The man . . . Jackson

For our last day (7/19/12), I decided to pursue my favorite person in history: Stonewall Jackson. I love General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, despite the diverse opinions of him, because of his amazing courage. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “I am as safe on the battlefield as I am in my own bed. My life is in the hands of the Almighty.” I know talk is cheap, but he lived it. In the Mexican War, he single-handedly dragged a cannon out and fired it on a fort while the rest of his men cowered in a ditch. He then yelled for their help, and when a cannon ball rolled between his legs as he was walking said, “Look, I’m not hit!” I LOVE this man. So, we headed to the Fredericksburg area to pursue sites related to Jackson.

Monument to Sergeant Kirkland

Our first stop was the Fredericksburg National Battlefield. This is a relatively small park, but it offers two amazing sites. The first is a statue of Sergeant Kirkland. This incredible soldier was 19 years old in the battle of Fredericksburg. After a night of relentless fighting where the Confederates held the high ground, and an eerie reverse of Pickett’s charge (North charging instead of South, and getting mowed down in just as gruesome numbers…), the landscape was littered with dying men. Kirkland couldn’t stand listening to the cries of the dying, so he climbed over the wall and brought water to the wounded on both sides. He was initially shot at, until the enemy realized what he was doing. Both sides honored him. What’s incredible to me is that he was made a lieutenant at Gettysburg and survived, only to be killed a month after his 20th birthday in Chickamauga.

Innis House wall

Another surreal experience at Fredericksburg is the Innis House. Looking through the windows of this house, which was right in the pathway of the Northern charge up the hill, visitors can see the wall riddled with bullet holes. It quite literally brings the war home. After perusing the cemetery there, we had some time to kill before our tour at Chancellorsville, so we headed to Ellwood.

Monument to the wounding of Jackson (Chancellorsville)

For those unfamiliar with the story of the wounding of Stonewall Jackson, the short version is that he had fought the first night at Chancellorsville, and was going out to determine where the enemy was and in what strength. His men were skittish from that battle and had been scared by running into enemies they weren’t expecting to be so close. When Stonewall returned from checking out the situation, his own men fired on him, thinking he was the enemy. In the process, he was wounded three times. The battle erupted anew, and Jackson had to be carried out amidst gunfire. He was also dropped from shoulder height twice as men tried to get him out of the area. Because of the bullet woundings and the two falls, his left arm had to be amputated. The Ellwood Estate is the place Jackson was taken. His arm was amputated there, and the brother of the owner of the house had it buried in the family cemetery. It’s the only marker in the plot.

Jackson’s arm marker–the lemon is a tribute because he liked sour things–he always criticized his wife’s lemonade for being too sweet…

After seeing the Ellwood house, which has been redone and is now an excellent museum (it was under reconstruction last time I was there–pun intended.), we headed to Chancellorsville, which is the actual location at which Jackson was shot. The tour covers a short area, but we were able to have a friend of mine from reenacting as a tour guide, and she did an amazing job. I love that the National parks allow college students who are passionate about history to come and share that passion with others. In a day and age in which so much looks bleak, it is nice to pause and remember the heroism of old.

Early marker indicating the place where Jackson was wounded

Finally, we headed back to get packed and ready to leave for the thirteen hour drive home. This trip has truly been an amazing journey!

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