Travel #1: The Statue of “Stonewall” Jackson

Silloutte of Jackson

It’s February and it’s cold. Yet, my desire to travel and see this world is overwhelming. There’s a great big world out there and not a lot of Americans tend to stray far from their front porch. With a population of over 300 million, sadly, less than 36% of Americans travel and hold a valid passport. It’s a shame but at the same time, America itself is worth seeing as well.

Like Lexington, Commonwealth of Virginia. Lexington is an independent city cut out of the borders of Rockbridge County, and has its administration that encompasses the nearby town of Buena Vista (Good View(s)). Nestled deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a part of the Appalachian Mountain range, Lexington is 50 miles southeast of the West Virginian border. Lexington is flanked by two popular summits: the Big and Little House mountains, and a tributary of the James River, the Murray River marks the northwestern boundary of the independent city.

Lexington is a very quiet, preserved city of almost 7,000 people. Home to two universities: the Washington and Lee and Virginia Military Institute, this city does not appear to be a university city. It’s 2.3 miles in total mass and is full of preserved brick buildings. The area is very rough country, undeveloped land is abundant in this location, and the Shenandoah National Forest is nearby.

Lexington is known to have a huge following of Confederate sympathizers and the battle flag of the former Army of Northern Virginia flies proudly everywhere. The most iconic thing I experienced in Lexington was a simple statue. A statue of one of the most iconic former Southern generals to grace the South. Thomas Jonathon (Stonewall) Jackson.

Born 21Jan1824 in former Clarksburg, Commonwealth of Virginia (now Commonwealth of West Virginia) Jackson was born to an attorney and received an appointment to West Point. He served in the U.S.-Mexican War and at the time of the Civil War (War or Northern Aggression or War of Southern Succession) he was superintendent at the Virginia Military Institute. Little is known about Jackson’s viewpoint on slavery, many people claim that he looked at it from a biblical perspective. In most cases, judging from the times of the era, he most likely did view slavery as an integral aspect of life and did seek to improve the lives of the Blacks currently enslaved.

During his stay in Lexington, Jackson was both revered by Whites, enslaved Blacks, and freed Blacks livening within the city. Given the times, Jackson viewed the Black as ignorant and in need of guidance from the leaders of the Church. Needlesstosay, he was a devout Christian with a firm idea of discipline and extrinsic in behavior. Still in the United States Army at the time of the War of Southern Succession, Col. Jackson resigned his commission and took up arms against the United States; taking command as a Drill Master before being ordered to assume field command at Harper’s Ferry, Commonwealth of Virginia.

Jackson rose through the officer ranks and prominence and became iconic at the First Battle of Bull Run in which the brigade under his command provided crucial Rebel reinforcements upon Henry House Hill, and stopped the U.S. Army from overwhelming the position. Many historians credit the staunch defense to the discipline Jackson had instilled to the raw enlisted men. During this campaign, Lt. Gen, Jackson’s brigade suffered the most casualties, and yet, the names of the slain will always be silhouetted by the man who led them.

Thomas Jackson’s death came at the age of 39, after being mortally wounded by picket men during the Chancellorsville, Commonwealth of Virginia, on the night of 02May1863. Many historians and theorists declare the Jackson was not misidentified by the 18th North Carolina Infantry, but was murdered. By whom? No one knows. Will we ever know? I think yes, in due time. After all, Thomas J. Jackson was one of the most iconic Southern rebels and his monuments grace the South on the scale of those of Robert E. Lee’s.

Jackson’s death did not come that night, but later on, 10May1863 to septicemia with an underlining cause of pneumonia. His left arm amputated and bedridden, Jackson’s last recorded words in a fever-induced delirium were, “…Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees…” He was taken South down the James through Lynchburg, where the packet boat’s hull remains in a covered shed in Riverside Park, Lynchburg, Commonwealth of Virginia, down the winding James to the Murray and buried in Lexington, Commonwealth of Virginia. Jackson’s life was wrought with many ailments, and many doctors theorize that he either had Asperger’s Syndrome or a herniated diaphragm, judging by his uncanny talent of falling asleep at a second’s notice. He also believed that one of his arms was longer than the other and oft rode his horse with the “bad” arm raised to “balance the circulation”.

I penned this article after my tour of Lexington in which I went to Virginia Military Institute on a cold February afternoon with my wife. A publically funded university, roughly 15% of all enrolled students receive commissions into the United States Army. Anyone who wishes to apply can do so at a historic little two story pre-1930’s house that had been rinivated. Two flags, the Unites States and Virginia Military Institute, and a simple placard mark the site of this beautiful little house.

Walking along the great expanse of a grass drilling area, we approached this utterly gigantic complex. Although not historical in nature, the structures had been built in the manner of a 19th Century American fort. As we approached the entrance to the barracks (dormitories for others) on the grass stands six, six-pounder cannons, guarding a gigantic monument to the man himself, Gen. Thomas Jonathon Jackson. A breathtaking site indeed.

I was unsure at the time if the Institute was military ran, or open to the public, and I just happened to come across the commander of the fort, a Major in the United States Army Reserves, who not only informed me that the university is not pre-commission officer candidates, but is a publicly funded university that is run by the military to primarily instill discipline within the youth of America who pass through the gigantic gates of the Institute. As we walked into the barracks, there was a ceremony of epic beat-down taking place. A sight, I do not miss from my time in the Armed Forces.

After the ceremony ended and the Freshmen were officially welcomed into the Institute’s culture, the atmosphere was electrifying and as I walked out of the tunnel, and gazed upon the statue, highlighted by the setting sun, a loud “Hooah!” echoed throughout the complex, into the surrounding area. I snapped the picture above, and although a Union man myself, I can always admire the sacrifice given by this man. The ultimate sacrifice to the idea of forming a new nation is one as old as the Unites States of America, when multiple colonies of the United Kingdom became galvanized in their endeavor for freedom. The monument stands as a testament to the words emblazoned in stone inside the barracks entrance, “You may be whatever you resolve to be”

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