Stonewall and the Chindit II: Unfinished Adventure Stories

In my last post, I compared and contrasted Generals Stonewall Jackson and Orde Wingate. I then closed with a question: Why are these men objects of such interest and fascination? 

Jackson Pre-CW        wingate

There are two main reasons, and they seem to say as much about us today as about these two men.

First, both men were adventurers and their stories appeal to a certain spirit. It is exciting to chase Union soldiers up and down the Shenandoah Valley, pull one over on a Union commander like John Pope at Manassas or Joe Hooker at Chancellorsville, or penetrate deep into enemy territory to raise havoc against the Japanese with only your wits and training between you and death. There is something in those tales of high adventure that is compelling. Both Jackson and Wingate, driving their respective events, stride across the pages of their campaign histories as larger-than-life characters.

Second, both men are unfinished lives. Stonewall Jackson passed away at age 39, while Wingate was 41 at his death. They both died at the height of their powers and in the middle of executing arguably their greatest operations. They never grew old, never found the limits of their careers, and left unfinished potential behind to tantalize contemporaries and historians alike.

There is one final commonality about Stonewall Jackson and Orde Wingate: they are joined in death by geography. Jackson lies in Lexington, Virginia, the same city where Robert E. Lee is buried. Wingate is in a common grave with his American aircrew on the grounds of Lee’s former residence at Arlington National Cemetery. These two men, so alike in so many ways, now sleep under the soil of the same state.

Top left: Stonewall Jackson before the Civil War

Top right: Orde Wingate before World War II

8 Responses to Stonewall and the Chindit II: Unfinished Adventure Stories

  1. Another parallel: At least judging by the above pictures, they both have penetrating eyes that seem to show strength of will and depth of character. Just the type you want on your side (and not the other) in a fight.

    1. I was hoping someone would notice that, it is why I chose those pictures. The same thing struck me. They are both in their early-mid 30s in the portraits above.

  2. Chris: Nicely done. I hadn’t thought about the analogy until seeing this. One highly important difference, I think: Wingate was an innovative military thinker (who admittedly strayed into the fanciful – some might say crazy, as in his theories about jungle diseases). Jackson really wasn’t that so much as a man who could incessantly drive his troops to do the seemingly impossible (and at times drive them into exhaustion). His fighting was entirely conventional, however, and at that he was a mediocrity from the tactical perspective. Wingate’s war was unconventional and at that he was pretty proficient (if at times in unintended ways).

    1. I appreciate that, John. Wingate’s contemporaries first made the analogy, I just unpacked it. I agree with your difference – regular versus irregular.

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