I always think of July 21 as Stonewall Jackson’s birthday. Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born on January 21, 1824, so that’s his actual birthday, but he got his famous nickname at the battle of First Manassas, which took place in this date in 1861. That’s when he became “Stonewall.” That’s where the legend was born.
I had the privilege to tromp around on the Manassas battlefield for part of the day with my ECW colleague Rob Orrison, who invited me to participate in a series of Facebook videos shot throughout the day in “real time” to commemorate the 157th anniversary of the battle. We were joined by historians Bill Backus and Paige Gibbon-Backus, both of whom have made some great contributions to ECW over the past couple of years. Rob, Bill, and Paige all work for Prince William County’s department of historic preservation, and they were all over the battlefield all day long shooting these videos. They brought in a cool line-up of special guests, and I was lucky to be among them.
My job was to get Stonewall Jackson onto the field at Manassas, first by marching the 2600 men of the Stonewall Brigade passed what is now the Ben Lomond Historical Site (which Paige manages). Then, we picked up the story in a field behind Jackson’s line at Henry House Hill and carried it onto the hilltop itself, finally ending next to the statue of Ares, God of War, atop his Warhorse of the Apocalypse—er, I mean, the Stonewall Jackson statue.
If you’d like to check out the videos, you can watch them on the Prince William Historical Foundation’s Facebook page (even if you’re not on Facebook, you can still watch them). Rob, Bill, and Paige filmed a series of ten segments–great stuff!
I grabbed a couple photos during the course of the day as we roamed around the battlefield around Henry House Hill. It was a gloomy day, and it started raining on us the moment I firs got out of the car, but it was still an excellent day to be on the field, on the anniversary, telling one of my favorite stories of the war.
And if you think you know the story of how Jackson got his name, I really encourage you to watch the video. The story as it happened, versus the story as people think it happened, are a bit different, although it’s every bit as dramatic.
Happy birthday, Stonewall.