There are sometimes calls for America to be governed by a strong militarist leader -- a George S. Patton or Douglas MacArthur -- who will get things done.
The career of Thomas J. ("Stonewall") Jackson undermines the belief that to manage organizations with skill and daring, you must be an bombastic. Jackson, who may have been the best field commander on either side during the Civil War, was a flinty, taciturn, devout Calvinist who considered modesty a virtue. He always gave credit for his many achievement to God and took none for himself. Lee was more expressive but equally modest.
A poor farm boy from Virginia, Jackson managed to be accepted at West Point and graduated in the middle of his class. He saw battle in Mexico and learned from it. Before the war, he was a unionist but, like Robert E. Lee, when Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Jackson felt his first loyalty lay with his state.
He participated in most of the famous battles of the Army of Northern Virginia during the first two years of the war -- First Bull Run, the Shenendoah campaign, and Chancellorsville -- dealing the federals one humiliating defeat after another.
The program doesn't point it out but it ought to be mentioned that both Lee and Jackson were helped immeasurably in their victories by the almost criminal ineptitude of the Union generals.
Just one example. At Chancellorsville, a complicated battle, Lee is facing a much larger force of federals. Lee has already split his army in two, and now he risks splitting it again by setting Jackson off on a flanking movement, in an attempt to get around and behind the Union troops and catch them unawares.
Jackson's troops take off on this roundabout trip, necessarily making noise that attracts the attention of the federals. Happily, the federal interpret it as a retreat. The Union general in charge of the flank, Howard, fails to picket the area. So the Union soldiers are sitting around having breakfast when the woods begin disgorging rabbits and hysterical deer, with Jackson's troops right behind them. Utter rout. It wouldn't have been easy if General Oliver Howard had paid attention to the warnings he received and acted on them.
Jackson was shot by accident by his own men and died a few days later. It's emblematic of the sentiment surrounded Jackson that while other generals have monuments, the house in which Jackson died is called the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. It's easily accessible from Interstate 95.
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