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?
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