Thomas Jonathan Jackson "A Stern, Silent Man" January 21, 1824 - May 10, 1863
Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in Clarksburg, VA., on January 21, 1824. His father was a debt-ridden lawyer who died of typhoid when Thomas was two years old. When his mother died five years later, Thomas and his brother and sister were separated and raised by different members of the family. Thomas was raised by a bachelor uncle on a Virginia farm. He was admitted to West Point in 1842 though he had the had only the equivalent of a fourth-grade education. Through his tremendous powers of concentration and his grinding work ethic, Thomas Jackson steadily rose in the class rankings until he graduated 17th in a class of 59.
By this time Jackson was demonstrating many of the eccentricities for which he was noted after he became known as "Stonewall". He was a hypochondriac and very concerned about his digestive system and his diet. He would not eat pepper, for example, because he thought it made his left leg hurt. A tall, rigid man, Jackson never let his back touch a chair; he sat bolt upright to keep his internal organs in perfect alignment. He was a very stern, silent man with little sense of humor and would not drink, smoke, dance, curse, play cards, or attend the theater.
After his 1846 graduation from West Point, Jackson was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and sent immediately to an artillery unit fighting in the Mexican War. For his bravery during the siege of Vera Cruz he was promoted to 1st lieutenant, and by the end of the war, he had earned the public praise of the commander of the American forces and had become a brevet major. Jackson stayed in the army until 1851, when he left to join the faculty of the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA. His military service had revealed several more traits for which Jackson would become known. On the battlefield he was daring, calm, decisive, and tactically brilliant. In camp he seemed to believe his judgment to be infallible and was prone to become involved in drawn-out, prickly disputes with his fellow officers.
Fascinating Fact: Believing his left arm heavier than his right, Jackson often kept it raised so that the blood would flow out and make it lighter.
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