Those of us who tell the story of Stonewall Jackson’s death are often asked to share our thoughts on what might have happened had Jackson lived. (I usually respond by challenging the basis of the question, as I’ve explained here and here.) While often fun, speculating on counterfactual history is nearly impossible, so many of us try to avoid it, at least in a professional capacity. Instead, many of us dodge the question using a variety of sidesteps. One of the most common is to whip out a quote from former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
During a 1923 visit to the United States, George made a point to visit the building where Stonewall Jackson died—today known as the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. “That old house witnessed the downfall of the Southern Confederacy,” George said. “No doubt the history of America would have to be rewritten had ‘Stonewall’ Jackson lived.”
George’s comment certainly frames Jackson’s death as a major turning point of the war, and many people who share that view use George’s comment to reinforce that perspective. However, I’ve had reason of late to reconsider George’s words. Continue reading