Stonewall Jackson – A Flawed but Brilliant Commander
History says Stonewall Jackson is one of the greatest tactical commanders ever to take the battlefield. Every battle he fought was done brilliantly. The opposition never knew what hit them. Born Thomas Jonathan Jackson, his determination to hold his ground at the First Battle of Bull Run earned him his nickname. One of Jackson’s troops stood watching and said, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.” From that moment on, Jackson became known as “Stonewall.”
Since Jackson was known as a brave and fearless leader, probably no one would guess that he had his fair share of flaws. After all, it is not every day that a fearless general is clumsy riding a horse. Jackson was neither elegant, nor impressive when seen riding on the battlefield. His knees were too high, and his feet were turned at the wrong angles. Anyone watching Jackson riding up to the battlefield would see him as a bumbling fool, not a brave general preparing for battle.
Brave on the battlefield, but a stickler for orders. Jackson was known to take every step to follow an order right down to the letter, even if circumstances were changing and the order should be abandoned. During his training at the Virginia Military Institute, Jackson refused to deliver a report a single minute earlier than required. He, instead, paced outside the office during a hailstorm, waiting to deliver the report on time. He once wore his heavy military great coat through the battles of summer because no one told him he was allowed to take it off.
Jackson had a great ability to be secretive, meaning his superiors did not have to send the battle plans step by step. All Jackson would need to plan for battle is a broad idea of the end goal. He knew how to read between the lines, and he knew how to achieve the end goal. However, this left most of Jackson’s soldiers in deep suspense. Many of Jackson’s men felt distrust and even resentment towards him because he would not share in the battle plans, and it did not become evident until almost the last minute how the battle would be fought.
A fanatical Presbyterian and a deacon of the Church, Jackson had an unquestioned faith in God. He had a strong belief in the scriptures, and he feared Divine judgment. Sunday was very sacred to Jackson, and he refrained from both work and secular conversation. He often preferred good Presbyterian to better qualified officers. To even get Jackson on the battlefield on Sunday took a lot of soul searching and great personal debate.
Despite being a strong religious man who was brave on the battlefield, Jackson was prone to illness and often had a delicate constitution. He had notable hearing loss and became easily exhausted. Jackson was best known for sleeping long hours. He was accidentally shot at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and he lost an arm due to amputation. Eight days later Jackson died from pneumonia complications. His death was considered to be one of the biggest setbacks to the Confederacy.