The Death of “Stonewall” Jackson

May 10, 1863 – Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, commanding the Second Corps in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, died after being shot on May 2.

Jackson had sustained three gunshot wounds, two of which resulted in the amputation of his left arm just below the shoulder. Following the procedure, an ambulance took him to Guiney’s Station, near his former headquarters about 10 miles south of Fredericksburg. It was hoped that he would be safe from Federal cavalry raids there. Jackson arrived on the 4th, where he began convalescing at the Chandler estate.

Lt Gen T.J. Jackson following his amputation | Image Credit: OldVirginiaBlog.Blogspot.com

Over the next three days, Jackson’s wife, Anna, joined him, and he appeared to be recovering. His medical director, Dr. Hunter Maguire, noted that the general seemed stronger each day, regaining his appetite and responsiveness. Regarding his wounds, the pious Jackson told a visitor, “Many would regard them as a great misfortune. I regard them as one of the blessings of my life.”

Jackson complained of fatigue and slept most of the 6th. He woke at 1 a.m. on the 7th with severe nausea and pain on his left side. Dr. Maguire arrived later that morning and determined that Jackson had developed pneumonia in his right lung. Maguire applied most of the customary treatments for that time, including bloodletting, mercury, antimony, and mustard compresses.

The doctor then wrapped Jackson in warm blankets and administered a combination of whiskey, opium, laudanum, and morphine. This helped numb the pain, but it also put Jackson into a state of delirium. He spent the next two days going in and out of fevered consciousness.

Meanwhile, General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, had been informed that Jackson’s recovery was proceeding well. Now he was told that Jackson had taken a turn for the worse. Lee said, “Tell him to make haste and get well, and come back to me as soon as he can. He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.”

On the 9th, Dr. Maguire informed both Lee and President Jefferson Davis that Jackson’s chances of survival were doubtful. Lee said, “Surely General Jackson will recover. God will not take him from us now that we need him so much.” The editor of the Richmond Whig wrote:

“We need have no fears for Jackson. He is no accidental manifestation of the powers of faith and courage. He came not by chance in this day and to this generation. He was born for a purpose, and not until that purpose is fulfilled will his great soul take flight.”

Not convinced that he was nearing his end, Jackson asked Dr. Maguire for his opinion. The doctor said that recovery was likely impossible. Jackson resigned himself and said, “If it is the will of my Heavenly Father, I am perfectly satisfied.” Anna read the Psalms to him, as he was attended to by his doctor and other physicians, his minister, his aide, and his slave Jim Lewis. One of the attending physicians said they had “done everything that human skill could devise to stay the hand of death.”

Early on the 10th, Anna told her husband the doctors had determined that by day’s end, he “would be with the blessed Saviour in His glory.” Jackson disagreed; he called in one of the attending physicians and asked, “Anna informs me that you have told her that I am to die today. Is that so?” The physician said yes. Jackson said, “Very good, very good. It is all right. It is the Lord’s day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.”

Jackson requested the visitors to sing his favorite hymn, “Shew pity, Lord; O Lord, Forgive; Let a Repenting Rebel Live.” When Dr. Maguire asked him if he wanted brandy, Jackson said, “It will only delay my departure, and do no good; I want to preserve my mind, if possible, to the last.” Around 1:30 p.m., a physician informed him that he probably had no more than two hours to live. Jackson replied, “Very good. It is all right.”

He soon slipped back into delirium, where he was back on the battlefield calling out, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action!” Then his voice trailed off until he briefly rallied, smiled, and said, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” Then Jackson died.

A courier delivered a message to Lee bearing the news. Lee responded by issuing General Order No. 61 to the Army of Northern Virginia:

“With deep regret the commanding general announces the death of Lieutenant General T.J. Jackson. Let his name be a watch-word to his corps who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let his officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our loved Country.”

Jackson’s body was taken to Richmond, where it was placed for public viewing at the Capitol on the 12th. City businesses closed. A funeral service took place the next day, attended by many mourners. Several other soldiers who had died at Chancellorsville were also being interred in Richmond or sent to their homes. Jackson’s family accompanied his body on a canal barge taking them to Lynchburg, en route to Lexington, where Jackson had taught at the Virginia Military Institute.

The casket arrived at Lynchburg on the 14th, where an escort of V.M.I. cadets brought it to Lexington and placed it in Jackson’s old lecture hall. A short funeral service was held at the Presbyterian Church the next day, where Jackson’s casket was draped with the first Confederate flag ever made. The casket was then taken to the cemetery south of town for burial under the shade of trees. As a popular song went, “The Gallant Stonewall was no more.”

—–

References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 360-61; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 282, 284-85; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 313, 316-18, 430; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 294; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5525, 5560-71; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 138-39, 160-61; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 391-92; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 351; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 210-11

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