General Stonewall Jackson in the Civil War: Facts & Battles

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Daniel Vermilya
Thomas Jonathan 'Stonewall' Jackson was a famous Confederate general in the American Civil War. He played a key role in major Confederate victories from July 1861 to his death following the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863.

Introduction to Stonewall Jackson

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was quite possibly the most eccentric general of the American Civil War. He was well known for his quirks, such as being a picky eater (he loved fruit in particular). Jackson was also an extremely pious man. His Christian faith was a consuming part of his personality. He is best known today for his simple, yet impressive, nickname. After his actions at the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861, Thomas Jonathan Jackson became known as Stonewall Jackson.

Stonewall Jackson in the Civil War

At the start of the Civil War, Jackson left his job at the Virginia Military Institute for the battlefield. Jackson's first combat came in July 1861. Federal forces had begun advancing toward Centreville, Virginia. Brigadier General Jackson and his brigade were a part of the Confederate army gathered to stop the Federals. On July 21, 1861, the Battle of First Manassas was fought. This is also known as the Battle of First Bull Run and was the first major battle of the Civil War. By mid-day, after early Federal gains in the battle, Confederate troops were retreating toward high ground known as Henry House Hill. There, Jackson brought his brigade up to try to stop the Federal advance.

In a dramatic moment, Brigadier General Barnard Bee exhorted his men to follow Jackson's example, proclaiming, 'Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer! Follow me!' Some claim that Bee was speaking critically of Jackson, accusing him of not moving quickly enough, but because Bee was mortally wounded soon after speaking those words, his true intent is lost to history. Most believe that Bee meant to inspire his men with Jackson's positive example.

Regardless of his intent, Bee's words worked. Jackson's brigade became the center point of a new Confederate line. By the end of the day, Union forces were retreating from the battlefield in a rout. From then on, Thomas Jonathan Jackson would be known as Stonewall Jackson. After the Confederate victory at Manassas, Jackson was promoted to the rank of major general.


Jackson's fame grew even further in 1862 when he orchestrated his legendary Shenandoah Valley Campaign. That spring, Federal forces were amassing near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, moving toward the city from the east. In order to prevent a separate Union army from advancing against Richmond from the north, Jackson moved thousands of Confederate soldiers into the Shenandoah Valley, presenting a threat to Federal forces in Northern Virginia. During his independent command in the Shenandoah, Jackson ultimately defeated several different Union armies sent to stop him, effectively keeping Union reinforcements from being sent to Richmond. By mid-summer, Jackson was able to join Confederate General Robert E. Lee to assist in defending the Confederate capital. By August, Union forces were pulling back from Richmond, and Lee and Jackson set their sights on a new Federal threat.

In August, Jackson had a starring role at the Battle of Second Manassas, also called the Second Battle of Bull Run and the bigger of the two Mannassas battles. After a long flanking movement into Northern Virginia, Jackson caught Union forces under John Pope off guard. From the evening of August 28 through August 30, Jackson played a vital role in fending off Federal attacks long enough for Lee to bring up the rest of his army to drive Pope from the field. Thanks to Jackson's efforts, Second Manassas was a major Confederate victory.

Shortly after Second Manassas, Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia moved north into Maryland. In mid-September, Jackson led a multifaceted expedition to capture Harpers Ferry, where 12,000 Union soldiers were stationed. Despite running behind schedule, Jackson forced the surrender of the town on September 15, a major victory for the Confederates. He then joined Lee at Sharpsburg just in time for the Battle of Antietam on September 17, the bloodiest single day of the war. While the Confederates lost at Antietam, Jackson performed very well. After Antietam, Jackson became a lieutenant general, and his troops became the Second Corps of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. That winter, the war focused on central Virginia once again. In December, Confederates achieved a major victory at Fredericksburg, where Jackson's men were able to stop numerous Union assaults.


1862 had been a legendary year for Jackson. He had achieved tremendous successes during his independent command in the Shenandoah Valley and at the battles of Second Manassas, Harpers Ferry, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Yet, it was in May of 1863 that he led his greatest attack.

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