Stonewall Jackson And The American Civil War by G. F. R. Henderson

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  • 1898
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Before the great Republic of the West had completed a century of independent national existence, its political fabric was subjected to the strain of a terrible internecine war. That the true cause of conflict was the antagonism between the spirit of Federalism and the theory of “States’ Rights” is very clearly explained in the following pages, and the author exactly expresses the feeling with which most Englishmen regard the question of Secession, when he implies that had he been a New Englander he would have fought to the death to preserve the Union, while had he been born in Virginia he would have done as much in defence of a right the South believed inalienable. The war thus brought about dragged on its weary length from the spring of 1861 to the same season of 1865. During its progress reputations were made that will live for ever in American history, and many remarkable men came to the front. Among these not the least prominent was “Stonewall Jackson,” who to the renown of a great soldier and unselfish patriot added the brighter fame of a Christian hero; and to those who would know what manner of man this Stonewall Jackson was, and why he was so universally revered, so beloved, so trusted by his men, I can cordially recommend Colonel Henderson’s delightful volumes. From their perusal I have derived real pleasure and sound instruction. They have taught me much; they have made me think still more; and I hope they may do the same for many others in the British Army. They are worth the closest study, for few military writers have possessed Colonel Henderson’s grasp of tactical and strategical principles, or his knowledge of the methods which have controlled their application by the most famous soldiers, from Hannibal to Von Moltke. Gifted with a rare power of describing not only great military events but the localities where they occurred, he places clearly before his readers, in logical sequence, the circumstances which brought them about. He has accomplished, too, the difficult task of combining with a brilliant and critical history of a great war the life-story of a great commander, of a most singular and remarkable man. The figure, the character, the idiosyncrasies of the famous Virginian, as well as the lofty motives which influenced him throughout, are most sympathetically portrayed.

There have been few more fitted by natural instincts, by education, by study, and by self-discipline to become leaders of men than Stonewall Jackson. From the day he joined that admirable school at West Point he may be said to have trained himself mentally, morally, and physically, for the position to which he aspired, and which it would seem he always believed he would reach. Shy as a lad, reserved as a man, speaking little but thinking much, he led his own life, devouring the experiences of great men, as recorded in military history, in order that when his time came he should be capable of handling his troops as they did. A man of very simple tastes and habits, but of strong religious principles, drawn directly from the Bible; a child in purity; a child in faith; the Almighty always in his thoughts, his stay in trouble, his guide in every difficulty, Jackson’s individuality was more striking and more complete than that of all others who played leading parts in the great tragedy of Secession. The most reckless and irreligious of the Confederate soldiers were silent in his presence, and stood awestruck and abashed before this great God-fearing man; and even in the far-off Northern States the hatred of the formidable “rebel” was tempered by an irrepressible admiration of his piety, his sincerity, and his resolution. The passions then naturally excited have now calmed down, and are remembered no more by a reunited and chivalrous nation. With that innate love of virtue and real worth which has always distinguished the American people, there has long been growing up, even among those who were the fiercest foes of the South, a feeling of love and reverence for the memory of this great and true-hearted man of war, who fell in what he firmly believed to be a sacred cause. The fame of Stonewall Jackson is no longer the exclusive property of Virginia and the South; it has become the birthright of every man privileged to call himself an American.

Colonel Henderson has made a special study of the Secession War, and it would be difficult, in my opinion, to find a man better qualified in every respect for the task he has undertaken. I may express the hope that he will soon give us the history of the war from the death of Stonewall Jackson to the fall of Richmond. Extending as it did over a period of four years, and marked by achievements which are a lasting honour to the Anglo-Saxon name, the struggle of the South for independence is from every point of view one of the most important events in the second half of the century, and it should not be left half told. Until the battle where Stonewall Jackson fell, the tide of success was flowing, and had borne the flag of the new Confederacy within sight of the gates of Washington. Colonel Henderson deals only with what I think may be called the period of Southern victories, for the tide began to ebb when Jackson fell; and those who read his volumes will, I am convinced, look forward eagerly to his story of the years which followed, when Grant, with the skill of a practised strategist, threw a net round the Confederate capital, drawing it gradually together until he imprisoned its starving garrison, and compelled Lee, the ablest commander of his day, to surrender at discretion.

But the application of strategical and tactical principles, and the example of noble lives, are not the only or even the most valuable lessons of great wars. There are lessons which concern nations rather than individuals; and there are two to be learnt from the Secession War which are of peculiar value to both England and the United States, whose armies are comparatively small and raised by voluntary enlistment. The first is the necessity of maintaining at all times (for it is impossible to predict what tomorrow may have in store for us) a well-organised standing army in the highest state of efficiency, and composed of thoroughly-trained and full-grown men. This army to be large enough for our military requirements, and adapted to the character, the habits, and the traditions of the people. It is not necessary that the whole force should be actually serving during peace: one half of it, provided it is periodically drilled and exercised, can be formed into a Reserve; the essential thing is that it should be as perfect a weapon as can be forged.

The second lesson is that to hand over to civilians the administration and organisation of the army, whether in peace or in war, or to allow them to interfere in the selection of officers for command or promotion, is most injurious to efficiency; while, during war, to allow them, no matter how high their political capacity, to dictate to commanders in the field any line of conduct, after the army has once received its commission, is simply to ensure disaster.

The first of these lessons is brought home to us by the opening events of this unreasonably protracted war. As I have elsewhere said, most military students will admit that had the United States been able, early in 1861, to put into the field, in addition to their volunteers, one Army Corps of regular troops, the war would have ended in a few months. An enormous expenditure of life and money, as well as a serious dislocation and loss of trade, would have been thus avoided. Never have the evil consequences which follow upon the absence of an adequate and well-organised army been more forcibly exemplified.

But, alas! when this lesson is preached in a country governed alternately by rival political parties, and when there is no immediate prospect of national danger, it falls on deaf ears. The demands made by the soldiers to put the army on a thoroughly efficient footing are persistently ignored, for the necessary means are almost invariably required for some other object, more popular at the moment and in a parliamentary–or party–sense more useful. The most scathing comment on such a system of administration is furnished in the story told by Colonel Henderson. The fearful trials to which the United States were subjected expose the folly and self-deception of which even well-meaning party leaders are too often capable. Ministers bluster about fighting and yet refuse to spend enough money on the army to make it fit for use; and on both sides of the Atlantic the lessons taught by the Peninsula, the Crimea, and the Secession War are but seldom remembered.

The pleasing notion that, whenever war comes, money can obtain for the nation all that it requires is still, it would seem, an article of at least lip-faith with the politicians of the English-speaking race throughout the world. Gold will certainly buy a nation powder, pills, and provisions; but no amount of wealth, even when supported by a patriotic willingness to enlist, can buy discipline, training, and skilful leading. Without these there can be no such thing as an efficient army, and success in the field against serious opposition is merely the idle dream of those who know not war.

If any nation could improvise an army at short notice it would be the United States, for its men, all round, are more hardy, more self-reliant, and quicker to learn than those of older communities. But, notwithstanding this advantage, both in 1861 and 1898 the United States failed to create the thoroughly efficient armies so suddenly required, and in both instances the unnecessary sufferings of the private soldier were the price paid for the weakness and folly of the politicians. In 1861 the Governors of the several Northern States were ordered to call for volunteers to enlist for ninety days, the men electing their own officers. It was generally believed throughout the North that all Southern resistance would collapse before the great armies that would thus be raised. But the troops sent out to crush the rebellion, when they first came under fire, were soldiers only in outward garb, and at Bull Run, face to face with shot and shell, they soon lapsed into the condition of a terrified rabble, and ran away from another rabble almost equally demoralised; and this, not because they were cowards, for they were of the same breed as the young regular soldiers who retreated from the same field in such excellent order, but because they neither understood what discipline was nor the necessity for it, and because the staff and regimental officers, with few exceptions, were untrained and inexperienced.

Mr. Davis, having prevented the Southern army from following up the victory at Bull Run, gave the Northern States some breathing time. Mr. Lincoln was thus able to raise a new army of over 200,000 men for the projected advance on Richmond.

The new army was liberally supplied with guns, pontoons, balloons, hospitals, and waggons; but, with the exception of a few officers spared from the regular army, it was without trained soldiers to lead it, or staff officers to move and to administer its Divisions. It must be admitted, I think, that General McClellan did all that a man could do in the way of training this huge mass. But when the day came for it to move forward, it was still unfit for an offensive campaign against a regular army. To the practised eye of an able and experienced soldier who accompanied McClellan, the Federal host was an army only in name. He likened it to a giant lying prone upon the earth, in appearance a Hercules, but wanting the bone, the muscle, and the nervous organisation necessary to set the great frame in motion. Even when the army was landed in the Peninsula, although the process of training and organisation had been going on for over six months, it was still a most unwieldy force. Fortunately for the Union, the Confederate army, except as regards the superior leaders and the cavalry, was hardly more efficient.

The United States, fully realising their need of a larger regular army, are now on the point of increasing their existing force to treble its present strength. Their troops, like our own, are raised by voluntary enlistment for a short period of service with the colours. England has always very great difficulty in filling the ranks even with undeveloped youths. The United States obtain as many full-grown men as they require, because they have the wisdom to pay their men well, on a scale corresponding to the market rate of wages. Here they are fortunate; but men are not everything, and I will still draw the moral that a nation is more than blind when it deliberately elects to entrust its defence to an army that is not as perfect as training and discipline can make it, that is not led by practised officers, staff and regimental, and that is not provided with a powerful and efficient artillery. Overwhelming disaster is in store for such nation if it be attacked by a large regular army; and when it falls there will be none to pity. To hang the ministers who led them astray, and who believed they knew better than any soldier how the army should be administered, will be but poor consolation to an angry and deluded people.

Let me now dwell briefly upon the second of the two great national lessons taught by the Secession War. I shall say nothing here upon civilian meddling with army organisation and with the selection of officers for command, but I wish particularly to point out the result of interference on the part of a legislative assembly or minister with the plans and dispositions of the generals commanding in the field. Take first the notorious instance of Mr. Lincoln’s interference with McClellan in the spring of 1862. McClellan, who was selected to command the army which was to capture Richmond and end the war, was a soldier of known ability, and, in my opinion, if he had not been interfered with by the Cabinet in Washington, he would probably have succeeded. It is true, as Colonel Henderson has said, that he made a mistake in not playing up to Lincoln’s susceptibilities with regard to the safety of the Federal capital. But Lincoln made a far greater mistake in suddenly reducing McClellan’s army by 40,000 men, and by removing Banks from his jurisdiction, when the plan of campaign had been approved by the Cabinet, and it was already too late to change it. It is possible, considering the political situation, that the garrison of Washington was too small, and it was certainly inefficient; but the best way of protecting Washington was to give McClellan the means of advancing rapidly upon Richmond. Such an advance would have made a Confederate counterstroke against the Northern capital, or even a demonstration, impossible. But to take away from McClellan 40,000 men, the very force with which he intended to turn the Yorktown lines and drive the enemy back on Richmond, and at the same time to isolate Banks in the Shenandoah Valley, was simply playing into the enemy’s hands. What Lincoln did not see was that to divide the Federal army into three portions, working on three separate lines, was to run a far greater risk than would be incurred by leaving Washington weakly garrisoned. I cannot bring myself to believe that he in the least realised all that was involved in changing a plan of operations so vast as McClellan’s.

Again, look at the folly of which Mr. Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of War, was guilty at the same period. The reader should carefully study the chapter in which Colonel Henderson describes Stonewall Jackson’s resignation of his command when his arrangements in the field were altered, without his cognizance, by the Secretary of War.

I should like to emphasise his words: “That the soldier,” he says, “is but the servant of the statesman, as war is but an instrument of diplomacy, no educated soldier will deny. Politics must always exercise a supreme influence on strategy; yet it cannot be gainsaid that interference with the commander in the field is fraught with the gravest danger.”* (* Volume 1 chapter 7.)

The absolute truth of this remark is proved, not only by many instances in his own volumes, but by the history of war in all ages, and the principle for which Jackson contended when he sent in his resignation would seem too well founded to be open to the slightest question. Yet there are those who, oblivious of the fact that neglect of this principle has been always responsible for protracted wars, for useless slaughter, and costly failures, still insist on the omniscience of statesmen; who regard the protest of the soldier as the mere outcome of injured vanity, and believe that politics must suffer unless the politician controls strategy as well as the finances. Colonel Henderson’s pages supply an instructive commentary on these ideas. In the first three years of the Secession War, when Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stanton practically controlled the movements of the Federal forces, the Confederates were generally successful. Further, the most glorious epoch of the Confederacy was the critical period of 1862, when Lee was allowed to exercise the full authority of Commander-in-Chief; and lastly, the Northern prospects did not begin to brighten until Mr. Lincoln, in March 1864, with that unselfish intelligence which distinguished him, abdicated his military functions in favour of General Grant. And yet while Lee and Grant had a free hand over the military resources of their respective nations the political situation suffered no harm whatever, no extravagant demands were made upon the exchequer, and the Government derived fresh strength from the successes of the armies.

The truth is that a certain class of civilians cannot rid themselves of the suspicion that soldiers are consumed by an inordinate and bloodthirsty ambition. They cannot understand that a man brought up from his youth to render loyal obedience is less likely than most others to run counter to constituted authority. They will not see that a soldier’s pride in his own army and in the manhood of his own race tends to make him a devoted patriot. They do not realise that a commander’s familiarity with war, whether gained by study or experience, must, unless his ability be limited, enable him to accommodate his strategy to political exigencies. Nor will they admit that he can possess a due sense of economy, although none knows better than an educated soldier the part played in war by a sound and thrifty administration of the national resources.

The soldier, on the other hand, knows that his art is most difficult, that to apply strategical principles correctly experience, study, knowledge of men, and an intimate acquaintance with questions of supply, transport, and the movement of masses, are absolutely necessary. He is aware that what may seem matters of small moment to the civilian–such as the position of a brigade, the strength of a garrison, the command of a detachment–may affect the whole course of a campaign; and consequently, even if he had not the historical examples of Aulic Councils and other such assemblies to warn him, he would rebel against the meddling of amateurs. Let it not be forgotten that an enormous responsibility rests on the shoulders of a commander in the field: the honour of army committed to his charge, the lives of the brave men under him, perhaps the existence of his country; and that failure, even if he can plead that he only obeyed the orders of his Government, or that he was supplied with inadequate means, will be laid at his door. McDowell received no mercy after Bull Run, although he had protested against attacking the Confederates; and it was long before the reputation of Sir John Moore was cleared in the eyes of the English people.

Such, to my mind, are the most important lessons to be drawn from this history of the first period of the Secession War. But it is not alone to draw attention to the teaching on these points that I have acceded, as an old friend, to Colonel Henderson’s request that I should write an Introduction to his second edition. In these days of sensational literature and superficial study there is a prejudice against the story that fills more than one volume. But the reader who opens these pages is so carried away by the intense interest of the subject, clothed as it is in forcible and yet graceful language, that he closes them with regret; and I am only too glad to ask others to share the very great pleasure I have myself enjoyed in reading them. I know of no book which will add more largely to the soldier’s knowledge of strategy and the art of war; and the ordinary reader will find in this Life of Stonewall Jackson, true and accurate as it is, all the charm and fascination of a great historical romance.


To write the life of a great general, to analyse his methods of war and discipline, to appraise the weight of his responsibilities, and to measure the extent of his capacity, it would seem essential that the experience of the writer should have run on parallel lines. An ordinary soldier, therefore, who notwithstanding his lack of such experience attempts the task, may be justly accused of something worse than presumption. But if we were to wait for those who are really qualified to deal with the achievements of famous captains, we should, as a rule, remain in ignorance of the lessons of their lives, for men of the requisite capacity are few in a generation. So the task, if it is to be done at all, must perforce be left to those who have less knowledge but more leisure.

In the present case, however, the mass of contemporary testimony is so large that any initial disadvantages, I venture to think, will be less conspicuous than they might otherwise have been. The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion contain every dispatch, letter, and message, public or confidential, which has been preserved; and in the daily correspondence of the generals on both sides, together with the voluminous reports of officers of all grades, the tale of the campaigns is written so plain that none can fail to read. Again, Stonewall Jackson’s military career, either in full or in part, has been narrated by more than one of his staff officers, whose intercourse with him was necessarily close and constant; and, in addition, the literature of the war abounds with articles and sketches contributed by soldiers of all ranks who, at one time or another, served under his command. It has been my privilege, moreover, to visit the battle-fields of Virginia with men who rode by his side when he won his victories, to hear on the spot the description of his manoeuvres, of his bearing under fire, and of his influence over his troops. I can thus make fairly certain that my facts are accurate. But in endeavouring to ascertain the strength of the armies at different periods I have been less fortunate. For the most part I have rested on the Official Records* (* Referred to in the text as O.R.); it is to be regretted, however, that, so far as the Confederates are concerned, there are several gaps in the series of returns, and I have found it extremely difficult to arrive at a fair estimate of the approximate strength at any period within these intervals. For instance, the numbers at Lee’s disposal at the end of August 1862 rest on the basis of a return dated July 20, and in the meantime several regiments and batteries had been transferred elsewhere, while others had been added. I have done my best, however, to trace all such changes; and where officers and employed men are not included in the returns, I have been careful to add a normal percentage to the official totals.

As regards Jackson’s place in history, my labours have been greatly facilitated by the published opinions of many distinguished soldiers–American, English, French, and German; and I have endeavoured, at every step, as the surest means of arriving at a just conclusion, to compare his conduct of military affairs with that of the acknowledged masters of war. His private life, from his boyhood onwards, has been so admirably depicted by his widow* (* Memoirs of Stonewall Jackson. The Prentice Press, Louisville, Kentucky.), that I have had nothing more to do than to select from her pages such incidents and letters as appear best suited to illustrate his character, and to add a few traits and anecdotes communicated by his personal friends.

Several biographies have already been published, and that written by the late Reverend R.L. Dabney, D.D., sometime Major in the Confederate army, and Jackson’s Chief of the Staff for several months, is so complete and powerful that the need of a successor is not at once apparent. This work, however, was brought out before the war had ceased, and notwithstanding his intimate relations with his hero, it was impossible for the author to attain that fulness and precision of statement which the study of the Official Records can alone ensure. Nor was Dr. Dabney a witness of all the events he so vigorously described. It is only fitting, however, that I should acknowledge the debt I owe to a soldier and writer of such conspicuous ability. Not only have I quoted freely from his pages, but he was good enough, at my request, to write exhaustive memoranda on many episodes of Jackson’s career.

Cooke’s Life of Jackson is still popular, and deservedly so; but Cooke, like Dr. Dabney, had no access to the Official Records, and his narrative of the battles, picturesque and lifelike as it is, can hardly be accepted as sober history. On the other hand, the several works of the late Colonel William Allan, C.S.A., in collaboration with Major Hotchkiss, C.S.A., are as remarkable for their research and accuracy as for their military acumen; while the volumes of the Southern Historical Society, together with the remarkable series of articles entitled “Battles and Leaders of the Civil War,” written by the leading participants on either side, are a perfect mine of wealth to the historical student. I need hardly add that the memoirs and biographies of both the Federal and Confederate generals, of Lee, Grant, Stuart, Sherman, Johnston, Longstreet, Beauregard, McClellan, Hancock, Pendleton and others, are a necessary complement to the Official Records.

Nevertheless, with all this mass of information at my command, had it not been for the exceeding kindness of the friends and comrades of Stonewall Jackson, I much doubt whether I should have been able to complete my task. To the late Major Hotchkiss, his trusted staff officer, whatever of value these volumes may contain is largely due. Not only did he correct the topographical descriptions, but he investigated most carefully many disputed points; and in procuring the evidence of eye-witnesses, and thus enabling me to check and amplify the statements of previous writers, he was indefatigable. Dr. Hunter McGuire, Medical Director of Jackson’s successive commands, has given me much of his valuable time. The Reverend J.P. Smith, D.D., Jackson’s aide-de-camp, has rendered me great assistance; and from many officers and men of the Stonewall Brigade, of Jackson’s Division, and of the Second Army Corps, I have received contributions to this memorial of their famous chief. Generals Gustavus Smith, Fitzhugh Lee, Stephen D. Lee, and N.G. Harris, Colonel Williams, Colonel Poague, and R.E. Lee, Esquire, of Washington, D.C., all formerly of the Confederate States Army, have supplied me with new matter. Colonel Miller, U.S.A., most courteously responded to my request for a copy of the services of his regiment, the First Artillery, in the Mexican war. The late General John Gibbon, U.S.A., wrote for me his reminiscences of Jackson as a cadet at West Point, and as a subaltern in Mexico; and many officers who fought for the Union have given me information as to the tactics and discipline of the Federal armies. The Reverend J. Graham, D.D., of Winchester, Virginia; Dr. H.A. White, of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, author of an admirable life of General Lee; and the Hon. Francis Lawley, once Special Correspondent of the Times in the Confederate States, have been most kind in replying to my many questions. To Major-General Hildyard, C.B., late Commandant of the Staff College, I am indebted for much valuable criticism on the campaigns of 1862; and my warmest thanks are here tendered to the Commander-in-Chief, Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley, for much information and more encouragement.

I cannot conceal from myself, however, that notwithstanding the numerous authorities I have been enabled to consult, as well as the intrinsic interest of my subject, many of the following chapters will be found excessively dull by civilian readers. Stonewall Jackson’s military career was not all hard fighting; nor was it on the battlefield alone that his supreme ability for war was made manifest. His time and thoughts were more occupied by strategy, that is, by combinations made out of the enemy’s sight, than by tactics, that is, by manoeuvres executed in the enemy’s presence. But strategy, unfortunately, is an unpopular science, even among soldiers, requiring both in practice and in demonstration constant and careful study of the map, the closest computation of time and space, a grasp of many factors, and the strictest attention to the various steps in the problems it presents. At the same time, it is a science which repays the student, although he may have no direct concern with military affairs; for not only will a comprehension of its immutable principles add a new interest to the records of stirring times and great achievements, but it will make him a more useful citizen.

In free countries like Great Britain, her colonies, and the United States, the weight of intelligent opinion, in all matters of moment, generally turns the scale; and if it were generally understood that, in regular warfare, success depends on something more than rank and experience, no Government would dare entrust the command of the army to any other than the most competent soldier. The campaigns of the Civil War show how much may be achieved, even with relatively feeble means, by men who have both studied strategy and have the character necessary for its successful practice; and they also show, not a whit less forcibly, what awful sacrifices may be exacted from a nation ignorant that such a science exists. And such ignorance is widespread. How seldom do we hear a knowledge of strategy referred to as an indispensable acquirement in those who aspire to high command? How often is it repeated, although in so doing the speakers betray their own shortcomings, that strategy is a mere matter of common-sense? Yet the plain truth is that strategy is not only the determining factor in civilised warfare, but that, in order to apply its principles, the soundest common-sense must be most carefully trained. Of all the sciences connected with war it is the most difficult. If the names of the great captains, soldiers and sailors, be recalled, it will be seen that it is to the breadth of their strategical conceptions rather than to their tactical skill that they owe their fame. An analysis of the great wars shows that their course was generally marked by the same vicissitudes. First we have the great strategist, a Hannibal, or a Napoleon, or a Lee, triumphing with inferior numbers over adversaries who are tacticians and nothing more. Then, suddenly, the tide of victory is checked, and brilliant manoeuvres no longer avail. Fabius and Scipio, Wellington, Nelson, and St. Vincent, Grant, Sherman, and Farragut, have replaced the mere tacticians; and the superior resources, wielded with strategical skill, exert their inevitable effect. Or it may be that fortune is constant throughout to her first favourite; and that a Marlborough, a Frederick, a Washington, a Moltke, opposed only by good fighting men, never by an accomplished strategist, marches from victory to victory. It is impossible, then, to estimate the ability of any general without considering his strategy. Moreover, in this age of inventions, of rapid movement, and of still more rapid communication, the science is more complicated and even more important than heretofore; and it is deserving, therefore, of far closer attention, from both soldiers and civilians, than it has hitherto received. It is for these reasons that I have described and discussed in such minute detail the strategy of the campaigns with which Jackson had to do.

I have only to add that should anything in these pages wound the susceptibilities of any one of those splendid soldiers and gallant gentlemen who took part in the Civil War, whether he be Northerner or Southerner, I here tender him my humblest apologies; assuring him, at the same time, that while compiling these pages I have always borne in mind the words of General Grant: “I would like to see truthful history written. Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance, and ability of the American citizen, no matter what section he hailed from, or in what ranks he fought.” I am very strongly of opinion that any fair-minded man may feel equal sympathy with both Federal and Confederate. Both were so absolutely convinced that their cause was just, that it is impossible to conceive either Northerner or Southerner acting otherwise than he did. If Stonewall Jackson had been a New Englander, educated in the belief that secession was rebellion, he would assuredly have shed the last drop of his blood in defence of the Union; if Ulysses Grant had been a Virginian, imbibing the doctrine of States’ rights with his mother’s milk, it is just as certain that he would have worn the Confederate grey. It is with those Northerners who would have allowed the Union to be broken, and with those Southerners who would have tamely surrendered their hereditary rights, that no Englishman would be willing to claim kinship.




1.2. MEXICO. 1846 TO 1847.

1.3. LEXINGTON. 1851 TO 1861.

1.4. SECESSION. 1860 TO 1861.



1.7. ROMNEY.


1.9. M’DOWELL.




















SITUATION, MAY 18, 1862.








In the first quarter of the century, on the hills which stand above the Ohio River, but in different States of the Union, were born two children, destined, to all appearance, to lives of narrow interests and thankless toil. They were the sons of poor parents, without influence or expectations; their native villages, deep in the solitudes of the West, and remote from the promise and possibilities of great cities, offered no road to fortune. In the days before the railway, escape from the wilderness, except for those with long purses, was very difficult; and for those who remained, if their means were small, the farm and the store were the only occupations. But a farmer without capital was little better than a hired hand; trade was confined to the petty dealings of a country market; and although thrift and energy, even under such depressing conditions, might eventually win a competence, the most ardent ambition could hardly hope for more. Never was an obscure existence more irretrievably marked out than for these children of the Ohio; and yet, before either had grown grey, the names of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, and of Stonewall Jackson, Lieutenant-General in the Confederate Army, were household words in both America and Europe. Descendants of the pioneers, those hardy borderers, half soldiers and half farmers, who held and reclaimed, through long years of Indian warfare, the valleys and prairies of the West, they inherited the best attributes of a frank and valiant race. Simple yet wise, strong yet gentle, they were gifted with all the qualities which make leaders of men. Actuated by the highest principles, they both ennobled the cause for which they fought; and while the opposition of such kindred natures adds to the dramatic interest of the Civil War, the career of the great soldier, although a theme perhaps less generally attractive, may be followed as profitably as that of the great statesmen. Providence dealt with them very differently. The one was struck down by a mortal wound before his task was well begun; his life, to all human seeming, was given in vain, and his name will ever be associated with the mournful memories of a lost cause and a vanished army. The other, ere he fell beneath the assassin’s stroke, had seen the abundant fruits of his mighty labours; his sun set in a cloudless sky. And yet the resemblance between them is very close. Both dared:

For that sweet mother-land which gave them birth Nobly to do, nobly to die. Their names,
Graven on memorial columns, are a song Heard in the future;…more than wall
And rampart, their examples reach a hand Far thro’ all years, and everywhere they meet And kindle generous purpose, and the strength To mould it into action pure as theirs.

Jackson, in one respect, was more fortunate than Lincoln. Although born to poverty, he came of a Virginia family which was neither unknown nor undistinguished, and as showing the influences which went to form his character, its history and traditions may be briefly related.

It is an article of popular belief that the State of Virginia, the Old Dominion of the British Crown, owes her fame to the blood of the English Cavaliers. The idea, however, has small foundation in fact. Not a few of her great names are derived from a less romantic source, and the Confederate general, like many of his neighbours in the western portion of the State, traced his origin to the Lowlands of Scotland. An ingenious author of the last century, himself born on Tweed-side, declares that those Scotch families whose patronymics end in “son,” although numerous and respectable, and descended, as the distinctive syllable denotes, from the Vikings, have seldom been pre-eminent either in peace or war. And certainly, as regards the Jacksons of bygone centuries, the assertion seems justified. The name is almost unknown to Border history. In neither lay nor legend has it been preserved; and even in the “black lists” of the wardens, where the more enterprising of the community were continually proclaimed as thieves and malefactors, it is seldom honoured with notice. The omission might be held as evidence that the family was of peculiar honesty, but, in reality, it is only a proof that it was insignificant. It is not improbable that the Jacksons were one of the landless clans, whose only heritages were their rude “peel” towers, and who, with no acknowledged chief of their own race, followed, as much for protection as for plunder, the banner of some more powerful house. In course of time, when the Marches grew peaceful and morals improved, when cattle-lifting, no longer profitable, ceased to be an honourable occupation, such humbler marauders drifted away into the wide world, leaving no trace behind, save the grey ruins of their grim fortalices, and the incidental mention of some probably disreputable scion in a chapman’s ballad. Neither mark nor memory of the Jacksons remains in Scotland. We only know that some members of the clan, impelled probably by religious persecution, made their way to Ulster, where a strong colony of Lowlanders had already been established.

Under a milder sky and a less drastic government the expatriated Scots lost nothing of their individuality. Masterful and independent from the beginning, masterful and independent they remained, inflexible of purpose, impatient of justice, and staunch to their ideals. Something, perhaps, they owed to contact with the Celt. Wherever the Ulster folk have made their home, the breath of the wholesome North has followed them, preserving untainted their hereditary virtues. Shrewd, practical, and thrifty, prosperity has consistently rewarded them; and yet, in common with the Irishmen of English stock, they have found in the trade of arms the most congenial outlet for their energies. An abiding love of peace can hardly be enumerated amongst their more prominent characteristics; and it is a remarkable fact, which, unless there is some mysterious property in the air, can only be explained by the intermixture of races, that Ireland “within the Pale” has been peculiarly prolific of military genius. As England has bred admirals, so the sister isle has bred soldiers. The tenacious courage of the Anglo-Saxon, blended with the spirit of that people which above all others delights in war, has proved on both sides of the Atlantic a most powerful combination of martial qualities. The same mixed strain which gave England Wolfe and Wellington, the Napiers and the Lawrences, has given America some of her greatest captains; and not the least famous of her Presidents is that General Jackson who won the battle of New Orleans in 1814. So, early in the century the name became known beyond the seas; but whether the same blood ran in the veins of the Confederate general and of the soldier President is a matter of some doubt. The former, in almost every single respect, save his warm heart, was the exact converse of the typical Irishman, the latter had a hot temper and a ready wit. Both, however, were undeniably fond of fighting, and a letter still preserved attests that their ancestors had lived in the same parish of Londonderry.* (* This letter is in the possession of Thomas Jackson Arnold, Esquire, of Beverly, West Virginia, nephew of General “Stonewall” Jackson.)


John Jackson, the great-grandfather of our hero, landed in America in 1748, and it was not long before he set his face towards the wilderness. The emigrants from Ulster appear as a rule to have moved westward. The States along the coast were already colonised, and, despite its fertility, the country was little to their taste. But beyond the border, in the broad Appalachian valley which runs from the St. Lawrence to Alabama, on the banks of the great rivers, the Susquehanna, the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee, they found a land after their own heart, a soil with whose properties they were familiar, the sweet grasses and soft contours of their native hills. Here, too, there was ample room for their communities, for the West was as yet but sparsely tenanted. No inconsiderable number, penetrating far into the interior, settled eventually about the headwaters of the Potomac and the James. This highland region was the debatable ground of the United States. So late as 1756 the State of Virginia extended no further than the crests of the Blue Ridge. Two hundred miles westward forts flying French colours dominated the valley of the Ohio, and the wild and inhospitable tract, a very labyrinth of mountains, which lay between, was held by the fierce tribes of the “Six Nations” and the Leni-Lenape. Two years later the French had been driven back to Canada; but it was not till near the close of the century that the savage was finally dispossessed of his spacious hunting grounds.

It was on these green uplands, where fight and foray were as frequent as once on the Scottish border, that John Jackson and his wife, a fellow passenger to America, by name Elizabeth Cummins, first pitched their camp, and here is still the home of their descendants.

January 21, 1824.

In the little town of Clarksburg, now the county-seat of Harrison, but then no more than a village in the Virginia backwoods, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born on January 21, 1824. His father was a lawyer, clever and popular, who had inherited a comfortable patrimony. The New World had been generous to the Jacksons. The emigrant of 1748 left a valuable estate, and his many sons were uniformly prosperous. Nor was their affluence the reward of energy and thrift alone, for the lands reclaimed by axe and plough were held by a charter of sword and musket. The redskin fought hard for his ancestral domains. The stockaded forts, which stood as a citadel of refuge in every settlement, were often the scene of fierce attack and weary leaguer, and the nursing mothers of the frontier families were no strangers to war and bloodshed. The last great battle with the Indians east of the Ohio was fought in 1774, but the military experience of the pioneers was not confined to the warfare of the border. John Jackson and his sons bore arms in the War of Independence, and the trained riflemen of West Virginia were welcome recruits in the colonial ranks. With the exception of the Highlanders of the ’45, who had been deported in droves to the plantations, no race had less cause to remain loyal to the Crown than the men of Ulster blood. Even after the siege of Londonderry they had been proscribed and persecuted; and in the War of Independence the fiercest enemies of King George were the descendants of the same Scotch-Irish who had held the north of Ireland for King William.

In Washington’s campaigns more than one of the Jacksons won rank and reputation; and when peace was established they married into influential families. Nor was the next generation less successful. Judges, senators, and soldiers upheld the honour of the name, and proved the worth of the ancestral stock. They were marked, it is said, by strong and characteristic features, by a warm feeling of clanship, a capacity for hard work, and a decided love of roving. Some became hunters, others explorers, and the race is now scattered from Virginia to Oregon. A passion for litigation was a general failing, and none of them could resist the fascination of machinery. Every Jackson owned a mill or factory of some sort–many of them more than one–and their ventures were not always profitable. Jackson’s father, among others, found it easier to make money than to keep it. Generous and incautious, he became deeply involved by becoming security for others; high play increased his embarrassments; and when he died in 1827 every vestige of his property was swept away. His young widow, left with three small children, two sons and a daughter, became dependent on the assistance of her kinsfolk for a livelihood, and on the charity of the Freemasons for a roof. When Thomas, her second son, was six years old, she married a Captain Woodson; but her second matrimonial venture was not more fortunate than her first. Her husband’s means were small, and necessity soon compelled her to commit her two boys to the care of their father’s relatives.


Within a year the children stood round her dying bed, and at a very early age our little Virginian found himself a penniless orphan. But, as he never regretted his poverty, so he never forgot his mother. To the latest hour of his life he loved to recall her memory, and years after she had passed away her influence still remained. Her beauty, her counsels, their last parting, and her happy death, for she was a woman of deep religious feeling, made a profound impression on him. To his childhood’s fancy she was the embodiment of every grace; and so strong had been the sympathy between them, that even in the midst of his campaigns she was seldom absent from his thoughts. After her death the children found a home with their father’s half-brother, who had inherited the family estates, and was one of the largest slave-owners in the district. Their surroundings, however, could hardly be called luxurious. Life on the Ohio was very different from life on the coast. The western counties of Virginia were still practically on the frontier of the United States. The axe had thinned the interminable woods; mills were busy on each mountain stream, and the sunny valleys were rich in fruit and corn. But as yet there was little traffic. Steam had not yet come to open up the wilderness. The population was small and widely scattered; and the country was cut off as much by nature as by distance from the older civilisation of the East. The parallel ranges of the Alleghanies, with their pathless forests and great canyons, were a formidable barrier to all intercourse. The West was a world in itself. The only outlets eastward were the valleys of the Potomac and the James, the one leading to Washington, the other to Richmond; and so seldom were they used that the yeomen of the Ohio uplands were almost as much opposed, both in character and in mode of life, to the planters beyond the Blue Ridge, as the Covenanters of Bothwell Brig to the gentlemen of Dundee’s Life Guards.

Although the sturdy independence and simple habits of the borderers were not affected by contact with wealthier communities, isolation was not in every way a blessing. Served by throngs of slaves, the great landowners of East Virginia found leisure to cultivate the arts which make life more pleasant. The rambling houses on the banks of the James, the Rappahannock, and the Potomac, built on the model of English manors, had their libraries and picture-galleries. A classical academy was the boast of every town, and a university training was considered as essential to the son of a planter as to the heir of an English squire. A true aristocracy, in habit and in lineage, the gentlemen of Virginia long swayed the councils of the nation, and among them were many who were intimate with the best representatives of European culture. Beyond the Alleghanies there were no facilities for education; and even had opportunities offered few would have had the leisure to enjoy them. Labour was scarce, either slave or hired. The owners of farms were their own managers and overseers, and young men had to serve a practical apprenticeship to lumbering and agriculture. To this rule, despite his uncle’s wealth, Jackson was no exception. He had to fight his own battle, to rub shoulders with all sorts and conditions of men, and to hold his own as best he could.

It was a hard school, then, in which he grew to manhood. But for that very reason it was a good school for the future soldier. For a man who has to push his own way in the world, more especially if he has to carve it with his sword, a boyhood passed amidst surroundings which boast of no luxury and demand much endurance, is the best probation. Von Moltke has recorded that the comfortless routine of the Military Academy at Copenhagen inured him to privation, and Jackson learned the great lesson of self-reliance in the rough life of his uncle’s homestead.

The story of his early years is soon told. As a blue-eyed child, with long fair hair, he was curiously thoughtful and exceedingly affectionate. His temper was generous and cheerful. His truthfulness was proverbial, and his little sister found in him the kindest of playmates and the sturdiest of protectors. He was distinguished, too, for his politeness, although good manners were by no means rare in the rustic West. The manly courtesy of the true American is no exotic product; nor is the universal deference to woman peculiar to any single class. The farmer of the backwoods might be ignorant of the conventionalities, but the simplicity and unselfishness which are the root of all good breeding could be learned in West Virginia as readily as in Richmond.

Once, tempted by his brother, the boy left his adopted home, and the two children, for the elder was no more than twelve, wandered down the Ohio to the Mississippi, and spent the summer on a lonely and malarious island, cutting wood for passing steamers. No one opposed their going, and it seems to have been considered quite natural in that independent community that the veriest urchins should be allowed to seek their fortunes for themselves. Returning, ragged and fever-stricken, the little adventurers submitted once more to the routine of the farm and to the intermittent studies of a country school. After his failure as a man of business, our small hero showed no further inclination to seek his fortunes far afield. He was fond of his home. His uncle, attracted by his steadiness and good sense, treated him more as a companion than a child; and in everything connected with the farm, as well as in the sports of the country side, the boy took the keenest interest. Delicate by nature, with a tendency to consumption inherited from his mother, his physique and constitution benefited by a life of constant exercise and wholesome toil. At school he was a leader in every game, and his proficiency in the saddle proved him a true Virginian. Fox-hunting and horse-racing were popular amusements, and his uncle not only kept a stable of well-bred horses, but had a four-mile race-course on his own grounds. As a light-weight jockey the future general was a useful member of the household, and it was the opinion of the neighbourhood that “if a horse had any winning qualities whatever in him, young Jackson never failed to bring them out.”

In the management of the estate he learned early to put his shoulder to the wheel. Transporting timber from the forest to the saw-mill was one of his most frequent tasks, and tradition records that if a tree were to be moved from ground of unusual difficulty, or if there were one more gigantic than the rest, the party of labourers was put under his control, and the work was sure to be effected.

One who knew him well has described his character. “He was a youth of exemplary habits, of indomitable will and undoubted courage. He was not what is nowadays termed brilliant, but he was one of those untiring, matter-of-fact persons who would never give up an undertaking until he accomplished his object. He learned slowly, but what he got into his head he never forgot. He was not quick to decide, except when excited, and then, when he made up his mind to do a thing, he did it on short notice and in quick time. Once, while on his way to school, an overgrown rustic behaved rudely to one of the school-girls. Jackson fired up, and told him he must apologise at once or he would thrash him. The big fellow, supposing that he was more than a match for him, refused, whereupon Jackson pitched into him, and gave him a severe pounding.”

His surroundings, then, although neither refined nor elevating, were not unwholesome; but of the moral influences to which he was subjected, so much cannot be said, while the stock of piety that the original settlers brought with them had not entirely vanished. There was much irregularity of life; few men gave any thought to religion, and young Jackson drifted with the tide. Yet there was something that preserved him from contamination. His uncle, kindest of guardians, though irreligious and a sportsman, was scrupulously exacting in matters of integrity and veracity. His associates included the most respectable, yet the morals of the sporting fraternity of a frontier settlement are not likely to have been edifying. That his nephew, as he himself declares, was an ardent frequenter of races, “house-raisings,”* (* Anglice, house-warmings.) and country dances is hardly surprising, and it is assuredly no ground whatever for reproach. Nor is it strange that, amid much laxity, he should have retained his integrity, that his regard for truth should have remained untarnished, and that he should have consistently held aloof from all that was mean and vile. His mother was no mere memory to that affectionate nature.

His good qualities, however, would scarcely of themselves have done more than raise him to a respectable rank amongst the farmers of West Virginia. A spur was wanting to urge him beyond the limits of so contracted an existence, and that spur was supplied by an honourable ambition. Penniless and dependent as he was, he still remembered that his ancestors had been distinguished beyond the confines of their native county, and this legitimate pride in his own people, a far-off reflection, perhaps, of the traditional Scottish attitude towards name and pedigree, exercised a marked influence on his whole career. “To prove himself worthy of his forefathers was the purpose of his early manhood. It gives us a key to many of the singularities of his character; to his hunger for self-improvement; to his punctilious observance, from a boy, of the essentials of gentlemanly bearing, and to the uniform assertion of his self-respect.”* (* Dabney volume 1 page 29.)


It was his openly expressed wish for larger advantages than those offered by a country school that brought about his opportunity. In 1841, at the age of seventeen, he became a constable of the county. A sort of minor sheriff, he had to execute the decrees of the justices, to serve their warrants, to collect small debts, and to summon witnesses. It was a curious office for a boy, but a year or two before he had been seized with some obscure form of dyspepsia, and the idea that a life on horseback, which his duties necessitated, might restore his health, had induced his relatives to obtain the post for him. Jackson himself seems to have been influenced by the hope that his salary would help towards his education, and by the wish to become independent of his uncle’s bounty. His new duties were uncongenial, but, despite his youth, he faced his responsibilities with a determination which men of maturer years might well have envied. In everything he was scrupulously exact. His accounts were accurately kept; he was punctuality itself, and his patience was inexhaustible. For two years he submitted cheerfully to the drudgery of his position, re-establishing his health, but without advancing a single step towards the goal of his ambition. But before he was nineteen his hopes were unexpectedly realised.


The Military Academy at West Point not only provided, at the expense of the nation, a sound and liberal education, but offered an opening to an honourable career. Nominations to cadetships were made by the Secretary of War, on the recommendation of members of Congress, and in 1842 a vacancy occurred which was to be filled by a youth from the Congressional District in which Clarksburg was included. Jackson, informed of the chance by a friendly blacksmith, eagerly embraced it, and left no stone unturned to attain his object. Every possible influence that could be brought to bear on the member for the district was immediately enlisted. To those who objected that his education was too imperfect to enable him even to enter the Academy, he replied that he had the necessary application, that he hoped he had the capacity, and that he was at least determined to try. His earnestness and courage won upon all. His application was strongly backed by those who had learned to value his integrity and exactness, and Mr. Hays, the member for the district, wrote that he would do all in his power to secure the appointment. No sooner had the letter been read than Jackson determined to go at once to Washington, in order that he might be ready to proceed to West Point without a moment’s delay. Packing a few clothes into a pair of saddlebags, he mounted his horse, and accompanied by a servant, who was to bring the animal home, rode off to catch the coach at Clarksburg. It had already passed, but galloping on, he overtook it at the next stage, and on his arrival at Washington, Mr. Hays at once introduced him to the Secretary of War. On presenting him, he explained the disadvantages of his education, but begged indulgence for him on account of his pluck and determination. The Secretary plied him with questions, but Jackson was not to be diverted from his purpose; and so good was the impression which he made that he then and there received his warrant, accompanied by some excellent advice. “Sir,” said the Secretary, “you have a good name. Go to West Point, and the first man who insults you, knock him down, and have it charged to my account!”

Mr. Hays proposed that the new-fledged cadet should stay with him for a few days in order to see the sights of Washington. But as the Academy was already in session, Jackson, with a strong appreciation of the value of time, begged to decline. He was content to ascend to the roof of the Capitol, then still building, and look once on the magnificent panorama of which it is the centre.

At his feet lay the city, with its busy streets and imposing edifices. To the south ran the Potomac, bearing on its ample tide the snowy sails of many merchantmen, and spanned by a bridge more than a mile in length. Over against the Capitol, looking down on that wide-watered shore, stood the white porch of Arlington, once the property of Washington, and now the home of a young officer of the United States army, Robert Edward Lee. Beyond Arlington lay Virginia, Jackson’s native State, stretching back in leafy hills and verdant pastures, and far and low upon the western horizon his own mountains loomed faintly through the summer haze. It was a strange freak of fortune that placed him at the very outset of his career within sight of the theatre of his most famous victories. It was a still stranger caprice that was to make the name of the simple country youth, ill-educated and penniless, as terrible in Washington as the name of the Black Douglas was once in Durham and Carlisle.


It was in July 1842 that one of America’s greatest soldiers first answered to his name on the parade-ground at West Point. Shy and silent, clad in Virginia homespun, with the whole of his personal effects carried in a pair of weather-stained saddle bags, the impression that he made on his future comrades, as the Secretary of War appears to have anticipated, was by no means favourable. The West Point cadets were then, as now, remarkable for their upright carriage, the neatness of their appointments, and their soldierly bearing towards their officers and towards each other. The grey coatee, decorated with bright buttons and broad gold lace, the shako with tall plumes, the spotless white trousers, set off the trim young figures to the best advantage; and the full-dress parade of the cadet battalion, marked by discipline and precision in every movement, is still one of the most attractive of military spectacles.

These natty young gentlemen were not slow to detect the superficial deficiencies of the newcomer. A system of practical joking, carried to extremes, had long been a feature of West Point life. Jackson, with the rusticity of the backwoods apparent at every turn, promised the highest sport. And here it may be written, once for all, that however nearly in point of character the intended victim reached the heroic standard, his outward graces were few. His features were well cut, his forehead high, his mouth small and firm, and his complexion fresh. Yet the ensemble was not striking, nor was it redeemed by grave eyes and a heavy jaw, a strong but angular frame, a certain awkwardness of movement, and large hands and feet. His would-be tormentors, however, soon found they had mistaken their man. The homespun jacket covered a natural shrewdness which had been sharpened by responsibility. The readiness of resource which had characterised the whilom constable was more than a match for their most ingenious schemes; and baffled by a temper which they were powerless to disturb, their attempts at persecution, apparently more productive of amusement to their victim than to themselves, were soon abandoned.

Rough as was the life of the Virginia border, it had done something to fit this unpromising recruit for the give and take of his new existence. Culture might be lacking in the distant West, but the air men breathed was at least the blessed breath of independence. Each was what he made himself. A man’s standing depended on his success in life, and success was within the reach of all. There, like his neighbours, Jackson had learned to take his own part; like them he acknowledged no superiority save that of actual merit, and believing that the richest prize might be won by energy and perseverance, without diffidence or misgiving he faced his future. He knew nothing of the life of the great nation of which he was so insignificant an atom, of the duties of the army, of the manners of its officers. He knew only that even as regards education he had an uphill task before him. He was indeed on the threshold of a new world, with his own way to make, and apparently no single advantage in his favour. But he came of a fighting race; he had his own inflexible resolution to support him, and his determination expressed itself in his very bearing. Four cadets, three of whom were afterwards Confederate generals,* (* A.P. Hill, G.E. Pickett, and D.H. Maury.) were standing together when he first entered the gates of the Academy. “There was about him,” says one of them, “so sturdy an expression of purpose that I remarked, “That fellow looks as if he had come to stay.””

Jackson’s educational deficiencies were more difficult of conquest than the goodwill of his comrades. His want of previous training placed him at a great disadvantage. He commenced his career amongst “the Immortals” (the last section of the class), and it was only by the most strenuous efforts that he maintained his place. His struggles at the blackboard were often painful to witness. In the struggle to solve a problem he invariably covered both his face and uniform with chalk, and he perspired so freely, even in the coldest weather, that the cadets, with boyish exaggeration, declared that whenever “the General,” as he had at once been dubbed in honour of his namesake, the victor of New Orleans, got a difficult proposition he was certain to flood the classroom. It was all he could do to pass his first examination.* (* Communicated by General John Gibbon, U.S.A.)

“We were studying,” writes a classmate, “algebra and analytical geometry that winter, and Jackson was very low in his class. Just before the signal lights out he would pile up his grate with anthracite coal, and lying prone before it on the floor, would work away at his lessons by the glare of the fire, which scorched his very brain, till a late hour of the night. This evident determination to succeed not only aided his own efforts directly, but impressed his instructors in his favour. If he could not master the portion of the text-book assigned for the day, he would not pass it over, but continued to work at it till he understood it. Thus it often happened that when he was called out to repeat his task, he had to reply that he had not yet reached the lesson of the day, but was employed upon the previous one. There was then no alternative but to mark him as unprepared, a proceeding which did not in the least affect his resolution.”

Despite all drawbacks, his four years at the Academy were years of steady progress. “The Immortals” were soon left far behind. At the end of the first twelve months he stood fifty-first in a class of seventy-two, but when he entered the first class, and commenced the study of logic, that bugbear to the majority, he shot from near the foot of the class to the top. In the final examination he came out seventeenth, notwithstanding that the less successful years were taken into account, and it was a frequent remark amongst his brother cadets that if the course had been a year longer he would have come out first. His own satisfaction was complete. Not only was his perseverance rewarded by a place sufficiently high to give him a commission in the artillery, but his cravings for knowledge had been fully gratified. West Point was much more than a military school. It was a university, and a university under the very strictest discipline, where the science of the soldier formed only a portion of the course. Subjects which are now considered essential to a military education were not taught at all. The art of war gave place to ethics and engineering; and mathematics and chemistry were considered of far more importance than topography and fortification. Yet with French, history, and drawing, it will be admitted that the course was sufficiently comprehensive. No cadet was permitted to graduate unless he had reached a high standard of proficiency. Failures were numerous. In the four years the classes grew gradually smaller, and the survival of the fittest was a principle of administration which was rigidly observed.

The fact, then, that a man had passed the final examination at West Point was a sufficient certificate that he had received a thorough education, that his mental faculties had been strengthened by four years of hard work, and that he was well equipped to take his place amongst his fellow men. And it was more than this. Four years of the strictest discipline, for the cadets were allowed only one vacation during their whole course, were sufficient to break in even the most careless and the most slovenly to neatness, obedience, and punctuality. Such habits are not easily unlearned, and the West Point certificate was thus a guarantee of qualities that are everywhere useful. It did not necessarily follow that because a cadet won a commission he remained a soldier. Many went to civil life, and the Academy was an excellent school for men who intended to find a career as surveyors or engineers. The great railway system of the United States was then in its infancy; its development offered endless possibilities, and the work of extending civilisation in a vast and rapidly improving country had perhaps more attraction for the ambitious than the career of arms. The training and discipline of West Point were not, then, concentrated in one profession, but were disseminated throughout the States; and it was with this purpose that the institution of the Academy had been approved by Congress.

In the wars with England the militia of the different States had furnished the means both of resistance and aggression, but their grave shortcomings, owing principally to the lack of competent officers, had been painfully conspicuous. After 1814, the principle that the militia was the first line of defence was still adhered to, and the standing army was merely maintained as a school for generals and a frontier guard. It was expected, however, that in case of war the West Point graduates would supply the national forces with a large number of officers who, despite their civil avocations, would at least be familiar with drill and discipline. This fact is to be borne in mind in view of the Civil War. The demands of the enormous armies then put into the field were utterly unprecedented, and the supply of West Pointers was altogether inadequate to meet them; but the influence of the Military Academy was conspicuous throughout. Not a few of the most able generals were little more than boys; and yet, as a rule, they were far superior to those who came from the militia or volunteers. Four years of strict routine, of constant drill, and implicit subordination, at the most impressionable period of life, proved a far better training for command than the desultory and intermittent service of a citizen army.

During his stay at West Point Jackson’s development was not all in one direction. He gained in health and strength. When he joined he had not yet attained his full height, which fell short of six feet by two inches. The constant drilling developed his frame. He grew rapidly, and soon acquired the erect bearing of the soldier; but notwithstanding the incessant practice in riding, fencing and marching, his anatomical peculiarities still asserted themselves. It was with great difficulty that he mastered the elementary process of keeping step, and despite his youthful proficiency as a jockey, the regulation seat of the dragoon, to be acquired on the back of a rough cavalry trooper, was an accomplishment which he never mastered. If it be added that his shyness never thawed, that he was habitually silent, it is hardly surprising to find that he had few intimates at the Academy. Caring nothing for the opinion of others, and tolerant of association rather than seeking it, his self-contained nature asked neither sympathy nor affection. His studious habits never left him. His only recreation was a rapid walk in the intervals of the classes. His whole thoughts and his whole energy were centred on doing his duty, and passing into the army with all the credit he could possibly attain. Although he was thoroughly happy at West Point, life to him, even at that early age, was a serious business, and most seriously he set about it.

Still, unsociable and irresponsive as he was, there were those in whose company he found pleasure, cadets who had studied subjects not included in the West Point course, and from whom there was something to be learned. It was an unwritten law of the Academy that those of the senior year should not make companions of their juniors. But Jackson paid no heed to the traditionary code of etiquette. His acquaintances were chosen regardless of standing, as often from the class below him as his own; and in yet another fashion his strength of character was displayed. Towards those who were guilty of dishonourable conduct he was merciless almost to vindictiveness. He had his own code of right and wrong, and from one who infringed it he would accept neither apology nor excuse. His musket, which was always scrupulously clean, was one day replaced by another in most slovenly order. He called the attention of his captain to his loss, and described the private mark by which it was to be identified. That evening, at the inspection of arms, it was found in the hands of another cadet, who, when taxed with his offence, endeavoured to shield himself by falsehood. Jackson’s anger was unbounded, and for the moment his habitual shyness completely disappeared. He declared that such a creature should not continue a member of the Academy, and demanded that he should be tried by court-martial and expelled. It was only by means of the most persevering remonstrances on the part of his comrades and his officers that he could be induced to waive his right of pressing the charge. His regard for duty, too, was no less marked than his respect for truth. During one half-year his room-mate was orderly-sergeant of his company, and this good-natured if perfunctory young gentleman often told Jackson that he need not attend the reveille roll-call, at which every cadet was supposed to answer to his name. Not once, however, did he avail himself of the privilege.* (* Communicated by Colonel P.T. Turnley.)

At the same time he was not altogether so uncompromising as at first sight he appeared. At West Point, as in after years, those who saw him interested or excited noticed that his smile was singularly sweet, and the cadets knew that it revealed a warm heart within. Whenever, from sickness or misfortune, a comrade stood in need of sympathy, Jackson was the first to offer it, and he would devote himself to his help with a tenderness so womanly that it sometimes excited ridicule. Sensitive he was not, for of vanity he had not the slightest taint; but of tact and sensibility he possessed more than his share. If he was careless of what others thought of him, he thought much of them. Though no one made more light of pain on his own account, no one could have more carefully avoided giving pain to others, except when duty demanded it; and one of his classmates* (* Colonel Turnley.) testifies that he went through the trying ordeal of four years at West Point without ever having a hard word or bad feeling from cadet or professor.

Nor did his comrades fail to remember that when he was unjustly blamed he chose to bear the imputation silently rather than expose those who were really at fault. And so, even in that lighthearted battalion, his sterling worth compelled respect. All honoured his efforts and wished him God-speed. “While there were many,” says Colonel Turnley, “who seemed to surpass him in intellect, in geniality, and in good-fellowship, there was no one of our class who more absolutely possessed the respect and confidence of all; and in the end Old Jack, as he was always called, with his desperate earnestness, his unflinching straightforwardness, and his high sense of honour, came to be regarded by his comrades with something very like affection.”

One peculiarity cannot be passed by.

When at study he always sat bolt upright at his table with his book open before him, and when he was not using pencil and paper to solve a problem, he would often keep his eyes fixed on the wall or ceiling in the most profound abstraction. “No one I have ever known,” says a cadet who shared his barrack-room, “could so perfectly withdraw his mind from surrounding objects or influences, and so thoroughly involve his whole being in the subject under consideration. His lessons were uppermost in his mind, and to thoroughly understand them was always his determined effort. To make the author’s knowledge his own was ever the point at which he aimed. This intense application of mind was naturally strengthened by constant exercise, and month by month, and year by year, his faculties of perception developed rapidly, until he grasped with unerring quickness the inceptive points of all ethical and mathematical problems.”

This power of abstraction and of application is well worth noting, for not only was it remarkable in a boy, but, as we shall see hereafter, it had much to do with the making of the soldier.

At West Point Jackson was troubled with the return of the obscure complaint which had already threatened him, and he there began that rigid observance of the laws of health which afterwards developed to almost an eccentricity. His peculiar attitude when studying was due to the fear that if he bent over his work the compression of his internal organs might increase their tendency to disease.

And not only did he lay down rules for his physical regimen. A book of maxims which he drew up at West Point has been preserved, and we learn that his scrupulous exactness, his punctilious courtesy, and his choice of companions were the outcome of much deliberation.

Nothing in this curious volume occurs to show that his thoughts had yet been turned to religion. It is as free from all reference to the teachings of Christianity as the maxims of Marcus Aurelius.

Every line there written shows that at this period of Jackson’s life devotion to duty was his guiding rule; and, notwithstanding his remarkable freedom from egotism, the traces of an engrossing ambition and of absolute self-dependence are everywhere apparent. Many of the sentiments he would have repudiated in after-life as inconsistent with humility; but there can be no question that it was a strong and fearless hand that penned on a conspicuous page the sentence: “You can be what you resolve to be.”


Jackson was already a man in years when he passed his final examination, and here the record of his boyhood may fitly close. He had made no particular mark at the Academy. His memory, in the minds of his comrades, was associated with his gravity, his silence, his kind heart, and his awkward movements. No one suspected him of nobler qualities than dogged perseverance and a strict regard for truth. The officers and sergeants of the cadet battalion were supplied by the cadets themselves; but Jackson was never promoted. In the mimic warfare of the playground at Brienne Napoleon was master of the revels. His capacity for command had already been detected; but neither comrade nor teacher saw beneath the unpromising exterior of the West Point student a trace of aught save what was commonplace.

And yet there is much in the boyhood of Stonewall Jackson that resembles the boyhood of Napoleon, of all great soldiers the most original. Both were affectionate. Napoleon lived on bread and water that he might educate his brothers; Jackson saved his cadet’s pay to give his sister a silk dress. Both were indefatigable students, impressed with the conviction that the world was to be conquered by force of intellect. Jackson, burning his lessons into his brain, is but the counterpart of the young officer who lodged with a professor of mathematics that he might attend his classes, and who would wait to explain the lectures to those who had not clearly understood them. Both were provincial, neither was prepossessing. If the West Point cadets laughed at Jackson’s large hands and feet, was not Napoleon, with his thin legs thrust into enormous boots, saluted by his friend’s children, on his first appearance in uniform, with the nickname of Le Chat Botte? It is hard to say which was the more laughable: the spare and bony figure of the cadet, sitting bolt upright like a graven image in a tight uniform, with his eyes glued to the ceiling of his barrack-room, or the young man, with gaunt features, round shoulders, and uncombed hair, who wandered alone about the streets of Paris in 1795.

They had the same love of method and of order. The accounts of the Virginian constable was not more scrupulously kept than the ledgers of Napoleon’s household, nor could they show a greater regard for economy than the tailor’s bill, still extant, on which the future Emperor gained a reduction of four sous. But it was not on such trivial lines alone that they run parallel. An inflexibility of purpose, an absolute disregard of popular opinion, and an unswerving belief in their own capacity, were predominant in both. They could say “No.” Neither sought sympathy, and both felt that they were masters of their own fate. “You can be whatever you resolve to be” may be well placed alongside the speech of the brigadier of five-and-twenty: “Have patience. I will command in Paris presently. What should I do there now?”

But here the parallel ends. In Jackson, even as a cadet, self was subordinate to duty. Pride was foreign to his nature. He was incapable of pretence, and his simplicity was inspired by that disdain of all meanness which had been his characteristic from a child. His brain was disturbed by no wild visions; no intemperate ambition confused his sense of right and wrong. “The essence of his mind,” as has been said of another of like mould, “was clearness, healthy purity, incompatibility with fraud in any of its forms.” It was his instinct to be true and straightforward as it was Napoleon’s to be false and subtle. And, if, as a youth, he showed no trace of marked intellectual power; if his instructors saw no sign of masterful resolution and a genius for command, it was because at West Point, as elsewhere, his great qualities lay dormant, awaiting the emergency that should call them forth.

CHAPTER 1.2. MEXICO. 1846-47.


On June 30, 1846, Jackson received the brevet rank of second lieutenant of artillery. He was fortunate from the very outset of his military career. The officers of the United States army, thanks to the thorough education and Spartan discipline of West Point, were fine soldiers; but their scope was limited. On the western frontier, far beyond the confines of civilisation, stood a long line of forts, often hundreds of miles apart, garrisoned by a few troops of cavalry or companies of infantry. It is true that there was little chance of soldierly capacity rusting in these solitary posts. From the borders of Canada to the banks of the Rio Grande swarmed thousands of savage warriors, ever watchful for an opportunity to pay back with bloody interest the aggression of the whites. Murder, robbery, and massacre followed each other in rapid succession, and the troops were allowed few intervals of rest. But the warfare was inglorious–a mere series of petty incidents, the punishment of a raid, or the crushing of an isolated revolt. The scanty butcher’s bills of the so-called battles made small appeal to the popular imagination, and the deeds of the soldiers in the western wilderness, gallant as they might be, aroused less interest in the States than the conflicts of the police with the New York mob. But although pursuits which carried the adversaries half across the continent, forays which were of longer duration than a European war, and fights against overwhelming odds, where no quarter was asked or given, kept the American officers constantly employed, their training was hardly sufficient for the needs of a great campaign. In the running fights against Apache or Blackfoot the rules of strategy and tactics were of small account. The soldier was constrained to acknowledge the brave and the trapper as his teachers; and Moltke himself, with all his lore, would have been utterly baffled by the cunning of the Indian. Before the war of 1845-6 the strength of the regular army was not more than 8500 men; and the whole of this force, with the exception of a few batteries, was scattered in small detachments along the frontier. The troops were never brought together in considerable bodies; and although they were well drilled and under the strictest discipline, neither the commanders nor the staff had the least experience of handling men in masses. Many of the infantry officers had never drilled with a whole battalion since they left West Point. A brigade of cavalry–that is, two or three regiments working together as a single unit–had never been assembled; and scarcely a single general had ever commanded a force composed of the three arms, either on service or on parade. “During my twenty years of service on the frontier,” said one of the most famous of the Confederate leaders,* (* General R.S. Ewell.) “I learned all about commanding fifty United States dragoons and forgot everything else.”

Nevertheless, this life of enterprise and hard work, the constant struggle against nature, for the illimitable space of the inhospitable wilderness was a more formidable antagonist than the stealthy savage, benefited the American soldier in more ways than one. He grew accustomed to danger and privation. He learned to use his wits; to adapt his means to his end; to depend on his intelligence rather than on rule. Above all, even the most junior had experience of independent command before the enemy. A ready assumption of responsibility and a prompt initiative distinguished the regular officers from the very outset of the Civil War; and these characteristics had been acquired on the western prairies.

But the warfare of the frontier had none of the glamour of the warfare which is waged with equal arms against an equal enemy, of the conflict of nation against nation. To bring the foe to bay was a matter of the utmost difficulty. A fight at close quarters was of rare occurrence, and the most successful campaign ended in the destruction of a cluster of dirty wigwams, or the surrender of a handful of starving savages. In such unsatisfactory service Jackson was not called upon to take a part. It is doubtful if he ever crossed the Mississippi. His first experience of campaigning was to be on a field where gleams of glory were not wanting. The ink on his commission was scarcely dry when the artillery subaltern was ordered to join his regiment, the First Artillery, in Mexico. The war with the Southern Republic had blazed out on the Texan border in 1845, and the American Government had now decided to carry it into the heart of the hostile territory. With the cause of quarrel we have no concern. General Grant has condemned the war as “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”* (* Grant’s Memoirs volume 1 page 53.) Be this as it may, it is doubtful whether any of Grant’s brother officers troubled themselves at all with the equity of invasion. It was enough for them that the expedition meant a struggle with a numerous enemy, armed and organised on the European model, and with much experience of war; that it promised a campaign in a country which was the very region of romance, possessing a lovely climate, historic cities, and magnificent scenery. The genius of Prescott had just disentombed from dusty archives the marvellous story of the Spanish conquest, and the imagination of many a youthful soldier had been already kindled by his glowing pages. To follow the path of Cortez, to traverse the golden realms of Montezuma, to look upon the lakes and palaces of Mexico, the most ancient city of America, to encamp among the temples of a vanished race, and to hear, while the fireflies flitted through the perfumed night, the music of the black-eyed maidens of New Spain–was ever more fascinating prospect offered to a subaltern of two-and-twenty?

The companies of the First Artillery which had been detailed for foreign service were first transferred to Point Isabel, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Several engagements had already taken place. Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterey were brilliant American victories, won by hard fighting over superior numbers; and a vast extent of territory had been overrun. But the Mexicans were still unconquered. The provinces they had lost were but the fringe of the national domains; the heart of the Republic had not yet felt the pressure of war, and more than six hundred miles of difficult country intervened between the invaders and the capital. The American proposals for peace had been summarily rejected. A new President, General Santa Anna, had been raised to power, and under his vigorous administration the war threatened to assume a phase sufficiently embarrassing to the United States.

Jackson had been attached to a heavy battery, and his first duty was to transport guns and mortars to the forts which protected Point Isabel. The prospect of immediate employment before the enemy was small. Operations had come to a standstill. It was already apparent that a direct advance upon the capital, through the northern provinces, was an enterprise which would demand an army much larger than the Government was disposed to furnish. It seemed as if the First Artillery had come too late. Jackson was fearful that the war might come to an end before his regiment should be sent to the front. The shy cadet had a decided taste for fighting. “I envy you men,” he said to a comrade more fortunate than himself,* (* Lieutenant D.H. Hill, afterwards his brother-in-law.) “who have been in battle. How I should like to be in ONE battle!” His longing for action was soon gratified. Mexico had no navy and a long sea-board. The fleet of the United States was strong, their maritime resources ample, and to land an army on a shorter route to the distant capital was no difficult undertaking.


General Winfield Scott, who had been sent out as commander-in-chief, was permitted, early in 1847, to organise a combined naval and military expedition for the reduction of Vera Cruz, the principal port of the Republic, whence a good road leads to Mexico. The line of advance would be thus reduced to two hundred and sixty miles; and the natural obstacles, though numerous enough, were far less serious than the deserts which barred invasion from the north. For this enterprise most of the regular regiments were withdrawn from the Rio Grande; and General Taylor, the hero of Palo Alto and Monterey, was left with a small army, composed principally of volunteers, to hold the conquered provinces. Scott’s troops assembled in the first instance at Tampico. The transports, eighty in number, having embarked their freight, were directed to rendezvous in the road stead of Lobos, one hundred and twenty miles north of Vera Cruz; and when the whole had assembled, the fleet set sail for Los Sacrificios, the island where Cortez had landed in 1520, three miles south of the city. The army of invasion, in which the First Regiment of Artillery was included, consisted of 13,000 men.

March 9.

On the morning of March 9 the sun shone propitiously on the expedition. The surf-boats, each holding from seventy to eighty men, were quickly arrayed in line. Then, dashing forward simultaneously, with the strains of martial music sweeping over the smooth waters of the bay, they neared the shore. The landing was covered by seven armed vessels, and as the boats touched the beach the foremost men leaped into the water and ran up the sandy shore. In one hour General Worth’s division, numbering 4500 men, was disembarked; and by the same precise arrangements the whole army was landed in six hours without accident or confusion. To the astonishment of the Americans the enemy offered no resistance, and the troops bivouacked in line of battle on the beach.

Little more than a mile north, across a waste of sand-hills, rose the white walls of Vera Cruz. The city was held by 4000 men, and its armament was formidable. The troops, however, but partially organised, were incapable of operations in the open field. The garrison had not been reinforced. Santa Anna, on learning that the American army on the Rio Grande had been reduced, had acted with commendable promptitude. Collecting all the troops that were available he had marched northwards, expecting, doubtless, to overwhelm Taylor and still to be in time to prevent Scott from seizing a good harbour. But distance was against him, and his precautions were inadequate. Even if he defeated Taylor, he would have to march more than a thousand miles to encounter Scott, and Vera Cruz was ill provided for a siege. It was difficult, it is true, for the Mexican general to anticipate the point at which the Americans would disembark. An army that moves by sea possesses the advantage that its movements are completely veiled. But Vera Cruz was decidedly the most probable objective of the invaders, and, had it been made secure, the venture of the Americans would have been rendered hazardous. As it was, with Santa Anna’s army far away, the reduction of the fortress presented little difficulty. An immediate assault would in all likelihood have proved successful. Scott, however, decided on a regular siege. His army was small, and a march on the capital was in prospect. The Government grudged both men and money, and an assault would have cost more lives than could well be spared. On March 18 the trenches were completed. Four days later, sufficient heavy ordnance having been landed, the bombardment was begun.

March 27.

On the 27th the town surrendered; the garrison laid down their arms, and 400 cannon, many of large calibre, fell into the hands of the Americans.

The fall of Vera Cruz was brought about by the heavy artillery, aided by the sailors, and the First Regiment was continuously engaged. The Mexican fire, notwithstanding their array of guns, was comparatively harmless. The garrison attempted no sortie; and only 64 of the investing force were killed or wounded. Nevertheless, Jackson’s behaviour under fire attracted notice, and a few months later he was promoted to first lieutenant “for gallant and meritorious conduct at the siege of Vera Cruz.”* (* He had been promoted second lieutenant on March 3. Records of the First Regiment of Artillery.)

Scott had now secured an admirable line of operations; but the projected march upon the city of Mexico was a far more arduous undertaking than the capture of the port. The ancient capital of Montezuma stands high above the sea. The famous valley which surrounds it is embosomed in the heart of a vast plateau, and the roads which lead to this lofty region wind by steep gradients over successive ranges of rugged and precipitous mountains. Between Vera Cruz and the upland lies a level plain, sixty miles broad, and covered with tropical forest. Had it been possible to follow up the initial victory by a rapid advance, Cerro Gordo, the first, and the most difficult, of the mountain passes, might have been occupied without a blow. Santa Anna, defeated by Taylor at Buena Vista, but returning hot foot to block Scott’s path, was still distant, and Cerro Gordo was undefended. But the progress of the Americans was arrested by the difficulties inherent in all maritime expeditions.

An army landing on a hostile coast has to endure a certain period of inactivity. Under ordinary circumstances, as at Vera Cruz, the process of disembarking men is rapidly accomplished. The field-guns follow with but little delay, and a certain proportion of cavalry becomes early available. But the disembarkation of the impedimenta–the stores, waggons, hospitals, ammunition, and transport animals–even where ample facilities exist, demands far more time than the disembarkation of the fighting force. In the present case, as all the animals had to be requisitioned in the country, it was not till the middle of April that supplies and transport sufficient to warrant further movement had been accumulated; and meanwhile General Santa Anna, halting in the mountains, had occupied the pass of Cerro Gordo with 13,000 men and 42 pieces of artillery. The Mexican position was exceedingly strong. The right rested on a deep ravine, with precipitous cliffs; the left, on the hill of Cerro Gordo, covered with batteries, and towering to the height of several hundred feet above the surrounding ridges; while the front, strongly intrenched, and commanding the road which wound zigzag fashion up the steep ascent, followed the crest of a lofty ridge.

The Americans reached the foot of the pass without difficulty. The enemy had made no attempt to check their passage through the forest. Confident in the inaccessibility of his mountain crags, in his numerous guns and massive breastworks, Santa Anna reserved his strength for battle on ground of his own selection.

Several days were consumed in reconnaissance. The engineers, to whom this duty was generally assigned in the American army, pushed their explorations to either flank. At length the quick eye of a young officer, Captain Robert Lee, already noted for his services at Vera Cruz, discovered a line of approach, hidden from the enemy, by which the position might be turned. In three days a rough road was constructed by which guns could be brought to bear on the hill of Cerro Gordo, and infantry marched round to strike the Mexicans in rear.

April 18.

The attack, delivered at daylight on April 18, was brilliantly successful. The enemy was completely surprised. Cerro Gordo was stormed with the bayonet, and Santa Anna’s right, assaulted from a direction whence he confessed that he had not believed a goat could approach his lines, was rolled back in confusion on his centre. 1200 Mexicans were killed and wounded, and 3000 captured, together with the whole of their artillery.* (* The Americans had about 8500 men upon the field, and their loss was 431, including two generals. Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Scott.) The next day the pursuit was pushed with uncompromising resolution. Amidst pathless mountains, 6000 feet above the sea, where every spur formed a strong position, the defeated army was permitted neither halt nor respite. The American dragoons, undeterred by numbers, pressed forward along the road, making hundreds of prisoners, and spreading panic in the broken ranks.

May 15.

The infantry followed, sturdily breasting the long ascent; a second intrenched position, barring the La Hoya pass, was abandoned on their approach; the strong castle of Perote, with an armament of 60 guns and mortars, opened its gates without firing a shot, and on May 15 the great city of Puebla, surrounded by glens of astonishing fertility, and only eighty miles from Mexico, was occupied without resistance.

At Cerro Gordo the First Artillery were employed as infantry. Their colours were amongst the first to be planted on the enemy’s breastworks. But in none of the reports does Jackson’s name occur.* (* According to the Regimental Records his company (K) was not engaged in the battle, but only in the pursuit.) The battle, however, brought him good luck. Captain Magruder, an officer of his own regiment, who was to win distinction on wider fields, had captured a Mexican field battery, which Scott presented to him as a reward for his gallantry. Indian wars had done but little towards teaching American soldiers the true use of artillery. Against a rapidly moving enemy, who systematically forebore exposing himself in mass, and in a country where no roads existed, only the fire-arm was effective. But already, at Palo Alto and Resaca, against the serried lines and thronging cavalry of the Mexicans, light field-guns had done extraordinary execution. The heavy artillery, hitherto the more favoured service, saw itself eclipsed. The First Regiment, however, had already been prominent on the fighting line. It had won reputation with the bayonet at Cerro Gordo, and before Mexico was reached there were other battles to be fought, and other positions to be stormed. A youth with a predilection for hard knocks might have been content with the chances offered to the foot-soldier. But Jackson’s partiality for his own arm was as marked as was Napoleon’s, and the decisive effect of a well-placed battery appealed to his instincts with greater force than the wild rush of a charge of infantry. Skilful manoeuvring was more to his taste than the mere bludgeon work of fighting at close quarters.

Two subalterns were required for the new battery. The position meant much hard work, and possibly much discomfort. Magruder was restless and hot-tempered, and the young officers of artillery showed no eagerness to go through the campaign as his subordinates. Not so Jackson. He foresaw that service with a light battery, under a bold and energetic leader, was likely to present peculiar opportunities; and with his thorough devotion to duty, his habits of industry, and his strong sense of self-reliance, he had little fear of disappointing the expectations of the most exacting superior. “I wanted to see active service,” he said in after years, “to be near the enemy in the fight; and when I heard that John Magruder had got his battery I bent all my energies to be with him, for I knew if any fighting was to be done, Magruder would be “on hand.”” His soldierly ambition won its due reward. The favours of fortune fall to the men who woo more often than to those who wait. The barrack-room proverb which declares that ill-luck follows the volunteer must assuredly have germinated in a commonplace brain. It is characteristic of men who have cut their way to fame that they have never allowed the opportunity to escape them. The successful man pushes to the front and seeks his chance; those of a temper less ardent wait till duty calls and the call may never come. Once before, when, despite his manifold disadvantages, he secured his nomination to West Point, Jackson had shown how readily he recognised an opening; now, when his comrades held back, he eagerly stepped forward, to prove anew the truth of the vigorous adage, “Providence helps those who help themselves.”

The American army was delayed long at Puebla. Several regiments of volunteers, who had engaged only for a short term of service, demanded their discharge, and reinforcements were slow in arriving.

August 7.

It was not until the first week in August that Scott was able to move upon the capital. The army now numbered 14,000 men. Several hundred were sick in hospital, and 600 convalescents, together with 600 effectives, were left to garrison Puebla. The field force was organised in four divisions: the first, under Major-General Worth; the second, under Major-General Twiggs; the third, to which Magruder’s battery was attached, under Major-General Pillow; the fourth (volunteers and marines), under Major-General Pierce. Four field batteries, a small brigade of dragoons, and a still smaller siege train* (* Two 24-pounders, two 8-inch howitzers, and two light pieces. Ripley’s History of the Mexican War.) made up a total of 11,500 officers and men. During the three months that his enemy was idle at Puebla, Santa Anna had reorganised his army; and 30,000 Mexicans, including a formidable body of cavalry, fine horsemen and well trained,* (* It is said, however, that their horses were little more than ponies, and far too light for a charge. Semmes’ Campaign of General Scott.) and a large number of heavy batteries, were now ready to oppose the advance of the invaders.

On August 10 the American army crossed the Rio Frio Mountains, 10,000 feet above the sea, the highest point between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and as the troops descended the western slopes the valley of Mexico first broke upon their view. There, beneath the shadow of her mighty mountains, capped with eternal snows, stood

The Imperial city, her far circling walls, Her garden groves, and stately palaces.

There lay the broad plain of Tenochtitlan, with all its wealth of light and colour, the verdure of the forest, the warmer hues of the great corn-fields, ripening to the harvest, and the sheen and sparkle of the distant lakes. There it lay, as it burst upon the awe-struck vision of Cortez and his companions, “bathed in the golden sunshine, stretched out as it were in slumber, in the arms of the giant hills.”

On every hand were the signs of a teeming population. White villages and substantial haciendas glistened in the woodlands; roads broad and well-travelled crossed the level; and in the clear atmosphere of those lofty altitudes the vast size of the city was plainly visible. The whole army of Mexico formed the garrison; hills crowned with batteries commanded the approaches, while a network of canals on either flank and a broad area of deep water enhanced the difficulties of manoeuvre. The line of communication, far too long to be maintained by the small force at Scott’s disposal, had already been abandoned. The army depended for subsistence on what it could purchase in the country; the sick and wounded were carried with the troops, and there was no further reserve of ammunition than that which was packed in the regimental waggons. Cortez and his four hundred when they essayed the same enterprise were not more completely isolated, for, while the Spaniard had staunch allies in the hereditary foes of the Aztecs, Scott’s nearest supports were at Puebla, eighty miles from Mexico, and these numbered only 1200 effective soldiers. The most adventurous of leaders might well have hesitated ere he plunged into the great valley, swarming with enemies, and defended by all the resources of a civilised State. But there was no misgiving in the ranks of the Americans. With that wholesome contempt for a foreign foe which has wrought more good than evil for the Anglo-Saxon race, the army moved forward without a halt. “Recovering,” says Scott, “from the trance into which the magnificent spectacle had thrown them, probably not a man in the column failed to say to his neighbour or himself, “That splendid city shall soon be ours!””

The fortifications which protected Mexico on the east were found to be impregnable. The high ridge of El Penon, manned by nearly the whole of Santa Anna’s army, blocked the passage between the lakes, and deep morasses added to the difficulties of approach. To the south, however, on the far side of Lake Chalco, lay a more level tract, but accessible only by roads which the Mexicans deemed impracticable. Despite the difficulties of the route, the manoeuvre of Cerro Gordo was repeated on a grander scale.

August 16 to 18.

After a toilsome march of seven-and-twenty miles from Ayotla, over the spurs of the sierras, the troops reached the great road which leads to the capital from the south. Across this road was more than one line of fortifications, to which the Mexican army had been hurriedly transferred. The hacienda of San Antonio, six miles from the city, strengthened by field-works and defended by heavy guns, commanded the highway. To the east was a morass, and beyond the morass were the blue waters of Lake Chalco; while to the west the Pedregal, a barren tract of volcanic scoriae, over whose sharp rocks and deep fissures neither horse nor vehicle could move, flanked the American line of march. The morass was absolutely impassable.

August 19.

The gloomy solitude of the Pedregal, extending to the mountains, five miles distant, seemed equally forbidding; but the engineer officers came once more to the rescue. A road across the Pedregal, little better than a mule track, was discovered by Captain Lee. Under cover of a strong escort it was rapidly improved, and Pillow’s and Worth’s divisions, accompanied by Magruder’s battery, were directed to cross the waste of rocks. Beyond the Pedregal was a good road, approaching the city from the south-west; and by this road the post of San Antonio might be assailed in rear.

Overlooking the road, however, as well as the issues from the Pedregal, was a high ridge, backed by the mountains, and held by 6000 Mexicans. Opposite this ridge the Americans came out on cultivated ground, but all further progress was completely checked. Shortly after midday the leading brigade, with Magruder’s battery on hand, reached the summit of a hill within a thousand yards of the enemy’s breastworks. Magruder came at once into action, and the infantry attempted to push forward. But the Mexican artillery was far superior, both in number of pieces and weight of metal, and the ground was eminently unfavourable for attack. Two-and-twenty heavy cannon swept the front; the right of the position was secured by a deep ravine; masses of infantry were observed in rear of the intrenchments, and several regiments of lancers were in close support. For three hours the battle raged fiercely. On the right the Americans pushed forward, crossing with extreme difficulty an outlying angle of the Pedregal, covered with dense scrub, and occupied the village of Contreras. But elsewhere they made no impression. They were without cavalry, and Magruder’s guns were far too few and feeble to keep down the fire of the hostile batteries. “The infantry,” says Scott, “could not advance in column without being mowed down by grape and canister, nor advance in line without being ridden down by the enemy’s numerous horsemen.” Nor were the Mexicans content on this occasion to remain passively in their works. Both infantry and cavalry attempted to drive the assailants back upon the Pedregal; and, although these counterstrokes were successfully repulsed, when darkness fell the situation of the troops was by no means favourable. Heavy columns of Mexicans were approaching from the city; the remainder of the American army was opposite San Antonio, five miles distant, on the far side of the Pedregal, and no support could be expected. To add to their discomfort, it rained heavily; the thunder crashed in the mountains, and torrents of water choked the streams. The men stood in the darkness drenched and dispirited, and an attack made by a Mexican battalion induced General Pillow to withdraw Magruder’s battery from the ridge. The senior subaltern had been killed. 15 gunners and as many horses had fallen. The slopes were covered with huge boulders, and it was only by dint of the most strenuous exertions that the guns were brought down in safety to the lower ground.

A council of war was then held in Contreras Church, and, contrary to the traditionary conduct of such conventions, a most desperate expedient was adopted. The Mexican reinforcements, 12,000 strong, had halted on the main road, their advanced guard within a few hundred yards of the village. Leaving two regiments to hold this imposing force in check, it was determined to make a night march and turn the rear of the intrenchments on the ridge. The Commander-in-Chief was beyond the Pedregal, opposite San Antonio, and it was necessary that he should be informed of the projected movement.

“I have always understood,” says an officer present in this quarter of the field, “that what was devised and determined on was suggested by Captain Lee; at all events the council was closed by his saying that he desired to return to General Scott with the decision, and that, as it was late, the decision must be given as soon as possible, since General Scott wished him to return in time to give directions for co-operation. During the council, and for hours after, the rain fell in torrents, whilst the darkness was so intense that one could move only by groping.”

The Pedregal was infested by straggling bands of Mexicans; and yet, over those five miles of desolation, with no guide but the wind, or an occasional flash of lightning, Lee, unaccompanied by a single orderly, made his way to Scott’s headquarters. This perilous adventure was characterised by the Commander-in-Chief as “the greatest feat of physical and moral courage performed by any individual during the entire campaign.”

August 20.