In All Its Beauty

The great Valley of Virginia was before us in all its beauty. Fields of wheat spread far and wide, interspersed with woodlands, bright in their robes of tender green. Wherever appropriate sites existed, quaint old mills, with turning wheels, were busily grinding the previous year’s harvest; and grove and eminence showed comfortable homesteads. The soft vernal influence shed a languid grace over the scene. The theatre of war in this region was from Staunton to the Potomac, one hundred and twenty miles, with an average width of some twenty-five miles; and the Blue Ridge and Alleghanies bounded it east and west. Drained by the Shenandoah with its numerous affluents, the surface was nowhere flat, but a succession of graceful swells, occasionally rising into abrupt hills. Resting on limestone, the soil was productive, especially of wheat, and the underlying rock furnished abundant metal for the construction of roads. Railway communication was limited to the Virginia Central, which entered the Valley by a tunnel east of Staunton and passed westward through that town; to the Manassas Gap, which traversed the Blue Ridge at the pass of that name and ended at Strasburg; and to the Winchester and Harper’s Ferry, thirty miles long. The first extended to Richmond by Charlottesville and Gordonsville, crossing at the former place the line from Washington and Alexandria to Lynchburg; the second connected Strasburg and Front Royal, in the Valley, with the same line at Manassas Junction; and the last united with the Baltimore and Ohio at Harper’s Ferry. Frequent passes or gaps in the mountains, through which wagon roads had been constructed, afforded easy access from east and west; and pikes were excellent, though unmetaled roads became heavy after rains.

But the glory of the Valley is Massanutten. Rising abruptly from the plain near Harrisonburg, twenty-five miles north of Staunton, this lovely mountain extends fifty miles, and as suddenly ends near Strasburg. Parallel with the Blue Ridge, and of equal height, its sharp peaks have a bolder and more picturesque aspect, while the abruptness of its slopes gives the appearance of greater altitude. Midway of Massanutten, a gap with good road affords communication between Newmarket and Luray. The eastern or Luray valley, much narrower than the one west of Massanutten, is drained by the east branch of the Shenandoah, which is joined at Front Royal, near the northern end of the mountain, by its western affluent, whence the united waters flow north, at the base of the Blue Ridge, to meet the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry.

The inhabitants of this favored region were worthy of their inheritance. The north and south were peopled by scions of old colonial families, and the proud names of the “Old Dominion” abounded. In the central counties of Rockingham and Shenandoah were many descendants of German settlers. These were thrifty, substantial farmers, and, like their kinsmen of Pennsylvania, expressed their opulence in huge barns and fat cattle. The devotion of all to the Southern cause was wonderful. Jackson, a Valley man by reason of his residence at Lexington, south of Staunton, was their hero and idol. The women sent husbands, sons, lovers, to battle as cheerfully as to marriage feasts. No oppression, no destitution could abate their zeal. Upon a march I was accosted by two elderly sisters, who told me they had secreted a large quantity of bacon in a well on their estate, hard by. Federals had been in possession of the country, and, fearing the indiscretion of their slaves, they had done the work at night with their own hands, and now desired to give the meat to their people. Wives and daughters of millers, whose husbands and brothers were in arms, worked the mills night and day to furnish flour to their soldiers. To the last, women would go distances to carry the modicum of food between themselves and starvation to a suffering Confederate. Should the sons of Virginia ever commit dishonorable acts, grim indeed will be their reception on the further shores of Styx. They can expect no recognition from the mothers who bore them.

— Lieutenant-General Richard Taylor, Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1879.

Watchword

Give him my affectionate regards, and 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.

GENERAL ORDERS,
HDQRS. ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,

No. 61.
May 11, 1863.

With deep grief, the commanding general announces to the army the death of Lieutenant General T. J. Jackson, who expired on the 10th instant, at 3.15 p.m. The daring, skill, and energy of this great and good soldier, by the decree of an all-wise Providence, are now lost to us. But while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit still lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and our strength. Let his name be a watchword to his corps, who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in the defense of our beloved country.

R. E. LEE,
General.

Let It Be Told

Great Seal of the Confederate States of America, lithograph by Andrew B. Graham, Washington, 1911.
Great Seal of the Confederate States of America, lithograph by Andrew B. Graham, Washington, 1911.

When the South declared in consequence of all these things they would leave the Union unless something was done to assure their protection and justice within it, the whole air resounded with the taunts of Northern members of Congress and the Northern press, taunting them for their weakness and impotence, and threatening to overwhelm them by their superior power, until State after State fell from them in utter despair. Let it be told how a Confederacy was thus formed, small in point of numbers, consisting of eight millions of whites, and about four millions of slaves, without commerce, without manufactures, and almost without accumulated capital, and without allies — which Confederacy staked its all upon an issue of arms with a union of more than twenty millions of men homogeneous in character and pursuits, and which, abounding in all those things of which the others were so much in want, and although nominally without professed allies was yet substantially assisted by the whole world, which, although professing to be impartial, respected a paper blockade, which of itself was almost fatal to a people without ships of war, and to which they had not quietly submitted heretofore. Nor could they have done so then but for the idea that they were indirectly assisting in a war against slavery. What was to be the effect of all this, foreigners did not then understand, or their course might have been different; nor did the North foresee the terrible nature of the contest in which they were about to embark, or they might have paused before entering into it. But let the whole story be told, that the world and the country may behold the entire consequences of such a strife before they provoke another like it. Let us hear the history of that famous day at Bull Run, when Northern men and Northern women, as if upon some review or gala occasion, followed their army out from Washington to see it overwhelm the poor, despised South, whose sons were recklessly assembled together, as they supposed, to be routed and ruined by the superior forces which they stood up to encounter. Let all mankind hear how bloody was the reception which they met, until they broke and fled in wild despair, even more surprised than frightened, if possible, to find the men in gray capable of such stern resistance. Let the course of these heroic men be followed after they fell into the master-hands of Lee, for more than four years over the soil of Virginia, as they trod in triumph with feet red with the blood of their enemies, and as they hurled back the invading forces, sometimes four, sometimes three, and never less than two to one, reeking with their own blood and red with carnage; now driving McClellan into the James River and clear away from Richmond; now hurling Burnside across the Rappahannock river in bloody repulse from the good town of Fredericksburg. Let it be told how these same men in gray flanked the superior hosts of the North under Hooker, and drove them away in wild and bewildering flight, having lost their confidence in numbers, and believing it impossible to make themselves superior in strength so long as there was a Lee to plan, or a Jackson to lead these brave men in the charge, whose wild cheer always betokened courage and victory so long as they had food and clothing, and maintained heart and hope; or still following them in their bloody march, let us pause with them at Cold Harbor, where they repulsed Grant’s assault and piled so high the Federal dead that, as the rumor runs, the authorities at Washington despaired of success, and resolved to abandon the contest and agree to a division of the Union, a determination which they only revoked upon the receipt of encouraging news from the Southwest. But we must not leave the story there; we must follow it to the last sad results, until the tapestry is quite reversed. We must follow it to its final close, when without food, without clothes, and an unsufficient supply of arms, Lee surrendered his hardy and battered regiments with eight thousand muskets in their hands, whilst the rolls bore twenty-two thousand upon their face. And thus when it was impossible to maintain any further contest upon even plausible terms, the army was surrendered and the cause was lost.

— Hon. R. M. T. Hunter in an address to the Southern Historical Society (as reorganised), at the Capitol, Richmond, 27 October 1874.

That People Whose God Is the Lord

Adalbert John Volck, Prayer in Stonewall Jackson's Camp (from Confederate War Etchings), c. 1861-1863, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Adalbert John Volck, Prayer in Stonewall Jackson’s Camp (from Confederate War Etchings), c. 1861-1863, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Let us work and pray that our people may be that nation whose God is the Lord. It is delightful to see the Congressional Committee report so strongly against Sabbath mails. I trust that you will write to every member of Congress with whom you have any influence, and do all you can to procure the adoption of the report. And please request those with whom you correspond (when expedient) to do the same. I believe that God will bless us with success if Christians but do their duty. For near fifteen years Sabbath mails have been through God’s blessing avoided by me, and I am thankful to say that in no instance has there been occasion for regret, but on the contrary God has made it a source of pure enjoyment to me. Letter of General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson to his pastor Rev. Dr. William Spottswood White.

I have read with great interest the report of the Congressional Committee, recommending the repeal of the law requiring the mails to be carried on the Sabbath, and hope you will feel it a duty, as well as a pleasure, to urge its repeal. I do not see how a nation that thus arrays itself, by such a law against God’s Holy Day, can expect to escape His wrath. The punishment of national sins must be confined to this world, as there is no nationality beyond the grave. […] Now is the time, it appears to me, to effect so desirable an object. I understand that not only our President, but also most of our colonels, and a majority of our congressmen are professing Christians. God has greatly blessed us, and I trust that He will make us ‘that people whose God is the Lord.’ Let us look to God for an illustration in our history, that ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.’

Jackson to Col. Alexander Boteler, member of the Confederate Congress.

“It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled.”

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson's final words,  inscribed upon a marker placed along the Orange Turnpike in 1888 by members of the general's staff.
Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson’s final words, inscribed upon a marker placed along the Orange Turnpike in 1888 by members of the general’s staff.

Scene: Guiney’s Station, Va., May 5, 1863. SATAN, MARS.

Mars. Hooker retreats; the battle ceases here.

In three days’ fighting his great army lost
Seventeen thousand well-drilled veterans.
Lee is victorious, yet he has lost
More than his enemy a thousand-fold.
Jackson has fallen, and he soon must die.
In vict’ry’s loving arms the hero fell,
Admired and honored by his fiercest foes.
The trump of fame sounds forth his glorious name
In every land where valor is esteemed.

Satan. Foe as I am to all the hated race,
Toiling through ages most malignantly,
To work its ruin through eternity,
I must confess he triumphed over me!
From my maliciousness extorted praise.

Mars. His last great battle was a masterpiece
Of strategy and valor well combined.
He fell not by a foeman’s fatal shot.
The men who slew him would have gladly risked
Ten thousand deaths to save their hero’s life.
Behold the wounded warrior on his couch
Serenely waiting the approach of death.
That open window shows his manly face.
Let us retire see holy angels come,
With dutcous love the hero to attend.

SATAN and MARS retire. Enter GABRIEL, UZZIEL, ITHURIEL, RAPHAEL,
ABDIEL, ZOPHIEL, ZEPHON, ARIEL, ZADKIEL, ISRAFIEL, chanting:

“Rest for the toiling hand, rest for the anxious brow,
Rest for the weary, way-sore feet, rest from all labor now;
Rest for the fevered brain, rest for the throbbing eye;
Through these parched lips of thine no more shall pass
the moan or sigh.”

“Go to the grave in all thy glorious prime,
In full activity of zeal and power!
A Christian cannot die before his time,
The Lord’s appointment is the servant’s hour.
Go to the grave; at noon from labor cease;
Best on thy sheaves; thy harvest task is done;
Come from the heat of battle and in peace,
Soldier, go home with thee, the fight is won.”

— Drummond Welburn, The American Epic (1891).

A Dissolution of the Bonds of All Society

I myself see in this war, if the North triumph, a dissolution of the bonds of all society. It is not alone the destruction of our property, but the prelude to anarchy, infidelity, and the ultimate loss of free responsible government on this continent. Thomas Jonathan Jackson in a conversation with his brother-in-law, Rufus Barringer, in the summer of 1862.

I Have Always Desired to Die on Sunday

I see from the number of physicians that you think my condition dangerous, but I thank God, if it is His will, that I am ready to go. […] It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. […] I have always desired to die on Sunday.

— Words of General Thomas Jonathan Jackson on his deathbed (9 – 10 May 1863).

Our God, to Whom Be All the Honor, Praise, and Glory

General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, 1863.
General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, 1863.

Yesterday we fought a great battle and gained a great victory, for which all the glory is due to God alone. Although under a heavy fire for several continuous hours I received only one wound, the breaking of the longest finger of my left hand; but the doctor says the finger may be saved. It was broken about midway between the hand and knuckle, the ball passing on the side next to the forefinger. Had it struck the centre, I should have lost the finger. My horse was wounded, but not killed. Your coat got an ugly wound near the hip, but my servant, who is very handy, has so far repaired it that it doesn’t show very much. My preservation was entirely due, as was the glorious victory, to our God, to whom be all the honor, praise, and glory. The battle was the hardest that I have ever been in, but not near so hot in its fire. General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson in a letter to his wife after the first Battle of Manassas.

Amongst the Galaxy of Confederate Stars One Has Disappeared

Equestrian statue of General Thomas Jonathan Jackson on Monument Avenue, Richmond.

Gen. Jackson

Words have no power to express the emotion which the death of Jackson has aroused in the public mind. The heart of our whole people bleeds over the fallen hero, whom they loved so well because he so loved their cause, and vindicated it, not only with vast energy and courage, but with the most complete self-abnegation, simplicity, and simple-mindedness. There was such an entire absence of pretension, vanity, ambition, and self in every shape about Gen. Jackson, that he became a popular idol. The affections of every household in the nation were twined about this great and unselfish warrior, who, two years ago, was an unknown man! He has fallen, and a nation weeps, but not as those without hope. No grave more glorious can a soldier ask than the lap of victory; no future brighter than that which awaits one who united with the soldier the saint!

Nor is the loss to his country, great as it is, irreparable. No doubt the puerile Yankees will be encouraged to believe that, now that Jackson is dead, the subjugation of the South is certain. Let them cross the Rappahannock again, and the delusion will be dispelled. The veterans of Jackson ’s corps, the men whom he led and loved, will show at the first opportunity whether or not they are capable of avenging his death. True it is that amongst the galaxy of Confederate stars one has disappeared, but others are left in equal magnitude and brilliancy, and, as the darkness deepens, still others will be revealed, of which we now know as little as we did two years ago of the one we have lost. At the head of our armies is still the great Commander-in-Chief, whose masterly combinations Jackson assisted to execute with unsurpassed vigor and success. Around him are clustered a group of such men as Longstreet, Stuart, Hill, and others, and no doubt, not a few in the ranks, (for this war has been the best kind of military school,) who will yet achieve a renown fully equal to that of the departed hero. Most of Napoleon’s great Marshals were unknown men, and arose from the ranks, and why should not the Southern army, whose privates are in such large measure men of education as well as spirit, equal and even surpass in these respects the armies of France. Only let us cease to idolize man, and put our trust in that Providence which Jackson so constantly and reverently acknowledged as the hope and sheet anchor of our cause.

— From the Richmond Dispatch, Tuesday, 12 May 1863, p. 1.

God & Our Country

Confederate Second National pattern battle flag carried by the Consolidated 6th & 7th Arkansas Infantry Regiment.

This Second National pattern flag, carried during the War of Northern Aggression by the Consolidated 6th & 7th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, is currently housed in the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas.  In official service from May 26, 1863 to March 4, 1865, the pattern became known as the “Stainless Banner” due to its pure white field.  By President Jefferson Davis’ order, one of its first uses was to drape the coffin of General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson who died on May 10, 1863 from a case of pneumonia contracted during treatment of injuries received at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2.

Continue reading “God & Our Country”