Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Jean Fritz’s Stonewall tells the life story of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, the famous Confederate general. Jackson was born in Chambersburg, Virginia, in 1824. When he was two, his father died, leaving penniless his wife and three small children. When Jackson’s mother died shortly after her second marriage, the boy was sent to live with his bachelor uncle, Cummins Jackson. Cummins treated the serious youth as an adult, and Tom grew to maturity in a tough, male-oriented, slave-owning society. In 1842, with his uncle’s assistance Jackson secured an appointment to the United States military academy at West Point. Fritz explains how Jackson overcame his lack of a formal education through sheer determination and hard work, finishing seventeenth in his class. At West Point, Jackson created his own rigid system of rules by which he would live. He also developed eccentricities, such as sitting and standing ramrod straight in order to aid his digestive system.

Following his graduation in 1846, Jackson was ordered to Texas, where war with Mexico was imminent. During the Mexican War, Lieutenant Jackson was cited for conspicuous gallantry under fire at Chapultepec. He also demonstrated traits that would later become his trademarks: resourcefulness, daring, and coolness under fire. The war was quickly won, however, and according to Fritz, Jackson found the peacetime army tedious. In 1851, he left the army to become a professor of science at...

(The entire section is 536 words.)