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Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's Stonewall Jackson's birthday - here's the story of his left arm's separate grave (bonus: Lord Uxbridge's leg)

From the always interesting Atlas Obscura:

Most of Civil War superstar Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall*" Jackson (wiki) was buried in a Lexington, Virginia, cemetery that now bears his name, but he was so famous at the time of his death that his amputated left arm was spirited away to its own separate grave.

It was just after dark on May 2, 1863. Jackson had just launched a devastating attack against Union forces at Chancellorsville. Returning to his own lines with several staff officers, Jackson, ever the aggressive soldier, decided to conduct reconnaissance in the area. As he and his staff rode through the woods near Confederate lines, a North Carolina regiment, unable to see who was riding up on them, opened fire. Jackson was struck by three bullets, two of them shattering his left arm.** The general was evacuated from the area and given medical treatment, but the arm couldn't be saved and was amputated. Pneumonia set in, and on May 10, 1863, the South lost its most effective tactician. While Jackson's body would travel to Lexington, where he had taught before the war, his severed arm would receive its own burial.

Two-armed Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson
during the Mexican-American War, 1847
Thinking that the limb of so great a solider was too precious to simply throw on the regular body part trash pile, Jackson's unofficial company chaplain, Reverend Tucker Lacy wrapped the arm in a blanket and took it his family cemetery. The reverend gave the limb a standard Christian burial and placed a marker above the site.

Supposedly Stonewall Jackson's arm was dug up and reburied numerous times in the ensuing years and there is no concrete evidence that it still resides in its original burial space, but the simple gravestone remains to remember one of the oddest instances of hero worship in the history of battle.

* Jackson rose to prominence and earned his most famous nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run (aka First Manassas) on July 21, 1861. As the Confederate lines began to crumble under heavy Union assault, Jackson's brigade provided crucial reinforcements on Henry House Hill, demonstrating the discipline he instilled in his men. Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr., exhorted his own troops to re-form by shouting, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer!"

The Death of “Stonewall” Jackson
Currier & Ives (1872)
When Jackson died on May 10, 1863, his attending physicians attributed the death to a pneumonia Jackson had developed four days after amputation of his arm. The infection was believed to be secondary to a pulmonary contusion, or bruised lung, that Jackson may have suffered after falling from a stretcher during his removal from the field. For nearly 150 years, that diagnosis was largely unchallenged. 

More recently, however, modern physicians have begun offering alternate possibilities for his cause of death.The most commonly suggested alternative is pyemia, or blood poisoning. Known today as sepsis, pyemia was a well-recognized and deadly condition during the pre-antibiotic days of the Civil War.

** The story of Stonewall Jackson's injury always reminds me of this, from later in the War of Northern Aggression (wiki):

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."

~ Union general John Sedgwick (died 1864) (just before being killed by Confederate fire at the battle of Spotsylvania)

Uxbridge's false leg
Related, via Andrew Stuttaford - read the whole Wikipedia entry: Lord Uxbridge's leg was shattered by a cannon shot at the Battle of Waterloo and removed by a surgeon. The amputated limb went on to lead a somewhat macabre after-life as a tourist attraction in the village of Waterloo in Belgium, where it had been removed and interred.

Per Wikipedia:
Just after the Surgeon had taken off the Marquis of Anglesey's leg, Sir Hussey Vivian came into the cottage where the operation was performed. "Ah, Vivian!" said the wounded noble, "I want you to do me a favour. Some of my friends here seem to think I might have kept that leg on. Just go and cast your eye upon it, and tell me what you think." "I went, accordingly", said Sir Hussey, "and, taking up the lacerated limb, carefully examined it, and so far as I could tell, it was completely spoiled for work. A rusty grape-shot had gone through and shattered the bones all to pieces. I therefore returned to the Marquis and told him he could set his mind quite at rest, as his leg, in my opinion, was better off than on."
I love this bit: 
According to anecdote, he was close to the Duke of Wellington (at Waterloo) when his leg was hit, and exclaimed, "By God, sir, I've lost my leg!", to which Wellington replied "By God, sir, so you have!"
Further reading: Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson


  1. The South fired first at Ft. Sumter. It was the War of Southern Aggression.

  2. Ft Sumter is in the south. So if you want to go by the first shot, then it would be the "War Against Northern Invaders"

    1. Well, it least you didn't say, "Northern Agression"... Fort Sumter was a federal fort at the time that the South fired on it. So the fort was already there well before SOUTH CAROLINA was the first southern state to secede from the Union. When the South decided to fire on a federal installation, and to do that they would have to had to fire first, THAT started the Civil War. So tell us, please, how the North were the "invaders".

    2. Southern commanders knew they could have the fort if they just exercised the same sort of strategic patience that Lincoln was practicing. But their militaristic hubris got the better of their strategic judgment and their actions galvanized opinion in the North -- a public opinion that was very fluid up until that point. Whatever the armchair lawyers have to say, the South may well have won the day if they simply hunkered down and waited for the Lincoln administration to make the first overt move.

    3. The main reason the Confederacy initiated the Civil War by firing on Ft Sumter was that without a war the Confederacy would have been limited to the Deep South. Absent Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri, the original Confederacy was economically unviable, Without shooting, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina would have remained in the United States. As it was, pro-Union sentiment in the slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, and Delaware was strong enough to keep those states in the Union. Especially Kentucky, where the South invaded, only to discover their presence was not desired.

    4. @Anon, it pretty simple. Even before Lincoln took office, the North tried to reinforce but the ships were found out and turn'd back. As long as the North didn't try to reinforce the Fort, the South simply held it at bay … heck they even took food out to them.

      However, Lincoln was bent on getting the South to fire first and more reinforcements were on the way with an escort. The only choice left was for the South to take the fort before that happen. Truthfully, it was more of fireworks display. The casualties on both sides were 0 … ZERO! The Union commander held out just long enuff to honorably surrender.

      As for it being "federal property". That's nonsense. Once SC withdrew from the Union and the Feds had no right to be there. All over the South the feds gave over the property and peacefully left … Ft. Sumter, being on the coast was order'd not to giv up without a shot being fir'd.

      So there it is. Lincoln provok'd the war. He was the aggressor. He had no Constitutional authority to stop a state from leaving the Union. Indeed, it would hav been rather hypocritical of the Founding Fathers to set up a union of States that barr'd them from seceding when they themselves had seceded from the British.

  3. Union Gen. Dan Sickles lost his leg at Gettysburg -- but visited it often in an army medical museum after the war.

  4. Can't we all be polite and call it the "war for Southern Independence"? Which it was.

    Or we could follow the example of the executors of the estate of my South Carolinian great-great-grandmother. They explained the disappearance of two slaves as the result of "the late disastrous war". Which it was.

  5. My 3rd cousin George Edward "Tuck" Haynsworth fired the 1st shot and it was at a ship in The harbor and not at Ft. Sumter.

  6. There are a few monuments in honor of Benedict Arnold in the US, although many don't use his name. One just has a boot. Goes the story, Arnold asked:

    "What will the Americans do with me if they catch me?"

    And the answer was:

    "They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet."

  7. Santa Anna, winner at the Alamo, lost his leg. It was buried separate from the rest of his body. He also came upon what became chewing gum, but did not exploit the discovery the way others did.

  8. I was born Jan. 21, 2002. Stonewall Jackson and I share the same birthday.