When Stonewall Jackson, seventeen feet high and cast in bronze, arrived on the Virginia capitol grounds, he was ahead of his time.
The date: October 26, 1875.
The sculpture was the work of renowned Irish sculptor John Henry Foley, and it was the first statue erected in honor of a fallen Confederate hero, and ironically, it didn’t come from the Confederacy at all. The statue was the gift of “English Gentlemen.”
Less than a month after Stonewall’s death, a collection began in England to raise money for the monument. It took only two years to raise. Foley’s extended health problems caused an eight-year delay in production, and he died shortly after finishing it.
By the time the statue sailed west across the Atlantic, the mood had changed considerably since the war. England and America had renewed their trading partnership. Some Britons, therefore, criticized the monument as a gift given in bad taste, which would strain relations with the newly reunited America. Most people, though, poo-pooed that notion, and when the statue was unveiled, it was to great fanfare. Mary Anna Jackson and her daughter, Julia, were both on hand for the festivities.
Stonewall’s right hand rests on his hip, his gloves clasped in his fist. His left hand, practically at shoulder height, clasps the hilt of his unsheathed sword, but the sword faces downward, the tip resting on the uppermost of three stacked mason blocks, one of which is emblazoned with the sculptor’s initials. Stonewall could almost be a wizard leaning on his staff. His coat is slung over the crook of his left elbow.
It is, for Stonewall, an unguarded moment.
He looks restful, satisfied, as if he knows “My work here is done.”