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Monday, January 13, 2014

Grave of Stonewall Jackson's Arm (Update: Lord Uxbridge's leg)

From the always interesting Atlas Obscura:

Most of Civil War superstar Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall*" Jackson (wiki, biography) 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.

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

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)

Update, 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.  

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!"

3 comments:

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

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  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"

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  3. Union Gen. Dan Sickles lost his leg at Gettysburg -- but visited it often in an army medical museum after the war. http://allenbrowne.blogspot.com/2012/06/general-sickles-leg.html

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