I Remember Stonewall

The day they drove old Dixie down. Removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue on Richmond’s Monument Ave. Photo credit: Associated Press

By Peter Galuszka

Confederate statues are finally coming down in Richmond and other Virginia cities, including one of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. There have been outcries by sentimental mythologists and apologists on this blog and elsewhere about how “mob rule” is forcing issues and so on.

Since some bloggers here have come up with their version of positive biographies about some of the figures, notably Matthew Fontaine Maury, an early oceanographer and Confederate Naval officer, I thought I’d weigh in on my own personal experience with Stonewall.

Jackson was born on Jan. 24 1824 in what was then Clarksburg, Va., and grew up about 20 miles south in Jackson’s Mill near Weston Va. Then in 1863, irritated about Richmond’s racial policies and economic favoritism, residents seceded and created West Virginia which supported the North in the Civil War.

By coincidence, I moved to the Clarksburg area in 1962 from the D.C. area when I was nine years old and resided there until 1969.

It wasn’t exactly the “Southern” experience others seem to recall. For one thing, the homeland of “Stonewall” did not have many slaves or African-Americans. The area of Harrison County, however, held fairly mixed views about slavery and allegiance. While Jackson, a West Point graduate went with the South, his sister was loyal to the North. (For more details about Jackson’s life, read James L. Robertson Jr.’s excellent 1997 biography.)

As a boy in the area, I remember the dark statue of Jackson on a horse facing north in the main town square of Clarksburg, But I don’t recall Confederate flags everywhere. We did assume roles of North and South when we played war. Since it was the War’s Centennial, we did trade little cards that depicted the war. These were like baseball cards and were distinctive because they had very realistic depictions of soldiers from both sides being eviscerated in very bloody ways by cannon fire. I was surprised our parents didn’t confiscate them.

There were few North-South social conflicts there. As noted, there were few African-Americans, although our family veterinarian was Black.

The social tensions there were white-on-white and religion against religion. One group were descendants of mostly Scots-Irish immigrants who took the land from Native Americans. This was not a plantation society that dominated Virginia and placed most power in the hands of a small elite of white oligarchs. These people were fiercely independent and outdoor-oriented.

The second group was the Italians. Immigrants were lured to Clarksburg in the mid-19th century to work as artisans in local glass factories since the ground was rich in silica and other raw materials. Coal came in and drew more immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Baltimore & Ohio railroad was another growth engine.

There were plenty of conflicts between the Protestant mountaineers suspicious of Catholics and the Italians. There was a Ku Klux Klan but they went after the “Papists.” It resulted in two distinct societies. I attended both public and parochial schools. Eventually Clarksburg grew an Italian neighborhood that became a tourist draw for restaurants and festivals.

It is curious to me that this reflects a very different environment in which Jackson grew up although most of the changes came after his death of combat wounds in 1863 at Guinea, Va. It really has little to do with the usual image of “The South.”

By the time we moved to Jackson’s homeland, it was in serious economic decline. Coal was played out even though in 1968 there was a horrific mine blast in Farmington in the next county that killed scores of miners. We lived with the filth and noise of largely unregulated strip mines.

In any event, the region was fairly quiet regarding civil unrest until 1996. That year, seven members associated with the far-right, white supremacist “Mountaineer Militia” were arrested for plotting to blow up the new, FBI fingerprint center that employed 1,500 near Clarksburg.

In 1999, while still at BusinessWeek, I covered a Ku Klux Klan rally that made the statue of Stonewall in Clarksburg  a dandy prop.

Meanwhile, I note articles that some of Jackson’s descendants wanted his statute taken down in Richmond. So much for teary-eyed Moonlight and Magnolia.

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22 responses to “I Remember Stonewall

  1. Good reminiscing! Just FYI – Jackson dieed in Guinea, VA near Thornburg where all the pigs got loose on I-95.

    In this the kind of card you’re talking of? I never had any of these, did not know they even existed:

    • I remember those cards. I had two sets of plastic Civil War soldiers from the Centennial. One was flat and stood on narrow bases. But then I got the 3 dimensional ones, which were a lot more realistic. Funny, in my battles, the North won every one. What do you expect from a kid from Minnesota?

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Mr. Larry your post card depicts the charge of the 5th US Cavalry at the conclusion of the Battle of Gaines Mill. Nearly every Federal was shot or unhorsed in one volley of musketry. U.S. General Philip St. George Cooke was attempting a Ney/Murat style Napoleonic cavalry charge. He was JEB Stuart’s father in law. It took 5 months to remount and recruit this regiment back to service.

      • James what do you know of Brandy Station?

        Also – Battle of Kelly’s Ford… are you familiar with Cow Ford?

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          Mr. Larry I can give you a tour of both battlefields. They are very near each other. The cavalry engagements were epic and grand. Many instances of valor and chivalry from both sides. Very costly battles as well. In the fall of 1863 there was a 2nd and 3rd Battle of Brandy Station that were significant fights and lost between the pages of Gettysburg and the Wilderness.

  2. Americans are uniquely romantic. Hell, on any given summer day, in any small backwater port, on any navigable river, there is likely to be a celebration of bloodthirsty thieves, rapists and murders, who more times than not simply left their victims to a slow agonizing death…

    Our heroes, ARRGH!

    Jean Lafitte was, of course, certainly a noble exception.

  3. Civil War statues are not coming down in Richmond. Confederate statues are coming down. Had Richmond chosen to present an even-handed account of both North and South I’d guess all the statues would have stayed in place. By glorifying the Confederacy instead of becoming a true Civil War history city Richmond sealed its own fate.

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Part of Stonewall Jackson’s brilliant success was his absolute resolve to secrecy. He would not reveal any strategic or tactical plans to subordinate officers. Not even a close knit staff had the foggiest idea of idea of a destination during a march. Outside of Robert E. Lee and maybe Jackson’s Teddy Bear he trusted no one with plans of operation. Jackson’s formula served him well and the men wrote a well known song about it:
    Come, stack arms, men. Pile on the rails,
    Stir up the campfire bright;
    No matter if the canteen fails,
    We’ll make a roaring night.
    Here Shenandoah brawls along,
    There burly Blue Ridge echoes strong
    To swell the brigade’s rousing song
    Of “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”
    We see him now, the old slouched hat
    Cocked o’er his eye askew,
    The shrewd, dry smile, the speech so pat,
    So calm, so blunt, so true.
    That “Blue-Light Elder” knows ’em well
    Says he, “That’s Banks; he’s fond of shell
    Lord save his soul! We’ll give him”…well,
    That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”
    Silence! Ground arms! Kneel all! Caps off!
    Old Blue Light’s going to pray;
    Strangle the fool that dares to scoff;
    Attention; it’s his way!
    Appealing from his native sod,
    Hear us, Hear us Almighty God–
    “Lay bare thine arm; stretch forth thy rod;
    That’s “Stonewall’s way.”
    He’s in the saddle now! Fall in!
    Steady, the whole brigade!
    Hill’s at the ford, cut off! We’ll win
    His way out, ball and blade.
    What matter if our shoes are worn?
    What matter if our feet are torn?
    “Quick step–we’re with him ere the dawn!”
    That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”
    The sun’s bright glances rout the mists
    Of morning, and, by George!
    There’s Longstreet struggling in the lists,
    Hemmed in an ugly gorge–
    Pope and his Yankees whipped before
    “Bayonets and grape!” hear Stonewall roar,
    “Charge, Stuart! Pay off Ashby’s score
    In Stonewall Jackson’s way.”
    Ah, maiden! wait and watch and yearn
    For news of Stonewall’s band!
    Ah, widow! read with eyes that burn
    That ring upon thy hand!
    Ah, wife! sew on, Oh hope and pray
    Thy life shall not be all forlorn
    The foe had better ne’er been born,
    That gets in Stonewall’s way.

    • The aforementioned direct ancestor in the 30th VA Sharpshooters had cousins with the same surname in the 4th VA. I won’t deny a touch of pride about that.

      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        One thing for sure about the Stonewall Brigade. If you were in this unit you were going to get shot. 6,000 muster rolls issued. 219 surrendered at Appomattox. The brigade was virtually taken off the map at Spotsylvania in the Mule Shoe fight.

        • and a fair amount of “friendly fire” casualties at Bloody Angle, Chancellor and Wilderness where Jackson got shot.

          I walk Bloody Angle several times a week – and while walking is the point – gliding past the geography and the trenches and cannon and emplacements is mindful.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Unusually heavy fog, damp powder, and the removal of the artillery from the Mule Shoe doomed Allegheny Johnson’s division. The position was laid out in the middle of the night and the officers did not have a chance to correct the creation of a weak salient. Hancock’s attack in columns of infantry produced a massive break thru that should have been exploited immediately. Instead Hancock dithered and Lee counterattacked. According to the book “Four Valiant Years” my 3rd great grandfather Private Marcus Mills grabbed the reigns of Traveler and turned Lee to the rear. He was about to personally lead the counterattack to reclaim the Mule Shoe.

  5. Larry,
    I have edited and put in Guinea, Va. Those are the cards I remember. I haven’t seen them for years but they might be valuable collectors items.

    Ripper, you are right. I changed Civil War to Confederate.

  6. TMT,
    We should into those cards. Could make a lot of money!

  7. Haner. Maybe you could walk your readers through who these units are. Or is that a military secret known only to the Good Ole Boys?

  8. Robertson’s biography of Jackson is indeed excellent. But, if you decide to read it, be prepared for detail. It seemed as if Robertson describes every mile of the movement of Jackson’s army from the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond to reinforce Lee for the Seven Days Battle.

    Upon reading this biography, I was struck anew by the danger of military and political leaders assuming that God is on their side. Jackson truly believed that God was on the side of the Confederacy and, thus, battles became almost holy crusades for him. Perhaps it is good that he did not live to see the end of the war and realize that he and God were on opposite sides.

  9. Dick you are absolutely right. I was struck by his strict religious discipline, his adherence to water based health therapies, that he violated Virginia law by teaching African-American kids and what else?

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Jackson’s first wife and second wife were the daughters of preachers. The best place to get to know Old Blue Light is the Stonewall Jackson Headquarters Museum in Winchester. The guide is one of the best interpreters that I have ever heard before. Jackson owned very few possessions. This is where most of his belongings can be found. I was fascinated by the Jackson Prayer Table which was carried into every battle. Mary Tyler Moore’s grandfather owned the place and offered it to Jackson for use. One of those off the trail but so glad you found historical gems.

      • Anna Jackson, daughter of the preacher Morrison you mention, used to spend her Christmases with her nephew’s, my grandfather’s, family in Charlottesville. I’ve heard my father’s stories of her reminiscences that all underscore the General’s extraordinary and, perhaps, blind faith in the rightness, indeed righteousness, of his cause. He was uncritically loyal to his Virginia, his state, his home, as a matter of duty, in a way we can hardly relate to.

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