Stonewall Jackson earned his name at Stone Bridge, about four miles north of Manassas Junction. General Barnard Bee’s troops had been under heavy fire all day. At about 2 o’clock, his force had dwindled to almost nothing. Bee rode up and down the line encouraging the men to give it their all. Finally, when it looked as if everything was lost, he approached General Thomas Jackson and said, “General, they are beating us back.”
Jackson replied, “Sir, we will give them the bayonet.” General Bee rallied his troops and urged his men on, saying, “There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall.” Moments later, General Bee got cut down, leading his men into battle.
History remembers General Thomas Jackson as “Stonewall” Jackson.
His genius on the battlefield was offset by the quirkiness of his character. He often walked around with one arm in the air, reportedly to balance the blood in his body. For some reason, he believed one side of his body was heavier than the other.
He acted the same way on horseback, often riding with one arm raised in the air.
He was a brilliant tactician on the battlefield, second only to Robert E. Lee. Jackson tied up Federal troops in the Shenandoah Valley for nearly a year, fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run, forced the surrender of 12,000 Union soldiers at Harper’s Ferry, and marched to Antietam the next day to join in the battle there.
His wife described him as a quiet, solitary, closed-mouth individual. “He was a character apart; a man of mystery; silent and uncommunicative.” He asked no advice, “forming his own plans, which those nearest to him could not penetrate and hardly dared to conjecture, and which were disclosed only to his military family only when he gave his orders for the march and battle.”
D. H. Hill said Stonewall “Jackson’s genius never shone out when under the command of another.” That was true. Jackson let Lee down twice during the Seven Days Battles. First, when he arrived a day late for the battle of Mechanicsville (or Beaver Dam Creek) and again at Glendale (or Frayser’s Farm) when he sat the fight out.
What everyone did agree on was that Jackson was quick. Super quick. The Chicago Daily Tribune suggested that “with his swift movements from field to field, Stonewall Jackson’s sobriquet should be changed to Stonewall ‘Portable Fence’ Jackson.”