September 19, 2013

Skyscape and Sign, Jackson's Mill

Those who haven't studied the American Civil War might wonder why I drove out of the way to see Stonewall Jackson's boyhood home. Well, you don't have to be a good ol' rebel to be fascinated by General Jackson. He was not only an amazing strategist and famous leader; he had an interesting background. Some of this is told on interpretive signs at the homestead in Jane Lew, West Virginia. More is available in Civil War books, of which there are many.

Before the war, Jackson lived in Lexington, Virginia, where he was a college teacher at VMI. He was also active in a local church, and taught Bible classes to slaves. He broke state law by teaching them to read! Apparently he believed that teaching people to read the Bible was worth risking a jail sentence.

He did not favor secession, but after Virginia's governing bodies voted to secede, he joined the Confederate Army. Like many people, he felt more loyalty to his community than to the larger community of the United States. (I have observed that choosing sides in a war usually has less to do with beliefs than it does with where you live.)

Excerpt from the sign:
In 1831, this became the home of six-year-old Thomas Jonathan Jackson (1824-1863) and his four-year old sister, Laura Ann Jackson (1826-1911). Their mother, Julia Beckwith Neale Jackson Woodson, sent them here to live with relatives. Their father, Jonathan Jackson, had died in poverty in 1826. In 1830, their mother married Blake G. Woodson, who was likewise mired in poverty and resented his stepchildren. Julia Woodson died late in 1831.

Thomas Jackson left in 1842 to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating in 1846, Jackson served in the Mexican War and later taught at the Virginia Military Institute. He joined the Confederate army when the Civil War began, commanding a brigade at Harpers Ferry. On July 21, 1861, Jackson led his unit at the First Battle of Manassas, where he received his famous nickname, “Stonewall.” His illustrious military career ended with his death on May 10, 1863, after being wounded during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Jackson and his sister remained close until, like so many other siblings, they found themselves on opposite sides during the Civil War. Laura Jackson, who married Jonathan Arnold in 1844, opened their house in Beverly to Federal troops as a hospital and nursed them herself. Her outspoken Unionism estranged her from her brother.
For the rest of the sign and a link to a map, see Jackson Mill on

Like skies? See Skywatch Friday.


  1. Wonderful historical post and great sky shot for SWF ~ carol, ^_^

  2. Great post! And I love the view, beautiful photo. Have a happy weekend!

  3. Great skywatch photo, and fascinating history!

  4. Beautiful sky view -- and it is important to remember our history...all of it!


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