[Headquarters] Army of Northern Virginia,
May 11, 1863.
With deep grief the commanding general announces to the army the death of Lieut. Gen. T.J. Jackson, who expired on the 10th instant, at 3:15 p.m. The daring skill, and energy of this great and good soldier, by the decree of an all-wise Providence, are now lost to us. But while we mourn his death, we feel that his spirit still lives, and will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage and unshaken confidence in God as our hope and strength. Let his name be a watchword to his corps, who have followed him to victory on so many fields. Let officers and soldiers emulate his invincible determination to do everything in defense of our beloved country.
Excerpt from private correspondence:
In addition to the death of officers and friends consequent upon the late battle, you will see we have to mourn the loss of the great and good Jackson. Any victory will be dear at such a price. His remains go to Richmond to-day. I know not how to replace him. God’s will be done! I trust He will raise up someone in his place…
Robert E. Lee to his wife, Mary Custis Lee, written on the evening of May 11, 1863.
How To Replace Him
Jackson’s death caused a command and leadership issue for the Army of Northern Virginia. Before Jackson’s wounding, there were two corps in the large which functioned as large “wings,” if you will. James Longstreet commanded the First Corps, Jackson the Second Corps.
In the days immediately following Jackson’s death, A.P. Hill temporarily commanded the Second Corps. Toward the end of May 1863, Lee decided to reorganize and restructure his army. Longstreet commanded the First Corps, Richard S. Ewell would command the Second Corps, and a Third Corps would be created and commanded by A.P. Hill. J.E.B. Stuart would still command the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry while Lee would command the whole army and major operations.
In Lee’s order to the troops, he encouraged them to remember Jackson and follow that commander’s determination. Memory can be a fragile thing, or it can take epic stonewall-like proportions (pun intended) far beyond the realities of fact. By May 3rd – less than 24 hours after his wounding – Jackson’s men were shouting phrases like “Remember Jackson!” as they charged into battle.
After Stonewall’s death, the stories and the memories gained larger influence. Clearly, Lee encouraged some of this during the war, believing the soldiers would fight better, remembering one of their heroes.
Post-war, Stonewall’s memory stayed solidly ingrained in American and Southern public history, folklore, and legends. His memory has morphed and changed through the decades, often turning into caricatures of the real man, flawed and far from a superman of the 1860’s.
As complicated as memory and memory studies can be (speaking historically here), it’s important to examine and it’s important to see who encouraged parts of that remembrance. Jackson’s commander – Lee – and his officers and staff played a large and significant role in how the Confederate soldier – later Confederate veteran – recalled Stonewall.
Less than two months after Jackson’s death, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia fought the Battle of Gettysburg. The timing is fascinating and leads to the often repeated question: “What if Jackson had been at Gettysburg?”
While it’s completely theoretical, it does offer plenty to argue about. And here’s my take on the old question, if you’re interested.