Confederate general Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was unquestionably one of the most successful and popular military leaders in the Civil War. Long regarded by some as one of Virginia’s great war heroes, many people do not realize that Jackson was born and raised in what is now West Virginia.
When Jackson died in 1863, there was little sympathy for him in the new Mountain State. After all, West Virginia was born out of opposition to the Confederacy. Jackson’s own sister preferred that he was dead rather than serving in a rebellion. Yet over the next century and a half, West Virginia’s attitude towards its controversial son changed. Today, many residents celebrate him as one of the state’s greatest historical icons.
How did this happen? In the decades after the Civil War, Confederate veterans and their descendants took up the banner of the Lost Cause and embarked on a campaign to normalize Jackson. Through ceremonies, speeches, publications, and monument building, Lost Cause advocates created a romanticized image of Jackson as the model West Virginian — a military hero, and a symbol of honor, integrity, and piety. The countless monuments to Stonewall Jackson in West Virginia serve as a constant reminder of the complicated history of the state and the nation.
About the Author
Steven Cody Straley is an eighth-generation resident of Wayne County, West Virginia. He earned both a BA and an MA in history from Marshall University. Straley was the 2020-2021 Blake-Hulse Scholar in Confederate History, a 2019 West Virginia History Hero, and a 2018 Gilder Lehrman History Scholar. He has been active in various local historical organizations and developed content for The Clio digital history platform. This is his first book.