Stonewall Jackson: Getting It Right

by Kerry Dougherty

Newspapers aren’t what they once were. That’s especially true for the lean local papers that serve our area.

They’ve laid off staff, farmed out editing and rely heavily on wire copy from the national newspapers.

Yes, there is a knot of earnest young reporters trying desperately to cover the region, but they don’t have the numbers for comprehensive coverage and they’re all working without a net. Shoot, newspaper staff no longer have a building since the old Pilot offices on Brambleton Avenue were sold and The Daily Press headquarters in Newport News was shutdown last month.

There was a time when any story with even the most tenuous Virginia connection was covered aggressively by local staff writers. After all, they knew the commonwealth. Those big-shot, out-of-town scribes who parachuted in for the occasional national story didn’t.

Lately, however, even Navy stories are coming from the Associated Press and coverage of the alleged racial strife at the Virginia Military Institute are brought to readers courtesy of The New York Times.


For example, yesterday’s breaking news story: “Head of Virginia Military Institute Resigns Amid Review Of Systemic Racism on Campus,” ran in both The Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot on Page 2. This simple eight-paragraph piece illustrates why a lack of local coverage is regrettable.

The writer of the story, New York Times reporter Dave Philipps, noted that Gen. Stonewall Jackson taught at VMI.

AFTER the Civil War.

Um, no.

That would have been impossible, as several irate readers of the newspapers who listen to my WNIS radio show were quick to point out first thing Tuesday morning, before I’d even seen the papers.

Virtually every Virginian knows that Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville. A quick internet search reminded me that he was hit by friendly fire on the night of May 2, 1863, shot three times. One of the bullets blew off most of his left arm, which had to be amputated the next day.

Jackson died of pneumonia eight days later. This is not a little-known fact.

Jackson graduated from West Point, fought in the Mexican War and returned to Virginia to teach at VMI in 1851. He stayed in Lexington for 10 years, leaving the school in 1861 to join the Confederate Army. He expected to return to VMI after the war ended.

Writing that Jackson became an instructor at VMI after the Civil War was a sloppy mistake. The sort of error that the once-great The New York Times used to guard against with its army of fact-checking copy editors. Seems even that paper is cutting back.

It’s the sort of glaring factual blooper that never would have found its way into our local papers when reporters were still in charge of local stories and crusty, exacting editors roamed the newsrooms.

Those days are gone. We’re all the poorer for it.

This column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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12 responses to “Stonewall Jackson: Getting It Right

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    David Philipps. National correspondent from the New York Times and Pulitzer Prize winner can’t even get basic history facts right. It is difficult to take anything he says very seriously. If he had been in my history class as an 11th grader he would have known all of this about Jackson plus more.

  2. More evidence that many of the stupidest people in the world are journalists. It’s quite difficult to teach after one dies.

    Maybe the Post will offer Philipps a job writing editorials He’d fit in with the buffoons who work there. They’re generally so dumb that they make Joe Biden seem like he didn’t flunk 3rd grade!

  3. Back when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor ….

  4. More sad evidence of the lack of support for good journalism and the losses folks mostly don’t even realize are hurting us. We need local journalism!

  5. And what will the snowflakes do when they find out R. E. Lee served briefly as Sup of West Point? Just imagine the febrile hysteria. And rumor has it that in the Corps of Engineers, he played a major role in clearing Mississippi River channels around St. Louis. Shall we return that to nature?

  6. I’m glad this story is finally getting out. Very few people know anything about General Jackson’s post-Civil War activities. Fewer still are aware of Franklin Roosevelt’s post-WWII stint as a guest lecturer at Columbia University…

    • Or Patton’s leadership of the ACLU….

    • Yes, and, as to filling those great gaps in US history, namely,

      1/General Stonewall Jackson’s many years as a guerilla war fighter in the Old South after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox,

      2/ FDR’s long post WWII tenure as guest lecturer at Columbia University on the merits of Marxists, Leninist, and Maoists theory and practice, and

      3/ General George Patton’s founding and leaderhip of the ALCU and the Southern Poverty Law Center after WWII,

      I am confident that the Pulitzer Prize Board 2019-2020, honoring excellence in journalism, will provide all the incentives necessary for today’s post modernists progressive journalists to fill these yawning gaps in American history.

      Perhaps too, Peter G. can do his share righting these historic wrongs in the public record right here on Bacon’s Rebellion and in his radio interviews on UVA radio, and now too Radio VMI.

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