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  • Writer's pictureOld Bone

Jackson's Resolve

In a recent Youtube video produced by the American Battlefield Trust, Emerging Civil War's Chris Mackowski does a superb job of explaining one of Stonewall Jackson's personal maxims: "You may be whatever you resolve to be"; with one exception: Chris left out any mention of Jackson's Christian faith which was an indispensable component of what made Jackson's "resolve" even more compelling.

In Bud Robertson's definitive biography of Jackson, he was purposeful and careful to emphasize the importance of Jackson's faith at the very beginning of his preface to Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. Professor Robertson writes:

Thomas Jonathan Jackson's walnut bookcase at the Virginia Historical Society contains six shelves filled with the volumes he collected. Almost in the center of the case stand three works side by side. The one in the middle is John Gibbon's The Artillerists's Manual; on its left is the Holy Bible; on the other side is Philip Bennet's "I Will": Being the Determination of the Man of God. These three books, positioned as they are, epitomize the life of General Stonewall Jackson: a man of arms surrounded by tenets of faith.

Robertson, like any good historian, was able to capture the essence of Jackson's persona and motivations in a concise manner; even though Jackson was a rather complicated man. Robertson, himself an ordained Episcopalian deacon, has the insight necessary to understand how religion can impact a man's motivations. Douglas Southall Freeman did the same thing with Robert E. Lee:

What he seemed, he was. He was – a wholly human gentleman, the essential elements of whose positive character were two and only two, simplicity and spirituality.

Without understanding the spiritual aspects of these two men (despite their faults), one cannot understand the whole person, including their resolve. Critics and moral reformer historians will predictably dismiss such notions as part of the "Lost Cause" narrative. But in doing so, they allow their biases to keep them from understanding. So be it.

Carry on.

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