No remembrance of Confederate history could be complete without something about General “Stonewall” Jackson. Since his military prowess is already well documented, and since, as an historical fiction author I prefer to show the human side of the War Between the States, I thought I’d take a look back through the eyes of his wife from her writings in Life and Letters of Stonewall Jackson.
The chapters on Jackson meeting his daughter Julia for the first time when she was five months old are very telling as to what kind of man he was. On April 20, 1863, his wife writes: “When he entered the coach to receive us, his rubber overcoat was dripping from the rain which was falling, but his face was all sunshine and gladness; and, after greeting his wife, it was a picture, indeed, to see his look of perfect delight and admiration as his eyes fell upon that baby! She beamed her brightest and sweetest smiles upon him in return, so it seemed to be a mutual fascination.
“Upon our arrival at the house, he speedily divested himself of his overcoat, and, taking his baby in his arms, he caressed her with the tenderest affection, and held her long and lovingly. During the whole of this short visit, when he was with us, he rarely had her out of his arms, walking her, and amusing her in every way that he could think of – sometimes holding her up before a mirror and saying, admiringly, ‘Now, Miss Jackson, look at yourself!'”
The baby was then baptized on April 23rd, 1863, but it was the next week that Mary Anna Jackson recalls more vividly. I chose this passage both for its intimate look at Jackson, and for its description of the significance of religion in the camp.
“The next Sabbath was a most memorable one to me, being the last upon which I was privileged to attend divine service with my husband on earth, and to worship in camp with such a company of soldiers as I had never seen together in a religious congregation. My husband took me in an ambulance to his headquarters, where the services were held, and on the way were seen streams of officers and soldiers, some riding, some walking, all wending their way to the place of worship.
Arrived there, we found Mr. Lacy in a tent, in which we were seated, together with General Lee and other distinguished officers. I remember how reverent and impressive was General Lee’s bearing, and how handsome he looked, with his splendid figure and faultless military attire.
In front of the tent, under the canopy of heaven, were spread out in dense masses the soldiers, sitting upon benches or standing. The preaching was earnest and edifying, the singing one grand volume of song, and the attention and good behavior of the assembly remarkable.
That Sabbath afternoon my husband spent entirely with me, and his conversation was more spiritual that I had ever observed before. He seemed to be giving utterance to those religious meditations in which he so much delighted. He never appeared to be in better health than at this time, and I never saw him look so handsome and noble.”
Jackson, of course, was wounded by friendly fire on May 2, just a little over a week later. I will write about Mary Anna’s memories of that history-making event tomorrow.