Southern Historical Society Papers.
Vol. XIV. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1886.
Death of Stonewall Jackson.
BY DR. HUNTER McGUIRE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF JACKSON'S CORPS.
Supported upon either side by his aids--Captain James P. Smith and
Joseph Morrison--the General moved slowly and painfully towards the
rear. Occasionally resting for a moment to shake off the exhaustion
which pain and the loss of blood produced, he at last reached the line
of battle, where most of the men were lying down to escape the shell
and canister with which the Federals raked the road. General Pender
rode up here to the little party and asked who was wounded, and Captain
Smith, who had been instructed by General Jackson to tell no one of
his injury, simply answered, "A Confederate officer "; but
Pender recognized the General, and, springing from his horse, hurriedly
expressed his regret, and added that his lines were so much broken he
feared it would be necessary to fall back. At this moment the scene
was a fearful one. The air seemed to be alive with the shrieks of shells
and the whistling of bullets; horses, riderless and mad with fright,
dashed in every direction; hundreds left the ranks and fled to the rear,
and the groans of the wounded and dying mingled with the wild shouts
of others to be led again to the assault. Almost fainting as he was,
from loss of blood, fearfully wounded, and as he thought dying, Jackson
was undismayed by this terrible scene. The words of Pender seemed to
rouse him to life. Pushing aside the men who supported him, he stretched
himself to his full height and answered feebly, but distinctly enough
to be heard above the din of the battle: "General Pender, you must
hold on to the field; you must hold out to the last."
It was Jackson's last order upon the field of battle. Still more exhausted
by this effort, he asked to be permitted to lie down for a few moments,
but the danger from the fire, and capture by the Federal advance, was
too imminent, and his aids hurried him on. A litter having been obtained,
he was placed upon it, and the bearers passed on as rapidly as the thick
woods and rough ground permitted. Unfortunately, another one of the
bearers was struck, down, and the litter having been supported at each
of the four corners by a man, fell and threw the General to the ground.
The fall was a serious one, and as he touched the earth he gave, for
the first time, expression to his suffering, and groaned piteously.
Captain Smith sprang to his side, and as he raised his head a bright
beam of moonlight made its way through the thick foliage and rested
upon the pale face of the sufferer. The captain was startled by its
great pallor and stillness, and cried out: "Oh! General, are you
seriously hurt?" "No," he answered, "don't trouble
yourself, my friend, about me;" and presently added something about
winning the battle first and attending to the wounded afterwards. He
was placed upon the litter again, and carried a few hundred yards, when
I met him with an ambulance. I knelt down by him and said, "I hope
you are not badly hurt, General." He replied very calmly but feebly,
"I am badly injured, Doctor; I fear I am dying." After a pause
he continued, "I am glad you have come. I think the wound in my
shoulder is still bleeding." His clothes were saturated with blood,
and hemorrhage was still going on from the wound. Compression of the
artery with the finger arrested it until, lights being procured from
the ambulance, the handkerchief, which had slipped a little, was readjusted.
His calmness amid the dangers which surrounded him and at the supposed
presence of death, and his uniform politeness, which did not forsake
him, even under these, the most trying circumstances, were remarkable.
His complete control, too, over his mind, enfeebled as it was by loss
of blood, pain, &c., was wonderful. His suffering at this time was
intense; his hands were cold, his skin clammy, his face pale, and his
lips compressed and bloodless; not a groan escaped him--not a sign of
suffering except the slight corrugation of his brow, the fixed, rigid
face, and the thin lips so tightly compressed that the impression of
the teeth could be seen through them. Except these, he controlled by
his iron will all evidence of emotion, and more difficult than this
even, he controlled that disposition to restlessness, which many of
us have observed upon the field of battle, attending great loss of blood.
Some whiskey and morphia were procured from Dr. Straith and administered
to him, and placing him in the ambulance it was started for the corps
field infirmary at the Wilderness tavern. Colonel Crutchfield, his chief
of artillery, was also in the ambulance wagon. He had been wounded very
seriously in the leg, and was suffering intensely.
The General expressed, very feelingly, his sympathy for Crutchfield,
and once, when the latter groaned aloud, he directed the ambulance to
stop, and requested me to see if something could not be done for his
relief. Torches had been provided, and every means taken to carry them
to the hospital as safely and easily as possible. I sat in the front
part of the ambulance, with my finger resting upon the artery above
the wound, to arrest bleeding if it should occur. When I was recognized
by acquaintances and asked who was wounded, the General would tell me
to say, "A Confederate officer." At one time he put his right
hand upon my head, and pulling me down to him, asked if Crutchfield
was dangerously injured. When answered "No, only painfully hurt,"
he replied, "I am glad it is no worse." In a few moments after
Crutchfield did the same thing, and when he was told that the General
was very seriously wounded, he groaned and cried out, "Oh, my God!"
It was for this that the General directed the ambulance to be halted,
and requested that something should be done for Crutchfield's relief.
After reaching the hospital he was placed in bed, covered with blankets,
and another drink of whiskey and water given him. Two hours and a half
elapsed before sufficient reaction took place to <shv14_157>warrant
an examination. At 2 o'clock, Sunday morning, Surgeons Black, Walls
and Coleman being present, I informed him that chloroform would be given
him, and his wounds examined. I told him that amputation would probably
be required, and asked if it was found necessary whether it should be
done at once. He replied promptly: "Yes, certainly. Dr. McGuire,
do for me whatever you think best." Chloroform was then administered,
and as he began to feel its effects, and its relief to the pain he was
suffering, he exclaimed: "What an infinite blessing," and
continued to repeat the word "blessing," until he became insensible.
The round ball (such as is used for the smooth-bore Springfield musket),
which had lodged under the skin upon the back of his right hand, was
extracted first. It had entered the palm about the middle of the hand,
and had fractured two of the bones. The left arm was then amputated
about two inches below the shoulder, very rapidly and with slight loss
of blood, the ordinary circular operation having been made. There were
two wounds in his arm. The first and most serious was about three inches
below the shoulder-joint, the ball dividing the main artery and fracturing
the bone. The second was several inches in length; a ball having entered
the outside of the forearm, an inch below the elbow, came out upon the
opposite side just above the wrist. Throughout the whole of the operation,
and until all the dressings were applied, he continued insensible. Two
or three slight wounds of the skin of his face, received from the branches
of trees when his horse dashed through the woods, were dressed simply
with isinglass plaster.
About half-past 3 o'clock, Colonel (then Major) Pendleton, the assistant
adjutant-general, arrived at the hospital and asked to see the General.
He stated that General Hill had been wounded, and that the troops were
in great disorder. General Stuart was in command, and had sent him to
see the General. At first I declined to permit an interview, but the
colonel urged that the safety of the army and success of the cause depended
upon his seeing him. When he entered the tent the General said: "Well,
major, I am glad to see you. I thought you were killed." Pendleton
briefly explained the condition of affairs, gave Stuart's message, and
asked what should be done. General Jackson was at once interested, and
asked in his quick, rapid way several questions. When they were answered,
he remained silent for a moment, evidently trying to think; he contracted
his brow, set his mouth, and for some moments was obviously endeavoring
to concentrate his thoughts. For a moment it was believed he had succeeded,
for his nostril dilated, and his eye flashed its old fire, but it was
only for a moment; his face relaxed again, and presently he answered
very feebly and sadly, "I don't know, I can't tell; say to General
Stuart he must do what he thinks best." Soon after this he slept
for several hours, and seemed to be doing well. The next morning he
was free from pain, and expressed himself sanguine of recovery. He sent
his aide-de-camp, Morrison, to inform his wife of his injuries, and
to bring her at once to see him. The following note from General Lee
was read to him that morning by Captain Smith: "I have just received
your note, informing me that you were wounded. I cannot express my regret
at the occurrence. Could I have directed events, I should have chosen,
for the good of the country, to have been disabled in your stead. I
congratulate you upon the victory, which is due to your skill and energy."
He replied: "General Lee should give the praise to God."
About 10 o'clock his right side began to pain him so much that he asked
me to examine it. He said he had injured it in falling from the litter
the night before, and believed that he had struck it against a stone
or the stump of a sapling. No evidence of injury could be discovered
by examination. The skin was not broken or bruised, and the lung performed,
as far as I could tell, its proper functions. Some simple application
was recommended, in the belief that the pain would soon disappear.
At this time the battle was raging fearfully, and the sound of the
cannon and musketry could be distinctly heard at the hospital. The General's
attention was attracted to it from the first, and when the noise was
at its height, and indicated how fiercely the conflict was being carried
on, he directed all of his attendants, except Captain Smith, to return
to the battlefield and attend to their different duties. By 8 o'clock
Sunday night the pain in his side had disappeared, and in all respects
he seemed to be doing well. He inquired minutely about the battle and
the different troops engaged, and his face would light up with enthusiasm
and interest when told how this brigade acted, or that officer displayed
conspicuous courage, and his head gave the peculiar shake from side
to side, and he uttered his usual "Good, good," with unwonted
energy when the gallant behavior of the "Stonewall brigade"
was alluded to. He said "the men of that brigade will be some day
proud to say to their children, 'I was one of the Stonewall brigade.'"
He disclaimed any right of his own to the name Stonewall. "It belongs
to the brigade, and not to me." This night he slept well, and was
free from pain.
A message was received from General Lee the next morning directing
me to remove the General to Guinea's station as soon as his condition
would justify it, as there was some danger of capture by the Federals,
who were threatening to cross at Ely's Ford. In the meantime, to protect
the hospital, some troops were sent to this point. The General objected
to being moved, if, in my opinion, it would do him any injury. He said
he had no objection to staying in a tent, and would prefer it if his
wife, when she came, could find lodging in a neighboring house; "and
if the enemy does come," he added, "I am not afraid of them;
I have always been kind to their wounded, and I am sure they will be
kind to me." General Lee sent word again late that evening that
he must be moved if possible, and preparations were made to leave the
next morning. I was directed to accompany and remain with him, and my
duties with the corps as medical director were turned over to the surgeon
next in rank. General Jackson had previously declined to permit me to
go with him to Guinea's, because complaints had been so frequently made
of general officers, when wounded, carrying off with them the surgeons
belonging to their commands. When informed of this order of the commanding-general
he said," General Lee has always been very kind to me, and I thank
him." Very early Tuesday morning he was placed in an ambulance
and started for Guinea's station, and about 8 o'clock that evening he
arrived at the Chandler house, where he remained till he died. Captain
Hotchkiss, with a party of engineers, was sent in front to clear the
road of wood, stone, etc., and to order the wagons out of the track
to let the ambulance pass.
The rough teamsters sometimes refused to move their loaded wagons out
of the way for an ambulance until told that it contained Jackson, and
then, with all possible speed, they gave the way and stood with hats
off and weeping as he went by. At Spotsylvania Courthouse and along
the whole route men and women rushed to the ambulance, bringing all
the poor delicacies they had, and with tearful eyes they blessed him
and prayed for his recovery. He bore the journey well, and was cheerful
throughout the day. He talked freely about the late battle, and among
other things said that he had intended to endeavor to cut the Federals
off from United States ford, and taking a position between them and
the river, oblige them to attack him; and he added, with a smile: "My
men sometimes fail to drive the enemy from a position, but they always
fail to drive us away." He spoke of Rodes, and alluded in high
terms to his magnificent behavior on the field Saturday evening. He
hoped he would <shv14_160>be promoted. He thought promotion for
gallantry should be made at once, upon the field and not delayed. Made
very early, or upon the field, they would be the greatest incentives
to gallantry in others. He spoke of Colonel Willis (subsequently killed
in battle), who commanded the skirmishers of Rodes's division, and praised
him very highly, and referred to the deaths of Paxton and Boswell very
feelingly. He alluded to them as officers of great merit and promise.
The day was quite warm, and at one time he suffered from slight nausea.
At his suggestion, I placed over his stomach a wet towel, and he expressed
great relief from it. After he arrived at Chandler's house he ate some
bread and tea with evident relish, and slept well throughout the entire
night. Wednesday he was thought to be doing remarkably well. He ate
heartily for one in his condition, and was uniformly cheerful.
I found his wounds to be very well to-day. Union by the first intention
had taken place to some extent in the stump, and the rest of the surface
of the wound exposed was covered with healthy granulations. The wound
in his hand gave him little pain, and the discharge was healthy. Simple
lint and water dressings were used, both for the stump and hand, and
upon the palm of the latter a light, short splint was applied to assist
in keeping at rest the fragments of the second and third metacarpal
bones. He expressed great satisfaction when told that his wounds were
healing, and asked if I could tell from their appearance how long he
would probably be kept from the field. Conversing with Captain Smith
a few moments afterwards, he alluded to his injuries, and said, "Many
would regard them as a great misfortune; I regard them as one of the
blessings of my life."
Captain Smith replied: "All things work together for good to those
that love God."
"Yes," he answered, "that's it, that's it."
At my request Dr. Morrison came to-day and remained with him. About
1 o'clock Thursday morning, while I was asleep upon a lounge in his
room, he directed his servant (Jim) to apply a wet towel to his stomach
to relieve an attack of nausea, with which he was again troubled. The
servant asked permission to first consult me, but the General knowing
that I had slept none for nearly three nights, refused to allow the
servant to disturb me, and demanded the towel. About daylight I was
aroused, and found him suffering great pain. An examination disclosed
pleuro-pneumonia of the right side. I believed, and the consulting physicians
concurred in the opinion, that it was attributable to the fall from
the litter the night he was wounded. The General himself referred it
to this accident. I think the disease came on too soon after the application
of the wet cloths to admit of the supposition, once believed, that it
was induced by them. The nausea, for which the cloths were applied that
night, may have been the result of inflammation already begun. Contusion
of the lung, with extravasation of blood in his chest, was probably
produced by the fall referred to, and shock and loss of blood prevented
any ill effects until reaction had been well established, and then inflammation
ensued. Cups were applied, and mercury, with antimony and opium, administered.
Towards the evening he became better, and hopes were again entertained
of his recovery. Mrs. Jackson arrived to-day and nursed him faithfully
to the end. She was a devoted wife and earnest Christian, and endeared
us all to her by her great kindness and gentleness. The General's joy
at the presence of his wife and child was very great, and for him unusually
demonstrative. Noticing the sadness of his wife, he said to her tenderly:
"I know you would gladly give your life for me, but I am perfectly
resigned. Do not be sad. I hope I may yet recover. Pray for me, but
always remember in your prayers to use the petition, 'Thy will be done.'"
Friday his wounds were again dressed, and although the quantity of
the discharge from them had diminished, the process of healing was still
going on. The pain in his side had disappeared, but he breathed with
difficulty, and complained of a feeling of great exhaustion. When Dr.
Breckenridge (who, with Dr. Smith, had been sent for in consultation)
said he hoped that a blister which had been applied would afford him
great relief, he expressed his own confidence in it, and in his final
Dr. Tucker, from Richmond, arrived on Saturday, and all that human
skill could devise was done to stay the hand of death. He suffered no
pain to-day, and his breathing was less difficult, but he was evidently
hourly growing weaker.
When his child was brought to him to-day he played with it for some
time, frequently caressing it and calling it his "little comforter."
At one time he raised his wounded hand above his head and closing his
eyes, was for some moments silently engaged in prayer. He said to me:
"I see from the number of physicians that you think my condition
dangerous, but I thank God, if it is His will, that I am ready to go."
About daylight on Sunday morning Mrs. Jackson informed him that his
recovery was very doubtful, and that it was better that he should be
prepared for the worst. He was silent for a moment, and then said: "It
will be infinite gain to be translated to Heaven." He advised his
wife, in the event of his death, to return to her father's house, and
added: "You have a kind and good father, but there is no one so
kind and good as your Heavenly Father." He still expressed a hope
of his recovery, but requested her, if he should die, to have him buried
in Lexington, in the Valley of Virginia. His exhaustion increased so
rapidly that at 11 o'clock Mrs. Jackson knelt by his bed and told him
that before the sun went down he would be with his Saviour. He replied:
"Oh, no; you are frightened, my child; death is not so near; I
may yet get well." She fell over upon the bed, weeping bitterly,
and told him again that the physicians said there was no hope. After
a moment's pause he asked her to call me. "Doctor, Anna informs
me that you have told her that I am to die to-day; is it so?" When
he was answered, he turned his eyes toward the ceiling and gazed for
a moment or two as it in intense thought, then replied: "Very good,
very good, it is all right." He then tried to comfort his almost
heart-broken wife, and told her that be had a great deal to say to her,
but he was too weak.
Colonel Pendleton came into the room about 1 o'clock, and he asked
him, "Who was preaching at headquarters to-day ?" When told
that the whole army was praying for him, he replied: "Thank God,
they are very kind." He said: "It is the Lord's Day; my wish
is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday."
His mind now began to fail and wander, and he frequently talked as
if in command upon the field, giving orders in his old way; then the
scene shifted and he was at the mess-table, in conversation with members
of his staff; now with his wife and child; now at prayers with his military
family. Occasional intervals of return of his mind would appear, and
during one of them I offered him some brandy and water, but he declined
it, saying, "It will only delay my departure, and do no good; I
want to preserve my mind, if possible, to the last." About half-past
one he was told that he had but two hours to live, and he answered again,
feebly, but firmly, "Very good, it is all right."
A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, "Order
A. P. Hill to prepare for action ! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly!
Tell Major Hawks ," then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished.
Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale
face, and he cried quietly and with an expression as if of relief, "Let
us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees ";
and then, without pain or the least struggle, his spirit passed from
earth to the God who gave it.