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DEAD, HE WAS IMMORTAL
It was nine o'clock on the night before the battle of Chancellorsville. General Stonewall Jackson accompanied by his staff and escort rode in advance of his line, listening at every step for some indication of a movement in the Federal camp. Near an old wooden house in a thicket by the roadside he checked his horse to listen, and the whole cortege, General, Staff Officers, and Couriers, stood motionless in the middle of the road, when suddenly, for what reason has never yet been discovered, one of A. P. Hill's brigades on the right of the turnpike opened a heavy fire upon the party. Whether they took us for Federal cavalry or simply fired at random under the excitement of the moment, will never be known. The fire had terrible results. Two balls passed through General Jackson's left arm shattering the bone, and a third through his right hand breaking the fingers. Mad with terror his horse wheeled around and attempted to run away, but Jackson grasped the bridle with his bleeding fingers and regained control. The fire had ceased as suddenly as it began and not a human being was seen. Of the entire staff and escort no one remained but myself and a single courier. The rest had disappeared before the terrible
fire as leaves disappear before the blasts of winter. Jackson reeled in the saddle, murmured in faint tones that his arm was broken, and leaning forward he fell into my arms. The situation was desperate. The advance of the Federal line was so close that we might be captured at any moment. General Hill rode up and seeing the condition of his commander begged him to go to the rear. One of the younger officers exclaimed, “Let us take the general up in our arms and carry him off.”
“No, if you can help me, I can walk,” replied Jackson faintly. Leaning upon the arm of Captain Leigh he slowly dragged himself along in the direction of his own lines. Hill's troops were now in motion pressing rapidly forward and they could see from the wounded man's escort that he was a superior officer.
“Who is that?” was the incessant question.
“Say it is a Confederate officer," Jackson would murmur. At last one of the soldiers recognized him as he walked bareheaded in the moonlight, and exclaimed in the most piteous tones I have ever heard,
“Great God, that is General Jackson.”
Somebody approached with a litter and the dying man was placed upon it. In a few moments he reached the position of General Pender. That officer recognized me and said,
“Who is wounded, Colonel?”
“Only a Confederate officer, General.” But all at once he caught sight of General Jackson's face.
“Merciful heaven, General, are you wounded? Press on to the rear. The lines here are so much broken that I fear we will be obliged to fall back.”
The words brought a fiery flush to the pale face of Jackson. Raising his drooping head his eyes flashed, and he replied,
"You must hold your ground, General Pender. You must hold your ground, sir."
Pender bowed and Jackson continued his slow progress to the rear. He had given his last order on the field.
Fifty steps further on his head sank upon his bosom and we knew that the end was near. In the delirium which preceded death he gave his orders
his orders as on the battle field and was distinctly heard directing A. P. Hill to prepare for action. The clouds soon passed, his eye grew calm again and murmuring, “It is all right, let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees,” he fell back and expired.
What a death for the man of Manassas and Port Republic. What an end to a career so wonderful. Here, in the tangled depths of the wilderness, the sad notes of the whippoorwill echoing from the thickets, the shells bursting in the air like showers of falling stars, here, alone, without other witnesses than the few weeping officers who held him in their arms, the hero of a hundred battles, the idol of the Southern people, uttered the last sigh.
The great form of Jackson disappeared from the stage. What remained seemed to me but a cold and gloomy theater with spectators gone and lights extinguished, and darkness settled down upon the pageant. Other souls of fire and valor and unshrinking nerve were left, and their careers were glorious; but the finger of fate seemed to mark out with its bloody point
the name of "CHANCELLORSVILLE” and the iron lips to mutter,
“Thus far and no farther."
With the career of this great man of destiny waned the strength of the South, and when he fell the end was in sight. Thenceforward as good fighting as the world saw seemed useless, and to attain no results.
Ashby, the pearl of chivalry and honor on his milkwhite steed charging like a meteor at the head of the flying horsemen; Stuart, more fiery than Rupert of the Bloody Hand, the man to whom Jackson entrusted his command as he lay dying on the field; Pelham, who fell in that stubborn fight with Averill, and Farley, who smiled and fought and died near the same spot; the dashing Hood, the courteous Ambrose Hill, the hardy Longstreet, the fearless Hampton, souls of fire and flame how they fought, these hearts of oak—but it was all in vain.
Even the soldiership of Lee could achieve nothing. The form of Jackson had vanished from the scene; that king of battle had dropped his sword and descended into the tomb; from that moment the star of hope, like the light of victory, seemed to sink beneath ebon clouds.
As I think of it now the past comes crowding into the present. Listen! that is the sound of a great column on the march. Hush! there is the bugle—that sound like the rushing of wind through the forest is the charge of Stuart and his horsemen. See the banners yonder, how their splendid colors burn, how they flaunt and wave and ripple in the wind. Is that distant horseman with his old yellow cap, his dingy coat, his piercing eyes, the man of Port Republic and Chancellorsville?
Is that burning sound the cheering of the “foot cavalry” as they greet him? See that vivid dazzling flash! Is it lightning or the glare of cannon? Hear that opening roar of battle like the burst of thunder! No, it is only a dream—the banners, the shoutings, the exultant cries of victory give place to the sad and stern reality.
A body laid in state in the Capitol at Richmond, the coffin wrapped in the pure white folds of the newly adopted Confederate flag; a great procession, moving to the strains of the Dead March, the hearse, and the war horse of the dead soldier; then the thunder of guns at Lexington; the coffin borne upon a caisson of his own battery to the quiet grave—that was the last of Stonewall Jackson. DEAD, HE WAS IMMORTAL.