Stonewall Jackson Monument
On October 11, 1919, the Stonewall Jackson Monument was unveiled to a crowd of thousands addressed by Robert E. Lee, III. This was not Richmond’s first memorial to the late Confederate leader, however. In June 1863, one month after Jackson’s passing, the South’s British allies created the Jackson Monumental Fund for the purpose of raising funds to erect a Jackson memorial in Richmond. In 1875, the British Fund presented Virginia with a bronze statue of Jackson, which was placed in Richmond’s Capitol Square. Virginia still remained politically divided in the decade following the war, so Governor James L. Kemper used the statue as an attempt to unify the state, promoting the Lost Cause ideology that Jackson’s honorable virtues should be admired by all for the sake of the Commonwealth. Thirty-six years later, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and a group of remaining Confederate veterans formed the Jackson Monumental Corporation in 1911 with the intent on creating a grand equestrian monument of Jackson for Monument Avenue. Designed by local sculptor Frederick William Sievers, the Stonewall Jackson Monument was unveiled on October 11, 1919 to a large crowd addressed once again by Robert E. Lee, III. Along with the other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, the Jackson Monument has been scrutinized in recent years for its promotion of racism and the Lost Cause ideology. Presently, the City of Richmond has taken steps through community engagement to evaluate the impact of its Confederate monuments in order to more appropriately interpret these sites. Being a member of the Monument Avenue Historic District, the Stonewall Jackson Monument was designated a Virginia Landmark on December 2, 1969, added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 16, 1970, and designated a National Historic Landmark on December 3, 1997.
Backstory and Context
Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was born on January 21, 1824 to Jonathan and Julia Beckwith Jackson in Clarksburg, VA (now West Virginia.) The Jacksons were a prominent frontier family, his father was an attorney and his great-grandfather served as a captain in the American Revolutionary War, fighting in the Battle of Kings Mountain. In March 1826, the two-year-old Jackson lost his father and older sister to typhoid fever. On the following day, his mother gave birth to a girl named Laura Ann. The Jacksons were then thrust into financial difficulties, as Julia boldly refused any charity or assistance. In 1830, she married attorney Blake Woodson and died one year later from complications during childbirth, orphaning her three oldest children. Jackson spent the remainder of his formative years living with his uncle Cummins E. Jackson, who owned a grist mill known as Jackson’s Mill near present-day Weston, WV. While living with Cummins and working on his farm, who was a very strict disciplinarian, it is believed that Jackson developed his famous sense of duty and work ethic.
Acquiring a formal education on the frontier during the early-19th Century was difficult at best, but Jackson sought out every opportunity to learn and soon developed an aptitude for teaching. It is even said that Jackson made an agreement with one of Cummins’ slaves in which he taught the man to read and write in exchange for pine knots, which Jackson would burn at night in order to read. Notwithstanding the illegality of teaching slaves to read and write, Jackson continued this practice of compassion towards the enslaved throughout his life. Seeking out opportunity to better his life and station, Jackson received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1842. His lack of formal education caused him to enter into the academy at the bottom of his class; but through his characteristic determination and drive, Jackson quickly rose in ranking and eventually graduated 17th of 59 students in 1846. At that time, the United States found itself in the middle of the Mexican-American War. Jackson was assigned to the 1st U.S. Artillery and, through his military intelligence and rationale, he was promoted to brevet major by the end of the war. Jackson was then assigned duty against the Seminoles in Florida, but resigned from the U.S. Army shortly thereafter and accepted a teaching position in 1851 at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.
At VMI, Jackson served as Professor Natural and Experimental Philosophy (similar to modern physics) and Instructor of Artillery. His strict and regimented nature did not cultivate him a good reputation among students, who were all expected to memorize his class lectures and tests. Despite his unpopularity, Jackson remained at VMI until the outbreak of the Civil War. Jackson married twice during his decade spent at VMI: first to Elinor Junkin on August 4, 1853, who died from childbirth complications a year later, then he married Marry Anna Morrison on July 16, 1858. Jackson and Mary Anna produced one surviving child, Julia Laura, who was born on November 23, 1862 and reportedly met her father only once.
Jackson came from a slave-holding family and owned slaves himself while living in Lexington. His relationship with slavery and with African Americans was complex; he was raised through a tumultuous childhood by a slave named Fanny, and according to historian Richard G. Williams, Jr., Jackson struggled with conflicting feelings about slavery due to his religious beliefs. He and many other Southerners used the presence of slavery in the Bible as justification that slavery was God's will. Jackson was deeply religious, raised as a Calvinistic Presbyterian, though he explored other denominations at times in his life; and in 1855 began a Sunday School in his home to teach African Americans to read and write so that they could study the Bible. This was in violation of Virginia state law, but the school was well attended. For these reasons, Jackson is the only Confederate general who is memorialized in an African American church. In 1906, a memorial window in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church of Roanoke, Virginia was dedicated to Stonewall for his generosity and compassion. Jackson may have been motivated by purely religious reasons for teaching his Sunday School, but historians including Kevin Levin have argued that the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner prompted Southern whites to take a hand in the religious education of blacks. Because Turner claimed to be "God's instrument in the holy retribution against slavery," white Southern evangelicals transformed the concept of slavery into a divinely ordained institution. By 1860, half a million Southern blacks were official members of a church.
In 1859, Jackson led a corps of cadets from VMI to Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) to act as security for the hanging of John Brown after the latter’s failed attempt to seize the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Witnessing the execution of John Brown and the repercussions from his failed coup undoubtedly influenced Jackson’s political views; for, despite being a slave owner and a Southern Democrat, Jackson opposed succession. After the events at Fort Sumter, South Carolina in April 1861, Jackson came to see succession as the only viable option for the Southern states. After Virginia seceded from the United States on April 17, 1861, Jackson joined the Confederate Army and became a drill master for new recruits. He soon received an appointment of brigadier general and took control of Harpers Ferry. Jackson’s unit consisted of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia Infantry regiments. During the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861, Jackson received his famous nickname of Stonewall. While providing reinforcements for Brigadier General Barnard Elliot Bee, Jr. at Henry House Hill, Jackson held back his men from immediately engaging in battle to which Bee allegedly shouted, “Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall.” What Bee intended by the statement will never be known, but Jackson led his men to victory that day despite suffering the most casualties of all Southern brigades. From that day, Jackson became known as Stonewall and his unit took up the mantle of the Stonewall Brigade.
Because of his success at First Manassas, Jackson received a promotion to major general in the Confederate Provisional Army, which consisted of untrained volunteers. Commanding the military district in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Jackson initiated his Shenandoah Valley Campaign in 1862 to protect Richmond from invading Union forces. From February to June, Jackson successfully repelled Union forces at the Battles of Kernstown, McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic. From these engagements, Jackson rose to the rank of lieutenant general and became something of a Southern hero. After his Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Jackson also led his troops during the Peninsula Campaign, engaging in the Seven Days’ Battles, then onto the Second Battle of Manassas, Battle of Antietam, Battle of Fredericksburg, and the Battle of Chancellorsville. On May 2, 1863, Jackson distinguished himself during Chancellorsville with his decisive and successful collapse of the Union Army’s right flank.
The Battle of Chancellorsville ended with nightfall, and as Jackson and his staff returned to camp under the cover of darkness, the officers were mistaken for Union cavalry and fired upon by their own men. Struck twice in the left arm and once through his right hand, Jackson had his left arm amputated the following day. The field doctors attending to Jackson expected a full recovery, but pneumonia quickly set in and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson passed away eight days later on May 10. Jackson’s famous last words reflected his deep piety: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” Lee never found a suitable replacement for Jackson in the Confederate Army, and military historians believe that Lee could have won at Gettysburg had Jackson survived.
Jackson’s death was felt not only through the South but across Great Britain, as well. Many conservative British sympathized with the Confederate cause, viewing the religiously devout Jackson as the exemplification of their lifestyle and culture. The British Jackson Monumental Fund was organized within a month of Jackson’s passing, and by 1865 the Fund raised the equivalent of $400,000 in today’s dollar. Ten years later, the British Jackson Monumental Fund presented Virginia with a bronze statue of Jackson sculpted by John H. Foley. This bronze statue in Richmond’s Capital Square became the city’s first public Confederate monument, dedicated to a large crowd by Robert E. Lee, III. Thirty-six years would pass before mention of adding Jackson to Monument Avenue, during which time Confederate monuments became a popular trend in public art throughout the South. On November 29, 1911, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and a group of Confederate veterans formed the Jackson Monumental Corporation. The cornerstone for the monument was laid at the intersection of Monument Avenue and the Boulevard (renamed Arthur Ashe Boulevard in 2019) during the United Confederate Veterans’ reunion on June 3, 1915. After much debate, local sculptor Frederick William Sievers was chosen by the Corporation to create the Stonewall Jackson Monument.
Arguments plagued the completion and erection of the Stonewall Jackson Monument, such as the directional orientation of the statue and the inscription on the pedestal. It was determined by majority vote in April 1918 that Jackson should be oriented north to face his Union opponents and because the majority of his military operations occurred in the northwest corner of the state. Even the inscription on the pedestal, incorrectly stating that Jackson died during the Battle of Chancellorsville, caused an uproar among the interested parties. On October 11, 1919, the Stonewall Jackson Monument was unveiled to a large crowd addressed once again by Robert E. Lee, III. In his oration, Lee praised Jackson’s military leadership and successes and portrayed the late lieutenant general as “Virginia’s flawless knight,” General Lee’s “right arm,” and insisted that the Confederacy would have been victorious had Jackson survived. Combined with elevation of his virtues, the Lost Cause came to idolize Jackson as the lost and honorable champion of the South.
The Stonewall Jackson Monument went up without much public controversy or discussion, which is likely a reflection of the shift in public perception of Confederate monuments due to the infiltration of the Lost Cause ideology in American society. However, Richmond's Monument Avenue monuments are currently a disputed feature of the city, with the NAACP, Mayor Stoney, Governor McAuliffe, two of Stonewall Jackson’s great-great-grandsons, and many residents calling for their removal to a more appropriate location. Along with the other Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, the Stonewall Jackson Monument has been scrutinized in recent years for its promotion of racism and the Lost Cause ideology. In July 2017 Mayor Levar Stoney organized the Monument Avenue Commission to seek out public opinion regarding the perception and future of Monument Avenue. The ten-member group of individuals had expertise in American history, art history, architectural history, museum studies, community development, marketing, and leadership. The Commission released its findings a year later in August 2018, in which the group recommended adding permanent signage at every monument to offer modern and more inclusive interpretations of the sites. The Jefferson Davis Monument, however, was the only monument recommended to be removed altogether from Monument Avenue. Being a member of the Monument Avenue Historic District, the Stonewall Jackson Monument was designated a Virginia Landmark on December 2, 1969, added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 16, 1970, and designated a National Historic Landmark on December 3, 1997.
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