By Chris Mackowski &
Kristopher D. White
Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born at Clarksburg, [West] Virginia, on
January 21, 1824, the third child of Jonathan Jackson and Julia Beckwith
Neal Jackson. In 1842, he was barely accepted into the
Military Academy at West Point, as he had difficulty with the entrance
examinations. After graduating in 1846, he served in the
Mexican-American War, then
taught at the Virginia Military Institute.
Upon the outbreak of the
Civil War he was commissioned as a colonel
Confederate forces of Virginia and dispatched to Harpers Ferry
where he was active in organizing the raw recruits. During his service, Jackson was quickly
recognized for his innovation, leadership skills, and bravery and
receiving several quick promotions, he was made a Brigadier General on
June 17, 1861. He led a number of campaigns and battles
during the Civil War, including the Valley
Campaign, first and second battles of Bull Run,
Antietam and Fredericksburg. It was during the Battle of Bull Run when
Jackson assumed his nickname, when Brigadier-General Barnard E. Bee
stated, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall."
He died on May 10, 1863 after being shot by
"friendly fire" at the Battle of Chancellorsville. A
Southern hero, military historians consider him to be one of the most gifted
tactical commanders in U.S. history.
In 2013, authors Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White wrote "The Last Days of Stonewall
Jackson", published by
Savas Beatie LLC. The
following excerpt explores the fate of Jackson's Arm.
Stonewall Jackson was buried in his hometown of Lexington, Virginia, his
amputated left arm remained in a burial plot of its own, one hundred
miles to the east, just beyond the Chancellorsville battlefield, where
it had been laid to rest on May 3 by Rev. [Beverly Tucker] Lacy.
Lacy had come that day to visit Jackson as soon as he had heard about
the general’s wounding. When he arrived at the field hospital, he broke
into tears when he saw the extent of Jackson’s injury. “Oh, General,
what a calamity,” he cried.
Lacy and Jackson had formed a close bond during their six months of
service together. The two had known each other in Lexington before the
war, although for the four years prior to the conflict, Lacy had been
the pastor for the Presbyterian congregation in Frankfort, Kentucky. In
1862, he had moved to Fredericksburg, then to Orange Court House, where
he served wounded soldiers. In January of 1863, Jackson asked Lacy to
oversee the chaplain service of the entire Second Corps.
Lacy was ideally suited for the position. Born in 1819 to a clergyman
father in Prince Edward County, Virginia, Lacy eventually went on to
Washington College and Union Theological Society. Mary Anna called him a
true “spiritual comforter.”
But on the morning of May 3, it was Jackson providing the comfort,
meager as it was in his weakened condition. He consoled his friend, and
when the time finally came for Lacy to depart, they parted on an
optimistic note. Lacy would spend a great deal of time with Jackson over
the next seven days, and he would serve as the principal messenger
bringing communications from Lee. It would be Lacy to whom Lee would
say, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.”
As it happened, that left arm was much on Lacy’s mind. He found it
wrapped in a cloth outside Jackson’s tent, where the doctors had placed
it following the operation. Worried that it would end up as one of many
on a pile of amputated limbs eventually destined for a mass, unmarked
grave, and convinced that it deserved a better fate, Lacy collected
Jackson’s arm and determined to dispose of it in a more fitting manner.
Fifteen people, most of
them members of Lacy’s family, rest in peace in the family cemetery, but
only Jackson’s arm has a marker. The marker for Jackson’s arm was one of ten
such markers erected in the area by James Power Smith.
Lacy set out northeast across the fields toward the nearby home of his
brother, J. Horace Lacy. Lacy’s home, called Ellwood, had been built
around 1790. Lacy assumed ownership in 1848 when he married the daughter
of the building’s original owner. The plantation grew corn, wheat, and
oats, tended by several dozen slaves. However, the Lacys primarily used
Ellwood as a summer home; they also owned a larger home in
Fredericksburg, Chatham, which overlooked the Rappahannock River.
Rev. Lacy laid Jackson’s arm to rest in the family cemetery.
Later, Mary Anna was asked if she wanted the arm exhumed and buried with
her husband in Lexington. “Was it given a Christian burial?” she asked.
Assured that it was, she consented to let the arm remain at Ellwood.
Not that the arm necessarily rested in peace. When Union forces occupied
the area in May of 1864, they dug up the arm and, satisfied that it was
really there, reburied it.
A Union engineer, Wesley Brainerd of New York, also took a moment amidst
the cacophony of battle sometime on May 7 to visit the spot, mistakenly
believing Jackson himself was buried there, not just the arm. In his
journal, he wrote:
I was much
interested and impressed on approaching a common looking farm house
situated in an opening in the woods, to learn that Stonewall Jackson was
buried near by.
His grave was situated in the heart of the Wilderness on a knoll,
unmarked by stone or board. It was hard to realize, as I stood beside
that lonely grave, that the little mound of earth before me hid from
view all that was mortal of the man whose great deeds had filled the
world with wonder and amazement . . . . I lingered for a long time at
the grave of that wonderful and eccentric man.
Nor could I leave the spot without having experienced those peculiar
feelings of awe and respect for the memory of the genius which, though
that of an enemy, possessed the faculty which inspired his Soldiers with
a religious enthusiasm, resulting in most wonderful victories and made
his name a terror to ourselves.
The plaque installed by
the Marines eventually fell off and now belongs to the National Park
Service’s curatorial collection.
Popular legend also has it that United States Marine Corps General
Smedley Butler, in the area for a Marine Corps exercise in 1921,
excavated the arm and then reburied it, in a metal ammunition box with
full military honors. That story, which has taken on a life of its own,
probably never happened. The Marines did, however, place a plaque on the
side of the arm’s monument: “A Tribute to the Memory of Stonewall
Jackson by the East Coast Expeditionary Force: United States Marines
Sept. 26-Oct. 4, 1921.”
The monument itself was placed there by an intimate of Jackson’s who
sought to preserve the general’s memory: James Powers Smith.
After the war, Smith had married Agnes Lacy, Horace’s oldest daughter,
and went on to a successful career as a Presbyterian minister for a
church on the corner of Princess Anne and George streets in
Fredericksburg. Smith always kept an eye on the grave of his beloved
commander’s arm. In 1903, as one of ten granite markers Smith placed
around the area’s battlefields, he installed the marker at the cemetery.
It reads “Stonewall Jackson’s arm—Buried May 3, 1863.” Fifteen members
of the Lacy family lie interred in the cemetery, but only Jackson’s arm
has a marker.
Still, Stonewall Jackson’s arm is not the only limb in United States
military history with its own unique story. Major General Benedict
Arnold, who would go down in U.S. history as a notorious turncoat for
switching his allegiance to the British during the American Revolution,
has a monument for a lost limb. At the 1777 battle of Saratoga, while
still serving the American cause, Arnold led a brilliant charge against
a British position, but British musket balls tore apart his left leg,
which was then crushed under his fallen horse. The monument, erected in
1887 near Freeman’s Farm, depicts a bas-relief boot, but the monument’s
inscription refers only to the memory of “the most brilliant soldier” in
the army without naming Arnold by name because of his subsequent infamy.
During the Mexican War, at the battle of Cerro Gordo, the 4th Illinois
Infantry captured the cork leg of Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa
Anna. The Illinois National Guard has kept the leg as a trophy,
displaying it at its museum in Springfield.
Another leg, this one belonging to flamboyant Union officer and
politician Major General Daniel E. Sickles, remains in the possession of
the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. Sickles lost his left leg in
the Peach Orchard on the second day of the battle of Gettysburg. In a
show of bravado as he was being carried off the battlefield, Sickles
smoked a cigar and ordered that his dismembered leg be saved. He later
sent it to the museum, which pickled it and put it on display. Sickles
would visit his leg at least once a year for the rest of his life.
Kristopher D. White, 2013
This excerpt from The Last Days of Stonewall
Jackson re-printed with permission from
Savas Beatie LLC.
About the Authors:
Mackowski is a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass
Communication at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York. He
also works as a historian with the National Park Service at
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, where he gives
tours at four major Civil War battlefields (Fredericksburg,
Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania), as well as at the
building where Stonewall Jackson died. He’s the author of books on the
battles of Chancellorsville and the Wilderness, and his writing has
appeared in several national magazines. He blogs regularly for
Scholars and Rogues.
Mackowski and White are longtime friends and have co-authored several
books together, including The Last Days of Stonewall
Jackson and Simply Murder: The Battle of Fredericksburg, along
with monograph-length articles on the battle of Spotsylvania for Blue &
Gray. They have also written for Civil War Times, America’s Civil War,
and Hallowed Ground. They are co-founders of the blog,
Emerging Civil War.
D. White is a historian for the Penn-Trafford Recreation Board and a
continuing education instructor for the Community College of Allegheny
County near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He served for five years as a
staff military historian at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National
Military Park, and is a former Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg.
Kristopher holds a Master of Arts degree in Military History from