Review of Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend

June 13, 2011

The Civil war battle of Chancellorsville was both the South’s greatest victory and its greatest loss. Although General Lee won the battle, he may have lost the war because it was at Chancellorsville that Stonewall Jackson was mistaken as Federal Officer and shot by his own men. When he died eight days later it is very likely that any hope the Confederacy had of winning the war died with him. Stonewall’s wounds at first cost him his left arm, but the resulting pneumonia cost him his life. Upon hearing of Stonewall’s amputation, General Lee said, “He has lost his left arm, but I my right arm.”

This book is long, 950 pages long. Thankfully, the last 180 pages or so consists of a bibliography, footnotes and an index. In spite of its length (or maybe because of it) it is worth the labor. Thomas J “Stonewall” Jackson was a complex if not contradictory character. He gave every evidence of being a sincere Christian, yet condoned slavery and showed no mercy to the enemy. Though outwardly cold, he had great affection for his family. He attended every church service he could, yet usually slept through the sermon. He trusted in God, yet worried constantly about his health. He was a hero to some and a villain to others, but definitely fascinating.

I divide my reading habits into two categories, theological and personal. Although much, but not all, of my theological reading takes place in my study at the church, I confine my personal reading to after work. Usually the two don’t intersect. However while I was reading this book I was also reading Why Johnny Can’t Preach in which the author repeatedly references Robert Lewis Dabney’s Lectures on Sacred Rhetoric. This very same R.L. Dabney served for a time as Jackson’s chief of staff. However, as his legacy demonstrates, Dabney turned out to be a better preacher than a soldier.

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