Best known for the nickname earned at the Battle of First Bull Run during the Civil War, General Stonewall Jackson began his military career at West Point. While he was not the first choice to attend the military academy, Jackson managed to secure the appointment when the first candidate withdrew, ensuring a college education he could not otherwise afford. In 1851, he resigned from the Army to accept an appointment to teach natural and experimental philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute.
He married Elinor Junkin in 1853, but she and the baby died during childbirth a year later. Jackson married Mary Anna Morrison in 1857. Anna gave birth to their daughter in 1858, but the baby died less than a month later. Anna gave birth in 1862 to another child, this time to a healthy baby girl who would survive infancy.
In November 1859, Jackson was appointed as a colonel of the Virginia militia and sent to Harper’s Ferry, marking the revival of his official military career. His first battle of the Civil War occurred as a brigadier general in the Shenandoah Valley on July 2, 1861. Jackson was a fierce opponent for Union forces to contend with, until his last battle in Chancellorsville, when he was shot accidentally in the arm by friendly fire. He subsequently lost his arm, and seemed to be on the road to recovery when pneumonia struck him, and he died ten days later on Sunday, May 10, 1863.
Jackson was a strict disciplinarian, and relied on his relationship with God to guide him, particularly in battle. These qualities are clear in a number of famous Stonewall Jackson quotes, and below is my top ten list with a brief explanation for each one.
#10 “Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up on your pursuit. Never fight against heavy odds if you can hurl your own force on only part of your enemy and crush it. A small army may thus destroy a large one, and repeated victory will make you invincible.”
I am an advocate of knowing your enemy, and then hitting him in his weak spots. Jackson clearly knew the value of fighting smart.
#9 “If we cannot be successful in defeating the enemy should he advance, a kind Providence may enable us to inflict a terrible wound and effect a safe retreat in the event of having to fall back.”
Jackson knew that victory in every battle was not a realistic expectation, and his hope was that, in the event of potential defeat, his men would be able to mount an effective defense allowing for a retreat that resulted in minimal loss of his men.
#8 “Shoot the brave officers, and the cowards will run away and take the men with them.”
Courage begets courage, and if the courage provided by strong leadership is destroyed, fear will overtake the opposition, and they will run.
#7 “Now, gentlemen, let us at once to bed, and see if tomorrow we cannot do something.”
Jackson said this to his soldiers after a full day’s march with nothing gained, and it reflects his resolve that tomorrow was a new day. He recognized that some days would be difficult, and he encouraged his men to remain positive.
#6 “This army stays here until the last wounded man is removed. Before I will leave them to the enemy, I will lose many more men.”
“Leave no man behind” has been a foundational principle of our military from day one, and Jackson stood firmly behind it. I admire our soldiers today who have this mantra imprinted on their hearts, for this is often not an easy task. Often, one risks his own life to help a fallen brother, and the sacrifice is truly admirable.
#5 “Never take counsel of your fears.”
As difficult as this was at times, Jackson firmly believed that fear should never be in control, and he counseled his soldiers to take charge of their fear.
#4 “Our God was my shield. His protecting care is an additional cause for gratitude.”
Jackson was a steadfast man of God, and he took no credit in surviving the day, instead thanking Him for protecting them. This quote, as do others, exemplified Jackson’s humbleness in his success as a military leader.
#3 “No, you greatly overestimate my capacity for usefulness. A better man will soon be sent to take my place.”
Again, Jackson’s words often boldly mirrored his unpretentiousness. He was acutely aware that success did not revolve around him.
#2 “When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.”
Jackson was not a man to hesitate or tap-dance around a battle. If the occasion arose, give it everything you have and get it done right. Go for the kill and do not unnecessarily risk your life or the lives of your men.
#1 “All I am and all I have is at the service of my country.”
I chose this particular quote as number one because, in my opinion, is sums up the man Stonewall Jackson was: unselfish, humble, wise, courageous, and a leader with a true servant’s heart. He was completely willing to make whatever personal sacrifice he had to in order to promote a larger good.
Video of Stonewall Jackson
There are many more quotes that Stonewall Jackson is famous for that reflect his inner strength, his leadership, his wisdom, his complete reliance on God, and love of his men as well as his country. What is your favorite Stonewall Jackson quote? Leave me a comment and let me know.