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“A Man of Arms Surrounded by Tenets of Faith”

The title of today’s blog describes one of the most studied and most misunderstood but also most revered–by many–soldier in American history. That title comes from a work by the historian perhaps most knowledgeable of that soldier today, James I Robertson, author of the 950-page biographical tome Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend. Following are a few of the things Robertson says about Jackson.

  1. “Jackson’s faith permeated every action of his adult life. He began each task by offering a blessing, and he completed every duty by returning thanks to God.”

  2. “Jackson fervently absorbed the biblical assurance that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God.'”

  3. “Modesty was among his greatest attractions.”

  4. “Jackson, in short, was an unaffected commander who cultivated humility as he sought success in the name of God. To many acquaintances, the motto of his life was, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do.'”

  5. “He prayed often, in the solitude of his tent and in the chaos of battle. In preparation for combat, one of his brigadiers noted, Jackson ‘did not reach his conclusions hastily, but after mature deliberation and prayerful consideration; and when once definitely reached, he was like a meteor in executing.'”

  6. “Jackson read the Bible; he prayed; he meditated; he examined the nooks and crannies of scriptures and his own soul. In doing so, he began to undergo a change that would eventually create the very foundation of his being.”

But that’s what a 21st-century historian says about Thomas J. Jackson. Here’s Jackson in his own words:

  1. “It is painful enough to discover with what unconcern they speak of war and threaten it. I have seen enough of it to make me look upon it as the sum of all evils.”

  2. “People who are anxious to bring on war don’t know what they are bargaining for; they don’t see all the horrors that must accompany such an event.”

  3. “My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to always be ready, no matter when it may overtake me.”

  4. “Never take counsel of your fears.”

  5. “I have so fixed the habit in my own mind that I never raise a glass of water to my lips without a moment’s asking of God’s blessing. I never seal a letter without putting a word of prayer under the seal. I never take a letter from the post without a brief sending of my thoughts heavenward. I never change classes in the section room without a minute’s petition on the cadets who go out and those who come in.”

  6. (His last coherent words, spoken on his deathbed): “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Here is a man whose life is well worth studying! And Robertson’s biography of Jackson is a book well worth reading.

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