Volume 25, No. 3 – March 2012
Volume 25, No. 3
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
President: Gerridine LaRovere
Directors: Morris Ball, Monroe Ackerman, Ed Lewis, & Marsha Sonnenblick
Special Projects: Janell Bloodworth
If you have not done so, please pay your dues.
Our program chairperson has resigned and we are in need of someone to fill that position. Please see me at the meeting or call me -- Gerridine LaRovere
They were the farm boys, store clerks and factory workers from the towns and prairies of Illinois. Their experience with horses had mostly been from behind, either walking with a plow or riding in a wagon. Certainly it had not been sitting on top while at a full gallop! Yet they came together to form one of the finest cavalry regiments of the Civil War, respected and admired by friend and foe alike. In their diaries and letters home and in their post-wars writings, they recounted their experiences as troopers. These memories tell us of the good times and the bad; the many achievements and the few failures. However, in each reminiscence, as will be described for us by Marshall D. Krolick (who is reputed to have ridden with the 8th!), there is a common thread: it is pride, a pride that glowed within each of them for the rest of their lives whenever they said, "I rode for the Union with the 8th Illinois Cavalry."
Frank O’Reilly: The Last Eight Days of Stonewall Jackson’s Life
At 5:15 P. M., on May 2, 1863, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (January 21, 1824 - May 10, 1863), was at the pinnacle of his career – his troops had routed the entire right wing of Hooker’s Union Army of the Potomac, and were now chasing them through the night. However, by 9 P. M., his attack stalled and Jackson tried to reorganize his scattered and mingled units. A. P. Hill had only one fresh division. Civil War soldiers hated fighting at night and fighting in woods and now they were being asked to do both. Jackson, true to his aggressive character, decided to go on a reconnaissance. A fire fight caught him in front of a North Carolina corps. Of the 11 men with Jackson, Jackson and two others were hit, Jackson three times. One bullet went into his left shoulder, one into his left arm and traveled down to his wrist, and one hit the fleshy part of his right hand. This was the only bullet that stayed in his body. A doctor rushed to his aid, but had to cut through his rubber gum raincoat, his uniform coat and two long-sleeved shirts. The left arm was bleeding profusely, but neither of his other two wounds bled much at all.
Union artillery fired on the woods and Jackson was placed on a stretcher and carried toward the Confederate lines. Unfortunately, one of his stretcher bearers was hit and dropped the stretcher. When Jackson’s body hit the ground, his shoulder bone hit a big blood vessel and he began to "bleed out." His blood pressure neared zero and he had no pulse. Of course, there was no such thing as a blood transfusion at that time and place. When he finally reached a surgical tent, he was given chloroform, the bullet was extracted from his hand and his left arm was amputated.
Around 11:30 A. M., on May 3rd, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, received a note from Jackson that he had been wounded and that General A. P. Hill was in command. Lee dictated a short note to Jackson that has since become famous. Lee wrote, in relevant part: "I have just received your note, informing me that you were wounded--I cannot express my regret at the occurrence. Could I have directed events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead. I congratulate you upon the victory, which is due to your skill and courage. . . . your obedient servant, R. E. Lee, General." Upon hearing Lee’s note read to him, Jackson said, "General Lee is very kind, but he should give the praise to God."
Lee, in the midst of splitting his army in an effort to destroy Hooker’s army, ordered Jackson evacuated to Richmond since he was then at risk of being captured. Jackson at first refused, saying he had treated Union prisoners well and was not afraid of being captured, but finally obeyed Lee’s direct order. Jackson was to be evacuated to Guinea Station, the supply base for the Confederate Army, spend a few days there to further his recuperation and then be taken by rail to Richmond.
Jackson’s 27-year old doctor, Hunter Holmes McGuire (October 11, 1835 - September 19, 1900), was outstanding. He later became the President of the American Medical Society. To McGuire, Jackson did not appear to be dying, nor did the trip to Guinea Station, the supply station for Lee’s army and the army’s main hospital, 27 miles away over rough dirt roads seem life-threatening. The ambulance had no springs, of course, and the trip took a painful 15 hours, from 5 A.M. to 8 P. M. Ironically, the entire trip was mooted by the fact that Union cavalry had torn up the tracks between Guinea Station and Richmond.
Jackson knew Thomas C. Chandler, the owner of a plantation near Guinea Station, and Mary Chandler, eagerly offered her home to him in which to recuperate. She had never fully recovered from her social setback six months earlier when Jackson had declined to use her house as his headquarters, preferring to stay in his tent with his aides handy. Mr. O’Reilly painted a fairly unflattering portrait of Mary Chandler, as somewhat of a social butterfly and a celebrity "groupie." The Chandler house was "bedlam," filled with wounded men. Undeterred, Mrs. Chandler quickly moved some wounded generals out of the house and set aside one whole bedroom for Jackson. However, Dr. McGuire examined every wounded man in the house, found one man had Erysipelas (a highly infectious, acute and painful skin infection) and ruled out the house. Instead Jackson was placed in the vacant plantation office building (the only plantation building still standing). Dr. McGuire furnished the building with whatever furniture was at hand. Mrs. Chandler’s most urgent desire was to spend time with the famous General, so she tried to send his staff out so she could be with him alone. She thought the office was "too quiet" and installed a large ticking (and obviously annoying) clock! She was oblivious to the fact that she was an unwelcome guest and all conversation ceased when she entered the room.
Dr. McGuire wore himself out caring for Jackson 24/7, changing his bandages and recording his behavior. His patient was relaxed, comfortable and talkative, out of character. Jackson said he heard "beautiful music" while he was under chloroform (probably the sound of the saw amputating his left arm). Jackson was musical and had taught himself to play the violin. After two days, Jackson began badgering McGuire to let him return to duty. Worn out, McGuire left to get his first night’s sleep in four days! While he was gone, everything changed. At 1 A. M., May 7, Jackson became violently ill, vomited repeatedly and suffered severe pain. McGuire was awakened and diagnosed acute pneumonia. In Mr. O’Reilly’s opinion, Jackson had had pneumonia even before he was wounded. Prior to battle, he had been so ill he could hardly sit on his horse. Being shot shut down his system. For 72 hours, he actually felt better than he had before he was shot! Mr. O’Reilly concluded that Jackson was not a wounded man who got sick but a sick man who got wounded.
On May 5, Jackson assumed a professorial pose and began to quiz Captain James Smith, a Theology student at VMI, "Can you tell me where the Bible gives generals a model for their official report of battles?" Smith admitted ignorance. Jackson said, "There are such and excellent models, too. For instance, Joshua’s battle with the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). There you have one. It has clearness, brevity, fairness, modesty and it traces victory to the right source, the blessing of God." That evening, Jackson resumed torturing young Smith: "Where were the headquarters of Christianity after the crucifixion?" Smith replied, "The centers of influence were at first Jerusalem, then Antioch, Iconium, Rome and Alexandria." Jackson interrupted and asked why he used "centers of influence" -- "is not headquarters a better term?" Smith defended himself, saying that the apostles were directed by seeming providence to plant churches in those cities. Jackson then asked Smith to get a map and show him exactly where Iconium was. Smith said there was no map available. Jackson said, "You are right. I left it on a shelf on the desk. I wish you would examine into this and report to me." [Iconium is in the middle of present-day Turkey, between Ankara and Tarsus.]
Mrs. Jackson, with baby Julia (five months old and still nursing), finally arrived from Richmond on May 7 and became alarmed that Jackson’s staff would not discuss his prognosis with her. In fact, Dr. McGuire wouldn’t even let her in his room. When she made her husband some lemonade, he said it was "too sweet." When finally she was admitted, she was appalled that her 39-year old husband could not even recognize her. She took over ministering to her husband, ordering his staff around and earning for herself the title, "the Lieutenant Generalesse." She read the Bible to him whenever he asked her. Mrs. Chandler’s every effort to enter the room was stymied by Mrs. Jackson. Even the Governor of Virginia was excluded! Many ministers sought entry in vain.
By Sunday, May 10th, Jackson was exhausted and his body was shutting down; the end was near, but the doctors were reluctant to tell Jackson this. Mrs. Jackson took it upon herself to tell him – on her knees by the bed, she asked him if the Lord chose to take him, would he assent? "I prefer it, came the reply. A second time she got a different response. She burst into tears and Jackson comforted her. She gathered herself, stopped crying, and told him what the doctors had told her. Jackson turned to Dr. McGuire and said, "Anna informs me that you have told her that I am to die today. Is that true?" Dr. Maguire replied, "That is so." Jackson looked at the ceiling and said, "Very good, very good, it is all right." Anna next asked him, "Should I return with Julia to Father’s North Carolina home?" Jackson replied, "You have a good kind father, but no one is so kind and gentle as your heavenly Father." Anna probed, "Where do you want to be buried?" Jackson’s mind became cloudy and he responded, "Charlotte or Charlottesville." Not certain her husband was tracking, she changed the way she phrased her next question: "Lexington?" Jackson said, "Yes, in Lexington, in my own plot." Baby Julia was then brought into the room. Jackson’s face lit up with a smile and when the baby was placed on his bed, he said, "Little darling-sweet one," and as she smiled at him, he fell back into unconsciousness.
William Nelson Pendleton, Jackson’s chief of staff at 22 years old, worshiped Jackson. As he entered the room around 1 P. M., he was so unnerved by the sight of a dying Jackson, he got as far away from the bed as he could. Jackson revived and asked him "Who is preaching at Headquarters today?" Pendleton said, "The whole army is praying for you, General." Jackson replied, "Thank God, they are very kind." With almost his last breath, Jackson said, "It is the Lord’s Day. My wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday." Jackson then began cycling in and out of reality, giving orders repeatedly. He refused to take brandy or laudanum, saying, "It will only delay my departure and do no good. I want to preserve my mind to the last." Nevertheless, his mind began to wander. He gave battlefield commands, then talking to his staff at mess, then with his wife and child, then at prayer. Dr. McGuire could stand no more and walked outside. Just before Jackson died, he ordered A. P. Hill to prepare for action: "Pass the infantry to the front rapidly. Tell Major Hawks" -- then stopped. Presently he smiled and said with apparent relief, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees," and seemingly at peace, died.
What killed Jackson? There was no autopsy so the truth will never be known for sure. Mr. O’Reilly thought it most likely that Jackson had been suffering from pneumonia for some time. The loss of nearly all his blood masked the symptoms and the pain for a while. His wounds, absent the debilitating effect of the pneumonia, should not have killed him. Dr. McGuire diagnosed that Jackson had contracted pneumonia after being wounded. His records were lost when he lost his ambulance retreating before Sheridan. Some modern doctors speculate that his pulmonary pathology was due to a pulmonary embolism (a clot escaping from the vein at the site of amputation and blocking a blood vessel in his lung). [Your editor can testify that a pulmonary embolism is a terrifying life-threatening experience that took months from which to recover.]
Mr. O’Reilly’s talk was followed by a number of wide-ranging questions and answers. By far the most popular question was, what would have been the result had Jackson survived? O’Reilly said that Lee had been fortunate in his two top lieutenants: Jackson was superb attacking and Longstreet was great at defending. Truly, Lee lost his "left arm" when Jackson died. He was most sorely missed, perhaps, at Gettysburg, where Longstreet advised against the fatal frontal attack on the last day. If Jackson had been there to slide around the rear of the Union forces, the result might have been different. That is what makes history so fascinating.
Last changed: 03/07/12