STONEWALL: A Biography of General Thomas J. Jackson by Byron Farwell

STONEWALL: A Biography of General Thomas J. Jackson

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Farwell (Armies of the Raj, 1989, etc.) breaks little new ground in this nevertheless limpidly written biography of the Confederate hero. Thomas J. ""Stonewall"" Jackson, in a military career spanning less than two years, achieved one of the great military reputations of the American Civil War. Unlike many other leaders of the South, Jackson did not come from an aristocratic background. HIS West Point education and his superb military achievements in both the Mexican War and the Civil War were the product of personal tenacity, intelligence, and talent rather than of privilege. Jackson's personal eccentricities have become the stuff of legend, but Farwell debunks many of them (for instance, that Jackson continually sucked lemons during battle). The author succeeds in humanizing Jackson (his correspondence with his sister is particularly touching) away from the odd, machinelike military genius of Civil War myth, and he conveys vividly Jackson's singular, complex personality. But the most essential element of the Jackson legend remains intact here: that Jackson, as an intensely pious taskmaster who worshipped a stern Old Testament God, was a harsh disciplinarian who drove both himself and his men mercilessly in pursuit of his military objectives. Skillfully using letters and eyewitness accounts, Farwell relates Jackson's brilliant military victories: the classic Valley campaign that established his reputation; the Seven Days, in which Jackson performed erratically; Cedar Mountain; and Chancellorsville, in which Jackson proved the single most important contributor to Lee's greatest victory but in which he was mortally wounded by his own men. Farwell concludes that while Jackson had real genius as a battlefield commander, his strange, insular personality would have rendered him unfit for any higher command, and that he was most valuable to the Southern cause as Lee's subordinate. A down-to-earth biography that shows appreciation for Jackson's greatness without resorting to hero-worship.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0393310868
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Norton