Chancellorsville to Guinea Station, May 2-10 1863
In the midst of a great battle nothing could halt the momentum of a driving army, nor deprive the soldiers of morale more then becoming privy to the information that your commander has just fallen among the dead and wounded. Thus would have been the night that Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathon (Stonewall) Jackson fell in the Wilderness at Chancellorsville. As he was carried back through the battle line, it was so ordered to keep his identity hidden from all who lay on their arms that night, in hopes of completing the crushing blow that 2nd Army Corps delivered late that afternoon.
Captain James P. Smith and Joseph Morrison, the general's aides had escorted Jackson to the rear. As the litter approached the Confederate battle line, Brigadier General Dorsey Pender rode up to greet the party and inquired as to who had been wounded. It had been the wishes of the fallen commander to keep his identity a secret only answering that a Confederate Officer had fallen. It mattered little to a brigade commander who personally recognized the face having leaped from his horse in a moment of expressed grief.
The battle line of the North Carolinians had been broken and their commander feared the necessity of a fall back. The sound of Pender's voice caused the wounded officer to stir and straightening himself to speak very plainly: "General Pender, you must hold onto the field; you must hold out to the last." It was Stonewall Jackson's last battlefield order.
The litter was taken up again having been supported on each corner. It continued another few hundred yards amidst the whistles, hissing and shrieks of shells and bullets. Stray shots had wounded others in the party and the litter bearing the general dropped throwing the general against the ground. It was hard felt and the officer groaned in agony upon landing. Captain Smith came to his immediate aide, but Jackson had only expressed concern about winning the battle, as the litter had been taken up again.
Doctor Hunter McGuire soon met them. The wound to the general's arm had hemorrhaged of which he quickly arrested the loss of blood with direct pressure of the finger. General Jackson's countenance was one in shock. The hands cold to the touch, the skin clammy, face pale, his lips compressed. He kept a rigid face. He controlled his iron will from all evidence of emotion.
Another surgeon, Doctor Straith came along and administered whiskey and morphine having placed him in an ambulance and started it for the corps field infirmary at Wilderness Tavern. Within the ambulance was one of Jackson's finest staff officers, Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield who sustained a serious wound to the leg and likewise had suffered intensely. At one point in the journey back to the infirmary, the wounded general officer directed the ambulance stopped to assist the pain and suffering of his artillery chief. He did not know that those attending both officers informed them separately who they had been riding with. When Crutchfield was told it was General Jackson he cried out: "Oh my God!" And the ambulance had been ordered to stop for that reason.
The vehicle arrived at the hospital and acquaintances of Doctor McGuire began to recognize his presence and asked who his patient was. The corps commander remained adamant having wished them only to know that it was a Confederate Officer. Once at the hospital, he was put to bed, covered with blankets and another drink of whiskey and water given to him. It was 2:00 am on May 3, 1863, when he was informed that chloroform would be administered and that amputation may be necessary. Jackson placed complete trust in his chief surgeon and gave him permission to do whatever he felt was necessary.
As the general became sedated, the ball which entered his right hand at the palm was removed first, two bones had been broken. The left arm was then amputated two inches below the shoulder. There were two wounds in the arm, the first three inches below the shoulder joint, having divided the main artery and fractured the bone. The second wound entered the forearm below the elbow, having exited the other side just above the wrist. The scrapes upon his face that were caused by whipping branches as his horse bolted upon the noise of the direct fire were dressed with isinglass plaster.
At half past 3 o'clock Major Sandie Pendleton came in to see the general. He had news that Major General A. P. Hill had been wounded, Major General JEB Stuart was then in command of 2nd Army Corps and that the troops were in great disorder. His admittance was first denied, but given the message he carried and the state of affairs, he was permitted to go in. Jackson had tried to concentrate on his staff officers words but managed to speak only that he had the utmost confidence in General Stuart and that he would know best what to do. Captain Smith came in next with a congratulatory note from General Lee having praised his corps commander on his skill and energy, but Jackson simply replied that: "General Lee should give the praise to God."
Later on that morning he began to show the first signs of the pneumonia although it was probably overlooked at such. He complained of pain on his right side having thought he had landed upon a rock or the stump of a sapling when the litter was dropped. The area was examined but no bruises or broken skin was found. A simple application was thus applied in the belief that the pain would soon disappear. Early evening came about and the pain in his right side had disappeared, once again he seemed to be doing well.
Having kept him abreast on the progress of the battle his face would light up and show great enthusiasm when informed how one brigade acted as yet another. His head would give that peculiar shake all his staff was used to having responded to the news with his usual: "Good, good!" When his Stonewall Brigade was mentioned, he said: "The men of that brigade will be proud to say to their children, 'I was one of the Stonewall Brigade.'" He loved his first brigade but never relented on the belief that the name belonged more to them than it had to him.
The following morning, May 4th, a note was received by General Lee instructing the medical corps to move their patient to Guinea Station. The federals were at Ely's Ford and there was great danger in his capture should they cross. The Lieutenant General was not enthusiastic about being moved if it were in his surgeon's opinion it would do injury to him. He expressed no objections to staying in a tent and when his wife finally arrived she could find lodging in one of the neighboring houses. Should the enemy come after all, he feared nothing of being captured, he believed he had always been kind to the federal wounded and because of this he knew the Yankees would treat him with the same common decency. None the less preparations were made to remove him to Guinea Station the following morning.
Captain Jedediah Hotchkiss with a party of engineers was sent in front of the ambulance to clear the road of wood, stone, as well as order the wagons out of the track letting the ambulance pass. The teamsters often times refused to move until informed of the patient's identity.
All along the route people would line the way with offered prayer, and provided what poor delicacies they had. He bore the journey well, and talked freely about the battle, among them, his intent to cut off the federals from United States Ford, taking a defensive position and inviting them to cut their way out. He spoke highly of Brigadier General Robert Rodes and alluded to his magnificent behavior having hoped for his promotion. He spoke also over the battlefield death of Brigadier General Elisha Paxton.
At 8 o'clock that Tuesday Evening, May 5th, he arrived at the Chandler House where he remained until he passed away. Once settled he ate some bread and drank tea and slept soundly throughout the night, considered the next morning to be doing very well. Doctor McGuire felt the stump was healing quite nicely and the general's right had presented him little pain.
About the first hour of the morning on Thursday, while Jackson's surgeon was catching up on his needed sleep, the on duty physician, Dr. Morrison, directed another wet towel be applied to the general's stomach. His servant, Jim, first asked to consult Doctor McGuire, but having known him not to have slept well for the past three nights Morrison refused and insisted he not be disturbed. Instead McGuire awoke at sun up on May 8th, and it was then discovered that Jackson had suffered from pleuro-pneumonia on the right side.
It was in Doctor McGuire's opinion that the disease came on too soon after the application of the wet clothes to believe it had been actually caused by them. The nausea brought on perhaps by inflammation already begun; yet again towards evening he became better and there was hope in his recovery.
Mrs. Jackson arrived with their child and devoted herself to nursing her husband back to health, though he was breathing with great difficulty. More doctors began to arrive from Richmond and the corps commander had taken notice that his condition was becoming a dangerous one. He was resigned however, to place his end into the hands of God and prepared himself for the worst.
On Sunday Morning May 10th, Mrs. Jackson entered her husband's room and informed him that his recovery was very doubtful. He insisted that she was only afraid, and that he would still recover yet, but she broke down in tears across his bed having told him that the doctor's gave him no hope at all. Before the sun set that evening, he would be with his Lord and Savior. Jackson called his chief surgeon in to confirm the news, McGuire assented to the prognosis.
By mid afternoon, Lieutenant General Thomas J. Jackson, had slipped in and out of consciousness, and began barking orders in his delirium: "Order A. P. Hill for action!," "Tell Major Hawks..." having paused, leaving the sentence to trail. Then quietly in a clear voice said: "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees." Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathon (Stonewall) Jackson had stood his post obedient to orders then quietly passed from the earth having been duly relieved.
* Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XIV. Richmond, VA. Circa 1886.
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