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James H. Lane - Story of Stonewall Jackson Shooting

James H. Lane - Story of Stonewall Jackson Shooting Civil Wars Disasters

General James H. Lane (who had studied under Stonewall Jackson at VMI - Virginia Military Institute) provides an account of Jackson's shooting (at pages 32-35 of his Reminiscences). 

It appears that a warning had been given - that the men passing through, on horseback, were from the same side - but the soldiers who fired at Jackson believed the warning was a Union ruse:

After forming my line, I rode back to ask Genl Hill if we must advance or wait for further orders; and on the plank road, I met General Jackson; he recognized me and at once called out "Lane who are you looking for?" I told him, and to save further delay, as I did not know where to find Hill, I asked for orders.

In an earnest tone and with a pushing jesture in the direction of the enemy, he replied; "Push right ahead Lane," and then rode forward.

This was the last time I ever saw my old V.M.I Professor and commanding Lieut. Genl alive.

I then rode to the right to put it in motion, and found that Lieut Coll Smith of the Federal Army had come in between my two lines with a white handkerchief tied to a stick to learn, as he stated, whether we were friends or foes.

This officer seemed surprised at my not allowing him to return after he had gratified his curiosity. I was further delayed by a report that there was talking heard on our right. Lieutenant Emack was detailed with a small force to reconnoitre and soon returned with the 128th Penn regiment which had surrendered, on being informed that they were cut off and their Coll captured.

Just then, some of the skirmishers fired at a horseman who rode up from the direction of the enemy and called for "General Williams."

This unknown person escaped, but the firing at him caused the whole skirmish line to open, to which the enemy responded with a furious fire, their batteries opening heavily.

This was the fusilade that drove in Genls Jackson & Hill with their staffs - they having gone to the front reconnoitreing unknown to me or the officers of my brigade.

A short heavy infantry fire then followed in the direction of the road where the 18th was stationed, soon after which, General Pender rode up and advised me not to advance, as both General Jackson and Genl Hill were wounded, and it was thought by my men.

On going back to the road, Major, afterwards Coll John D. Barry, commanding the 18th North Carolina Infantry, whose right rested on the road, informed me, that he knew nothing of Generals Jackson & Hill having gone to the front, that he could not distinguish friend from foe in the dark, and through the scrubby underwood, that soon after the skirmish line opened and the firing began, he heard the clattering of approaching horsemen and the cry of cavalry, and knowing that he was in the front line & only the enemy in his front, he not only ordered his men to fire, but made them keep it up, so convinced was he that they were enemies, & that the cry of friends was only a ruse.

The "cry of friends" was not a "ruse." As a result of the friendly fire, General Stonewall Jackson was shot.

While Jackson's men carried him on a stretcher, they accidentally dropped him. That dropping, according to Jackson's physician, was the likely cause of the pneumonia which complicated the General's recovery.

Stonewall Jackson died as a result of his injuries. When that happened, General Robert E. Lee lost his most-important General. Historians believe that the loss of Jackson contributed to the ensuing military losses of the Confederacy.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Oct 19, 2017


Media Credits

Photograph of General Lane, U.S. National Archives.

Quoted passage, from General Lane's Reminiscences (pages 32-35).

PD

 

 

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