Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, born in Virginia, is one of my favorite Civil War characters. His parents died when he was young, leaving him and his sister in the care of an uncle. He spent his youth working in his uncle's grist mill and secured an appointment to West Point through his influence.
Jackson had a hard time in school; he was shy and awkward, and due to his backwoods education, started at the bottom of his class, having to compete against guys like George McClellan and other Ivy Leaguers. He improved his grades and started moving past less motivated classmates like George Pickett. He kept a book of motivational maxims he collected, one of his favorites was “You may be whatever you resolve to be”. He graduated in the top third of his class; some said if he had another year he would have reached the top.
After graduation, he taught physics and math at VMI, a military academy in Lexington, Virginia, but wasn't a very good teacher. He would memorize lesson plans and recite them by rote in class; if someone interrupted to ask a question, he would resume at the start and repeat the lesson. Needless to say, he was a less than inspiring teacher. One thing he was good at was teaching artillery, a skill that would serve him well in the future. Things didn't come easy for him. He lacked the basic skills most teachers took for granted, but was serious and worked to overcome his limitations. He also lacked social skills; students made fun of his hypochondria and oddball quirks like holding one arm above the other, believing it to have therapeutic value. At the end of the day, he found comfort in his belief that God would provide everything needed in this world and that everlasting life awaited him in the next if he followed His Commandments. This would also serve him well in the future as a source of strength.
After the start of hostilities, Jackson sided with the South, where his family and friends lived. He refused to fight on the Sabbath and attributed any success he attained to “an ever kind Providence”. One thing that came easy to Jackson was leading men into battle, especially when he thought Providence was on his side and his cause "righteous". In the heat of battle, people said his bright blue eyes lit up and glowed as he stared down an enemy. He was described as an Old Testament warrior in battle and a New Testament evangelist in times of peace.
As he started winning battles, his fame grew. He acquired his nickname at the first battle of Bull Run when his brigade was observed "standing like a stone wall" on Henry Hill while the Confederate lines were collapsing in his front. (His detractors said that instead of standing like a stone wall, he should have advanced and pitched into the battle ;) Afterwards, his men were known as the “Stonewall Brigade” and proved to be one of the most effective fighting units of the War.
Jackson and his men will forever be known for their success in the “Valley Campaign”. His tactics are still...