One of the great losses to the Confederate cause happened on this date of May 10, 1863 in the death of General Stonewall Jackson. This was, of course, due to his accidental shooting by his own forces in the grand confusion of that dark evening of eight days prior at the Battle of Chancellorsville. His left arm was amputated, and infections and pneumonia followed. General Lee is reported to have sent word to Jackson with some version of “you have lost your left arm, but I my right.” On the day of his passing which was a Sunday, Jackson said, “It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.” And his final words were “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”
Probably everyone who ever spent any time with Stonewall Jackson had interesting stories and anecdotes to tell about him. My guy Abner Doubleday was no exception to this. So I thought I would include here an excerpt from my Doubleday biography that I’ll likely never finish (so might as well use it). This is from a time in the couple of years immediately after the Mexican War – so about 1848-1850 – when Doubleday was assigned duty in the old army at Forts Columbus and Hamilton in New York.
< Actual Doubleday quotes are the words italicized >
The most interesting and unusual person to enter into Doubleday’s association at this time was a gloomy, strict, awkward, and poorly dressed First Lieutenant named Thomas Jackson—later to be known as Stonewall Jackson. Like many others who knew Jackson, Doubleday penned remarks concerning a number of his most prominent eccentricities. Jackson fretted much about his health, as Doubleday wrote: When we met, he either was in poor health, or thought himself to be so, which amounted to pretty much the same thing. Jackson believed that all of his food ran down into his right leg, thus making his left leg weak. He was therefore very strict in his exercises, and also exhibited a fear of drinking surface water—pumping for long moments to get the deeper water of a well. Before a deep religious experience, he had quite some temper and was fond of the honors involved with dueling and the strict rules connected with it. Doubleday wrote of A.P. Hill commenting to him that “Jackson is the last man I should wish to have as a second in an affair of honor—for if he thought I infringed the code, ever so little, he would shoot me himself.” It was a triumph of grace, a proof of deep and sincere piety, when after his conversion, he gave up his belief in this way of settling disputes.
Jackson owned a fine-looking horse that Doubleday negotiated to possibly purchase. Jackson hesitatingly informed Doubleday it was a fine horse that formerly had some bad habits, which he had solved. They agreed upon a price, and Doubleday took it out for several “test rides” before buying it. It struck Doubleday as odd that a group of people gathered around to see him mount and ride the horse for the first time. I was rather astonished to find that so simple a performance drew a crowd of spectators. Afterward I knew that they wanted to see which would come off best—myself, or the stubborn beast.
But the initial ride of a steady half-mile proved agreeable. On the next occasion, the same onlookers gathered as Doubleday took the horse out on a military exercise. The first occasion when Doubleday halted, the horse threw out his forelegs and refused to be moved. After much prodding, the horse cut some pretty shines and took Doubleday wildly through a ravine and into some brambles. When Doubleday related the experience to Jackson, the latter intimated it was Doubleday’s fault for stopping—that if he had kept him going, the horse would have been just fine! The deal was not consummated.
Many people feel that the Confederate disaster at the third day at Gettysburg would not have happened if Jackson had survived to be present there. I don’t have a lot of patience for alternative history and speculations about “what ifs” … but there is no doubt that Jackson’s death was a major blow to the Southern cause.