Dubbed "Stonewall" following the battle of First Manassas in July 1861, Thomas Jackson has long been revered as a brilliant military leader and tactician and as one of the most adroit Confederate commanders. The man himself is a study in contrasts: justifiably feared by his enemies and completely beloved by his men. Steven Wilkins examines the life and character of Jackson. His research reveals a man humble and sincere in his Christian faith, which stands in stark contrast with the general's reputation as a ferocious warrior. Shortly after his graduation from West Point in 1846, Jackson served in the Mexican War in 1848, where he became one of the most decorated heroes of the conflict and received promotion to the brevetted rank of major. He left the army in 1851 to accept a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute, resigning his commission in the army a year later. In 1859 he led a contingent of cadets to maintain order during the trial and ensuing execution of John Brown. When Jackson departed VMI in 1861 to join the Confederate army, he was immediately commissioned a colonel and within months was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.
Mortally wounded by friendly fire in May 1863, he more than anyone else, personified the compelling and the virtuous in what the subsequent generation would label 'The Lost Cause"