A Confederate Chieftain 'Crosses Over The River'

On May 3rd 1863 , General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, having crossed the Rappahanock River, was readying to fight again.

Earlier that morning, Lee ordered one of his two corps commanders, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, to get around and attack U.S. forces, under Gen. Joseph Hooker, from the rear. “Stonewall” immediately put his corps into rapid marching order and by 5 p.m., they had reached their goal and promptly begun their attack on the unsuspecting foe. The U.S. troops withdrew in utter confusion, stampeding into their own reserves.

Above, Jackson and Little Sorrel, painted by David Bendann, Wikimedia Commons

Jackson had successfully paralyzed the enemy but the advance was soon being hampered by thick undergrowth, leading to entanglement of Confederate lines and confusion in the ranks. With daylight beginning to fade, Jackson called a halt, in order to redress his lines.

As this was being done, Jackson, along with 10 of his staff, went forward to try and find the exact location of the U.S. lines, which was within 300 yards of the Confederates. With no picket lines, on either side, having being established, Jackson’s party had gone a little beyond their own lines when a volley rang out, killing or wounding all with the General except for a Capt. Wilbourn and a Mr. Wynn.

It was quickly established that Jackson and his escort had been fired on by their own side! Jackson had been hit a number of times, causing him to fall from his horse. While lying on the ground, Gen. A.P. Hill rode up and, on seeing who the injured was, immediately called for a litter as this was no place for a high ranking officer -- and a wounded one at that! -- as gunfire could erupt from both sides at any time.

Badly bleeding, Jackson was placed upon the litter and as he was being returned to his own lines, enemy fire rained down, hitting one of the carriers, which dumped Jackson to the ground. Before resuming the path to safety, Jackson gave his final battlefield order, to Gen. Pender: “You must hold your ground, Sir! You must hold your ground.” When he arrived at the field hospital, he was immediately attended to by his surgeon, Dr. McGuire who was told that if amputation was needed, then so be it.

The necessary operation was duly carried out. In the days following, Jackson’s overall recovery went well, McGuire in constant attendance but, during the night of May 6, the situation changed for the worst. The General began to complain of nausea and severe pain in his right side. The examination by Dr. McGuire diagnosed the onset of pneumonia. The following morning Mrs. Jackson arrived at her husband’s side, lifting his spirits, and she dutifully nursed him to the end.

By Friday, the pain had vanished but the pneumonia had taken a firm hold, gradually worsening over the next few days, until by Sunday it was obvious that the general was rapidly fading and unlikely to see out the day. McGuire’s early morning examination confirmed this and after this news was shared with the General’s wife, she insisted on telling the General, who, when told, calmly replied: “Very good, very good, it‘s alright.”

Throughout the day, Jackson drifted in and out of consciousness, at various times calling out battlefield orders, to Hill in particular. He soon quietened again and, a short while later, Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson, uttered his final words: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

About 3:20 p.m., Sunday May 10, 1863, “Stonewall” Jackson entered immortality.

Some of the lineage of General Jackson is as follows:

* Father: Jonathan Jackson 1790-1826; Born; Virginia.
* Mother: Julia Beckworth Neale Woodson 1798-1831; Born; Virginia.
* G/Father: Colonel Edward Jackson 1759-1828; Born; Virginia.
* G/Mother: Elizabeth Wetherholt Brake Jackson 1772-1835; Born; Virginia.
* G/G/Father: Jonathan Jackson 1719-1804; Born; County Derry (then Londonderry), Ireland.
* G/G/Mother: Elizabeth Cummins Jackson 1724-1825; Born: London, England.

** Some have indicated that General Jackson's people may have a link to County Armagh, also.

: Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 28; “Lost Victories -- The Military Genius of Stonewall Jackson,” Bevin Alexander; “Chancellorsville, 1863,” Carl Smith; “ Great Battles of The Civil War,” John MacDonald. 

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Tags: American Civil War, Family History, War


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