personal Memoirs of U.S Grant Da Capo Press 2001 -The Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and of Forrest's Cavalry Da Capo Press 1996 --The Confederate war Gary Gallagher Harvard University press 1999 -A History of the south the Confederate States of America E Merton Coulter Louisiana State Press 1950
- The Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and of Forrest's Cavalry Da Capo Press reprint 1996 Thomas Jordan and J.P Pryor
-James V Murfin Battlefields of the Civil war -Battle Tactics of the Civil war Paddy Griffith Yale university Press 1989 -The Rifel Musket in Civil war Combat Reality and Myth Earl J Hess University of Kansas Press 2008
-The Ultimate Civil war Series 2012
-America's Civil war Magazine
-Civil war Trust
-Rutland Free Library
"How do you like this are coming back into the union"
Confederate solider to Pennsylvanian citizen before Gettysburg

"No way sherman will go to hell, he would outflank the devil and get past havens guard"
Southern solider about northern General Sherman

"Angels went to receive his body from his grave but he was not there, they left very disappointed but upon return to haven, found he had outflanked them and was already there".
Northern newspaper about the death of Stonewall Jackson

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Sat Aug 27, 2016 3:28 pm

Great? Maybe. Greatest? Doubtful. I doubt any one general could have that title.
One has to remember Jackson went up against the very poor generals that the Union had in the early years of the war. There were Union generals that could have potentially given Jackson a run for his money if he hadn't been killed by his own men in 1863.

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Location: Vermont USA

Sat Aug 27, 2016 4:44 pm

csiemers wrote:Great? Maybe. Greatest? Doubtful. I doubt any one general could have that title.
One has to remember Jackson went up against the very poor generals that the Union had in the early years of the war. There were Union generals that could have potentially given Jackson a run for his money if he hadn't been killed by his own men in 1863.

I agree that what makes someone the "greatest general" had much to do with opinion and preference. I like aggressive attacking generals so Jackson is to my liking. I put more stock in a general like that. That is why my top generals are men like Lee, Grant, Forrest and Thomas as well. Though he does not fit the mold.

I would say it was not that the early union generals were not as good, as much as the confederacy was much stronger early war, in part because they had Jackson. Late war generals that had success like Like Sherman/ Grant also did not fare well early war against sub par confederate generals. A great book that argues this is

George B. McClellan and Civil War History: In the Shadow of Grant and Sherman
"How do you like this are coming back into the union"

Confederate solider to Pennsylvanian citizen before Gettysburg

"No way sherman will go to hell, he would outflank the devil and get past havens guard"

Southern solider about northern General Sherman

"Angels went to receive his body from his grave but he was not there, they left very disappointed but upon return to haven, found he had outflanked them and was already there".

Northern newspaper about the death of Stonewall Jackson

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