The Civil War had more than its share of colorful and eccentric personalities, not the least of whom was Thomas Jonathan Jackson. A West Point graduate, he served with distinction in the Mexican War, resigned, and was an obscure instructor at Virginia Military Institute when the war began. Given command at Harpers Ferry, he organized what became the Stonewall Brigade, which received its real baptism of fire, and gained its name, at the First Battle of Bull Run.
Promoted major general, Jackson returned to the Shenandoah Valley and after an unsuccessful winter campaign, he conducted one of the most brilliant operations in military history, the famous Valley Campaign. Moving with a rapidity that earned his men the nickname of "foot cavalry", his numerically inferior force defeated successively three Federal armies sent to surround and crush him. Then with no pause to rest or re-equip, he rushed his army to reinforce Lee in the Seven Days' Battles before Richmond.
Here began the close collaboration that made Jackson Lee's right arm. At Second Bull Run, at Antietam, and at Fredericksburg his tactical skill was in effect the extension of Lee's over-all planning. They were a perfect team for the grim game of war.
The climax of Jackson's career came at Chancellorsville. Here he led his men in his most famous flank attack, an attack that rolled up the Union right and began the ignominious defeat of an army twice the size of Lee's. But it was disaster in victory. Severely wounded by his own men as he returned from a twilight reconnaissance, Jackson died eight days later.
It was a death that plunged the South into mourning and unquestionably altered the course of the war. After Gettysburg, Sourthern fortunes declined; had the aggressive-minded Jackson been there, the battle might have ended on the first day, with subsequent results upon which historians love to speculate. Deeply religious, secretive, taciturn, Jackson yet embodied the flaming spirit of war; it is not too much to say that the Confederacy began its slow death on the day Jackson breathed his last in a little house at Guinea's Station in Virginia.