Midweek, late summer, it is quiet under the shade of tall, old trees in the Lexington, Va., historic cemetery. It seems only the stern, straight-backed statue of Old Stonewall -- marking his final resting place and appropriately facing south -- stands in the sun.
And that is as it should be. This is, after all, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. And the oddball Confederate general, one must conclude after even the most desultory wander about town, is Lexington's hero. Never mind that his commander, Robert E. Lee, lies entombed only a few blocks away. Forget the fact that Jackson was not a native son.
There was a time, before he was the brave and daring Stonewall, when Lexington paid Jackson little honor and he held no mystique at all. A time when he was the butt of jokes, when his students at Virginia Military Institute mocked the tedious and awkward Jackson, disparagingly referring to him as "Tom Fool." Thomas was his name before he became Stonewall and a legend.
Though the Stone-wall mystique and glamour are elusive, for those seeking the essential Jackson or following the famous field commander's storied 1862 Valley Campaign, Lexington is a logical launch for the quest. From this place, he set out for the Civil War and history.
A simple home in Lexington
In Lexington, on Washington Street, is the 1801 Stonewall Jackson House, the only house he ever owned. He would live there a mere two years, before heading off to war in April 1861, never to return alive.
The interior of the brick town house is tidy, well-ordered -- suggesting a domestic attitude in neat contrast with the general's careless attire and reckless actions on the battlefield -- with plain white walls and putty-gray trim.
In the living room, a balloon-back straight wooden chair faces the wall. That's how Jackson sat, to avoid distraction, when in the evening he silently reviewed lessons for his classes the next day.
In the dining room, where the profoundly religious Jackson led daily prayer for the household, there is a sofa. Perhaps a quiet nod-off spot?
Along with a handsome piano -- a touching bit since Jackson was reputed so tone deaf that he once requested his declared favorite, "Dixie," from a woman who had just finished singing it -- the unaccustomed presence of a sofa in the dining room suggests a certain luxuriousness not in keeping with his Spartan style.
"His tastes were simple," reported his second wife, "but he liked to have everything in perfect order -- every door 'on golden hinges softly turning,' as he expressed it; a 'place for everything, and everything in its place.' "
That second wife, mother of Jackson's only surviving child, Julia, was Mary Anna Morrison Jackson. In the family, she was known as Anna and frequently, fondly referred to in Jackson's Civil War letters as his "esposita" (little wife), a romantic holdover from his earliest military adventures, fresh out of West Point (Class of 1846) in the Mexican War. Like her predecessor Elinor, who died in childbirth, Anna was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and college president.
After Jackson's death at Chancellorsville, Anna Jackson returned home to North Carolina, wrote about the hero and played a celebrity role as "Widow of the Confederacy" until her death in Charlotte at 83 in 1915.
Entrance to the Jackson House is at the rear, through the ardent householder's restored kitchen garden, where he grew such hearty crops as beets and buckwheat.
First step inside puts the Jackson House visitor in its museum shop. Among its treasures: Stonewall charms for bracelets, in silver or, on request, gold; Stonewall billed-caps bearing his embroidered signature; Anna Jackson's books about her general; a full-color reproduction of his portrait and for the most-devoted, perhaps one of only 300 signed and numbered 14-inch high busts of the man for $450.
Virginia Military Institute, where Jackson arrived in 1851 to teach natural and experimental philosophy (physics) and instruct in artillery tactics, is not far away. Jackson could see the military institute from his back porch.
On the post, in Jackson Memorial Hall, is the institute's museum. Among other mementos and artifacts, it displays the black rubber raincoat Jackson wore -- fateful, tearing, ripping bullet hole there on the left shoulder -- when he was wounded at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863.
Returning from nighttime front line reconnaissance -- which apparently in Jackson's customary secretive style, had not been signaled to his troops -- Jackson and his aides were mistaken for Union soldiers and fired on by members of the 18th North Carolina Regiment. Some of his men died on the spot. Jackson's arm was soon amputated and lies buried in a marked spot nearby. He died eight days later. His famous last words: "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
The museum contains another singular memento of Jackson: his horse. The doughty Little Sorrel, so stalwart in the clamor and confusion of battle, bolting at the sound of gunfire only once, was stuffed and is mounted here.
The museum also displays Jackson's field desk and offers a reproduction in hand-rubbed cherry wood, in limited edition of a symbolic 1,863 for a symbolic $1,863. A matching cherry table to support the desk is $350.
Almost any Stonewall site the seeker visits displays some portrait variation on an 1862 photo taken of him in Winchester. It was Anna Jackson's favorite; she said it was the only image to show "more of the beaming sunlight of his home-look."
But after the war, one Confederate veteran offered an intriguing complaint regarding all Jackson images: "None of them," declared Confederate veteran William Barksdale Tabb, "have succeeded in catching Jackson's tout ensemble, none of them have yet painted his awkwardness."
The time-pressed Stonewall-seeker in the Shenandoah Valley can follow Interstate 81 north from Lexington to Winchester and his headquarters there.
Along the way, near Strasburg, is the Stonewall Jackson Museum, a private enterprise. It was called Hupp's Hill Battlefleld Park before changing name and focus about a year ago -- a consequence of some competing preservation activity in the area and of a publishing event.
Virginia Tech professor James I. Robertson Jr.'s 950-page biography, "Stonewall Jackson -- The Man, The Soldier, The Legend," was published in 1997. Many consider it the definitive work.
"We felt that Jackson, with the release of Robertson's book, was a hot topic and it would probably benefit us to have that name recognition," Patrick Heelen, the museum's former curator and administrator, observed.
So, in May 1997, the newly named museum opened an exhibit interpreting Jackson's 1862 Valley Campaign. "We hope to fill a niche," said Heelen. "Certainly there are plenty of Jackson museums. But to my knowledge this is the only museum that interprets the campaign in its entirety."
It's worth a stop en route to Winchester. The text-and-picture exhibit tracing the campaign is absorbing. And there are diversions, such as a period costume treasure trove, for children.
Winchester, the March 1862 starting point of Jackson's Valley Campaign, is a pretty town -- once you get past the aesthetic wasteland sprouted along I-81 that changed hands, it is estimated, more than 70 times during the Civil War.
Jackson's headquarters was in a private home at 451 N. Braddock Street. It is a museum today.
From early November 1861 to mid-March 1862, on the invitation of its owner, Jackson made his headquarters in the 1854 Winchester home of Lt. Col. Lewis Tilghman Moore.
Moore's great-granddaughter, television's Mary Tyler Moore, in recent years donated a reproduction of its original gilt-decorated wallpaper for the room Jackson used as his office. "I don't remember to have ever seen more beautiful papering," Jackson declared in a letter to his wife soon after he arrived.
In his gilt-papered office at the Winchester headquarters, several telling events in Jackson's career transpired.
Here, Jackson convened what appears to have been the only staff meeting of his career. On the eve of his troops' March 1862 evacuation of Winchester, he gathered senior officers to discuss his plan for a surprise night attack on nearby Union forces. Logistics were a mess; the prospects were not promising. The officers objected. Later, looking back on the town as he departed, Jackson furiously declared, "That is the last council of war I will ever hold!"
Jackson could be testy and he was never much for consensus anyway. "If I can keep my movements secret from my own people," he once declared, "I will have little difficulty in concealing them from the enemy."
WHEN YOU GO ...
* The Stonewall Jackson House at 8 E. Washington St. in Lexington offers guided tours daily. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Last tour begins 4:30 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Easter. Admission: $5 adults, $2.50 children under 18 and free for children under 6. Call 540-463-2552 or go online at www.stonewalljackson.org.
* The Virginia Military Institute Museum, in the ground floor of Jackson Memorial Hall in Lexington, is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except during Christmas break. Admission free. Call 540-464-7232 or go online at www.vmi.edu/museum.
* The Stonewall Jackson Museum, on U.S. 11, one mile south of Interstate 81 Exit 298, near Strasburg, Va., is open 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $3 adults, $2 for 55 and older, ages 7 through 16 and students; 6 and younger, free. Call 540-465-5884 or go online at www.wayside ofva.com/stonewalljackson/
* Jackson's Headquarters, 415 N. Braddock St. in Winchester, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays Nov. 1 through March 31. April 1 through Oct. 31: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $3.50; $1.75 for 16 and younger. Call: 540-667-3242.
* Civil War packet: Plan ahead with the free packet of publications of the Virginia Civil War Trails program available from the Virginia Tourism Corporation. The packet offers a guide to the Civil War, illustrations, maps showing Civil War sites and driving routes, descriptions of battlefields, monuments and museums and a list of annual Civil War-related events in Virginia along with a copy of the "Virginia State Travel Guide." Call: 888-248-4592 or go online at www.civilwar-va.com.