Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jackson’s Value To Lee

Second only to Robert E. Lee as a great American military commander, Stonewall Jackson’s death proved to be a calamity which may have cost Lee the battle at Gettysburg. Jackson, like Lee, could handily defeat far superior forces as he did between April 30 and June 9, 1862 in the Valley, frustrating 70,000 Northern troops with less than 18,000 men of his own.

Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
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Jackson’s Value to Lee:

“It was not until the spring of 1862, when Lee became Jefferson Davis’ military advisor and Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia that Jackson’s independent command in the Shenandoah Valley came under Lee’s control. It was at this time that the partnership between Lee and Jackson first took form.

At once Lee sensed Jackson’s integrity. Lenoir Chambers…wrote that while Jackson and Lee were far apart, as far as communications went, they were always able, through their letters and orders, to project themselves into the future. Each had a sagacity to discern what the other was thinking or desired. Lee never had a subordinate so quick to grasp his thoughts or so reliable in carrying them out or, when on his own, in taking care of himself while he fitted all his movements to the grand purpose as did Jackson in the Valley Campaign of 1862.

On several occasions, Jackson demonstrated his zealous devotion to his chieftain. During the winter of 1863-63 [near Fredericksburg], Lee once sent word that he wanted to talk with Jackson at his convenience on a matter of no great urgency. Thereupon Jackson arising at daybreak and without breakfast rode through a blinding snow storm to Lee’s headquarters, 15 miles away.

Lee expressed amazement, saying: “You know, General, I did not wish you to come in such a storm. It was a matter of no importance and I am sorry you had such a ride.” Thereupon Jackson blushed and simply said: “I received your note, General.” Jackson’s personal loyalty to Lee was intimately bound up with his confidence in Lee’s military ability. Once when an officer had criticized Lee, Jackson instantly replied: “Lee is a phenomenon. He is the only man I would follow blindfold.”

On that beautiful Sunday morning of May 10, 1863, when he was informed that Jackson could probably not live through the day, Lee at first refused to believe it, saying: “Surely God will not take from us now that we need him so much.” Notifying Gen. Jeb Stuart of Jackson’s death, Lee said: “The great and good Jackson is no more…May his spirit pervade our whole army; our country will then be secure.”

It was only after the war that General Lee gave a glimpse of what he may have thought in 1863 of the ultimate consequence of the removal of Jackson from the scene. In a conversation with one of his friends at Washington College, of which he was then president, he remarked: “If I had had Stonewall Jackson, as far as a man can see, I should have won the battle of Gettysburg.”

(Wartime Relationship Between Lee and Jackson, Dr. W. Gleason Bean, Rockbridge Historical Society Proceedings, Volume Six, J.P. Bell Company, 1966, pp. 43-46)

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