Thomas Jonathan Jackson was a deeply disturbed weirdo who liked to suck on lemons while holding one hand in the air to “balance his blood.” He was a religious fanatic who liked to kill people on Sundays because he believed it showed he had God’s blessing. He was a vicious butcher who, in the words of one of the soldiers who served under him, “Would have a man shot at the drop of a hat—and he would drop it himself.” He was a heartless bastard who purposely directed artillery fire into a crowd of civilians. Above all, he was an avowed traitor and unrepentant slave-owner whose death came at the hands of his own men.
No character in the Civil War may have benefited from as much dedicated publicity as T. J. “Stonewall” Jackson. His successes early in the war made him the darling of the Confederate press and his conveniently being dead after 1863 allowed Confederacy fans to get an early start on constructing a multi-layered hagiography that is well-represented in Jackson’s fawning Wikipedia entry. The wholly undeserved sainthood and “brilliance” attributed to this bastard was showcased by the statue erected to him in Richmond, Virginia, in 1919. And now that statue is down. That deserves a cheer.
If there’s any myth more beloved in the South than the whole “Lost Cause,” it’s that of Stonewall Jackson as the indispensable man. If only Jackson hadn’t been shot. If only Jackson had stayed with Lee. If only Jackson had been on hand at Gettysburg he would have … it’s endless.
Was Thomas Jackson a brilliant military strategist? No. He was a moderately competent commander with some field experience in an era where the bar for “brilliance” was set so low it would not have allowed the passage of a snail. If you check the astounding tongue-bath that passes for Jackson’s entry on Wikipedia, you’ll be informed that “his tactics are still studied today.” Yes, so are those of innumerable dead losers—as history.
That Wikipedia entry (warning: not recommended unless you have a strong stomach and something nearby that you don’t mind punching) provides some perfect examples of how this charmless rat bastard was turned into the first man of the Confederacy. In the section describing Jackson’s relation to slavery, there’s this lovely little line from Jackson’s wife, offered as an example of how well he just loved Black people: “He preferred that my labors should be given to the colored children, believing that it was more important and useful to put the strong hand of the Gospel under the ignorant African race, to lift them up.” Well, bless his f’ing heart. Possibly worse is this line: “Jackson was revered by many of the African Americans in town, both slaves and free blacks.” It’s worse because it’s authored by a modern day editor at Wikipedia, without citation and certainly without justification.
That section is heavily dependent on the ass-polishing given to Jackson in the 1997 book by James Robertson, Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend—which, you can tell from just the title, is going to be some first class-third class hokum. Even with those low expectations, you might be surprised to know that Jackson’s slaves—and oh yes, he owned slaves—asked him to buy them. That’s right. Jackson was so beloved, that a woman once asked him to buy her. At a slave auction. Where Jackson was probably just, you know, passing by. Another man asked Jackson to buy him “so he could earn his freedom” (spoiler alert: Jackson never freed him). Because he was just that beloved.
People started making up this crap about Jackson before he was dead, and they have not stopped. The unfettered, unending attempts to dip this hardboiled sack of blue-eyed bullshit in some kind of saintly rose water are sickening in any century. This is a man whose own sister disowned him and said she, “would rather know that he was dead than to have him a leader in the rebel army.” When Jackson was shot by his own men on May 2, 1863, there were rumors right from the start that it was not an “accident,” that it was done on purpose by men who almost universally hated the man. But the forces of Saint Stonewall revisionism were busy even then, decorating this event with everything from tearful troops to tragic last words.
And … oh yeah. The statue. Unfortunately, there are a lot of statues of the traitor other traitors love the most, including one that stands above the bones of his bloody horse (The horse’s hide is in a museum. It is that bad.) But this particular statue, looming over Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, finally came down on Wednesday on orders from Mayor Levar Stoney and with the approval of Governor Ralph Northam.
Mayor Stoney said that it was past time for the statue to come down. That’s certainly true. Unfortunately, it will take a lot more time to knock down the image that’s been generated for this murdering slave owner whose best quality is being long dead.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.