The statue of Civil War General Stonewall Jackson was dedicated in 1921. The dedication ceremony celebrated the war as a noble cause to defend Southern institutions - a clear reference to slavery in an era of segregation. The statue reflects the early 19th century defense by many white Southerners of the Lost Cause ideology of the Civil War. At the same time, the dedication ceremony included tributes to Confederate veterans and the military leadership of Jackson. The statue is located at Jackson park, next to Albemarle County Courthouse. The statue was created by artist Charles Keck, and at the time of its dedication, it was considered one of the best equestrian statues in the world.
In 2012, Charlottesville vice-mayor Kristin Szakos attended a history lecture by Edward Ayers. The vice-mayor asked a question that was on the minds of many residents-should the city consider moving or even destroying Confederate monuments given their connection to men who fought to defend slavery and the racial politics of many of the people who erected these statues in the early 1900s. She also asked if the city should consider creating new monuments to honor Virginians who fought for the Union and/or against slavery. The city’s first Confederate statue was unveiled in 1893-a year that coincided with a sudden increase in racial violence. The statue to Confederate General Robert E. Lee was dedicated in 1924-the same year that Virginia saw a peak in racially-motivated lynchings.
The question led to a firestorm of controversy, with the vice-mayor receiving a number of threatening phone calls from defenders of the Confederate monuments. In the years that followed, more attention has been given to the connection between the sudden explosion of Confederate monuments and the racial politics of the era and the disturbingly high number of lynchings throughout Virginia. Defenders of the statue point out the men like Jackson and Lee were military leaders who performed well on the field of battle and distanced themselves from the politics of the war. The question of the statue's propriety, like the nature of the war itself, remains controversial. Historians like Ayers recommend more interpretative signage to demonstrate the contested nature of historical memory.
Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was born January 21st
1824 in Clarksburg, Virginia (West Virginia today). Largely self-educated until he was
accepted to West Point, Jackson possessed an advanced understanding of mathematics as well as military tactics. Following his graduation from
West Point, Jackson served in the Mexican American War as a 2nd Lieutenant for the 1st Artillery. Jackson participated
in the siege of Veracruz and the Battle of Mexico City. During the war, he Robert E. Lee and many other future Confederate officers.
After the Mexican American War Jackson, retired from the army and took a teaching position at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) where he taught philosophy classes and courses on artillery tactics. In 1853 he
married Elinor Junkin, but she passed away the following year as she gave birth to a stillborn son. Jackson later married Mary Morrison and the couple experienced the anguish of losing a second child when their daughter passed away a month after her birth. Jackson rejoined the military in 1859 and was one of the leading officers who responded to John Brown’s attempted raid at Harper's Ferry.
When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Jackson left
the federal army and joined the Confederacy. He was appointed to the rank of colonel and moved to Harpers
Ferry. Early in the conflict, Jackson was promoted to brigadier general. Jackson’s actions at the Battle of Bull Run-the first major battle of the Civil War-led to his promotion. While providing reinforcements
to Confederate troops, Jackson ordered his men to fill a gap in the Confederate's main defensive line. In response, General Barnard Bee famously remarked “There is Jackson standing like a
stonewall.” From that moment, Jackson became revered among Southerners and known as Stonewall Jackson. Embracing the growing legend of their leader, Jackson's troops referred to themselves as the Stonewall Brigade.
After ending his attempted offensive into Pennsylvania following the Battle of Antietam, General Robert E. Lee promoted
Jackson to Lieutenant General. Jackson took charge of Lee's second corps and led these men to victory at the battle of Fredericksburg. In May 1863, Jackson’s men attacked
Union troops from behind at the Battle of Chancellorsville and forced them to
retreat due to heavy losses. On May 2nd 1863, Jackson was reviewing his position at night when he was shot by a Confederate soldier who mistook him for a possible Union picket. On May 10th, Jackson the injured reportedly said “Let us cross
over the river and rest under the shade of trees.” These would be his last
words as he died of his wounds.