While a cadet at West Point, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson kept a notebook that included a list of inspirational maxims. One of those included was the headline above. It’s often quoted during discussions about Jackson, buy why? More specifically, why do we bother at all to prop up Jackson as some kind of moral standard bearer that deserves our attention?
I was struck by this recent Civil War in4 video from the American Battlefield Trust, featuring a historian, who references this maxim as a way to frame a short discussion about Jackson.
What struck me is that in roughly four minutes of highlighting how this maxim propelled Jackson through his life and some of the most important moments in American history not once is the subject of slavery mentioned.
How do we understand Jackson’s “resolve” when it came to fighting for a nation whose purpose was the establishment of an independent slaveholding republic built on white supremacy? Certainly, we fail to fully appreciate the moral implications or limits of such a maxim apart from this important and undeniable fact.
I would argue that Jackson’s resolve from First Manassas through Chancellorsville was in the service of an immoral cause. Confederate resolve almost destroyed this nation. Confederate resolve almost resulted in the continued enslavement of millions of human beings.
This is another example of how the Lost Cause continues to shape how we remember the Civil War. Are there any other examples of civil wars where its military and political leaders are held up in such a way?
Why do we continue to do this 150 years later?