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General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson

Confederate General of Ulster Stock
by Billy Kennedy

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Billy Kennedy has been a journalist with the Belfast News Letter (founded in 1737) for the past 33 years, as a news editor for 18 years, assistant editor for five years and leader writer for the past 15 years. He is author of The Scots-Irish Chronicles - nine volumes - by Ambassador Publications, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Greenville, South Carolina). He is a frequent visitor to the United States in connection with his books and lectures regularly on the subject. He is also editor of The Ulster-Scot newspaper and has worked for the BBC and the History Channel on television and radio documentaries on the subject of the Scots-Irish diaspora. Billy can be contacted by email at billykennedy@fsmail.net
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Virginian Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson figures high in the list of Scots-Irish heroes whose outstanding courage and military prowess gave him an honoured place in the annals of American history. "Stonewall" Jackson may have fought and died on the losing Confederate side during the Civil War of 1861-65, but he was a soldier of special quality and his upright Christian ideals marked him down as a true leader of men.

Jackson was given the nickname "Stonewall" at the battle of Bull Run in Virginia in July 1861 after it was said of him: "This is Jackson, standing a stone wall". The highly significant role that he played for the Confederates in this decisive battle earned him promotion to major general.

The Civil War hero was the great-grandson of an Ulsterman John Jackson, who at the age of 33, emigrated to America in 1748 as "a respectable and prosperous tradesman", settling in Maryland, and then putting down his roots in the Shenandoah Valley after passing through West Virginia.

John Jackson's family were lowland Presbyterian, Scots who settled in the north of Ireland during the 17th century Scottish Plantation years and defended Londonderry during the Siege of 1688-89. The Jacksons were scattered across Ulster, some located in the north-west of the Province around Londonderry and Coleraine, while others lived in counties Armagh, Down, and Antrim.

Varying claims are made about exactly where in Ulster John Jackson was born. In the biography of "Stonewall" Jackson by English writer Colonel G. F. R Henderson, a letter is referred to which states that the ancestors of the great Confederate general had lived in the parish of Londonderry.

The latter, according to Henderson, was in the possession of Thomas Jackson Arnold, of Beverly, West Virginia, a nephew of General Jackson. Another report, of American origin, gives John Jackson’s birthplace as near Coleraine in Co Londonderry.

Residents, however, in the Birches-Tartaraghan area of Co Armagh close to the shores of Lough Neagh in the centre of Ulster are adamant that John Jackson was one of their kin. Their belief is reinforced by a plaque unveiled on July 22, 1968 in Ballinary, a section of the Birches, which states that this was the reputed birthplace of John Jackson, great grandfather of Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863).

The then United States Consul General in Northern Ireland unveiled the plaque at the Ballinary site, located about 70 miles from Londonderry-Coleraine.

Today, there are reportedly more Jacksons living in this part of Co Armagh than in any other region of Northern Ireland and they are convinced of the local connection with "Stonewall" Jackson’s family. John Jackson is traced by the Co Armagh Jacksons as a grandson of Robert Jackson, and a son of John Jackson, who is buried in Tartaraghan Parish Churchyard.

Another John Jackson, from this area, fought with King William 111 at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and his sword and cutlass used in the battle have been displayed at Carrickfergus Castle in Co Antrim

The Jacksons of Co Armagh have always been strong supporters of the Orange-Protestant cause in Ireland and today that tradition is manifested in their membership of various Orange lodges in a region, where the Orange Order was founded in 1795. These Jacksons primarily belong to the Church of Ireland (Episcopal) and if the American link is authentic, it would have meant that the emigrant John Jackson and his family almost certainly converted to Presbyterianism when they reached America.

John Jackson had a brief sojourn in London before he reached Maryland in 1748. It was there that he met the girl he was to marry, Elizabeth Cummins, the daughter of a London hotelier, who, when her father died and her mother remarried, decided to emigrate. Elizabeth was a highly educated woman of a large stature, and it was said she was "as remarkable for her strength of intellect as for beauty and physical vigour". John Jackson was a "spare diminutive man, of quiet but determined character, sound judgment and excellent morals".

The pair married in 1755 and within two years they headed to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with the great flow of Scots-Irish families, who had moved from Ulster. They settled at Moorefield in Hardy County, West Virginia, but after the French-Indian War of 1754-63, they moved 150 miles westwards to find a home at Buckhannon in Randolph County, Virginia.

In his exploits as an Indian fighter and scout John Jackson amassed sizeable land holdings in the Shenandoah Valley and these he distributed to his eight children. The Jacksons in time became one of the leading families in the Valley. In terms of wealth and influence, Jackson was a Randolph County justice and, in 1779, at the age of 74, he served as a captain of a frontier militia regiment.

Elizabeth Jackson, who had possession of 3,000 acres of land in her own right at Buckhannon, survived her husband and she lived until she was 105. She also showed tenacity and courage in fending of Indian attacks on their home and family records show that even in the most dangerous situations, she never wilted.

Two sons rose to high office. Edward (1759-1828), grandfather of "Stonewall", was Randolph County surveyor, militia colonel, commissioner of revenue and high sheriff. He represented Lewis County in the Virginia Assembly and was "a citizen who acquired some knowledge of medicine, was an expert millwright, and a farmer of more than usual ability".

George, his older brother, after service as a colonel in the Revolutionary War, completed three terms in the American Congress and was a close associate of General Andrew Jackson, later to become President. George and Andrew Jackson were not related, but they frequently talked about their first generation Ulster connections who had moved to America several decades earlier. George Jackson‘s son, John George Jackson replaced his father in Congress and, as lawyer, he was an articulate spokesman in Washington for the Shanendoah Valley dwellers.

Jonathan Jackson , father of "Stonewall", studied law at the Clarksburg office of his uncle and, although married to the daughter of a merchant from Parslbury, West Virginia, Julie Beeleith Neale, he was never a man of great wealth. He died when his son Jonathan was only three.

John George Jackson married Mary Payne of Philadelphia, a sister of Dolly Madison, wife of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States. This increased the influence of the Jackson clan to the highest level and John George was appointed by Madison’s successor in the White House James Monroe, as the first federal judge for the western part of Virginia. A brother, Edward Burke Jackson, was the army surgeon during the Creek Indian War of 1812, a Clarksburg doctor and a member of the American Congress for four years.

It was from this noble family tradition of soldiering and public service that Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson emerged and in 1842, at the age of 18, he was given a Congressional appointment to the top American military academy at West Point.

With his father leaving little property on his death and his mother forced to seek the help of her relatives, and the Free Masons to rear the family, before she died four years later, it was a rough upbringing for Thomas Jonathan and his brother Warren and sister Laura. When orphaned they went to live with their father’s half-brother on a western Virginia farm.

"Stonewall" was a youth of "exemplary habits, of indomitable will and undoubted courage" and in the rough and tumble of frontier society he demonstrated an integrity and a determination to succeed in life.

Before he enrolled at West Point, "Stonewall" was a constable in his Virginia county executing court decrees, serving warrants, summoning witnesses and collecting debts. The West Point training was far removed from the law-enforcement duties of his frontier homeland, but "Stonewall" adapted well and in 1846 he graduated 17th in a class of 70 which contained men who were to serve as the leading generals in the Civil War, in both the Union and Confederate armies.

"Stonewall" was first assigned as a lieutenant in the Mexican War. Under General Zachary Taylor, a fellow Virginian who later became American President in 1849. He also fought in the Seminole Indian War in Florida and was elevated to major. However, Jackson moved away from the front line of battle in 1851 when he accepted a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington and, although still technically in soldiering, this brought him back into civilian life. The 10 years in Lexington was perhaps the most crucial period of his life and there he was to build a solid base for the later affray at the head of the Virginia Confederate troops in the Civil War.

Thomas Jonathan, although born into a Presbyterian family, had very little religious grounding as a youth and during his early military career. This changed when he met Colonel Francis Taylor, a commandant of his regiment in Mexico and a committed Christian. "Stonewall" studied the Bible for himself and curiosity about various religions even led him to the Roman Catholic archbishop of Mexico for advice. But he was not convinced of the validity of Roman Catholic doctrine and in 1849 he was baptised at the age of 25 into the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism.

In Lexington, however, it was the Presbyterian Church - the creed of the pioneering Ulster settlers, which provided him with a spiritual satisfaction and he made his profession of faith as a dissenting Calvinist in November 1851. Soon after he became a Presbyterian elder, and a lay preacher with intent to win souls for Christ.

"Stonewall" married Eleanor Junkin, daughter of the Rev George Junkin, president of Washington College in Virginia, in 1854, but she died 14 months into the marriage. His second marriage in 1857 was to Mary Anna Morrison, daughter of the Rev Dr R. H Morrison, president of Davidson College in North Carolina. They had one daughter.

Religion was the main pre-occupation for "Stonewall" in those Lexington years, and he daily took the Bible as his guide, literally interpreting every word on its pages. He was strict Sabbatarian - never reading on that day, nor posting a letter; he believed that the US federal government in carrying the mail on Sundays was violating a divine law.

To the church, Jackson gave one-tenth of his income (he tithed), established a Sunday school from his own means and was particularly compassionate about the plight of the black slave children in the area. Jackson's faith transcended every action of his life. He started the day with a blessing and always ended it with thanks to God. His watchword was: "I have long cultivated the most trivial and customary acts of life with a silent prayer."

His two wives, during their marriages, were of similar fundamental Christian outlook, both daughters of the Presbyterian manse. Eleanor Junkin's father was of Scottish Covenanting stock, who had come from Ulster in the late 18th century. The Morrisons were also of Scots-Irish extraction.

Jackson was not a wealthy man, notwithstanding his senior position at Lexington Military College. He depended solely on his salary and both his wives were also of limited means. But he still managed to extend traditional Virginian hospitality to all who came in contact with him.

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861 and Virginia was seceded from the Union, "Stonewall" Jackson answered the Confederate call to action and was commissioned a colonel. He led a detachment of Virginia Military Institute cadets from Lexington to Richmond to defend the Confederate flank there. This led to the command of the Virginia forces at Harper's Ferry, a posting that placed him in the front line.

Jackson distinguished himself at the Battle of Bull Run at Manassas in July 1861, when he inflicted a crushing defeat on the Union Army. The bravery was such that General Bernard E. Bee, commander of the South Carolina Confederacy, cried out to his men to look to Jackson, stating: "There he stands like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians". Bee, Jackson‘s classmate from West Point, died in the battle, but the "Stonewall" tribute became a legend.

At the second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, "Stonewall" further distinguished himself by his valour. After marching 51 miles in two days, his "foot cavalry" smashed the Union depot at Manassas, went underground for another two days, and then held off superior forces until Confederate reinforcements could be called. He also had notable battle success at Harper’s Valley, Antietam-Sharpsbury and Frederickburg.

"Stonewall" Jackson sadly had his last stand at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 and the outstanding contribution he and his men made there ensured victory for General Robert E. Lee. However, the advantage from the victory was not to last as the tide gradually turned against the Confederates, due to lack of money and resources.

After his heroics at Bull Run, Jackson, was upgraded to Major-General and placed in charge of the Confederate Army in the lower Shenandoah Valley. His soldiers referred to him as "Old Jack" and his tall, thin frame and long beard belied his barely 40 years. He remained a man of puritan tastes, a non-smoker, non-drinker and non-gambler and he ate sparingly. His commitment to the Confederate cause was total and in uniform he was a stern disciplinarian, but he looked on war as "the sum of all evil".

Jackson moved to attack the Union forces in the Valley and, while they had reversals, they managed to hold the line and send the enemy retreating back to Washington. It was at Chancellorsville that Jackson was a victim of mistaken fire by one of his own men. He lost an arm after being struck three times and had to retire from the battle-field. Death followed quickly when he contacted pneumonia, but in a final order, Jackson called out: "pass the infantry to the front".

His last words underlined his abiding Christian faith: "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees". Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was only 39 when he died on May 10, 1863. General Robert E. Lee, who had lost his finest soldier, said: “I know not how to replace him”. Jackson was much respected even by enemy officers on the Union side for his heroism, bravery, devotion to duty and purity of character.

He was the true Christian patriot and President Abraham Lincoln, who died within two years, described him as “a very brave soldier???.

Jackson’s death two years into the Civil War had fuelled debate as to what might have happened if he had lived. Serious reversals in the Shenandoah Valley and at Gettysburg sealed the fate of the Confederacy, for without the sterling leadership qualities of the redoubtable "Stonewall", the Johnny Rebs were never the same potent force again. Economic factors also negated their war effort.

The heroics in battle of the gallant "Stonewall" Jackson were in the best Scots-Irish tradition. He was a soldier of a very special quality.

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* Billy Kennedy is author of The Scots-Irish in the Shenandoah Valley (published 1996 by Ambassador Productions, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Greenville, South Carolina)

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Other American Civil War generals of note who had Scots-Irish family and Ulster connections included George Brinton McClellan, Irvin McDowell, Ambrose Everett Burnside, David McMurtrie Gregg, Philip Henry Sheridan, Charles Graham Halpine and James Shields in the Union Army and Joseph Eggleston Johnston, Albert Sidney Johnston, Daniel Smith Donelson and Leonidas Polk in the Confederacy.

McClellan, son of a Philadelphia surgeon and a class associate of Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson at West Point, had Ulster-Scots ancestors who fought alongside George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

Burnside's family roots can be traced back to the Ballymoney area of Co Antrim and to a migration of Ulster Presbyterians to Londonderry in New Hampshire in 1718. Burnside, a commanding figure with flamboyant whiskers, gave the word "sideburns" to the language.

* Billy Kennedy is author of The Scots-Irish in the Shenandoah Valley (Published 1996 by Ambassador Publications, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Greenville, South Carolina)
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