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States: General History and Description >> Civil War Period, 1861-1865 >> Biography, A-Z
Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in Clarksburg, Virginia (now in West Virginia), on January 21, 1824. Orphaned at an early age, his education was sketchy at best, but he still garnered an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in 1842. Since he had far less formal schooling than most of his classmates, Jackson had to work much harder to maintain his grades. His determination paid off, however, as he graduated in the upper third of his class on June 30, 1846.
Commissioned a Lieutenant in the artillery, Jackson first saw battle during the Mexican War, during which time he first met Robert E. Lee. Serving gallantly at Verzruz, Contreras and Chapultepec, he rose to the rank of Major within a year of his graduation. After the war, he served at various forts, and participated in the campaign against the Seminole in Florida (1850).
In 1851, Jackson resigned from the Army and joined the faculty of the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, where he remained for the next ten years. Never a popular teacher, Jackson was often mocked by cadets because of his stern and religious bearing. He married Eleanor Junkin in 1853, but she died barely a year later, soon after giving birth to a stillborn son. On July 16, 1857, he married Mary Anna Morrison, with whom he had two daughters, only one of which lived into adulthood.
Although Jackson did not favor dissolution of the Union, he followed his home state when it seceeded. Soon after, he was commissioned Colonel in the Virginia forces and sent to Harpers Ferry, where he actively organized new recruits and helped solidify the Confederates' position. He was subsequently made Commander of the 1st Brigade, Army of the Shenandoah, in May of 1861; promoted to Brigadier General in the Confederate Army on June 17; and became Commander of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac, on July 20, 1861.
On July 21, 1861, during the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), Jackson's brigade formed a solid battle line and held its ground despite being well outnumbered. When Confederate General Barnard E. Bee saw Jackson's brigade bravely facing enemy fire, he shouted to his own men "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer." From that time on Jackson was known as "Stonewall," and his brigade was formally known as the "Stonewalls."
Promoted to Major General on October 7, 1861, Jackson was made Commander of the Valley District, Department of Northern Virginia, on November 4, 1861. In 1862, his skillful manuevering and battle tactics allowed his 17,000 men to defeat a Union force of some 60,000 men. He subsequently served as Commander of the 2nd Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, and was promoted to Lieutenant General on October 10, 1862. In addition to his success in the Shenandoah Valley, Jackson also earned distinction during the Seven Days' Battles around Richmond (June 25-July 1, 1862), at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 30, 1862), in the capture of Harpers Ferry (September 15, 1862), and at the battles of Antietam (September 17, 1862) and (Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862).
On May 2, 1863, during the Battle of
Chancellorsville, Jackson led his brigade against Union
General Joseph Hooker's flank. By dusk his men had
Hooker's troops in full disordered retreat and Jackson
was organizing the pursuit when he was accidentally shot
by one of his men -- darkness and gunpowder smoke had
obscured the field of fire and Jackson's men did not
realize he was in front of them. Battlefield doctors
amputated his left arm in an attempt to save his life,
but Jackson died of pnemounia eight days later (May 10).
He was subsequently buried at Lexington.
This page was last updated on January 21, 2017.