Tag Archives: Hunter Maguire

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.”

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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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The Battle of Chancellorsville: Jackson Attacks

May 2, 1863 – Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates attacked the unsuspecting Federal right flank, but Jackson was seriously wounded in the aftermath.

After the previous day’s engagement, Major General Joseph Hooker placed five Federal corps across a three-and-a-quarter-mile front near Chancellorsville:

  • Major General George G. Meade’s V Corps held the left
  • Three corps (Major General Darius N. Couch’s II, Major General Daniel Sickles’s III, and Major General Henry W. Slocum’s XII) held the center
  • Major General Oliver O. Howard’s XI Corps held the right

Hooker placed three corps in the center because he expected the bulk of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to attack there.

Lee held Hooker’s front in place all day with just two divisions under Generals Richard Anderson and Lafayette McLaws. A division of just 10,000 men under Major General Jubal Early held the Confederate defenses at Fredericksburg to the east against a Federal diversionary force. Two Confederate cavalry regiments held Major General George Stoneman’s Federal troopers in check, while Jackson’s corps marched west, around to the Federal right flank.

Movements on May 2 | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

A movement across an enemy’s front was one of the most hazardous maneuvers in warfare because it left his long column highly vulnerable to easy attack. Hooker could have destroyed Lee in his front, Early at Fredericksburg, or Jackson moving toward his right if he attacked any of these three forces with superior numbers. But Hooker, whose cavalry was wrapping up its failed raid instead of providing intelligence, chose not to do so, just as Lee hoped.

Although Jackson tried moving undetected, Sickles’s Federals observed the enemy column’s rear and fired on it through a clearing. After an hour, Sickles reported that the Confederates “hurried past in great confusion, vainly endeavoring to escape our well-directed and destructive fire.” But Sickles did not try to find out where the Confederates were going.

After inspecting his forces and receiving reports of Sickles’s supposed victory, Hooker determined that the Confederates were retreating. Even so, he alerted Howard to stay on guard to the right. Hooker wrote, “We have good reason to suppose that the enemy is moving to our right. Please advance your pickets for purposes of observation as far as may be safe in order to obtain timely information of their approach.” Howard answered, “I am taking measures to resist an attack from the west.”

Hooker then directed the 40,000 Federals outside Fredericksburg under Major General John Sedgwick to push west through Early’s defenders at Fredericksburg and join the main army. Hooker planned to pursue Lee, whom he thought was now in full retreat. Since Hooker’s orders to attack Early were discretionary, Sedgwick chose not to follow them.

Meanwhile, Sickles continued receiving word that Confederates were moving around to the Federal right, and he asked Hooker for permission to attack. Hooker finally complied in early afternoon, but he only permitted a probing action, not a full-scale assault. Sickles’s men moved up from Hazel Grove to hit the rear of the Confederate column near Catharine Furnace; they took several hundred prisoners before the Confederates repelled the attack and resumed their march.

When Sickles received word that the Confederates had been caught marching south, not west, he reported to Hooker, “I think it is a retreat. Sometimes a regiment then a few wagons–then troops then wagons.” Hooker issued orders for the entire Army of the Potomac to be ready to pursue Lee’s army the next day. When pickets from one of Howard’s brigades reported “a queer jumble of sounds” coming from the woods, Howard told them they “must not be scared of a few bushwhackers.” Other reports from XI Corps pickets about possible enemy activity went largely ignored.

Jackson’s march took longer than expected, with the Confederates finally getting into attack position on the Orange Turnpike around 5 p.m. Deer, rabbits, and other wildlife sprang from the woods and rushed through the Federal camps, signaling that an unseen enemy force was approaching. The Confederates charged through the woods along a two-mile front, screaming the “Rebel yell.”

They shocked the unsuspecting XI Corps, sending most of the men fleeing into the one-mile gap that Sickles had caused by moving his men up to attack the marching column. This crumbled Hooker’s right flank. Meanwhile, Lee directed Confederates to fire into the defenses on the Federal front and left to divert Hooker’s attention.

Hooker ordered Sickles’s corps and some cavalry to try stemming the Confederate tide; he then sent in parts of Meade’s corps and Major General John F. Reynolds’s I Corps as well. All these forces joined to defend the area around Wilderness Church and Dowdall’s Tavern before breaking and falling back to join the main army. Sickles fell back to Hazel Grove, where Federal artillery kept the Confederates at bay for now.

Other Federal guns at Fairview Cemetery stopped the Confederate advance for the night. The Federal right had been knocked back two miles into the center and left flanks. Fighting continued sporadically into the night, marking one of the few night battles of the war.

Jackson planned to renew the attack the next day, hoping to cut off Hooker’s potential line of retreat to the Rapidan River. As Jackson and his aides returned from scouting the Federal lines around 9 p.m., Confederate pickets of the 18th North Carolina mistook them for Federal cavalry and fired on them. Several aides were shot from their horses. Jackson was shot through his right hand and twice in his left shoulder, which shattered his arm. Bleeding heavily, he was helped from his horse and laid on a litter, which litter-bearers dropped when a Federal shell exploded nearby, throwing Jackson onto his broken arm.

The men put Jackson back on the litter and brought him to a nearby ambulance, which conveyed him to a field hospital at Wilderness Tavern. Dr. Hunter Maguire, Jackson’s medical director, received Jackson’s permission to amputate his arm, just below the shoulder. Command of his corps initially passed to Major General A.P. Hill, his most senior subordinate, but Hill had been wounded in both legs by shell fragments. So it went to Major General Jeb Stuart, the Confederate cavalry commander.

The Confederate attack on this day involved one of the most daring gambles in military history, resulting in a stunning victory for Lee from which Hooker would never recover. However, the right of Jackson’s attack wave had not advanced enough to link with Lee’s left as hoped, and Jackson’s left had not seized the high ground at Chandler’s Farm. And Jackson no longer commanded the attacking force. All this helped Hooker to strengthen his defenses and save his army from complete destruction.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 358; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 302-03; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 280; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 286-97; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 289; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 5395-5407; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 126-40; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 391-92; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 62-64; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 346-47; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 640-43; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 203-10; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 126-27