The most formidable general of the first half of the war between the Blue and Gray was Thomas Jonathan Jackson. His career at Virginia Military Institute as an artillery instructor was lackluster at best. Yet as a hero of the Mexican War, he had befriended Gen. Robert E. Lee.
After his mother died, an uncle raised Jackson from age 6. His first year at West Point, he finished last in his class. Each year thereafter, though, he rose rapidly. His motto was, "You can be whatever you resolve to be."
When Virginia seceded in 1861 because President Lincoln invaded the cotton states, Jackson and thousands of others offered their allegiance to the South and their beloved Virginia. Southerners considered secession the final option, but a legal one.
In the first battle of the war on Virginia's soil at Manassas, Jackson displayed true grit" as he rode his mount to Henry Hill with his fellow Virginians around him. Gen. Bernard Bee pointed to Jackson and said, "There stands Jackson like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians, boys."
Bee was dead at the battle's end, but "Stonewall" Jackson went on to many successes before his demise May 10, 1863, as the right hand of Lee.
As with Lee, Jackson was not a proponent of slavery. He once bought the freedom of a young slave named Alfred and allowed him to pay him back with a job at VMI. Stonewall donated money to start up several black churches and even taught Sunday school to their children. In his army alone, there were several thousand black support troops. Many served as soldiers and scouts.
The military victories achieved by Lee and Jackson will always be a part of our history. ... Jackson's birthday is Jan. 21. Lee's is Jan. 19. These two men of character can embellish anyone's life who studies their records of honesty and integrity.
Dr. Robert L. Gordon, North Augusta, S.C.
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