At 3:15 in the afternoon on May 10, 1863, Lt. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson deliriously uttered the phrase, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.” “Stonewall” passed away following amputation of his left arm, damaged by friendly fire at Chancellorsville.
Jackson’s march around the Union army’s flank and devastating surprise attack on May 1 had allowed Gen. Robert E. Lee to gain his greatest victory against sizable numerical odds. The loss of Stonewall’s military genius, however, would prove it to be irreplaceable.
The combined military talents of Lee and Jackson had become a juggernaut against opposition forces. When informed of his death, Lee mourned, “As Jackson has lost his left arm, I have lost my right.” Subsequently, the Confederacy’s fortunes began to wane.
Beginning in 1889, the Commonwealth of Virginia set aside a day to honor these Confederate icons and celebrate their birthdays. Both were born in January (Lee on the 19th and Jackson on the 21st).
Here in Sussex County, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp #2068, based in Seaford, also celebrate Lee-Jackson Day annually. This year, the festivities took place on Saturday, Jan. 16, in the barn at the Marvel Carriage Museum in Georgetown.
The Georgetown Historical Society hosted the event, and SCV Commander Jeffrey Plummer spoke about Robert E. Lee’s legacy. He noted that, after the war, Lee rejected calls for Confederate troops to conduct guerrilla warfare. Instead, he encouraged his men to return home and become loyal citizens of the country.
Lee showed good example by accepting a position as president of Washington College in Lexington, Va. Later, in honor of the general, the school changed its name to Washington & Lee.
Plummer expressed concern about the current political environment that has prompted demands for removal of Confederate symbols from society. Students at Washington & Lee, for example, have demonstrated against Confederate flags displayed at the chapel on campus where Lee is buried.
Jeffrey Eichler also spoke about Lee the Virginian as one of the greatest generals. But he was also chagrined about not being able to place a Confederate flag on his grave.
Richard Jameson spoke about Jackson, and read English Field Marshal Garnet Joseph Wolseley’s description of Jackson, whom he met on a visit to the South during the Civil War. He thought Jackson’s personal appearance matched his heroic reputation.
Wolseley noted Jackson’s religious belief in an omnipresent deity and came to understand why he was able to achieve almost miraculous feats on the battlefield. He observed that the Southern people adored the general with a childlike affection and idolized him as another Napoleon.
Chris Eichler also spoke about Jackson and wondered what he would think about the “Second Reconstruction” that is taking place today. That was a reference to the widespread movement that is limiting ability to honor Confederate ancestors.
Eichler described Jackson’s readiness to die for the cause, if necessary. Jackson was a realist about the South’s ability to win a protracted war with the North. He advocated taking the offensive against the enemy, to strike vigorously, and once they were running, to stay on top on them.
Jackson always conducted active campaigns. He advocated being fully prepared, and attempted to mystify and mislead the enemy. In that way, he believed a small army could destroy a larger army in detail.
On display at the gathering were a number of artifacts, including a collection of Civil War weapons. There were rifles manufactured in Richmond, Va.; Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.; and Fayetteville, N.C., as well as Enfield rifles imported from England.
SCV Camp #2068 will hold another public event in April at the Marvel Museum. This outdoor activity will take place on the grounds at the Confederate Monument. For further information, contact the Georgetown Historical Society by calling (302) 855-9660.
Thomas J. Ryan is the author of “Spies, Scouts & Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign,” a History & Military Book Club selection available at Bethany Beach Books, with a five-star rating on Amazon.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at www.tomryan-civilwar.com.