Published: July 9, 2016
My family is headed to Washington D.C. where we will spend a week visiting the monuments and museums on the National Mall while Kim works in the National Gallery of Art. On the way, we decided to visit Lexington, Virginia.
I’ve been a fan of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson for many years. I have enjoyed watching “Gods and Generals” where Stonewall Jackson’s story (that begins just before the Civil War began) was beautifully depicted. I have also enjoyed reading James I. Robertson, Jr.’s massive biography, “Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend.” While I would hardly consider myself an expert on General Jackson, I have developed a love and respect for this man that makes me long to spend time with him when we share our eternal reward in Heaven.
(If you question how I could respect a Confederate General, simply scroll to the bottom of this post for my response to that question.)
Rather than make this a lengthy, wordy blog that recounts our visit in Lexington, I will simply post pictures and put some comments underneath each picture.
While in Mexico years many years before he moved to Lexington, VA, Jackson considered the Catholic church with its practices and theology. Later, the Episcopalian. Yet, in the Presbyterian Church, he found a home. Particularly, he agreed wholeheartedly with their view on predestination. He staunchly believed that God had ordained the events of this life and that nothing, absolutely nothing, could thwart God’s hand. Therefore, he was able to stand bravely on the battlefield as the bullets pierced the air around him. He believed that if it wasn’t his time to die, he wouldn’t. If it was, there was nothing he could do to stop it. So, his bravery was based upon a deeply theological belief in God’s sovereign control of His creation.
This is Lee Chapel on Virginia Military Institute’s property about a third of a mile from Stonewall’s house.
Some might ask me, “How can you respect a man who was known only for his valor in serving as a Confederate general?” The answer to that question would take longer than you are willing to read but let me provide four responses:
- First, he was a devout follower of Jesus. He didn’t simply claim Christianity – it impacted every area of his life. In fact, as previously mentioned, his valor on the battlefield wasn’t simply a part of his character. It was rooted in a deeply-held theological belief of predestination. He believed that God had already ordained the time of his death. So, his task was not to worry about when that time would come, only to be ready when it should overtake him. This is how he could sit atop his horse unafraid as the bullets pierced the air around him.
- Second, he wasn’t fighting for slavery. He would have never done such a thing. He was fighting for states’ rights. His loyalty was to the state of Virginia. His allegiance was to the state of Virginia before any other federal authority. He also did not want some overarching government, made up primarily of people who did not live in his state nor care about his state, telling his state what to do. (Regarding slavery, he believed it would die of natural causes.)
- Third, his Sunday School class was made up of black children. Further, it was an illegal class – he was teaching them how to read and write which was against the law. When threatened by lawyers or citizens for his illegal act, he bravely and soundly rebuked them and continued educating the black children in his Sunday School class. He believed that if they gained an education, it could assist them in their plight in life and even help them to secure their freedom. When he went off to war, he continued to send money back to the Lexington Presbyterian Church to guarantee that the class would continue to teach young black children.
- His life was filled with tragedy (too many things to recount here) but he persisted. And, he continued to improve himself. He never gave up. Finally, eventually, he was provided an opportunity for which he had been tailor-made as he served in the Mexican-American War and then the Civil War. When he was shot in 1863 and his left arm had to be amputated only days before his death, Robert E. Lee showed how much he valued his general when he said, “Stonewall has lost his left arm and I have lost my right one.”
Well, that ends my reflections on our time at Lexington, VA. I’m looking forward to visiting Washington D.C. and providing even more reflections on the memorials and sights there!