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Monumental RVA: It Was the One Armed Man

Published on July 16, 2013 by

It’s about time PhotoRVA took another stroll down Monument Avenue.  Last time we had a little chit-chat about Mr. Jefferson Davis, so I thought we would move down the ranks a bit and explore the monument and life of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.

The evolution of a beard.

The evolution of a beard.

Jackson was born in 1824 either in the town of Clarksburg or Parkersburg (depending which burg you ask), both of which would be in the state West Virginia during the war that would make him famous, but was then still Virginia.  Whichever city he was born in, he eventually had to walk 18 miles through the mountain wilderness to live with his uncles at a large gristmill cleverly named Jackson’s Mill.  This was after: his sister died of typhoid, his father died of typhoid 20 days later, his mother died of complications in child birth, his older brother died of tuberculosis, and he was verbally abused by his stepfather.  To say that Jackson had a rough time is probably a bit of an understatement.  In 1842 Jackson was accepted into West Point, after basically teaching himself.  It’s interesting to note that Jackson seemed to believe that one of his arms was longer than the other, and would routinely hold up that arm to increase circulation.  (Foreshadowing!)

Prior to the War of Northern Aggression, Jackson proved himself during the Mexican War, especially at the Battle of Chapultepec Castle.  It was in Mexico that the young Jackson first met one Robert E. Lee, and a classic tale of southern bromance was born.  Jackson met Elinor Junkin, whos father was the president of Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) and moved into an addition of the president’s house which would later house Robert E. Lee when HE was president !  Spooky!   More tragedy followed Jackson, and his newborn child and wife died during labor.  He would later marry Mary Morrison, who was also the daughter of a college president!

Yadda, yadda, yadda… the Civil War started.  Jackson joined the Confederate Army and was put in charge of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia Infantry regiments which would be eventually named the “Stonewall Brigade”.  It’s interesting to note that, in joining the rebels, Thomas had a break from his Union leaning sister… one of the few relatives that managed to survive.

It was at the First Battle of Bull Run, as Confederate forces collapsed under a heavy Union assault that Bri. General Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr. shouted to his troops, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.  Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!”  Bee was quickly killed, and the world is left to ponder whether it was a good thing or a bad thing to be compared to an immovable object by someone who was being shot at.  Either way, the nickname stuck and Jackson became Stonewall Jackson.

Yadda, yadda, yadda… Jackson performed many acts of daring do, and was the right hand of Robert E. Lee.  At the Battle of Chancellorsville Stonewall marched his men on a largely unguarded group of Federals and captured many without even having to fire.  As Jackson was returning with his men that night he was greeted by the cry of an 18th North Carolina Infantry regiment of, “Halt, who goes there?”  The question was quickly followed by a round of gunfire from the Rebels who had mistaken their leader’s party for Yankees.  Stonewall was hit three times by Confederate friendly fire and his left arm was shattered.

Fairfield Plantation House

If you think having an avenue of monuments dedicated to dead Confederates is bad, take a trip up towards Fredericksburg. For some reason his death place is called the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. Fun!

 

Neither Jackson, nor any piece of Jackson, is actually buried here.

Neither Jackson, nor any piece of Jackson, is actually buried here.

Jackson’s arm was amputated by one Dr. Hunter McGuire, thus ending Jackson’s concerns about one arm being longer than the other.  (Isn’t it ironic, dontcha think?)  Jackson was taken to Fairfield, the plantation home of Thomas C. Chandler.  Robert E. Lee is reported to have said, “He [Jackson] has lost his left arm, but I my right.”  Jackson eventually succumbed to pneumonia and died on May 10, 1863.  Most of his body was taken to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond for public viewing.

This is the room where Jackson died.  He made sure to make the bed after.

This is the room where Jackson died. He made sure to make the bed after.

And so begins the strange story of the Arm of Stonewall Jackson.  Dr. McGuire just finished sawing off the arm and was about to toss it into the pile of arms and other assorted body parts that followed doc’s around in those days.  Reverend Lacy, a military chaplain, decided to snatch it up himself and sent it to nearby Ellwood Manor where it was buried in a private cemetery.  There are reports of Union Soldiers having dug it back up in 1864 and reburying it.  One might ask why anyone would dig up somebody’s arm and then bury it again, but that would involve questioning the whole burying of the arm to begin with…  There is also a legend that General Smedley Butler was performing exercises with the United States Marine Corps and refused to believe that Mr. Jackson’s arm was buried there.  He supposedly ordered his troops to dig by the concrete marker show here.  Sources indicate that the General was disarmed by finding this arm of the other General, and had the whole thing reburied.  There is no evidence that this actually happened, but it’s a fun story.  Now, the story about a one-armed man hitching a ride on Route 3 on a dark and stormy evening… that one’s TOTALLY true.

That's not weird at all.

That’s not weird at all.

This attraction was originally set up to show off historic Ellwood Manor and the park organizers seemed surprised with the number of people showing up to see the arm.  I mean, how many individually buried arms are there?

This attraction was originally set up to show off historic Ellwood Manor and the park organizers seemed surprised with the number of people showing up to see the arm. I mean, how many individually buried arms are there?

 

In Richmond, Stonewall is celebrated in his entirety with many of the famous losers… I mean leaders of the Confederacy.  His monument on Monument Avenue is located at the intersection of Boulevard (just Boulevard, no drive, street, etc.  Like Madonna, or Prince.) and Monument Avenue.  The sculpture was created by Frederick William Sievers and unveiled in October 11, 1919 and shows and intact Jackson atop his horse, “Little Sorrel”.  There is no monument that I know of depicting just his arm, but if you ever wanted to see the ACTUAL body of a Confederate hero, head on over to Lexington, Virginia and take a gander at the actual stuffed body of Little Sorrel.  There’s a road-trip worthy event if I have ever heard one!

Someone's on a high horse!

Someone’s on a high horse!

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Little Sorrel’s eyes seem to follow you wherever you go…

It's actually a very detailed statue, though his beard seems remarkably well trimmed.

It’s actually a very detailed statue, though his beard seems remarkably well trimmed.

The final image of the Stonewall Jackson Monument is actually a compilation of many images (including my own) of the monument taken from various angles, at various times, and various lightings.  I find it to be an interesting composition.

Jackson from a bunch of angles.  What do you think of the affect of the effect?

Jackson from a bunch of angles. What do you think of the affect of the effect?

PS:  Another reason for the interest in Jackson has to do with our family’s newest addition.  Some of you may recall that we lost our beagle Walken (named after Christopher Walken) last year.  Well, we grew weary of being able to stay out until all hours and having our shoes remain intact, and so we adopted this gorgeous specimen from the Richmond Animal League.  He was found in Caroline County and, since Caroline is a girl’s name, we wanted to name him after a famous person from Caroline County.  Pretty much the only famous person to have a connection with Caroline County was good ol’ Stonewall, and so he is named Stonewall Jackson Kotula.  (We call him Jackson.)

Remarkably less beard...

Remarkably less beard…

PPS:  I couldn’t resist taking a photo from the south of a north bound horse.  I offer you a quick homage to an awesome cartoonist and operator of RVA Coffee Stain, Doug Orleski.  Take a look at his butts if you haven’t already.

My butt would be a little sorrel from sitting up there for almost 100 years, too!

My butt would be a little sorrel from sitting up there for almost 100 years, too!

So, Richmond…  What would you like to see next?  I’m always open to your suggestions!  Hit me up at nick@photorva.com or leave me a comment!  We can talk about dogs, daughters, coffee… you know, no big whoop!

 
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