The Death of “Stonewall” Jackson

Confederate Lieutenant-General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson sustained three gunshot wounds in the fighting around Chancellorsville. On the night of May 2, Jackson was taken to the Wilderness Tavern hospital, where his left arm was amputated just below the shoulder.

When Jackson awoke the next morning, he received a message from General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia: “I have just received your note informing me that you were wounded. I cannot express my regret at the occurrence. Could I have dictated events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to have been disabled in your stead. I congratulate you upon the victory which is due to your skill and energy.” Jackson noted when he read the letter, “General Lee should give the glory to God.”

Lee also sent orders to have Jackson moved to a safer place, and he detached Jackson’s medical director, Dr. Hunter Maguire, from duties in the Second Corps to focus his full attention on Jackson’s recovery. On the 4th, aides loaded Jackson into an ambulance and took him to the home of a friend near Guiney’s Station on the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad, some 12 miles south of Fredericksburg. The 24-mile journey took the whole day.

Over the next three days, Jackson’s wife Anna joined him, and he seemed to be recuperating nicely. Jackson was alert and expressing eagerness to return to the field. Dr. 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.”

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

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 from falling off the litter. Jackson refused to allow aides to wake the exhausted Dr. Maguire, and it was not until later that morning that Maguire arrived. The doctor quickly determined that Jackson had developed pneumonia in his right lung. The doctor applied treatments such as bloodletting, mercury, antimony, and mustard compresses.

Dr. Maguire 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. Jackson briefly rallied on the 8th, when he said, “I believe God has yet a work for me to perform…” But the drugs clouded his mind and his breathing became labored. Nothing more could be done for him.

General Lee had been under the impression the Jackson was on the road to recovery. But 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.”

On Sunday the 10th, Lee attended religious services at army headquarters. When they were done, Lee told a chaplain who was on his way to visit Jackson, “When you return I trust you will find him better. When a suitable occasion offers, tell him that I prayed for him last night, as I never prayed, I believe, for myself.”

But by this time, Anna had told her husband that, according to the doctors, Jackson “would be with the blessed Saviour in His glory” by day’s end. Jackson disagreed and called in one of the attending physicians. “Anna informs me that you have told her that I am to die today,” Jackson said. “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 was dead.

A courier delivered a message to Lee bearing the news. Lee responded by issuing General Order Number 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. All private and public business quickly halted. An enormous crowd gathered to accompany the coffin from the train station to Capitol Square. Black plumes flew everywhere, flags were placed at half-mast, and guns boomed in mourning and remembrance.

The coffin was adorned with a glass lid so that onlookers could see Jackson’s face. A servant walked Jackson’s horse. General officers served as pallbearers. President Davis followed the procession in an open carriage, with cabinet members and other city, state, and national government officials walking behind the president. For southerners, this was “a common sorrow too deep for words.”

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.”

According to the Richmond Dispatch, “His fame will be grand and enduring as the eternal mountains at whose feet he was cradled; whose long shadows, like those of some majestic cathedral, will consecrate his grave.” An article in the London Times paid tribute to Jackson:

“He was one of the most consummate generals that this century has produced… That mixture of daring and judgment, which is the mark of ‘Heaven-born’ generals, distinguished him beyond any man of his time. Although the young Confederacy has been illustrated by a number of eminent soldiers, yet the applause and devotion of his countrymen, confirmed by the judgment of European nations, have given the first place to Gen. Jackson. The military feats he accomplished moved the minds of the people with astonishment, which it is only given to the highest genius to produce. The blows he struck at the enemy were as terrible and decisive as those of Bonaparte himself.”


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