"Shortly after Jackson’s death at Chancellorsville, his topographer Jedediah Hotchkiss said, “nearly all regarded [Jackson’s death] as the beginning of the end.” Just how critical was Jackson to the cause of the Confederacy, both tactically and symbolically?
SCG: With his brilliant, underdog victories, Jackson had given the South a myth of invincibility, a sense that, though it had vastly inferior resources and manpower, it could still find a way to win the war. Jackson and Lee embodied this ideal. Jackson’s brilliant tactical maneuvers at battles like Second Manassas and Chancellorsville seemed ultimate proof that one rebel soldier was worth two Yankees.
The legacy of Stonewall Jackson is rich in battlefield glory, as he was already a distinguished combat veteran of the Mexican War before the start of the Civil War. Yet he is also remembered for his deep Christian spirituality and his tremendous sensitivity toward his sister, wife and young daughter. And, of course, no remembrance of Jackson is complete without mention of the personal eccentricities that helped earn him the nickname ‘Tom Fool’ during his years as a professor of natural science at Virginia Military Institute (VMI). How do you think 21st-century Americans should remember Stonewall Jackson?
SCG: Jackson was a brilliant warrior and a deeply complex man. Before the war he was pro-Union and actively tried to organize a national day of prayer to stop the war. Once the war started, he advocated marching north, burning Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and living off the land so that the North would feel the pain of the war. He was a kind and benevolent, though stern, slaveowner and had a complex relationship with the peculiar institution, as many southerners did. He owned 6 slaves. Three came to him through his marriage. One of those, Hetty, raised his wife Anna from birth and was like a surrogate mother; Hetty’s two rowdy sons drove the family carriage. Jackson himself purchased three slaves: one was a man named Albert who came to him and begged Jackson to buy him so he could then be allowed to buy his freedom; another was 4 year old girl with learning disabilities whom Jackson bought after an elderly woman who could no longer care for the girl begged him to buy her; the last, Amy, was about to be sold off to pay debt and also begged Jackson to buy her to deliver her from “her troubles.”
Regarding the latter, a neighbor of Jackson’s wrote to him, “The cup of cold water you have administered to this poor disciple may avail more in the Master’s eye than all the brilliant deed with which you may glorify your country’s battlefields.” When Albert and Amy got sick, he took them in and cared for them. More significantly, Jackson founded, financed and ran a Sunday school for slaves, in direct contravention of Virginia law, which stipulated that slaves could not be taught to read. Jackson, who was accosted several times in the street by citizens who told him he could not get away with it, taught his students to read the Bible anyway. In 1906, an African American minister at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, Virginia, an African American church, erected a stained glass window memorializing Jackson’s “colored Sabbath school,” where his parents had both learned to read and been converted to Christianity. The window is there to this day."