Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, born in January 21st 1824 – died May 10th 1863, served as a Confederate general (1861–1863) during the American Civil War, and became one of the best-known Confederate commanders after General Robert E. Lee. Jackson played a prominent role in nearly all military engagements in the Eastern Theatre of the war until his death, and played a key role in winning many significant battles.
Born in what was then part of Virginia, Jackson received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, served in the U.S. Army during the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848 and distinguished himself at Chapultepec (1847). From 1851 to 1863 he taught at the Virginia Military Institute, where he was unpopular with his students. During this time, he married twice. His first wife died giving birth, but his second wife, Mary Anna Morrison, lived until 1915. When Virginia seceded from the Union in May 1861 after the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12th 1861, Jackson joined the Confederate Army. He distinguished himself commanding a brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21st 1861 the following month, providing crucial reinforcements and beating back a fierce Union assault. In this context Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. compared him to a “stone wall”, hence his enduring nickname.
In late April and early May 1863, faced with a larger Union army now commanded by Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville, Lee divided his force three ways. On May 2, Jackson took his 30,000 troops and launched a surprise attack against the Union right flank, driving the opposing troops back about two miles. That evening he was accidentally shot by Confederate pickets. The general survived but lost his left arm to amputation; weakened by his wounds, he died of pneumonia eight days later.
Military historians regard Jackson as one of the most gifted tactical commanders in U.S. history. His tactics are studied even today. His death proved a severe setback for the Confederacy, affecting not only its military prospects, but also the morale of its army and the general public. After Jackson’s death, his military exploits developed a legendary quality, becoming an important element of the ideology of the “Lost Cause”.