Stonewall Jackson Essay - Critical Essays

James I. Robertson Jr.

Stonewall Jackson

Thomas J. Jackson’s 1862 Valley campaign, his stand with the “Stonewall Brigade” at First Manassas, and his daring flanking marches at Second Manassas and Chancellorsville ensure his fame as one of the greatest military figures in American history. James I. Robertson, Jr.’s STONEWALL JACKSON: THE MAN, THE SOLDIER, THE LEGEND attempts to look at the man more than the warrior, but the reader will find the two inseparable.

Robertson is determined to revise the “Tom Fool” Jackson legend—the eccentric genius who sucked on lemons and held one arm in the arm, the exacting, secretive commander who drove his “foot cavalry” to the limits of human endurance, and the religious fanatic who would undertake no activity on the Sabbath except smite Yankee infidels. Robertson’s success in this is mixed. Many historians will have to abandon tales that most please student audiences, some will have new stories in their place. In truth, Jackson was an oddity.

Jackson was a weak youth, orphaned at an early age, and always slow in thought and speech. Everything he achieved he did through massing every effort on the task, memorizing exactly what had to be said and done. This explains many of his mannerism and much in his method of command. By experimentation he achieved reasonable health by exercise and a special diet (buttermilk, bread, and fruit). He came to believe in a Presbyterian deity who demanded military-style obedience of His servants but rewarded them with victory in battle. Jackson’s legendary courage, his fighting spirit, and the demands he put on himself and his men came ultimately from his religious beliefs, reinforced by his training at West Point, his service in the Mexican War, and the trials of his personal life.

Sources for Further Study

American History. XXXII, August, 1997, p. 10.

Atlanta Journal Constitution. September 28, 1997, p. M2.

Civil War Times Illustrated. XXXVI, June, 1997, p. 12.

Kirkus Reviews. LXV, January 1, 1997, p. 48.

Library Journal. CXXII, February 15, 1997, p. 142.

The New York Times Book Review. CII, March 16, 1997, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLIV, February 3, 1997, p. 86.