Lot 39: Jackson, Thomas J. ("Stonewall"). Important Civil War-date autograph letter signed, 2 pages
December 18, 2012
Calabasas Hills, CA, USALive Auction
39. Jackson, Thomas J. (“Stonewall”). Important Civil War-date autograph letter signed (“T. J. Jackson”), 2 pages (9 ¼ x 7 ¼ in.; 235 x 184 mm.), “Caroline County, Virginia” [Jackson was wintering at Moss Neck, a grand mansion ten miles south of Fredericksburg], 21 January 1863, to his close friend and a member of the Confederate Congress, Colonel Alexander R. Boteler (1815-1892) of Virginia, concerning his district; on blue-lined Confederate stationery; scattered spotting, repair to paper losses on first leaf affecting several characters of three words, page fold reinforced.
Transferred to the Army of Northern Virginia following the Shenandoah Valley campaign, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson ponders his future as a commander and laments the suffering of those in western Virginia.
Jackson writes in full: Your letter respecting the condition of the Valley has been received. Though I have been relieved from command there, and may never again be assigned to that important trust, yet I feel deeply when I see the patriotic people of that region again under the heel of a hateful military despotism. There are the homes of those who have been with me from the commencement of the War in Virginia, who have repeatedly left their families and property in the hands of the enemy and braved the dangers of battle and disease. There are those who have so devotedly labored for the relief of our suffering sick and wounded Well may you feel deeply interested in the welfare of such a constituency, and well may they be attached to you for your devotion to their interests & security. In this connection permit me to thank you for the great assistance which you rendered me by having supplies for the troops promptly forwarded, and for the various other ways in which you contributed to their comfort and efficiency, and to the defence of that important section of the State. Not only I myself, but also other people there, and the country owe you a lasting debt of gratitude.
The purpose of “Stonewall” Jackson’s presence in the Shenandoah Valley (March-June, 1862) was to keep Union forces from reinforcing McClellan’s forces on the Peninsula, where they threatened Richmond. With his fast-moving infantrymen, Jackson ranged up and down the Shenandoah Valley for months in early 1862, keeping three Union commanders - John Charles Frémont, Nathaniel Banks, and Irvin McDowell - busy and thoroughly unsettled, as their combined forces, though vastly outnumbering Jackson’s, were unable to stop him. Numerous skirmishes - Winchester, Kernstown (a Union victory that brought disaster for the victors), Front Royal, Woodstock, New Market, Cross Keys, Port Republic - were all victories for Jackson, though at each battle site the Union forces were sure he would be defeated. Jackson inflicted numerous casualties, seized huge quantities of supplies (mostly from Banks), and kept almost 40,000 Federal troops off the Peninsula during the campaign. Overall, Jackson’s Valley Campaign was a major triumph, adding to his previous victory laurels at First Manassas (called First Bull Run by the Union).
Later that year, Jackson was promoted to lieutenant general (10 October 1862), in command of the II Corps under General Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia. Jackson, however, viewed this as a minor demotion, deprived of the independence with which he had flourished in the Shenendoah Valley. Joining the Army of Northern Virginia, he fought gallantly at Fredericksburg (13 December 1862) and then retired his command to Caroline County for the winter. Military operations at this time were virtually impossible to effect. Union General Ambrose Burnside attempted his ill-fated “Mud March” across the Rappahannock River on 20-23 January 1863, contemporaneous with the present letter, in the face of a torrential rain-storm. His Federal troops, mired in mud, were rendered completely impotent, ending all purposeful campaigning for the winter in Virginia.]
Just three months following the date of the present letter, Jackson met his early fate at the Battle of Chancellorsville, when he was mistakenly shot by one of his own men. The death of this most ablest of Confederate commanders caused General Lee to utter this glowing epitaph: I have lost my right arm.
A compelling letter being an incomparable testimony to Jackson’s grace, modesty and compassion.