Stonewall Jackson

The Gardener General

Today in 1863 Stonewall Jackson was shot by his own men and I thought his life story contained many moving passages.

In an article in the Washington Post called, Stonewall Jackson had a soft side, it was revealed that just before the start of the civil war, Jackson had developed a love for gardening.

If you read any biographies on Jackson, his life was one tragedy after another. His father and sister died of typhoid when Jackson was two years old. His mother died when he was seven.

By the age of seventeen, he had only one sister left from his immediate family. His first wife died after giving birth to his stillborn son. His first daughter with his second wife, Anna, died within a month of her birth.

After all this personal loss and battling life-long mental and physical health problems, Jackson fell in love with gardening. It was, no doubt, a reprieve for Jackson.

Jackson, who once wrote in a schoolbook, "A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds", used botanist Robert Buist's book for guidance. It was Buist's “The Family Kitchen Gardener: Containing Plain and Accurate Descriptions of All the Different Species and Varieties of Culinary Vegetables, that became Jackson's gardening bible and he wrote little notes in the margins as he worked his way through the guide.

In the WaPo article, it noted that

After tomatoes, asparagus, watermelon, spinach and turnips was the one-word notation “plant.”

Jackson dearly loved his wife, Anna. In his garden, he planted and picked flowers for her. Ever the military man, his garden was ordered and neat.

In the Spring and Summer of 1859, Jackson wrote letters to Anna who sick and in New York for treatment. He loved to refer to her with romantic names and he often wrote about the garden...

Here's an example:

“I was mistaken about [our] large garden fruit being peaches... It turns out to be apricots and I enclose one which I found on the ground today... just think, my little Dove has a tree full of them.”

In another letter, he wrote:

“Our potatoes are coming up and I shall send you a sample of a leaf. . . . [our] garden has been thirsting for water until last evening.”

And in another, Jackson wrote,

“I watered [our] flowers this morning, and hoed another row of turnips, and expect to hill some celery this evening.”

That fall, Jackson responded to the request from the governor to help maintain order in Virginia.

Four years later, on this day in 1863 in the evening, Jackson and his men were returning from an attack. They were fired on by Confederate soldiers who incorrectly thought Jackson’s group was Union soldiers.

Jackson was aware of the dangers of friendly fire, and he once suggested that, "I recommend that we should strip ourselves perfectly naked," in order to avoid being shot at. Nonetheless, that fated evening, Jackson (in full uniform) was hit by two bullets in his left arm, which was then amputated at nearby Wilderness tavern. Jackson's chaplain, Beverly Tucker Lacy was so moved by the trauma of this event that he personally carried Jackson's arm across the fields to his brother's nearby family home called Ellwood. There, behind the herb garden, was a family cemetery. Today, Ellwood's cemetery has many civil war dead, but the most famous interment is the only marked grave in the cemetery: "Stonewall" Jackson's left arm.

As Jackson tried to recover, General Lee wrote that Stonewall may have "lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.” Eight days after being shot, Jackson died of complications from pneumonia. He was 39. His last words were, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of trees."

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Stonewall Jackson
Stonewall Jackson

Leave a Comment