This Day (Known Unknowns Edition)

Published:January 21, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

On this day in 1824, Thomas J. Jackson was born in Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), the third child of Jonathan Jackson and Julia Beckwith Neale Jackson. The future Confederate general signed his name “Thomas J. Jackson” and tradition asserts that his middle name was Jonathan, in honor of his father.

Our entry notes that Jackson grew up to own six slaves and the records do not reflect his having ever criticized the institution. What, I wonder, would he have thought about the fact that I was married in front of his statue n Charlottesville, Virginia, by a female, African American sheriff?

Who knows? As it is, historians have trouble agreeing on whether Jackson was eccentric or completely normal. This is from our entry:

Many considered Jackson a hypochondriac, and his assessment of his own ailments and his pursuit of good health attracted comment. But many of Jackson’s beliefs (regarding the effect of certain foods on his body and his perceived weakness in one limb) and his regimens (hydrotherapy, strict diet, and abstention from reading by artificial light) were not unusual in his day. After Jackson’s death some writers overemphasized his health concerns and exaggerated his mannerisms and habits to create an inaccurate portrait of Jackson as a thorough eccentric. Jackson did strike many people as odd, but those who got to know him well discovered beneath his initial formality and reserve an essentially ordinary man and a pleasant companion.

Whatever the case, he was one of the Confederates’ best generals whose wartime martyrdom contributed to the South’s postwar Lost Cause mythology: but for Jackson’s death, might not the South have won? Yet another question no one can answer.

IMAGE: Stonewall Jackson statue, Charlottesville Richmond, Virginia, by Trey Keeler