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Stonewall Jackson

Biography >> Civil War

Stonewall Jackson
by Nathaniel Routzahn

Where did Stonewall Jackson grow up?

Thomas Jackson was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia on January 21, 1824. He had a difficult childhood that was full of death. His father and sister both died from typhoid fever when he was two years old. A few years later his mother became ill and Thomas went to live with his uncle.

Thomas grew up helping his uncle on the farm. He attended the local school when he could, but mostly taught himself by reading books he borrowed.

Education and Early Career

At the age of 17, Jackson got a job as the county constable (like a policeman). He was then able to gain an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Because of his lack of education, Jackson had to work extra hard to succeed at West Point. His hard work paid off when he graduated in 1846.

After West Point, Jackson joined the army where he fought in the Mexican-American War. Jackson had great success in the war and rose to the rank of major. He also met Robert E. Lee for the first time. In 1851, Jackson retired from the army and became a teacher at the Virginia Military Institute.

The Civil War Begins

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Jackson joined the Confederate Army. He started out as a colonel in charge of the soldiers at Harpers Ferry. He soon rose to the rank of brigadier general.

First Battle of Bull Run

Jackson first gained fame as an army commander at the First Battle of Bull Run. At one point during the battle it looked like the Union soldiers would break through the Confederate lines. Jackson and his troops dug in at Henry House Hill and refused to budge. They held off the Union attack long enough for reinforcements to arrive. This daring stand helped the Confederates to win the battle.

Where did he get the nickname Stonewall?

Jackson earned the name Stonewall from his stand during the First Battle of Bull Run. During the battle, another general noticed that Jackson and his troops were bravely holding their ground. He said "Look, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall." From that day forward he was known as Stonewall Jackson.

The Valley Campaign

In 1862, Jackson took his army to the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia. He moved quickly around the valley attacking Union troops and winning several battles. His army became known as "foot cavalry" because they could move so quickly as a group from place to place.

Other Battles

Throughout the next year, Jackson and his army played an important role in many famous battles. They fought at the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, and the Battle of Fredericksburg.

What was he like as a commander?

Jackson was a demanding and disciplined commander. He was one of the more aggressive generals in the war, seldom backing away from a fight even when he was outnumbered. He made sure that his troops were well-trained and ready for battle.

The Battle of Chancellorsville and Death

At the Battle of Chancellorsville, it was Jackson and his troops that attacked the flank of the Union Army forcing it to retreat. It was another victory for the Confederates. However, when returning from a scouting trip, Jackson was accidentally shot in the arm by his own men. At first, it seemed he would recover, but then things turned for the worse. He died a few days later on May 10, 1863.


Stonewall Jackson is remembered as a military genius. Some of his battle tactics are still studied today in military schools. He is remembered in many ways including the Stonewall Jackson State park in West Virginia and the carving on the side of Stone Mountain in Georgia.

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