He was graduated in 1846, and went to Mexico as second lieutenant of the First United-States Artillery. He was promoted to be first lieutenant “for gallant and meritorious services at Vera Cruz.” Twice mentioned in Scott’s reports, and repeatedly referred to by Worth and Pillow for gallantry while with Magruder’s battery, he emerged from that eventful campaign with fair fame and abundant training.
We find him shortly afterwards professor at the Virginia Military Institute of Lexington. Here he was known as a rigid Presbyterian, and a “fatalist,” if it be fatalism to believe that “what will be will be,”—Jackson’s constant motto.
Tall, gaunt, awkward, grave, brief, and business-like in all he did, Jackson passed for odd, “queer,”—insane almost, he was thought by some,—rather than a man of uncommon reserve power.
It was only when on parade, or when teaching artillery practice, that he brightened up; and then scarcely to lose his uncouth habit, but only to show by the light in his eye, and his wrapt attention in his work, where lay his happiest tendencies.
His history during the war is too well known to need to be more than briefly referred to. He was made colonel of volunteers, and sent to Harper’s Ferry in May, 1861, and shortly after promoted to a brigade. He accompanied Joe Johnston in his retreat down the valley. At Bull Run, where his brigade was one of the earliest in the war to use the bayonet, he earned his soubriquet of “Stonewall” at the lips of Gen. Bee. But in the mouths of his soldiers his pet name was “Old Jack,” and the term was a talisman which never failed to inflame the heart of every man who bore arms under his banner.
Jackson possessed that peculiar magnetism which stirs the blood of soldiers to boiling-point. Few leaders have ever equalled him in his control of troops. His men had no questions to ask when “Old Jack” led the way. They believed in him as did he in his star; and the impossible only arrested the vigor of their onset, or put a term to their arduous marches.
His campaign in the valley against Fremont and Shields requires no praise. And his movement about McClellan’s flank at Mechanicsville, and his still more sterling manoeuvre in Pope’s campaign, need only to be called to mind.
In the field he was patient, hard-working, careless of self, and full of forethought for his men; though no one could call for and get from troops such excessive work, on the march or in action. No one could ask them to forego rations, rest, often the barest necessaries of life, and yet cheerfully yield him their utmost efforts, as could “Old Jack.”