Monday, October 27, 2008

Love and duty during the Civil War

Since I'm pressed for time this week, I thought I'd pull up some old posts that readers might find interesting. This one is about General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson - a man most people would not think of as being a "softie." But letters to his wife reveal a romantic man - and a man of strong morals, determined to carry out his duty to God and country.

In this letter to his wife, Jackson conveys the sacrifices made by thousands of men during the Civil War. "In answer to the prayers of God's people, I trust He will soon give us peace. I haven't seen my wife for nearly a year--my home in nearly two years, and have never seen our darling little daughter; but is important that I, and those at headquarters, should set an example of remaining at the post of duty."

Jackson did finally get to see his little Julia when she was five months old. His wife tells the story of the first meeting of father and daughter in her memoirs written many years later. "During the whole of this short visit, he rarely had her out of his arms, walking her, and amusing her in every way that he could think of... When she slept in the day, he would often kneel over her cradle, and gaze upon her little face with utmost rapt admiration..."

Of course, this story does not have a happy ending. Jackson was killed as a result of a friendly fire incident at The Wilderness in May of 1863. Likewise, the story of a member of his staff, young Sandie Pendleton, is no less tragic. Pendleton's heart was captured during the war by a young lady, near whose home he was stationed for a time in winter-quarters. "He had some rivals among his brother officers, but was successful in winning the prize, and, obtaining a furlough, was married, and spent a few blissful weeks with his young bride, when duty called him into the field, and they never met again."

Pendleton followed Jackson to the grave in less than a year, slain in battle in his youth.

Many were the similar tragedies thrust upon the hearts and homes of those on both sides of the war. It is difficult to imagine such pain, sorrow and suffering as took place in our country for four long years.

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And I quote...

"[L]et us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died."
--Ronald Reagan at Pointe du Hoc, 1984