I know we may sometimes seem a little fixated on the death of Stonewall Jackson around here. Part of that stems from the fact that so many of us work or have worked for the Park Service at the Jackson Shrine. Part of it stems from the fact that Kris and I have written a book on The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson. Part of it is because I happen to be an unabashed Jackson fan.
Yesterday, May 10, I had the privilege to once again work at the Jackson Shrine on the anniversary of Jackson’s death. It was a beautiful day in Guinea Station.
Most visitors who stopped in had no idea that it was the anniversary of Jackson’s death, although as the official time of death got closer—3:15 p.m.—several devotees drifted in. We had a great discussion about Jackson’s impact on the war, which of course inevitably veered into the territory of “what if.” I stay out of those discussions, much more interested in “what was, and why”—but I won’t deny the power that “what if” speculations have over people and, frankly, how much people really seem to discuss them.
At some point during the day, a Jackson admirer left a gift.
As legend has it, Jackson supposedly liked to suck lemons—a legend so persistent that people sometimes leave lemons at the Shrine instead of flowers. Whether he liked them or not, the fact that the myth has captured public imagination so completely that people leave lemons says something interesting and, I think, important, about Jackson. The fact that people religiously show up at 3:15 p.m. on the anniversary of his death every year says something important, too.
At the end of the day, a couple of my friends and I commemorated the day with a couple “Stonewall Stout” drafts from the Blue & Gray Brewery in Fredericksburg. A fine way to end the day.