From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stonewall Jackson: In battle as in bed

Stonewall Jackson (1864 Portrait by King)
When asked by General John Daniel Imboden how he could keep
so cool in the midst of raging battles, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson replied:  Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed.  God has fixed the time for my death.  I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me.  Jackson then added that if all men lived with this kind of faith, they would be equally brave.

Indeed, when it came his time to cross over from this world into the next, Jackson’s words rang especially true.  After being felled by what would today be called “friendly fire,” Jackson was at first expected to recover.  However, just eight days later he lay dying of pneumonia.  His deathbed response was a very calm:  It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled.  I have always desired to die on Sunday.

Even then, the distance between battle and bed did not seem far.  The chief surgeon of Jackson’s Corps, Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire, recorded Jackson’s final words.  A few moments before death, Jackson cried out in delirium:  Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action!  Pass the infantry to the front rapidly!  Tell Major Hawks -  In the midst of these “battlefield” orders, Jackson suddenly grew silent.  Holmes reported that “a smile of ineffable sweetness” came over Jackson’s pale face, and then a look of relief.  These last words were then quietly spoken:  Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.

Just what were the religious beliefs and that Jackson adhered to so faithfully?  Son of the South tells us that before being stationed in Mexico City, Jackson was an exceedingly moral man, but not a particularly religious one.  It seemed to be Colonel Francis Taylor, whom Jackson reported to during the Mexican War, who first began talking with Jackson about personal religion.  This must have struck a chord deep within Jackson, for he then began studying the Bible in earnest.  In 1851, Jackson united with the Presbyterian Church.

In an 1858 letter to his sister, Laura Jackson Arnold, Jackson outlined his religious beliefs.  He began by quoting Mark 16:16:  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved  He then quoted an “able theologian” by stating that believing means “feeling and acting as if there were a God, a Heaven, a Hell; as if we were sinners and must die; as if we deserve eternal death, and were in danger of it.  And in view of all, casting our eternal interests on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.  To do this is to be a Christian.”


Copyright April  12, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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