Lee the American


JACKSON was a born fighter. In his youth he fought poverty. He fought for an education at West Point. There he fought his way through against prejudice and every disadvantage. Fighting in Mexico, he thoroughly enjoyed himself. As a professor at the Virginia Military Institute he probably did not. When the war came, it was a godsend to him; and he fought with every nerve in his body till he fell, shot by his own soldiers, at Chancellorsville.

For pure intellectual power he does not seem to have been remarkable. He learned what he set out to learn, by sheer effort. What interested him he mastered. Without doubt his restless, active mind would have fought abstract problems, if it had found nothing else to fight. But I do not imagine he loved thought for itself or had the calm breadth to study impersonally the great questions of the world and flash sudden, sharp illumination on them, as did Napoleon.

And Jackson had no personal charm. He was courteous, but with a labored courtesy; he was shy, abrupt, ungainly, forgetful, and apt to be withdrawn into himself. His fellow students admired him, but shrank from him. His pupils laughed at his odd ways and did not always profit by his teaching. This, before his star shone out. And it is strange to contrast such neglect with the adoration that pressed close about his later glory. In Martinsburg the ladies “cut every button off his coat, commenced on his pants, and at one time threatened to leave him in the uniform of a Georgia colonel—shirt-collar and spurs.”1 Nothing similar is recorded of Lee—even humorously.

Lee the American VI LEE AND JACKSON
(From the original drawing)

It must not be supposed that, though unsuccessful in general society, Jackson lacked warmth or human kindness. He was sensitive, emotional, susceptible. He felt the charm of art in all its forms. He read Shakespeare, and quoted him in a military dispatch,—“we must burn no more daylight,”2—as I cannot imagine Lee doing. When he was in Europe, he keenly enjoyed painting, and architecture, and loved to talk of them after his return, entertaining the “Times” correspondent with a long discussion of English cathedrals, partly, to be sure, to avoid talk on things military. When in Mexico, he was charmed by the Mexican girls, so much so that he fled them, as Dr. Johnson fled Garrick’s ballet.3 In his youth he was even a dancer. When age and religion came upon him, he used still to indulge for exercise in an occasional polka, “but,” as Mrs. Jackson remarks, deliciously, “no eye but that of his wife was ever permitted to witness this recreation.”4 In his family he was tender, affectionate, playful, sympathetic. He adored his little daughter and all children. “His abandon was beautiful to see, provided there were only one or two people to see it.“5 His letters to his wife are ardent and devoted, full of an outpouring and self-revelation which one never finds in the printed letters of Lee.

In short, he was a man with a soul of fire. Action was his life. To do something, to do high, heroic things, to do them with set lip and strained nerve and unflinching determination,—to him this was all the splendor of existence. In his youth he had not learned Latin well and it was questioned whether he could do it in age. He said he could. He was set to teach matters that were strange to him and some doubted whether he could do it. He said he could. Extempore prayer came to him with difficulty, and his pastor advised his not attempting it, if he could not do it. He said he could. “As to the rest, I knew that what I willed to do, I could do.”6 Such a statement has its foolish side and takes us back to what I said above about Jackson’s intelligence. Pure intelligence sees insurmountable difficulties, too many and too plain. Jackson, if ever any man, came near to being pure will.

It seems that his courage, flawless as it was, was courage of will rather than of stolid temperament. “He has told me,” says his sister-in-law, “that his first sight of a mangled and swollen corpse on a Mexican battlefield filled him with as much sickening dismay as if he had been a woman.”7 And Dabney writes: “It was not unusual to see him pale and trembling with excitement at the firing of the first gun of an opening battle.”8 Yet his power of concentration was so enormous that when he was thinking out a military problem he forgot bullet and shell and wounds and death. “This was the true explanation of that seeming recklessness with which he sometimes exposed himself on the field of battle.”9

Also he had the magnetic faculty of extending to others his own furious determination. He could demand the impossible of them because he performed it himself. “Come on,” he cried in Mexico, “you see there is no danger.”10 And a shot passed between his legs spread wide apart. His soldiers marched to death, when he bade them. What was even worse, they marched at the double through Virginia mud, without shoes, without food, without sleep. “Did you order me to advance over that field, sir?” said an officer to him. “Yes,” said Jackson. “Impossible, sir! My men will be annihilated! Nothing can live there! They will be annihilated!” “General ——,” said Jackson, “I always endeavor to take care of my wounded and to bury my dead. You have heard my order—obey it.”11

What was there back of this magnificent, untiring, inexhaustible will and energy, what long dream of glory, what splendid hope of imperishable renown ? Or was it a blind energy, a mere restless thirst for action and adventure, unceasing, unquenchable? Something of the latter there was in it doubtless, of the love of danger for its pure nerve-thrill, its unrivaled magic of oblivion. “Nothing is more certain than that this love of action, movement, danger, and adventure was a prominent trait in his organization,” says one of his earlier biographers.12 “I envy you men who have been in battle. How I should like to be in one battle,” he remarked in Mexico;13 and he confessed that to be under fire filled him with a “delicious excitement.”14

Nevertheless, he was far enough from being a mere common sworder, or even the gay, careless fighter who does the day’s work and never looks beyond it. In his youth there can be no doubt that he dreamed dreams of immense advancement, of endless conquest, of triumph and admiration and success. During the war some one expressed the belief that Jackson was not ambitious. “Ambitious!” was the answer. “He is the most ambitious man in the Confederacy.” We have his own reported words for his feelings at an earlier date. “The only anxiety I was conscious of during the engagement was a fear lest I should not meet danger enough to make my conduct conspicuous.”15 Most striking of all is Mrs. Preston’s picture of him before Wolfe’s monument at Quebec. He “swept his arm with a passionate movement around the plain and exclaimed, quoting Wolfe’s dying words, ‘I die content,—‘to die as he died, who would not be content’?”16

Very little things often throw a fine light on character and difference of character. On one occasion, as the troops were marching by, they had been forbidden to cheer, lest the noise might betray them to the enemy. When Jackson’s own brigade passed their general, however, their enthusiasm was too much for any prohibition, and they cheered loud and long. Jackson smiled as he listened, and turning to those beside him murmured, “You see, I can’t stop them.”17 Whether Lee had any ambition or not, it is difficult to imagine him betrayed into such a naïve expression as this. The smile might have been possible for him, the words never.

So in Jackson’s younger days his devouring ardor fed on worldly hopes. Then religion took possession of him, not suddenly, but with a gradual, fierce encroachment that in the end grasped every fibre of his being. Like a very similar nature in a different sphere, John Donne, he examined all creeds first, notably the Catholic, but finally settled in an austere and sturdy Calvinism. Not that his religion was gloomy or bitterly ascetic; for it had great depths of love in it and sunny possibilities of joy. But it was all-absorbing and he fought the fight of God with the same fury that he gave to the battles of this world. There must be no weakness, no trifling, no inconsistency. “He weighed his lightest utterance in the balance of the sanctuary,” writes one who knew him well.18 Christians are enjoined to pray. Therefore Jackson prayed always, even in association with the lightest act. “I never raise a glass of water to my lips without lifting my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life.”19 They must remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Therefore Jackson not only refrained from writing letters on Sunday: he would not read a letter on Sunday; he even timed the sending of his own letters so that they should not encumber the mails on Sunday.20 It was the same with a scrupulous regard for truth. Every statement, even indifferent, must be exact, or, if inexact, corrected. And Jackson walked a mile in the rain to set right an error of inadvertence.21 The wonder is that a man of such a temper accomplished anything in the world at all. I confess that I feel an unsanctified satisfaction in seeing the exigencies of war override and wither this dainty scrupulousness. It is true they cannot do it always. “Had I fought the battle on Sunday instead of on Monday I fear our cause would have suffered.”22 But then again, the Puritan Lee writes to the Puritan Jackson (italics mine): “I had hoped her own [Maryland’s] citizens would have relieved us of that question, and you must endeavor to give to the course you may find it necessary to pursue the appearance of its being the act of her own citizens.23 How many leagues the praying Jackson should have walked in the rain to correct the fighting Jackson’s peccadilloes.

And now how did Jackson’s ambition and his religion keep house together? His admirers maintain that religion devoured the other motive completely. “Duty alone constrained him to forego the happiness and comforts of his beloved home for the daily hardships of a soldier’s life.”24 But certain of his reported words in the very closing scene make me think that the thirst for glory was as ardent as ever, even if it had a little shifted its form. “I would not agree to the slightest diminution of my glory there [in heaven], no, not for all the fame which I have acquired or shall ever win in this world.”25 It does not sound quite like the chastened spirit of a son of peace, does it?

No, the early Jackson and the late Jackson were the same Jackson. The blare of trumpets, the crash of guns, the cheers of an adoring army, were a passionate delight to him and would have been as long as he walked this fighting world. Only that will, which by itself was mighty force enough, was doubled and tripled in power when it got the will of God behind it. To gratify personal ambition the man might have hesitated at destruction and slaughter. But to do his duty, to carry out the designs of Providence,—that mission must override all obstacles and subdue all scruples. In face of it human agony counted simply as nothing. Henderson, who is reluctant to find shadows in his idol, questions the authenticity of Jackson’s interview with his brother-in-law, as reported by Mrs. Jackson; but I am perfectly ready to believe that the hero of the Valley declared for hoisting the black flag and giving “no quarter to the violators of our homes and fireside.”26 Certainly it is not denied that when he was asked how to dispose of the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, his answer was, “Kill them, sir! kill every man!”27 And again, when some one deplored the necessity of destroying so many brave men, “No, shoot them all; I do not wish them to be brave.”28

Such a tremendous instrument as this might have gone anywhere and done anything, and if Jackson had lived, his future defies prevision. “No man had so magnificent a prospect before him as General Jackson,” wrote Lawley, the correspondent of the “London Times.” Whether he desired it or not, he could not have escaped being Governor of Virginia, and also, in the opinion of many competent judges, sooner or later President of the Confederacy.”29 But this regular method of ascent would have been slow. When things went wrong, when politicians intrigued and triumphed, when the needs of the army were slighted and forgotten for petty jealousies, Jackson would have been just the one to have cried out, “Here is man’s will, where is God’s will?”—just the one to have felt God’s strength in his own right arm, to have purged war offices, and turned out congresses, and made incompetent presidents feel that they must give up to those who saw more clearly and judged more wisely. There would have been no selfishness in all this, no personal ambition, because it would have been just doing the will of God. And I can perfectly imagine Jackson riding such a career and overwhelming every obstacle in his way except one—Robert E. Lee.

When Jackson and Lee first met does not appear. Jackson said early in the war that he had known Lee for twenty-five years. They may have seen something of each other in Mexico. If so, there seems to be no record of it. At any rate, Jackson thought well of Lee from the first, and said of him when he was appointed to command the Virginia forces, “His services I regard as of more value to us than General Scott could render as a commander. . . . It is understood that General Lee is to be commander-in-chief. I regard him as a better officer than General Scott.”30

From the beginning the lieutenant’s loyalty to his chief grew steadily; not only his loyalty but his personal admiration and affection. I like the elementary expression of it, showing unconsciously Jackson’s sense of some of his own deficiencies, in his remark to McGuire, after visiting Lee in the hospital: “General Lee is the most perfect animal form I ever saw.”31 But illustrations on a somewhat broader plane are abundant enough. “General Lee has always been very kind to me and I thank him,” said Jackson simply, as he lay on his deathbed.32 The enthusiasm of that ardent nature was ever ready to show itself in an almost over-zealous devotion. Lee once sent word that he should be glad to talk with his subordinate at his convenience on some matter of no great urgency. Jackson instantly rode to headquarters through the most inclement weather. When Lee expressed surprise at seeing him, the other answered: “General Lee’s lightest wish is a supreme command to me, and I always take pleasure in prompt obedience.”33 If we consider what Jackson’s nature was, it is manifest that he gave the highest possible proof of loyalty, when it was suggested that he should return to an individual command in the Valley, and he answered that he did not desire it, but in every way preferred a subordinate position near General Lee.34

Jackson’s personal affection for Lee was, of course, intimately bound up with confidence in his military ability. Even in the early days, when Jackson had been in vain demanding reinforcements and word was brought of Lee’s appointment to supreme command, Jackson’s comment was, “Well, madam, I am reinforced at last.”35 On various occasions, when others doubted Lee’s judgment or questioned his decisions, Jackson was entirely in agreement with his chief. For instance, Longstreet disapproved Lee’s determination to fight at Sharpsburg, and Ropes and other critics have since condemned it. Jackson, however, though he had no part in it, gave it his entire and hearty approval.

I do not find anywhere, even in the most private letters, a disposition in Jackson to quarrel with Lee’s plans or criticize his arrangements. On the contrary, when objections are made, he is ready to answer them, and eagerly, and heartily. “General Lee is equal to any emergency that may arise. I trust implicitly in his great ability and superior wisdom.”36 Jackson had plans of his own and sometimes talked of them. He was asked why he did not urge them upon Lee. “I have done so,” was his answer. “And what does he say to them?” “He says nothing. But do not understand that I complain of this silence; it is proper that General Lee should observe it. He is wise and prudent. He feels that he bears a fearful responsibility and he is right in declining a hasty expression of his purpose to a subordinate like me.”37 Again, some one found fault with Lee’s slowness. Jackson contradicted warmly: “General Lee is not slow. No one knows the weight upon his heart, his great responsibility. He is commander-in-chief and he knows that if an army is lost, it cannot be replaced. No! There may be some persons whose good opinion of me will make them attach some weight to my views, and if you ever hear that said of General Lee, I beg you will contradict it in my name. I have known General Lee for twenty-five years; he is cautious; he ought to be. But he is not slow.”38 And he concluded with one of the finest expressions of loyalty ever uttered by a subordinate, and such a subordinate: “Lee is a phenomenon. He is the only man I could follow blindfold.”39 After this, who can question the sincerity of the words spoken on his deathbed: “Better that ten Jacksons should fall than one Lee?“40

And what did Lee think of Jackson? As always, Lee’s judgments are more difficult to get at. In spite of all respect and all affection, I cannot but think that his large humanity shrank a little from Jackson’s ardors. When he told a lady, with gentle playfulness, that General Jackson, “who was smiling so pleasantly near her, was the most cruel and inhuman man she had ever seen,”41 I have no doubt it was ninety-nine parts playfulness, but perhaps there was one part, one little part, earnest Even after Antietam his military commendation of Jackson was very restrained, to say the least. “My opinion of the merits of General Jackson has been greatly enhanced during this expedition. He is true, honest, and brave, has a single eye to the good of the service, and spares no exertions to accomplish his object.”42 No superlatives here. Sharp words of criticism, even, are reported, which, inexplicable as they sound, seem to come with excellent authority. “Jackson was by no means so rapid a marcher as Longstreet and had an unfortunate habit of never being on time.”43

Yet Lee’s deep affection for his great lieutenant and perfect confidence in him are beyond question. It has been well pointed out that this was proved practically by the fact that the commander-in-chief always himself remained with Longstreet and left Jackson to operate independently, as if the former were more in need of personal supervision. Lee’s own written words to Jackson are also—for Lee—very enthusiastic: “Your recent successes have been the cause of the liveliest joy in this army as well as in the country. The admiration excited by your skill and boldness has been constantly mingled with solicitude for your situation.”44 Jackson’s wound and death and the realization of his loss produced expressions of a warmth so unusual as to be almost startling, “If I had had Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, I should have won that battle.”45 “Such an executive officer the sun never shone on. I have but to show him my design, and I know that if it can be done it will be done.”46 The messages sent to the dying general are as appreciative as they are tender. “You are better off than I am, for while you have only lost your left, I have lost my right arm.”47 “Tell him that I wrestled in prayer for him last night, as I never prayed, I believe, for myself.”48 (Yet if the words are correctly reported, note even here the most characteristic Lee-like modification, I believe.) And only those who are familiar with Lee can appreciate the agony of the parti[n]g outcry, “‘Jackson will not—he cannot die!’ General Lee exclaimed, in a broken voice and waving every one from him with his hand, ‘he cannot die’.”49

The study of the practical military relations of the two great commanders is of extreme interest. Lee does not hesitate to advise Jackson as freely as he would any other subordinate. “It was to save you the abundance of hard fighting that I ventured to suggest for your consideration not to attack the enemy’s strong points, but to turn his positions at Warrenton, etc., so as to draw him out of them. I would rather you should have easy fighting and heavy victories. I must leave the matter to your reflection and cool judgment.”50 He even frequently gives a sharp order which approaches sternness: “You must use your discretion and judgment in these matters, and be careful to husband the strength of your command as much as possible,”51 And again: “Do not let your troops run down, if it can possibly be avoided by attention to their wants, comforts, etc., by their respective commanders. This will require your personal attention.”52

Jackson seems usually to have accepted all this with unquestioning submission. It is true that Longstreet is said once to have accused him of disrespect because he groaned audibly at one of Lee’s decisions.53 But Longstreet was a little too watchful for those groans. Also, on one occasion, when Lee proposed some redistribution of artillery, Jackson protested, rather for his soldiers than for himself: “General D. H. Hill’s artillery wants existed at the time he was assigned to my command, and it is hoped that artillery which belonged to the Army of the Valley will not be taken to supply his wants.”54 But, for the most part, the lieutenant writes in the respectful, affectionate, and trustful tone which he adopted at the very beginning of the war and maintained until the end: “I would be more than grateful, could you spare the time for a short visit here to give me the benefit of your wisdom and experience in laying out the works, especially those on the heights.”55

Jackson’s complete submission to Lee is the more striking because, though a theoretical believer in subordination, he was not by nature peculiarly adapted to working under the orders of others. Some, who knew him well, have gone so far as to say that “his genius never shone under command of another.”56 This is absurd enough considering his later battles; but it seems to me that some such explanation may be sought for his comparative inefficiency on the Peninsula, as to which almost all critics are agreed. It was physical exhaustion, says Dabney. It was poor staff service, says Henderson. Is it not possible that, accustomed hitherto to working with an absolutely free hand, his very desire to be only an executive and carry out Lee’s orders may, for the time, to some extent, have paralyzed his own initiative?

However that may be, there is no doubt that Jackson did not take kindly to dictation from Richmond. It is said that on one occasion he wrote to the War Office requesting that he might have fewer orders and more men.57 It is certain that he complained bitterly to Lee of the custom of sending him officers without previous consultation. “I have had much trouble resulting from incompetent officers being assigned to duty with me, regardless of my wishes. Those who have assigned them have never taken the responsibility of incurring the odium which results from such incompetence.”58 And very early in his career he had a sharp clash with Secretary Benjamin, who had attempted to interfere in the detail of military arrangements. Jackson sent in his resignation at once, explaining that his services could be of no use, if he was to be hampered by remote and ill-informed control. The fact of the resignation, which was withdrawn by the kindly offices of Johnston and Governor Letcher, is of less interest than the spirit in which Jackson offered it. When it was represented to him that the Government had proceeded without understanding the circumstances, he replied: “Certainly they have; but they must be taught not to act so hastily without a full knowledge of the facts. I can teach them this lesson now by my resignation and the country will be no loser by it.”59 Was I wrong in saying that this man would have ridden over anything and anybody, if he had thought it his duty? Such summary methods may have been wise, they may have been effective: they were certainly very unlike Lee’s.

Now let us turn from Jackson’s superiors to his inferiors. The common soldier loved him. It was not for any jolly comradeship, not for any fascinating magnetism of personal charm or heroic eloquence. He was a hard taskmaster, exacting and severe. “Whatever of personal magnetism existed in Stonewall Jackson,” says his partial biographer, “found no utterance in words. Whilst his soldiers struggled painfully towards Romney in the teeth of the winter storm, his lips were never opened save for sharp rebuke or peremptory order.”60 But the men had confidence in him. He had got them out of many a difficulty and something in his manner told them that he would get them out of any difficulty. The sight of his old uniform and scrawny sorrel horse stirred all their nerves and made them march and fight as they could not have done for another man. And then they knew that though he was harsh, he was just. He expected great things of them, but he would do great things for them. He would slaughter them mercilessly to win a victory; but when it was won he would give them the glory, under God, and would cherish the survivors with a parent’s tenderness. “We do not regard him as a severe disciplinarian,” writes one of them, “as a politician, as a man seeking popularity,—but as a Christian, a brave man who appreciates the condition of a common soldier, as a fatherly protector, as one who endures all hardship in common with his followers, who never commands others to face danger without putting himself in the van.”61

But with his officers it was somewhat different. They did indeed trust his leadership and admire his genius. How could they help it? It is said that all the staff officers of the army at large liked him.62 And Mrs. Jackson declares that his own staff were devoted to him, as they probably were. Yet even she admits that they resented his rigid punctuality and early hours. And there is no doubt that in these particulars and in many others he asked all that men were capable of and sometimes a little more, “General Jackson,” says one of his staff, “demanded of his subordinates implicit obedience. He gave orders in his own peculiar, terse, rapid fashion, and he did not permit them to be questioned.”63 General Ewell is said to have remarked that he never “saw one of Jackson’s couriers approach him without expecting an order to assault the North Pole.”64 On one occasion he had given his staff directions to breakfast at dawn and to be in the saddle immediately after. The general appeared at daybreak—and one officer. Jackson lost his temper. “Major, how is it that this staff never will be punctual?” When the major attempted some apology for the others, his chief turned to the servant in a rage. “Put back that food into the chest, have that chest in the wagon, and that wagon moving in two minutes.”65

Also Jackson had a habit of keeping everything to himself. This may have been a great military advantage. It was a source of constant amusement to the soldiers. Jackson met one of them one day in some place where he should not have been. “What are you doing here?” “I don’t know.” “Where do you come from?” “I don’t know.” When asked the meaning of this extraordinary ignorance, the man explained, “Orders were that we should n’t know anything till after the next fight.” Jackson laughed and passed on.66

But the officers did not like it. Jackson made his own plans and took care of his own responsibilities. Even his most trusted subordinates were often told to go to this or that place with no explanation of the object of their going. They went, but they sometimes went without enthusiasm. And Jackson was no man for councils of war. Others’ judgment might be as good as his, but only one judgment must settle matters, and his was for the time to be that one.

Hence his officers fretted and he quarreled with some of the best of them. And when things did not go right, with him it was the guardhouse instantly. All five regimental commanders of the Stonewall Brigade were once under arrest at the same time.67 The gallant Ashby, just before his last charge and death, had a sharp bit of friction with his superior. When Gregg lay dying, he sent to the general to apologize for a letter recently written “in which he used words that he is now sorry for. . . . He hopes you will forgive him.”68 Jackson forgave him heartily; but he could not have deathbed reconciliations with all of them.

In some of these cases Lee was obliged to interfere, notably in that of A. P. Hill. Hill was a splendid soldier. Lee loved him. By a strange coincidence his name was on the dying lips of Lee and Jackson both. But he was fiery and impetuous and did not hesitate to criticize even the commander-in-chief with hearty freedom. He chafed sorely under Jackson’s arbitrary methods. Lee, in recommending him, foresaw this, and tried to insinuate a little caution. “A. P. Hill you will, I think, find a good officer, with whom you can consult, and, by advising with your division commanders as to your movements, much trouble will be saved you in arranging details, and they can aid more intelligently.”69

It was quite useless. The two fiery tempers clashed immediately. Jackson put his subordinate under arrest more than once. In the “Official Records” we may read the painful but very curious correspondence in which the two laid their grievances before Lee and Lee with patient tact tried to do justice to both. “If,” says Hill, “the charges preferred against me by General Jackson are true, I do not deserve to command a division in this army; if they are untrue, then General Jackson deserves a rebuke as notorious as the arrest.”70 It is said that Lee at last brought the two together, and, “after hearing their several statements, walking gravely to and fro, said, ‘He who has been the most aggrieved can be the most magnanimous and make the first overture of peace.’ This wise verdict forever settled their differences.”71 Forever is a long word, but surely no judgment of Solomon or Sancho Panza could be neater.

Lee’s relations with Jackson as to strategy and tactics are no less interesting than the disciplinary. Some of Jackson’s admirers seem inclined to credit him with Lee’s best generalship, especially with the brilliant and successful movements which resulted in the victories of the Second Bull Run and of Chancellorsville. Just how far each general was responsible for those movements can never be exactly determined. The conception of flank attacks would appear to be an elementary device to any military mind. Lee certainly was sufficiently prone to them and urged them upon Jackson at an early stage, as is shown by a passage quoted above.72 It is in nice and perfect execution that the difficulty lies, and in the delicate adjustment of that execution to the handling of the army as a whole; and in this Lee and Jackson probably formed as wonderful a pair of military geniuses as ever existed.

As to Lee’s initiative, it can be easily shown that even in the first Valley campaign he had, to say the least, a most sympathetic and prophetic comprehension of Jackson’s action. If Jackson may possibly have conceived the plan of the Second Bull Run campaign, it was Lee who designed the tactics of Gaines’s Mill, that Jackson failed to carry out At a later date, just before Fredericksburg, when Jackson was again operating in the Valley, Henderson, in the absence of authentic data, assumes that the lieutenant was anxious to realize some flanking conception of his own and that Lee assented to it. This may be so, but a few weeks later still, when the battle was imminent, Lee expresses himself to a very different effect “In previous letters I suggested the advantages that might be derived by your taking position at Warrenton or Culpeper, with a view to threaten the rear of the enemy at Fredericksburg. . . . As my previous suggestions to you were left to be executed or not at your discretion, you are still at liberty to follow or reject them.”73

The case that has aroused most controversy, one of those delightful problems that can be always discussed and never settled, is that of Chancellorsville. The facts, so far as they can be gathered from conflicting accounts, seem to be as follows. On the night of May 1, Hooker had withdrawn to Chancellorsville. Lee and Jackson met and talked over the state of things. Examination had shown that to attack Hooker’s left and centre was out of the question. On the other hand, reports received from the cavalry made it appear that the right might be assailed with advantage. Lee decided on this and ordered Jackson to make the movement. Jackson then secured further information, elaborated his plans accordingly, and acted on them with Lee’s approval.

Evidently this statement leaves many loopholes, but it is impossible to be more definite, or to say just where Lee’s conception ended and Jackson’s began. If we turn for information to the two principal actors, we shall not progress much. “I congratulate you upon the victory which is due to your skill andenergy,”74 says Lee; but this passing of compliments means no more than Jackson’s general acknowledgment: “All the credit of my successes belongs to General Lee; they were his plans and I only executed his orders.”75 Jackson’s special comment is not more helpful: “Our movement was a great success; I think the most successful military movement of my life. But I expect to receive more credit for it than I deserve. Most men will think that I planned it all from the first, but it was not so.”76—“Ah,” we interrupt, “this is magnanimous. He is going to give the credit to Lee.”—Not at all; he is only going to give it to God. Nor does Lee’s letter to Mrs. Jackson make matters much clearer. “I decided against it [front attack] and stated to General Jackson we must move on our left as soon as practicable; and the necessary movement of troops began immediately. In consequence of a report received about this time from General Fitzhugh Lee, . . . General Jackson, after some inquiry, undertook to throw his command entirely in Hooker’s rear.”77

What interests me in the controversy is not the debated point, which cannot seriously affect the greatness of either party concerned, but the characteristic reserve of Lee, as shown in the last sentence above quoted, and far more in the letter to Dr. Bledsoe, written, says Jones, in answer to a “direct question whether the flank movement at Chancellorsville originated with Jackson or with himself.” Lee’s reply is so curious that I quote the important part of it entire.

I have learned from others that the various authors of the life of Jackson award to him the credit of the success gained by the Army of Northern Virginia where he was present, and describe the movements of his corps or command as independent of the general plan of operations and undertaken at his own suggestion and upon his own responsibility.

I have the greatest reluctance to say anything that might be considered as detracting from his well-deserved fame, for I believe no one was more convinced of his worth or appreciated him more highly than myself; yet your knowledge of military affairs, if you have none of the events themselves, will teach you that this could not have been so. Every movement of an army must be well considered and properly ordered, and every one who knew General Jackson must know that he was too good a soldier to violate this fundamental principle. In the operations around Chancellorsville, I overtook General Jackson, who had been placed in command of the advance, as the skirmishers of the approaching armies met, advanced with the troops to the Federal line of defenses, and was on the field until their whole army recrossed the Rappahannock.

There is no question as to who was responsible for the operations of the Confederates, or to whom any failure would have been charged.78

The more I read this letter, the less I understand it. It does not answer Bledsoe’s question at all, makes no attempt to answer it. Instead, it tells us that Jackson did not rob Lee of the command, or the responsibility, or the glory. Who ever supposed he did? And why did Lee write so? Did he wish to leave Jackson the credit of initiative in the matter? It sounds as if he wished the precise contrary, which is quite impossible. Or did he miss the whole point, which seems equally impossible? This letter, like many others, goes far to reconcile me to the loss of the memoirs that h e did not write. I feel sure that with the best intentions in the world he would have left untold a great deal that we desire to know.

It is hardly necessary to say that in a comparison of Lee and Jackson the question of just how far either one originated the military designs which covered both with glory is not really very essential. I hope that I have already indicated the difference between them. Perhaps in their religion it is as significant as in anything. To both religion was the main issue of life; but in Lee religion never tyrannized; in Jackson I think it did. Lee said that “duty was the sublimest word in the language.” Nevertheless, if he had heard Mrs. Jackson’s remark that her husband “ate, as he did everything else, from a sense of duty,”79 I think he would have smiled and observed that it might be well occasionally to eat for pure pleasure. It would be most unjust to say that Jackson’s was a religion of hell; but it would be nobly true to say that Lee’s was a religion of heaven. It would be fairer to both to speak of Jackson’s as a devouring fire, of Lee’s as a pure and vivifying light. Indeed, especially in comparison with Jackson, this idea of light satisfies me better for Lee than anything else. His soul was tranquil and serene and broadly luminous, with no dark corner in it for violence or hate.

And, although I speak with humility in such a matter, may not say that the military difference between the two was something the same? It is possible that Jackson could strike harder, possible even that he could see as deeply and as justly as his great commander. I think that Lee had the advantage in breadth, in just that one quality of sweet luminousness. He could draw all men unto him. What a splendid mastery it must have been that kept, on the one hand, the perfect friendship and confidence of the high-strung, sensitive, and jealous Davis, and on the other, the unquestioning loyalty, affection, and admiration of a soul so swift and haughty and violent as that of Jackson!



1. Quoted in Cooke, p. 353.

2. Henderson, vol. II, p. 88.

3. Dabney, vol. I, p. 62.

4. Mrs. Jackson, p. 47.

5. Mrs. Jackson, p. 70.

6. Mrs. Jackson, p. 57.

7. E. P. Allan, Life and Letters of M. J. Preston, p. 83.

8. Dabney, vol. II, p. 521.

9. Dabney, vol. II, p. 522.

10. Mrs. Jackson, p. 43.

11. Cooke, p. 248.

12. Cooke, p. 355.

13. Mrs. Jackson, p. 54.

14. F. Lee, p. 142.

15. Henderson, vol. I, p. 46.

16. E. P. Allan, Life and Letters of M. J. Preston, p. 80.

17. Cooke, p. 275.

18. Mrs. Jackson, p. 68.

19. Mrs. Jackson, p. 63.

20. Mrs. Jackson, p. 75.

21. Mrs. Jackson, p. 69.

22. Mrs. Jackson, p. 249.

23. O.R., vol. 2, 825.

24. Mrs. Jackson, p. 237.

25. Dabney vol. II, p. 346.

26. Mrs. Jackson, p. 310.

27. McGuire, in Henderson, vol. II, p. 401.

28. Dabney vol. II, p. 130.

29. Henderson, vol. II, p. 589.

30. To Mrs. Jackson, in Dabney, vol. I, p. 213.

31. Jones, Life, p. 7.

32. McGuire, in Mrs. Jackson, p. 452.

33. Jones, Life, p. 240.

34. Dabney, vol. II, p. 637.

35. Dabney, vol. I, p. 335.

36. Mrs, Jackson, p. 313.

37. Dabney, in Henderson, vol. II, p. 95.

38. Cooke, p. 212.

39. Jackson’s constant devotion to the study of everything connected with Napoleon gives a certain plausibility to Grasset’s assertion (Guerre de la Sécession, vol. II, p. 95) that this saying wag taken from one of Kléber’s in regard to the great emperor.

40. R.E.L., p. 94.

41. Mrs. Jackson, p. 394.

42. Lee to Davis, O.R., vol. 27, p. 643.

43. G. C. Eggleston, A Rebel’s Recollections, p. 153.

44. O.R., vol. 17, p. 910.

45. Jones, Life, p. 237.

46. Lawley, in Henderson, vol. II, p. 58.

47. R.E.L., p. 94.

48. Dabney, vol. II, p. 507.

49. Cooke, p. 440.

50. O.R., vol. 18, p. 926.

51. O.R., vol. 18, p. 878. /a>

52. O.R., vol. 18, p. 919.

53. Henderson, vol. II, p. 142.

54. O.R., vol. 31, p. 1044.

55. O.R., vol. 2, p. 814.

56. D. H. Hill, in Battles and Leaders, vol. II, p. 390.

57. Ibid.

58. O.R., vol. 40, p. 647.

59. Mrs. Jackson, p. 234.

60. Henderson, vol. I, p. 197.

61. Quoted in Mrs. Jackson, p. 204.

62. Cooke, p. 459.

63. McGuire, in Henderson, vol. II, p. 71.

64. F. Lee, p. 142.

65. Dabney, letter in Henderson, vol. II, p. 88.

66. Cooke, p. 205 (not verbal).

67. Henderson, vol. II, p. 453.

68. Cooke, p. 387.

69. E. P. Alexander, Memoirs of a Confederate, p. 181.

70. O.R., vol. 28, p. 733.

71. D. H. Maury, Recollections of a Virginian, p. 72.

72. Ante, p. 140.

73. O.R., vol. 31, p. 1033.

74. Jones, Life, p. 232.

75. H. von Borcke, Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence, vol. II, p. 260.

76. Henderson, vol. II, p. 573.

77. Henderson, vol. II, p. 582.

78. Jones, Life, p. 236.

79. Mrs. Jackson, p. 71.


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