Although this painting, by Don Troiani Historical Artist, actually depicts the Battle of First Manassas (a.k.a. First Bull Run), today marks a sad anniversary: the death of Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a great general and a great man, following his epic victory at Chancellorsville. As history.com puts it,
“The Battle of Chancellorsville was Lee’s and Jackson’s shining moment. Despite the fact that they faced an army twice the size of theirs, Lee daringly split his force and sent Jackson around the Union flank—a move that resulted in perhaps the Army of the Potomac’s most stunning defeat of the war. When nightfall halted the attack, Jackson rode forward to reconnoiter the territory for another assault. But as he and his aides rode back to the lines, a group of Rebels opened fire. Jackson was hit three times, and a Southern bullet shattered his left arm, which had to be amputated the next day. Soon, pneumonia set in, and Jackson began to fade. He died, as he had wished, on the Sabbath, May 10, 1863, with these last words: ‘Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.’”
Stonewall Jackson was a man of great faith, as well as great skill in strategy and tactics, and great courage in battle. He has been compared to an Old Testament Patriarch, and a force of nature! Well did General Lee say, when he received word of Jackson’s friendly-fire injury, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.”
Ironically, not only was he shot accidentally by his own men — who loved him dearly — but he did not die of that wound, directly, or even the amputation of his arm; he died of pneumonia, as a result of the poor sanitation in hospitals of the time, combined with his enforced immobility due to his injury. And, it has been argued, with him died the hopes of the Confederacy (*). A sad ending for a very fine gentleman, and general.
* General Jackson was never able to put into effect his plans for the next day, and the Army of Northern Virginia did not pursue its advantage. If he had been able to follow through, it is entirely possible that he might have wrapped up the entire Union Army and chased them all the way back to Washington, DC, forcing a negotiated settlement to the War, which would surely have entailed Southern independence. A fruitless exercise in “if only,” perhaps, but nonetheless…!