UPCOMING PROGRAMS 2017
|Apr 6||Mike McDonnell||Longstreet at Gettysburg|
|May 4||Bill Cookman||William F. (Baldy) Smith|
|Jun 1||John Fox||The Great Train Heist|
LAST MONTH'S PRESENTATION:
Presented by John Moyer, CWRT/GK
Recorder's Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, our regular intrepid reporter, Tom Brzezicki, was unable to attend February's meeting. As a result, the speaker, John Moyer, was asked to provide a written summary. As there was no script, merely speaking notes, what is reported here may include additional details that were meant to be noted but, in the heat of the moment, were not. If you attended, see if you can identify any additional material.
The CWRT/GK met on February 2, 2017 at the Seniors Centre to hear John Moyer speak about the life of Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson. For many Civil War students, Stonewall Jackson seems to appear from nowhere in July 1861 at 1st Manassas and attains lasting fame later in 1861 when he commands during the Valley Campaign. His early life and what made him the Confederate icon that he became remains unclear to many as his background is different from many of his CSA contemporaries. He wasn't the product of a military family, nor was he in the regular army at the outbreak of war and thus, did not have to make the 'loyalty' decision faced by many. Tonight my objective is to explore Jackson's life and attempt to describe the makings of the man. If you learn something about Stonewall that you didn't know, then I will have succeeded.
'Old Jack', 'Old Hickory', 'Square Box', 'General' and 'Tom Fool' , in addition to the most famous, 'Stonewall', are many of the nicknames ascribed to Thomas Jonathon Jackson during his lifetime. Each of them is pertinent and describes how he was perceived by a variety of constituencies.
The principal references used to develop detail were "Rebel Yell" by S.C. Gwynne, "Such Troops As These" by Bevin Alexander and as a main reference, "Stonewall Jackson, The Man, The Soldier, The Legend" by James I. Robertson Jr. Discussing Jackson's early life takes six pages by Gwynne, 35 pages by Alexander and over 200 pages by Robertson. The last was obviously a rich source of details. Researching Jackson, I found that there are few, if any, photographs of a young Jackson. None were found of even his years at West Point. The earliest may well have been of a fresh-faced Brevet 2Lt who had just graduated from the USMA.
Thomas Jackson was born in Clarksburg, (West) Virginia on either late 20 Jan 1824 or early on 21 Jan 1824 to Jonathon Jackson and his wife Julia. Lacking an atomic clock, his family decided on 21 Jan. The only military descendant I could find was a great-grandfather who was a Captain in the Continental Army. Baby Thomas probably never knew his father as he died from Typhoid when Jackson was 2 years old. Jackson's early life was turbulent. When he was 6, his mother re-married a n'er-do-well lawyer by the name of Woodson who didn't particularly like the Jackson children and reportedly verbally abused them. In 1831, Jackson and his siblings were sent to live with relatives in Jackson's Mills, Virginia. Jackson and his sister Laura, with whom he maintained a close lifelong relationship (she would name a son after him), were split up and Jackson lived with a bachelor uncle, Cummins Jackson, a schoolteacher. He acquired 'rural' skills and was a good enough rider to be his uncle's jockey at local races. Very early, after numerous violin lessons, he discovered that he was 'tone deaf' when it came to music. Later in life this became most apparent when he asked an entertainer to sing 'Dixie' immediately after she had just performed the song.
His early education was very basic and, although he was never brilliant, he was relentless in its pursuit, not moving on until he had learned something perfectly. During this stage of his life, Jackson began a life-long faith journey as he was introduced to the Methodist church. Reportedly, the first military campaigns he studied were those described in the Bible and his interest in religion was such that he entertained thoughts of becoming a minister. However, his limited education and discomfort with public speaking tempered his ambition. At this point in his life, he had not been baptized or formally joined a church.
In late 1840/early 1841, Jackson, aged 16, spent several months as a teacher, providing rudimentary instruction in mathematics, reading and writing to younger students. He earned $5.64 for his work and it's interesting to note that the cheque given him used a middle initial, 'J', for the first time. It is assumed that it stood for Jonathon, his father's name. A year later, for 10 months, he served as a 'Constable', a glorified bill collector.
At age 18, Jackson was almost 6' tall with short brown hair and blue-grey eyes. It was said that his personality was such that he could disappear in a crowd of three people. He had also encountered an issue that would remain with him the rest of his life, his health. His symptoms seem to have been gastrointestinal and serious enough to cause relatives to wonder if he would survive to adulthood.
In 1842, seeking a free qualitative education, he competed for the Virginia nomination to West Point. He wasn't the first choice, but when the prime selection quit the USMA after his first week, Jackson was appointed to take his place. In the summer of 1842, he joined the Class of 1846.
Jackson's time at West Point was decidedly unremarkable. He had to be tutored in mathematics, grammar and spelling to pass the West Point entrance exam and in his Plebe year, served a period on probation for poor academic performance. He proved to be socially undeveloped, most likely due to his solitary upbringing in Jackson's Mills. Although he was serious and relentless in pursuing academic success, he made few friends and, with his cold, abrupt personality, he managed to offend classmates which included future generals A.P. Hill and George Pickett. The fact that he held no Cadet rank in his last year speaks to a distinct lack of leadership potential. But, through his dogged perseverance, Jackson managed to graduate 17 of 59 in 1846. It was commented that if West Point was a 5-year, instead of 4-year programme, and given his work ethic, Jackson may well have graduated 1 of 59. On graduation, he was commissioned as a Brevet 2nd Lt in the artillery and assigned to Coy K of the 1st Artillery Regiment stationed in New York. One by-product of his years at West Point was the beginning of a fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte and his use of fast marches, manoeuvre and terrain to gain tactical advantage. Jackson would remain a Napoleon fan for the rest of his life.
The years 1846-1851 were intense for Jackson, ranging from his service in the Mexican-American War, to boring garrison duties back in New York, to the controversies during his time in Florida. After having deployed with Coy K, 1st Artillery to NE Mexico and seeing little action, the Regiment eventually joined Lieutenant General Winfield Scott's army and landed, initially as infantry, at Vera Cruz. Scott, seemingly following the 19th century military maxim that victory required the occupation of the enemy's capital city, launched a campaign to Mexico City centred on the national road. As a commander of a section of guns (this was a pleasant surprise to Jackson as he believed that, as a very junior officer, he would be relegated to courier duties), Jackson demonstrated calmness under fire on numerous occasions. While not seeking personal praise, he was rewarded by promotions to 2Lt and eventually 1st Lt, and nominated for Brevet promotions to Captain and Major. The latter would only be confirmed upon his return to New York. Jackson took part in several of the main actions and was noted for his attention to duty. He carried out 'orders' to the point where he would persist, regardless of the dangers, in their accomplishment until he was ordered to desist or do something else.
While serving in Mexico he had significant issues pertaining to both his health and his faith. Health-wise, he began to exhibit the characteristics of a hypochondriac, perceiving problems with his liver and suffering from neuralgia. His faith journey re-awakened and he began a systematic reading of the Bible while developing an interest in Roman Catholicism. As his earlier and his Army experience was with Methodist-Episcopalian theology, he looked to broaden his knowledge base in his search for a simpler faith and form of worship. Having developed some Spanish language capability, he had discussions with local monks and even an interview with the Archbishop of Mexico.
Fifteen months after graduating from the USMA, with 6 months on operations, Jackson found himself a 1st Lt and Brevet Major and part of a victorious army in Mexico City. He grew a trim beard and mustache and made an effort, for reasons of duty, to attend dinners and be sociable. There was a sense that he saw his future as part of an army of occupation in Mexico.
Militarily, he took away some lessons from the war, namely that frontal attacks were expensive in lives and that strong positions could only be taken through manoeuvre. Also, reconnaissance and logistical planning were paramount to successful campaigns.
In late 1848, the 1st Artillery Regiment returned to New York and Jackson settled in for a period of garrison duty, serving on various court martial boards and being a 'tourist' in New York. He developed an appreciation of art and renewed his study of military history, namely Napoleon. His search for faith continued and in Apr 1849, he was baptized into the Episcopalian Church but found their services too formal and rigid. His health concerns came and went and, over the next decade, he would feel that nearly every major organ was at one time or another, failing. He began a study of anatomy and a regime of self-care moving from physician to physician, theory to theory, and food to food. His principal complaints now involved his eyesight, rheumatism and dyspepsia. He eventually discovered hydrotherapy (water cures), a regime or variation that he would follow throughout the rest of his life. Needless to say, his eccentricity was noted by those with whom he had contact.
In October 1849, he was assigned to Coy E, 1st Artillery for duty at Fort Meade (named after the engineer who established it, Lt George Meade) in Florida. His service as a Quartermaster in Florida was unremarkable except for two contentious issues, both involving his Commanding Officer, Captain (Brevet Major) William French. The first incident involved the re-location of Fort Meade to a more suitable site. As Quartermaster, Jackson was responsible for any such move and French had also appointed him the Chair of the Re-location Committee. When French attempted to exert some command influence, Jackson objected as he saw the task as uniquely his to perform without interference. French, it would seem 'could not tolerate a subordinate who resisted subordination' and Jackson 'could not bear a Commander who insisted on commanding'. Eventually, Jackson was rebuked, being reminded that French was exercising his authority appropriately.
In April 1851, Jackson again clashed with French, accusing him of 'conduct unbecoming' by having an affair with a young, black servant girl with whom he took frequent long walks. Jackson was never able to obtain direct evidence that French was guilty but insisted on pressing charges. French, for his part, placed Jackson under arrest for insubordination. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the Department Commander, after reviewing the charges by both sides, directed French and Jackson to forget the matter. Always obedient to orders, Jackson did just that!
Concurrent with the French/Jackson dramas, Jackson had been approached by D. Harvey Hill, whom he had met in Mexico, concerning a possible position at the Virginia Military Institute as a Professor Natural and Experimental Philosophy (physics) and Instructor of Artillery. At first, Jackson showed little interest but, after reflection, began to see the offer as an opportunity to remain in touch with the military while connecting with civil society. It would be a chance to keep his mind active and travel during the summers. He also came to the realization that promotions within the Army, being based solely on seniority, would be extraordinarily slow. In April 1851, he accepted the offer to be considered for the position and, through Hill's efforts, was officially appointed. On 21 May 1851 he left Fort Meade and the Army.
Considering Jackson's tenure at VMI in its entirety, one could easily be confounded that he lasted. He freely admitted that he was not a scholar or a teacher and, based on the fact that he was often just ahead of his students with the subject matter he was required to present, it is perplexing why VMI retained his services. Add to this his seemingly dour personality, seriousness and eccentric-city, one can't help but wonder what he had to offer the cadets of VMI. He was accused of 'treating the sons of gentlemen like common soldiers' and was often ridiculed behinds his back as being an automaton. Add to this equation his expanding health issues and apparent social ineptness, the list of detractions becomes quite formidable. Nevertheless, he persisted and VMI accepted his idiosyncrasies. He was just 'Tom Fool', 'Old Hickory' (for his inflexibility) or 'Square Box' (for his large feet).
Before reporting to VMI he undertook a six-week cure in New York City in an attempt to gain some balance. He attempted to manage stress (which seemed to aggravate his eye issues), developed an exercise routine that involved long walks and, for some unexplained reason, was recommended to drink Lake Ontario water for his health. He discovered a plain diet of 'buttermilk and cornbread' aided in keeping his dyspepsia under control but took this to an extreme when, as a guest at dinner, brought his own food. As an aside, it would appear that the tale that he loved lemons is an urban legend. He reportedly enjoyed all types of fruit, but the image of Stonewall Jackson sucking on lemons remains prominent to many.
In Lexington, he also found a faith home, Lexington Presbyterian Church, and became a member in November 1851. He came to appreciate the Presbyterian doctrine and the simplicity of their services. Jackson adopted a strict moral code to live religion every hour of every day by reading the Bible and pledging to forego drinking, smoking and gambling (easy as he'd never participated). He also tithed to the church and gave up dancing, theatregoing and other amusements and re-affirmed to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest.
Through the church he encountered Elinor Junkin, the daughter of the President of Washington College, courted her and, despite issues caused by Elinor's close relationship to her sister, Maggie, they married in August 1853. Interestingly, a good portion of their honeymoon was spent in Canada with Montreal and Quebec City on the itinerary. Oddly, they were accompanied by Maggie! Given his involvement with the church and the beginning of his investments in local businesses, Jackson was becoming an integral part of Lexington's society. Sadly, in October 1854, Elinor died after giving birth to a stillborn son; Jackson sought refuge in his faith. The church became a preoccupation and his faith deepened. In 1855, he started a black Sunday School and became a deacon of the church. The only time Jackson became animated was when he was overseeing artillery drills with the Cadets. He was a different person, with clear, concise instructions.
Perhaps the most serious challenge to him as a Professor occurred without him knowing about it until a year had passed. At the end of the 1855-1856 school year, the Society of Alumni proposed a resolution that Jackson be investigated and if necessary terminated for his performance in the classroom. Apparently not wanting to create a situation, the VMI Board of Visitors tabled the resolution without proceeding. A year later, Jackson learned of the initial charge and tabled a resolution of his own requesting an investigation. The Board also tabled this resolution and nothing came of the issue.
During the 1856 school break, Jackson proceeded on a long anticipated tour of Europe, focussing on art and the other wonders where he saw the 'hand of God' at work. The only battlefield he visited was Waterloo in honour of Napoleon. Returning to Lexington, he commenced to search for a new companion and, while Maggie Junkin was a good match and friend, it was against a church tenet to marry her. Eventually, he recalled meeting Mary Anna Morrison at the Hills' home in Lexington and sought her out in North Carolina. They would eventually wed in July 1857 and took essentially the same wedding trip that Jackson had taken in 1853, this time without Maggie Junkin. In April 1858, a daughter, Mary, was born but died from liver issues after surviving a few weeks. Another daughter, Julia Laura, would be born in November 1862.
In 1858, Jackson appeared to undergo some unexplained metamorphosis. While his health issues expanded to include some impairment in his right ear, he seemed to have found a degree of domestic content. In early 1859, he and Mary moved into their own Lexington home and established a simple lifestyle. Jackson took up gardening and performed various home repairs. After 10 years with a clean face, he again grew a beard and mustache. In private, he proved to be playful, cheery and demonstrative with his affections. He seemed to enjoy playing pranks and even danced the polka, although only because it was a beneficial exercise. He purchased an 18 acre farm a mile from his home and cultivated wheat, corn and vegetables. By 1860, how he was viewed at VMI was also changing. He was helping students understand their work and seen to have a noble and kind spirit and had become a stalwart of the Lexington community.
However by 1860, the clouds of war were beginning to appear. Jackson was part of a VMI contingent sent to provide security at John Brown's execution in Charleston and, seemingly viewing the task as field work, became energized and gave clear, concise orders. Jackson was not a secessionist and tried to stay away from the emerging debate regarding states' rights which upset life in Lexington. He was also a benevolent slave owner and held the opinion that should war come, it was 'God's plan' and that Virginians should 'draw the sword and throw away the scabbard'.
Officers at VMI were subject to the orders of the Governor of Virginia and after Fort Sumter, the pace to war quickened. In April 1861, Major Jackson shepherded a contingent of VMI cadets to Richmond where he handed them over to become drillmasters for a rapidly expanding army. Again, Jackson's nature changed completely and he became, once again, a man with a purpose.
Beginning in late April 1861, we enter the period of Jackson's life that burns the brightest. Obviously, it was not realized that his service to the Confederacy would span an all too brief 25 months. This service, however, would define an icon. By May 1861, Jackson was a Colonel of Volunteers tasked with organizing the militia forces convening at Harper's Ferry. He formed the soon-to-be famous 1st Virginia Brigade and, under Brigadier General Joseph E. Johnston, participated in operations against the Federals in the Lower Shenandoah Valley. July 1861 saw Johnston's Brigades, including Jackson who was now a Brigadier General, move east and participate in Battle of 1st Manassas. During the battle, as his Brigade stood its ground, Brigadier General Bernard Bee was reportedly to have uttered that famous phrase: 'There stands Jackson like a stone wall.' It is debatable whether Bee meant this as a compliment on the tenacity of Jackson's Brigade or as a derisive comment on the fact that Jackson was not advancing to meet the enemy. Regardless, the name has been with us ever since and is a suitable epitaph for a man (and Brigade) who saw his prime duty as obeying orders until the mission was complete or new orders issued. It was also suggested that the 'Rebel Yell' was first heard during 1st Manassas when Jackson instructed his men to 'yell like furies!' when they attacked the Federals.
Subsequent to 1st Manassas, Jackson's story accelerated as he participated in several distinguished, and some not so distinguished, battles. His Valley Campaign in the Shenandoah is still celebrated as an outstanding example of independent leadership. His performance during the Seven Days Battle left some unanswered questions but he again performed well at 2nd Manassas, Harper's Ferry/Antietam, and Fredericksburg in December 1862. It could be suggested that Jackson performed best when in independent command or given a singular task. Of note, Lee never 'split' his army again after Jackson's death.
After emerging from winter quarters in the spring of 1863, Jackson was in full bloom at Chancellorsville, until wounded by friendly fire on 2 May. His departure from the battlefield highlights probably his most serious flaw as a commander, the fact that after Winchester, he did not share his operational plans with his subordinate commanders, creating a command vacuum when he fell. He died from complications on 10 May 1862; Lee had lost his 'right arm'.
So what are we to make of Jackson's entire life? It is patently obvious that he was raised in a dysfunctional setting and his tendencies to be distant and aloof, as well as brusque and socially awkward, emerge from this environment. One could also conclude that he was extremely insecure and found comfort in the structured form of the military. While there are some indications, particularly after his marriage to Anna that his private persona was completely opposite that what he seemed to be in public; his public character was one which did not play well with others. His conflicts with French in Florida and with several officers (Garnett, A.P. Hill) attest to this tendency.
Regardless, the simple conclusion is that, for eternity he will be known as an icon of the Confederacy and a tactical genius. Jackson's opinion would probably have been that whatever his legacy, it was the 'will of God.'
Written by John Moyer
BOOK SALE (PART 2):
U.S. Grant Is U.S. History's Mystery Man
Widely seen as both the father of the modern American way of warfare and its most formidable practitioner, Ulysses S. Grant remains an enigma more than 150 years after the guns of the Civil War fell silent. More than 200 biographies of Grant have been published since his death in 1885, including two major recent scholarly biographies and a flurry of other works since 2000. Virtually every month, a serious book on the Civil War is published, and most of them make at least a modest attempt to take the measure of the most famous man from Point Pleasant, Ohio.
What made U.S. Grant tick? What explains his remarkable strategic insight into the war that took more American lives than all the conflicts we've fought in since the beginning of the 20th century combined? Why did the Great General and Savior of the Union turn out to be such a mediocre president? The truth, I think, is that we really do not know, and probably never will.
Grant was the most unprepossessing of men. Our 18th president was small in stature, invariably rumpled in appearance, taciturn, and painfully shy. An indifferent student at West Point, Grant did well in the fighting as a junior officer in the Mexican War. His close contemporaries early in his military career all agree: he lacked ambition. He had no great thirst for glory, on the battlefield or elsewhere, and thought the war with Mexico a tragic mistake.
Billeted to a remote outpost in California in the early 1850s just after marrying the politically well-connected Julia Dent from his native state, he grew lonely, depressed, and began to drink heavily. Quitting the army in 1854, he went on to try his hand as a farmer, a real estate broker, and businessman. He failed at all these undertakings, and several others.
Then came the Civil War, and an early and unexpected commission to command 3,000 men in combat as a brigadier general. What comes through loud and clear in revisiting the best of the latest biographies and histories of the war is that from the outset of the struggle, Grant had an extraordinary capacity to conjure up in his mind's eye the disposition of opposing forces over an entire theater of operations. He made quick, defensible decisions. And he showed an absolutely indomitable will to pursue his objective through to the finish. Grant shrugged off setbacks that would reduce other very fine generals to tears, despair, or both. He was absolutely unflappable.
To be sure, Grant made his share of mistakes, but so far as anyone could tell, he never dwelled on them. Nor did he make the same mistake twice. As his close confidant and subordinate William Tecumseh Sherman put it, Grant "fixes in his mind what is the true objective, and abandons all minor ones. If his plan gives way he is never disconcerted but properly devises a new one and is sure to win in the end."
Unlike most of his contemporaries, Grant lacked the Napoleonic fixation with winning Great Battles. He thought more broadly about warfare-about entire campaigns, about ways to favorably alter the balance of forces-moral and political as well as military-in the Union's favor. Nor was he an adherent to the Jominian "scientific" principles of strategy most Civil War generals had learned at West Point and attempted to apply in the field. (Antoine-Henri Jomini was a Swiss officer who served in both the French and Russian armies in the early- and mid-19th century, and a much-celebrated strategist.) Grant seemed to understand intuitively that the railway, the telegraph, and the rifled barrel-all of which made their first sustained appearance in the War Between the States-rendered Jomini pretty much irrelevant. "If men make war in strict observance of rules," said Grant, "they will fail. No rules apply to conditions of war as different as those which exist in Europe and America … War is progress, because all the instruments and elements of war are progressive."
Submitted by Lloyd Therien
EXECUTIVE - 2016-17
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