On War and Leadership: The Words of Combat Commanders from Frederick the Great to Norman Schwarzkopf

By Owen Connelly | Go to book overview

III
Stonewall Jackson
(1824–1863)

THOMAS JONATHAN JACKSON was referred to by contemporaries as the “Napoleon of our War” (the American Civil War). His Shenandoah Valley Campaign was “extra-Napoleonic,” according to Colonel Claude Crozet, who had served under Napoleon.1 Jackson belongs in this anthology because his unorthodox leadership and repeated victories won him the blind devotion of his troops, and his operations are especially instructive for “small wars” such as those fought since 1945.

Jackson won the sobriquet “Stonewall” at the Battle of Bull Run or First Manassas (1861), where his brigade was first immovable and then led the assault that won the battle. Born in what is now West Virginia to a family of early Scots-Irish settlers, he was reared by a horseman uncle, who failed to see to his education. He made it through the United States Military Academy (West Point) by “all work and no play.” Commissioned in the artillery (1846), he almost immediately saw action in the Mexican War, where his heroism (see eyewitness account below) won him promotion to brevet major. He had once stopped 1,500 Mexican cavalry with two 6 pound cannons: “I opened up on them and with every fire we cut lanes through them… It was splendid.”2 The peacetime army frustrated him, however; he resigned to teach at the Virginia Military Institute.

When the Civil War began in 1861, he volunteered to serve in the Confederate Army to “protect God-fearing people of the South.” To him, the war was a religious crusade.3

He was made a colonel, then a brigadier general, CSA. At Bull Run he became the South’s first great hero, but wanted to follow up the victory: “Let me take my brigade and I’ll be in Washington tonight. We’ll take the White House. We’ll end it all.”4 Men vied to serve under “Old Jack,” despite his harsh discipline and eccentricities (wearing his battered Mexican War uniform, continually eating lemons, refusing to tell his subordinate generals his plans).5 He gained even greater fame for his Shenandoah Valley Campaign (March–June 1862), where he drove his “foot cavalry” relentlessly, day and night, but was always

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