“Stonewall Jackson's Way”


The prayers and fighting methods of "Stonewall" Jackson and his troops (the "Stonewall" Brigade) are described. Each exploit is described as "Stonewall Jackson's Way." The poem concludes, "The foe had better ne'er been born That gets in Jackson's way."


I have always heard this as a poem, but the Digital Tradition has a tune, and Wharton's _War Songs and Poems of the Southern Confederacy_ also prints a melody; I suppose it might be traditional. I don't know of any field collections, though.

That this piece was composed by an educated man cannot be doubted (note the use of Latin in one stanza); there is no reason to question Palmer's authorship. Wharton, however (_War Songs_, p. 47) reports a rumour that "[t]hese vverses were found written on a small piece of paper, all stained with blood, in the bosom of a dead soldier of the old Stonewall Brigade, after one of Jackson's battles in the Shenandoah Valley."

The origin of the nickname "Stonewall" is explained in the historical references. The poem also calls Jackson "Old Blue Eyes" -- allegedly given because of the way his eyes glowed in battle.

The description of the Second Battle of Bull Run in the penultimate stanza is completely backward. Lee had separated his army into wings under Longstreet and Jackson. Union General John Pope caught up with Jackson, and tried very hard on August 29 to dislodge him. He almost succeeded. But then Longstreet came up on Pope's flank and completely demolished the Union army.

The "Ashby" referred to in the same stanza is Turner Ashby, who had commanded Jackson's cavalry in the Valley campaign and was killed June 6, 1862.

The descriptions of Jackson's prayer are more reasonable; Jackson was a presbyterian lay preacher (though his students at the VMI described him as very dull), and he attributed all his success to God. Frankly, he was a very obnoxious person -- but, obviously, a great tactician. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1824-1863 - Life of Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson
  • July 21, 1861 - First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas. In a confusing fight, with his brigade falling to pieces, General Bernard Bee sees Jackson's brigade holding steady. He describes the brigade as a "Stone wall," coining the nickname by which Jackson has been identified ever since (though Jackson always maintained that the name was the brigage's, not his)
  • May/June, 1862 - Jackson's "Valley Campaign." Jackson, with strength never exceeding two divisions, battles the equivalent of three (weak and scattered) Union corps to a standstill by rapid movement and concentration. One of three federal commanders in the area (the Union army had no overall commander) was the inept Nathaniel P. Banks, whose troops suffered severely at Jackson's hands (and would suffer again at Cedar Mountain in August)
  • Aug 29-30, 1862 - Second Battle of Bull Run/Manasses. Lee and Jackson defeat Pope


  1. Hill-CivWar, pp. 83-84, "Stonewall Jackson's Way" (1 text)
  3. BI, HCW083


Author: John Williamson Palmer
Earliest date: 1904 (Wharton)
Keywords: Civilwar battle