“And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”
Father D. Hubert, Chaplain, Hay’s Louisiana Brigade, upon the dedication of the statue of Stonewall Jackson on May 10, 1881 in New Orleans
Something for the weekend. After the 150th anniversary of Chancellorsville only Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, seems appropriate. The song is a fitting evocation of the man, who, if he had not been mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, might well have with Lee brought about a war ending victory for the Confederacy at Gettysburg. I fully agree with Father Hubert that the death of General Jackson was probably a necessary factor in the defeat of the Confederacy. As a military team he and Lee were able to accomplish military miracles and with his death the Confederacy could still rely upon the endless courage of their ragged warriors and the brilliance of Lee, but the age of military miracles in the Civil War ended with the passing of Jackson.
The song was taken from a poem found on the body of a dead Confederate sergeant after the First Battle of Winchester, May 25, 1862:
We see him now, — the old slouched hat
Cocked o’er his eye askew;
The shrewd, dry smile, the speech so pat,
So calm, so blunt, so true.
The “Blue-Light Elder” knows ’em well;
Says he, “That’s Banks, — he’s fond of shell;
Lord save his soul! we’ll give him hell,
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”
Silence! ground arms! kneel all! caps off!
Old “Blue Light’s” going to pray.
Strangle the fool that dares to scoff!
Attention! it’s his way.
Appealing from his native sod,
“Hear us, hear us Almighty God,
Lay bare Thine arm; stretch forth Thy rod!
” That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”
He’s in the saddle now.
Fall in! Steady! the whole brigade!
Hill’s at the ford cut off; we’ll win
His way out, ball and blade!
What matter if our shoes are worn?
What matter if our feet are torn?
“Quick-step! we’re with him before morn!”
That’s “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”
The sun’s bright lances rout the mists
Of morning, and, by George!
Here’s Longstreet struggling in the lists,
Hemmed in an ugly gorge.
Pope and his Yankees, whipped before,
“Bayonets and grape!” hear
“Charge, Stuart! Pay off Ashby’s score!”
In “Stonewall Jackson’s way.”
Ah! Maiden, wait and watch and yearn
For news of Stonewall’s band!
Ah! Widow, read, with eyes that burn,
That ring upon thy hand.
Ah! Wife, sew on, pray on, hope on;
Thy life shall not be all forlorn;
The foe had better ne’er been born
That gets in “Stonewall’s way.”
Here is the song sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring the music of the Civil War to modern audiences:
Then the staff–then little Sorrel–and the plain Presbyterian figure in the flat cap,
Throwing his left hand out in the awkward gesture
That caught the bullet out of the air at Bull Run,
Awkward, rugged and dour, the belated Ironside
With the curious, brilliant streak of the cavalier
That made him quote Mercutio in staff instructions,
Love lancet windows, the color of passion-flowers,
Mexican sun and all fierce, tautlooking fine creatures;
Stonewall Jackson, wrapped in his beard and his silence,
Cromwell-eyed and ready with Cromwell’s short
Bleak remedy for doubters and fools and enemies,
Hard on his followers, harder on his foes, An iron sabre vowed to an iron Lord,
And yet the only man of those men who pass With a strange, secretive grain of harsh poetry
Hidden so deep in the stony sides of his heart
That it shines by flashes only and then is gone.
It glitters in his last words.
He is deeply ambitious,
The skilled man, utterly sure of his own skill
And taking no nonsense about it from the unskilled,
But God is the giver of victory and defeat,
And Lee, on earth, vicegerent under the Lord. Sometimes he differs about the mortal plans
But once the order is given, it is obeyed.
We know what he thought about God. One would like to know
What he thought of the two together, if he so mingled them.
He said two things about Lee it is well to recall.
When he first beheld the man that he served so well,
“I have never seen such a fine-looking human creature.”
Then, afterwards, at the height of his own fame,
The skilled man talking of skill, and something more.
“General Lee is a phenomenon, He is the only man I would follow blindfold.”
Think of those two remarks and the man who made them
When you picture Lee as the rigid image in marble.
No man ever knew his own skill better than Jackson
Or was more ready to shatter an empty fame.
He passes now in his dusty uniform.
The Bible jostles a book of Napoleon’s Maxims
And a magic lemon deep in his saddlebags.
Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body