April 17, 1863
Stonewall Jackson, Shortly Before His Death, Writes of Breaking the Chains Which Bind “Down-Trodden Maryland”
If one were to take all that is known of Jackson’s aggressiveness, legendary quickness, his fierceness and decisiveness: - everything that made him one of the greatest military geniuses the world has ever seen – and then add this gentle yet deeply felt letter, one would finally have, when put together, the two halves of the most compelling and enigmatic figure of the American Civil War.
Writing to a Maryland lady of Secessionist sympathies, Jackson describes Union-occupied Maryland as a captive queen, sorrowful but hopeful, awaiting rescue - by, not surprisingly, Jackson’s twin verities, Faith and Duty. For all its initial formality –beginning with thanks for the gift of a Christmas sash depicting “characteristic products of our different states” – it is a moving, and even poetic, letter.
Maryland, which had seen in 1862 the bloodiest day in American history, at the battle at Antietam Creek – more than 23,000 men left dead, wounded, or missing – was, in 1863, an increasingly hard place for Confederate partisans. Loyalty oaths were required, the flying of the Stars and Stripes was prescribed, and even the slightest profession of pro-Southern sympathy was ruthlessly crushed. This, then, was the situation Jackson addressed:
The down-trodden condition of Maryland your native state, and the afflictions of her exiled sons and daughters make me feel sad and sorrowful: but I yet hope to see the chain that binds her broken, and to see her stand one of the most queenly among her Southern sisters. Trusting in God, and doing our duty, let us hopefully look forward to see her star upon the banner of our Confederacy.
Perhaps Jackson’s kind letter, perhaps his feminine imagery, perhaps his gallant impulse to “save” a queen – had a little to do with the fact that, during the April lull in fighting, he was anxiously awaiting the arrival of his beloved wife and child. The same day he penned this missive to Mrs. Haderman, he also wrote his wife: “I am beginning to look for my darling and my baby,” he said, and “shouldn’t be surprised to hear…they were coming, and I tell you there would be one delighted man.” His wife and infant daughter arrived three days later, and the visit, during which his baby was baptized, proved one of the happiest times of his life.
On May 2nd, some two weeks after writing Mrs. Haderman, and some three days after his wife and child left for home, Jackson was shot, by friendly fire, and mortally wounded. He died seven days later. “It is a terrible loss,” Robert E. Lee declared, “I do not know how to replace him.” That Lee could not, historians argue, is one reason the South lost.
Autograph Letter Signed (“T.J. Jackson”), war-dated, as Lieutenant General, 2 pages, recto and verso, octavo, Near Fredericksburg, Virginia, April 17, 1863. To Mrs. Haderman.