by NJ Rebel

Stonewall's Requiem

One-hundred-forty-years ago this May 10, at fifteen minutes past the hour of three o'clock p.m., one of the best known generals of the American Civil War passed beyond the veil. Already a legend in his own time, he has since become one of the most known and recognized generals of the entire Civil War period. Who was he? None other than Lt. General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, Provisional Army of the Confederate States, known world o'er simply as "Stonewall".

Wounded in a friendly fire incident on the misty, foggy, smoky evening of May 2, 1863 by members of the Eighteenth North Carolina Volunteer Infantry in the brigade commanded by Brig. General James Lane, Stonewall needed the amputation of his left arm, as it was so badly shattered by the .69 calibre buck and ball rounds which struck him. The same fire killed one of his aides and seriously wounded a few others. Adding to the confusion, the racket caused a Union artillery position to open fire down the old Orange Turnpike, known today as Virginia State Route 3.

Following the surgery to remove his shattered left arm, Stonewall was moved by army ambulance to Guinea's Station where there was the Thomas Chandler plantation alongside one of the few railway lines still successfully operating in that part of Virginia under Confederate control. He was placed in a room in a small plantation office building to recuperate further from the surgery until he was strong enough to move to Richmond. Trouble was, while the wounds in the right hand and the site of the amputation of the left arm were healing, he was slowly and inexorably dying from a case of pneumonia. The disease had started before the Battle of Chancellorsville. At the time he was wounded, Stonewall had two shirts on under his uniform frock coat and vest.

News of the death of their beloved Stonewall caused a wave of shock and despair like no other throughout the entire Southern Confederacy and indeed, even made headlines in the North and around the world. Stonewall's body was taken to Richmond where it lay in state for two days in the Confederate Capitol (formerly the Virginia State House before the war and again today) before being put on a train and then a packet boat to make the final journey to Lexington for burial. It was in Lexington, in the beautiful Valley of the Shenandoah, where he once taught as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute and where the only home he ever owned is still to be found today and may be toured by visitors. The actor Stephen Lang, who portrayed Stonewall in the recent movie "Gods and Generals", spent some time at the house to prepare for his role and drew inspiration for his portrayal almost from the very bricks and mortar of the building.

One measure of gauging the impact of the death of Stonewall on the Southern Confederacy might be found in the following song known as Stonewall's Requiem, which may be heard on one of the tapes published by Bobby Horton. We will simply let the words speak for themselves (see below) and then, at the end of the poem, ask a few questions for our readers to attempt to answer. (This writer welcomes reader responses to the questions; let us learn together.)

The muffled drum is beating,
There's a sad and solemn tread.
Our Banner's draped in mourning, 
As it shrouds the illustrious dead.
Proud forms are bent with sorrow
And all Southern hearts are sore,
The Hero now is sleeping, 
Noble Stonewall is no more.
'Mid the rattling of the muskets
And the cannon's thund'rous roar,
He stain'd the field of glory
With his brave life's precious gore.
And tho' our flag waved proudly,
We were victors ere sunset,
The gallant deeds of Chancellorsville,
Will mingle with regret.

They've borne him to an honor'd grave
The Laurel crown his brow,
By hallow'd James' silent wave
He's sweetly sleeping now
Virginia to the South is dear
She holds a sacred trust
Our fallen braves from far and near
Are cover'd with her dust
She shrines the spot where now is laid
The bravest of them all
The Martyr of our country's cause
Our Idoliz'd Stonewall.
But tho' his spirit's wafted 
To the happy realms above
His name shall live forever link'd
With reverence and love.

Questions for our readership to answer:

  • 1. What banner is the song referring to as being draped in mourning?