Immagini della pagina



crowning repetition of his favorite strategy on the enemy's flanks; dealing those sudden and mortal blows which show the nerve of a great commander, and illustrate the precision of genius.

Jackson had that rare and interesting test of genius-the support of a weak physique by the transports of the mind. In his campaigning he was as impervious to the elements, as strong and grim as Charles XII. of Sweden, the iron warrior of his age. At ordinary times he was weak and whimsical as to health; in the life of the professor he was dyspeptic and hypochondriac; but in the excitements of war he was equal to almost incredible hardships, and the animation of his genius alone seems to have made him a type of endurance. He was never absent a day from his command; he often slept without any thing but a blanket between him and the mud or the snow; he ate with almost mechanical indifference as to the quality of his food; vigilant, elastic, always in motion, he excelled all other Confederate commanders in activity and endurance, and made his "foot-cavalry" the wonder of the country. When his brigade was making a forced march to the first Manassas, it bivouacked near the railroad, and the volunteers, unused to such fatigue, murmured at the necessity of setting guards for the night. Jackson pitied their weariness; he replied that he himself, alone, would do the guardduty for that night; and during all its lonely hours, when his men were stretched on the ground, worn out, the commander stalked on his rounds, disdaining the least refreshment of sleep, and wrapped in unknown meditations. At another time, when, in the harshest depths of winter, and through a raging, merciless storm, he marched towards the headwaters of the Potomac; when overwearied men sank by the way to die, or slipped down the precipices overlaid with ice; when the animals of his trains gave out, or stumbled along with bleeding muzzles; when many of his shelterless troops froze dead in the night-time, and their gloomy comrades murmured against their commander; on the toilVOL. II.-47

some and agonizing march through snow-fields and along the yawning precipices full of black, jagged rock and ghostly-frosted shapes, Jackson was yet the silent, grim, inexorable general, the only man in the command who never uttered a word of suffering, although sharing the hardships and privations of the commonest soldier, apparently having no thoughts, no feelings, beyond the victory, to which he toiled on the narrow mountain-path, through the wreck of winter, the ravages of death, and the His constitution defiances of nature.

was naturally weak, but it was braced by an extraordinary will; and his endurance was probably an illustration of that very physical strength which comes from the transports of genius.

He had another remarkable trait, which has often been observed in great military commanders: a cold method, which has sometimes been taken for cruelty, but is really nothing more than the expression of the severe and supreme idea of war. He had no weak sentimentalism, and he was even averse to much of the ostentation and refinement of arms. War for him had a gloomy, terrible meaning; it was the shedding of blood, wounds, death. Once an inferior officer was regretting that some Federal soldiers had been killed in a display of extraordinary courage when they might as readily have been captured. Jackson replied, curtly, "Shoot them all; I don't want them to be brave." He had a gloomy, fierce idea of war, which we are forced to confess was sometimes almost savage in its expressions. It was testified by Governor Letcher, in a distinct and authentic manner, during the life-time of Jackson, that, from the opening of the war, the latter favored the black flag, and thought that no prisoner should be taken in a war invading the homes of the South. The fact is, Jackson had no politics, not a particle of political animosity in the war, and, in this respect, represented many of his countrymen, who only realized that an issue of arms was made, and that they were called upon to defend their homes against invaders, whom

the newspapers represented to be no better than marauders and incendiaries. Jackson had only the idea of the soldier -to fight, and to fight in the most terrible manner. It is a curious circumstance that he once recommended a night-attack to be made by assailants stripped naked and armed with bowieknives, suggesting that the novelty and terror of such an apparition would paralyze the enemy. The writer was disposed to doubt an anecdote so remarkable, until it was confirmed to him by the testimony of a well-known and most truthful gentleman; and he must confess that he perceives in it something characteristic of Jackson's gloom and fierceness. It was not a natural cruelty, a constitutional harshness, but a stern conception of war and its dread realities-the soldier's disposition for quick, decisive, destructive work.

We are aware that we have disturbed some popular notions about the favorite hero of the South. But we are endeavoring to obtain the truth of a somewhat mysterious character; and we have yet to notice the most complete delusion that the common mind has attached to the name of Jackson. It is, that he was a cold figure in a round of duty, operated only by conscientious motives, deaf to praise and destitute of ambition. The writer recollects, on one occasion, writing some encomium on Jackson, in a Richmond journal, and remarking thereupon that Jackson would probably never read it, and undoubtedly cared nothing for public opinion. "You are utterly mistaken," spoke up John M. Daniel, the editor; "he is to-day the most ambitious man within the limits of the Southern Confederacy."

A close inspection of Jackson's life, and especially of his peculiar and masking manners, shows that he really had an enormous, consuming ambition. It was an ambition that resided in the depths of his nature; that ate into and honeycombed his heart; that bounded and fluctuated in every pulse of his being. He was almost fierce in the confession of this secret feeling, in the beginning of his military career. When

once asked if he had felt no trepidation when he made most extraordinary exposures of his person in some of the famous battles of the Mexican War, he replied that the only anxiety of which he was conscious in any of these engagements was a fear lest he should not meet danger enough to make his conduct under it as conspicuous as he desired; and as the peril grew greater, he rejoiced in it as his opportunity for distinction. He courted the greatest amount of danger for the greatest amount of glory; and this sentiment of the true soldier survived to his last moments.

But it is to be observed that Jackson's ambition was of a true, lofty sort, quite unlike that vulgar passion which makes men itch for notoriety, and constantly place themselves in circumstances and attitudes to attract public attention. Such an ambition (if the term may be so profaned) is the quality of mean souls; and even its little, noisy prizes are worthless, for it is remarkable that mere notoriety generally recoils upon itself, and that those who make themselves notorious, at last tax public attention to find out something disreputable or ridiculous about them. Jackson's passion was that fine and lofty ambition which pursues idealities, which looks to a name in history, and which, averse to the mere noisy, evanescent gifts of popularity, actually shuns notoriety, is pained by all vulgar and meretricious displays, and is constantly maintaining a close and sensitive reserve. Such ambition is the property of grand and noble souls. It is most interesting to regard its reserves, its disguises, its taciturn moods, its apparent want of sympathy with immediate surroundings, and the common mistake the world makes in designating as emotionless, ascetic men, those who are daily and nightly consumed by grand aspirations. An ambition of this sort pursues only the ideal; it finds its happiness in selfculture and self-approval, in secret aspirations, in communion with the historical and universal; it is but the vulgar counterfeit, the low desire, that seeks the coarse rewards of popularity in


offices, in applause, in newspaper paragraphs; that imagines mere noise is the acclamation of glory, and mistakes" dunce's puff for fame." Jackson, no doubt, valued “skilled commendation,” while he did not mistake the penny-alines of the newspaper for the inscriptions of history; he was not entirely insensible to the praise of his contemporaries; but what he mostly and chiefly prized was the name in history-an aspiration after the ideal, and not the vulgar hunt for rotoriety and its gifts. Such an ambition is consonant with the most refined spirit of Christianity; it resides in the depths of great minds; and it easily escapes observation, because those moved by it are generally silent men, of mysterious air and mechanical manners, living within themselves, conscious that few can enter into sympathy with them, and constantly practising the art of impenetrable reserve.

The very awkwardness of Jackson's manners, his taciturn habit, his constraint in company, the readiness with which he was put to embarrassment, were marks of sensitive ambition, with its supreme self-confidence which is yet not vanity, its raw self-regard which is yet not conceit, rather than evidences of a strained and excessive modesty, blundering in its steps and painfully protesting its unworthiness.

him. Mr. John Esten Cooke, who was near his person in the war, declares: "The recollection is still preserved by many of his personal peculiarities; his simplicity and absence of suspicion when all around were laughing at some of his odd ways; his grave expression and air of innocent inquiry when some jest excited general merriment, and he could not see the point; his solitary habits and self-contained deportment; his absence of mind, awkwardness of gait, and evident indifference to every species of amusement.”

There is a common disposition to caricature great men, to exaggerate their peculiarities, and to discover eccentricities. It comes, probably, from a low, literary adventure, a design to point paragraphs at the expense of truth. Jackson has suffered greatly from such caricature; he has been represented as uncouth and odd in the most various particulars, and the apocrypha of the Bohemians have given the most conflicting representations of his person and manners. There was nothing really very extraordinary in these; but it is surprising what different opinions have been held as to the comeliness

of the man. We may quote here from some of our own personal recollections of Jackson, written on another occasion, It is a what we yet think the most correct description of the hero: "To the vulgar eye he was a clumsy-looking man, and his roughly-cut features obtained for him the easy epithet of an ugly man. But to the eye that makes of the human face the janua animi, and examines in it the traces of character and spirit, the countenance of Jackson was superlatively noble and interesting. The outline was coarse; the reddish beard was scraggy; but he had a majestic brow, and in the blue eyes was an introverted expression, and just sufficient expression of melancholy to show the deeply-earnest

superficial, common mistake of the world to designate as 66 modest " men, or as persons holding low opinions of themselves, those who are awkward and bashful in society, who blush easily when confronted in a general conversation, or are constrained and embarrassed in the conventionalisms of social intercourse. But an observation more studious than that of the drawing-room and general assembly often discovers under such manners the very sensitiveness of a supreme self-appreciation, the chafe or reserve of a great proud spirit, without opportunity to exert itself. It is thus we may explain how the shy and clumsy manners of Jackson, which made him the butt of social companies, yet covered an enormous self-regard, and masked the ambition which devoured

[blocks in formation]

latter of whom he has brought before our eyes in one of his most splendid romances. In brief, while common curiosity saw nothing to admire in Jack son, a closer scrutiny discovered a rare and interesting study. It was not the popular picture of a bizarre and austere hero: it was that of a plain gentleman, of ordinary figure, but with a lordly face, in which serious and noble thoughts were written without effort or affectation."

The views the present writer has taken of Jackson scarcely correspond to the beaten types of the man, and their novelty may be unpleasant, and provocative of criticism in some quarters. But we conceive the necessity of a profound exploration, a searching analysis of a character so central and dramatic in the war, that stands in so many important historical connections; and we refer to the remarks prefacing this article, on the width and importance of the biographical study. Many of the most important events of the war must be grouped around Jackson, and the veins of his single dominant character must run through many pages of the general narrative. We cannot exaggerate the importance of a correct study of the man. In many respects he was the representative of his countrymen. His chaste and noble ambition represented the aspirations of the best and most cultivated men of the South, as opposed to a mania in the North for noisy and visible distinctions; his innocence of politics was extremely characteristic of perhaps a

majority of the Southern soldiers, who fought more from martial instincts than from political convictions; and his superb valor illustrated the sentiment of the South that thinks personal courage a virtue and an ornament, and ranks it first among the titles of admiration. It is indispensable that an influence that contributed so much to the war should be carefully analyzed; that a person so conspicuous in it should be correctly portrayed; and that the character of Stonewall Jackson should be placed among its first historical studies.


The last moments of the great warrior have been variously described. following statement is derived from the exact and literal accounts of his physician. Within two hours of his death, he was told distinctly that there was no hope, that he was dying; and he answered, feebly but firmly, " Very good; it is all right." A few moments before he died, he cried out in his delirium, "Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks-" then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said, quietly, and with an expression as if of relief, "Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees." And so, with these beautiful, typical words trembling on his lips, the soul of the great soldier, taxed with battle, and trial, and weariness, passed through the deep waters of Death, and found sweet and eternal rest.

« IndietroContinua »