Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jackson is a Roundhead

The following is an excerpt from Captain Charles Minor Blackford's diary. On July 13, 1862, Captain Blackford meets Stonewall Jackson and records his thoughts about the famous general. Included is a description of Jackson and a wonderful story about Jackson's run-in with a farmer that gives the reader a perfect study of ole Stonewall.

I reached camp yesterday, which I found about three miles from Richmond. My company has been up to Jackson's headquarters for a some special duty. I was told he sent to the regiment for a Captain who knew something about the country about Fredericksburg and his company. My company was selected as I was a native of that place. I am comfortably camped on the Mechanicsville Pike about a hundred yards from Jackson's headquarters. I am writing from Mr. Peach R. Grattan's where I came this morning to meet William. (William Blackford was Charles' oldest brother and served on Jeb Stuart's staff as engineer. He also authored War Year with Jeb Stuart) This is Mr. Wyndham Robertson's house now occupied by the Grattans.

My men received me with open arms yesterday and seemed to be so glad to see me back that it touched me greatly. I wish I could in some way recruit the ranks somewhat. It is very hard to keep a cavalry company from a town. All the other companies in the regiment have the advantage of mine in the matter of securing horses. I have as many thus far as many other companies but I know that from this time on it will be hard to keep the ranks full.

All I hear are stories about Stonewall Jackson. There are lots of jokes, too, one of which I heard just now:

As he was crossing the Blue Ridge en route to Richmond, two Irishmen were sitting by the roadside talking during a rest period. When one said to the other:

"I wish all the Yankees was in Hell!"

"And faith," said the other, "and I don't wish anything of the the sort."

"The divvel you don't, and why don't you?"

"Because Old Jack would have us standing picket at the gate before night and in there before morning -- and it's too hot where we is to suit me!"

I am told by one of the staff that in Monday's fight at Port Republic, in the Valley, Jackson was on the opposite side of the river when the enemy's battery commenced playing on the bridge. He rode up to it and said to the commander. "Fire into those woods over there and not at the bridge." As Jackson was in a blue coat, they took him for a Federal officer and obeyed. Upon which he calmly rode over the bridge and at once brought one of his batteries to bear upon the deluded Federal who was still shelling the harmless woods and drove him from his position.

Jackson excites great enthusiasm everywhere, second only to Lee. The regiment is ordered to Gordonsville. I am glad I will not have to march up there with it.

We will move from here tonight or early tomorrow, I think, for I am sure General Jackson got orders or arranged to move tonight when in town. I was invited by Colonel A.S. (Sandie) Pendleton, his adjutant, to go with General Jackson and his staff into town this morning. I was proud to be of such a distinguished party although a very small atom of it. We went first to the Governor's mansion and there, I suppose by appointment, we met General Lee. The two generals and Governor Letcher came out on the front steps and told the generals good-bye. The two then rode around to Jefferson Davis' house where some other generals met them and I suppose they had a council of war -- certainly a lunch. While they were lunching and conferring I rode around to Cousin Mary G. Watkins' and got a very nice lunch which she kindly prepared for me in an hour, the period for which we were dismissed at the President's house. Any kind of hospitality is a strain now when bacon is seventy-five and fresh meat fifty cents a pound, potatoes sixteen dollars a bushel and other things in proportion.

When the lunch was over, I went back to the President's house where I found the staff officers assembling in front. We still had to wait awhile, but soon the different generals, Longstreet and others, came out, but the particular two were kept to the last and then Lee, Jackson and President Davis came out together, a very distinguished trio, and stood talking on the steps. Lee was elegantly dressed in full uniform, sword and sash, spotless boots, beautiful spurs and by far the most magnificent man I ever saw. The highest type of the Cavalier class to which by blood and rearing he belongs. Jackson, on the other hand, was a typical Roundhead. He was poorly dressed, that is, he looked so, though his clothes were made of good material. His cap was very indifferent and pulled down over one eye, much stained by weather and without insignia. His coat was closely buttoned up to his chin and had upon the collar the stars and wreath of a general. His shoulders were stopped and one shoulder was lower than the other, and his coat showed signs of much exposure to the weather.

He had a plain swordbelt without sash and a sword in no respect different from that of other infantry officers that I could see. His face, in repose, is not handsome or agreeable, and he would be passed by anyone without a second look, though anyone could see determination and will in his face by the most casual glance -- much I would say to fear but not to love. I, of course, speak only from a casual observation and from no acquaintance, but that of a line officer who, in the course of his military duties, has been introduced to the commanding general. A means of observation and acquaintanceship that might be likened to that of a glowworm with the moon.

Davis looks like a statesman. His face is pale and thin but very intellectual, and he had graceful manner and easy bearing. He was dressed in a black suit and left a pleasing impression on anyone looking at him.

After the distinguished gentlemen had talked a few minutes on the steps, they shook hands very cordially in telling each other good-bye, but our observant eyes satisfied us that both Lee and Davis bade Jackson farewell in a manner that indicated they would not see him again for a while, -- or in other words that he had been ordered to move. The opinion was confirmed by the manner in which his rejoined his staff. He got on his old sorrel horse, which his courier was holding for him, and without saying a word to anyone , in a deep brown and abstracted study, started to gallop towards the Mechanicsville Pike, which we soon reached. His orders, published to his corps, very strictly enjoined the preservation of the crops along which the army and its trains moved and forbade all officers and men from riding out into the fields on each side of the road. This day, Jackson was especially anxious to get back to his quarters. Unfortunately for his speed, the pike was filled with long wagon trains, one set coming in, the other going out. It was impossible to make the time under these circumstance and still obey orders. He had not spoken a word since we had gotten underway. He first dodged in and out among the wagons, but his progress was slow, much slower than his needs demanded. He obviously remembered his orders, but determined to violate them.

He told his adjutant to have the cavalcade fall into single file and thereupon dashed into an extensive field of oats, overripe for the harvest, on the left of the pike. Several hundred yards ahead of the place he thusly violated the sacred oat field, there was a very nice brick house sitting back some distance, in a grove of oaks with a lane leading down to the pike. On a porch, a round and fat little gentleman was sitting smoking his pipe, his bald head and red face in his shirtsleeves with an eye on his morning "Examiner" and the other on his field of oats. When he saw the cavalcade ride out of the road, he threw down his paper, rushed down the stops and flew down the land and before we reached the place where the lane and pike united, he was standing like a lion in the pathway. He was puffing and blowing, wiping the perspiration off his forehead and so bursting with rage that all power of articulation seemed for a moment suspended.

The General saw him and for the first time in his career seemed inclined to retreat, but our irate friend had regained his speech and made his attack as Jackson drew rein before him.

"What in hell are you riding over my oats for?" The little mans shouted. "Don't you know it's against orders?"

The General looked confused, fumbled with his bridle rein and was as much abashed as any schoolboy ever caught in a watermelon patch. Before, with his slow speech, he could ever get a word out of explanation, our volcanic friend had another eruption.

"Damnit! Don't you know it's against orders? I intend to have every damned one of you arrested! What's your name anyhow?"

"My name is Jackson," said the General, half as if, for the occasion, he wished it was something else.

"Jackson! Jackson!" in a voice of great contempt. "Jackson, I intend to report every one of you and have you every one arrested. Yes, I'd report you if were old Stonewall himself instead of a set of damned quartermasters and commissaries riding through my oats! Yes, I'll report you to Stonewall Jackson myself, that's what I'll do!"

"They call me that name sometimes," said the General in the same subdued, half-alarmed tone.

"What name?"


"You don't mean to say you are Stonewall Jackson, do you?"

"Yes, sir, I am."

I can give no adequate description of the sudden change. His anger was gone in an instant and in its place came an admiring look that was adoring. His color vanished, his lips parted and tears stood in his eyes. His emotions stilled his tongue an instant, then his speech returned with all the vigor of his vernacular and he shouted as he waved his big bandana around his head:

"Hurrah for Stonewall Jackson! By God, General, please do me the honor to ride all over my damned old oats!"

He would not let the General pass until we had all taken a glass of cold buttermilk with him. He pressed the General to take every variety of strong drink, but buttermilk was all he would accept. So great was our friend's admiration for old Stonewall that even refusing to take something stronger did not lower him in his estimation as I think it might have done if the refusal came from a lesser light. He made no apology for his oaths, on the contrary emphasized his admiration, as he had his anger, with a choice selection.

The interview over, we hurried on to headquarters and, very soon after, I was informed that we were to go up to Gordonsville tomorrow. I shall watch Jackson closely while I am with him and put down what I see and what I think of him. He is , of course, a great military genius and has made such an impression on the men that "Old Jack" is at once a rallying cry and a term of endearment. The army is full of of stories about him and everybody, citizens and soldiers, is tyring to get a glimpse of him. Whenever he is recognized by the soldiers he is cheered. Of course in many brigades which have not served under him he is unknown and tries to go about unrecognized. I have no chance to learn anything about him socially and will have none. Even if I had, I doubt from what his staff tells me, whether I would be any wiser or know him any better by the opportunities for observation I have otherwise. He seems to have no social life. He divides his time between military duties, prayer, sleep, and solitary thought. He holds converse with few.