The Deep Faith of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson

Posted on March 15, 2023


By David Ettinger

Coming to Christ
The troops called him “Stonewall”; members of his church called him “Deacon.”

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in 1824 in Clarksburg, Virginia. He had a limited education and barely passed the entrance exam for West Point Military Academy. However, once in the Academy he distinguished himself academically and went on to become one of the greatest tactical geniuses in military history.

His interest in the Christian faith began when he was a young boy and intensified while he was fighting in the Mexican War. On April 29, 1848, he publicly declared his faith and was baptized at an Episcopal Church because he was unsure which denomination he favored.

Turning Point
In 1851, Jackson began 10 years of teaching at the Virginia Military Institute. His students considered him to be too pious and inflexible and made him the object of many pranks. During this time he joined the Presbyterian Church and became a deacon. He was extremely circumspect in his behavior and intense in his spiritual devotion.

In 1853, he married Elinor Judkin, but his joy was short-lived because she died in childbirth just a year later. This devastating loss was the first real test of his faith, causing him to rededicate himself to Christ. He believed strongly in God’s will and found comfort in the fact God’s providence assured him there was a purpose in the loss.

Great Faith
Jackson did not support the secession of the southern states, yet he remained a loyal Virginian. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Jackson accepted a commission in the Army of Northern Virginia. He earned his famous nickname “Stonewall” in the first battle of Bull Run, when his brigade stood firm against attack – like a stone wall.

Jackson’s great courage in battle didn’t go unnoticed. Another officer asked how he managed to remain so calm. He 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 always be ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”

Jackson always gave God the credit for his victories. “Without God’s blessing I look for no success, and for every success my prayer is that all glory be given unto Him whom it is properly due.” He was also known as a man of prayer. He prayed passionately before making decisions, and on the eve of battle he would wake up several times during the night to ask for God’s guidance.

A Great General
From 1861 to 1863, Jackson demonstrated his tactical genius in multiple campaigns: the Peninsular campaign, the Shenandoah Valley, Seven Days’ Battles, Cross Keys, Port Republic, the second battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and others.  Some of the soldiers privately considered him to be a religious extremist, but they respected him as a general too much to ever ridicule him.

Finishing the Race
During the battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was caught in the friendly fire of his own men and shot in the arm. It had to be amputated, and as he was recovering, he caught pneumonia. General Robert E. Lee wrote to him saying: “Could I have directed events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead. I congratulate you on the victory.” When the letter was read to him, Jackson said, “General Lee is very kind, but he should give the praise to God.”

Jackson’s condition continued to worsen, and on May 10, 1863, he slipped in and out of consciousness and then clearly uttered his last words: “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade trees.”

Then the soul of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson passed into the peace of God.

Source: “One Year Book of Christian History” by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten