Meet: Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson

If you can travel with me to the camps, where the mud sticks to your boots, where faint smells of tobacco and wet wool waft around your nostrils, where the salty smell of the little rations that are had are cooking over smoky wood fires, where the tension between life and death hangs heavy in the air, where jew harps clink, horses trod, fires burn and hymns and bar diddys intermingle in the gruff voice of men who have marched all day, and you go to the center of the camp,  a sea of white canvas soiled by used, and find one tent in the middle, where a man by the name of Jim is tending to a brown sorrel horse, and you listen closely, you will hear what sounds as faint mumblings.  Among these faint mumblings you begin to distinguish words, “help,” “direct,” “holy,” “Bless,” “I cannot,” “save,” “revive,” and you realize you are eavesdropping on prayers.  It would be one thing if this were a young man away from home and his mother, scared of the eternal balance his life hangs in everyday, but it is quite another to realize this is the general of the army.  When he steps out of the tent, just under six feet, with his gray long coat, dirt spots on his knees, a few dulled brass buttons undone, with a little moisture gleaming in his intense blue eyes, his Old Testament prophet’s beard hanging from his chin, his square jaw, and determined look, you have know doubt that you are standing in the presence of a warrior who is at peace with God though at war with his fellow man.  Here you see a man who has known sorrow and joy, who plays with children and reprimands cadets.  Who stumbles over words, yet yells orders. 

Here you see –

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.

The above is from a mini booklet I prepared for a Men’s retreat last spring.  Jackson was born today in 1824.  Below is a verse from the text of his favorite hymn by Charles Wesley that I found theologically poignant as well as appropriately ironic:

Jesus all the day long
Was my joy and my song;
O that all His salvation may see!
He hath loved me, I cried,
He hath suffered, and died,
To redeem such a rebel as me.[1]

Charles Wesley 1779


[1] By Charles Wesley, O Happy Are They Who the Savior Obey, in Hymns and Selected poems 1779.  Often requested by General Jackson for staff prayer meetings,  When they would finish their meetings he would say, “Let us now sing the hymn.”  

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