Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jackson Vs. Sheridan: No Doubt in Grant's Mind Who Would Have Been Destroyed

General Grant was asked how he ranked Jackson among soldiers. " I knew Stonewall Jackson," said the General, " at West Point and in Mexico. At West Point he came into the school at an older age than the average, and began with a low grade. But he had so much courage and energy, worked so hard, and governed his life by a discipline so stern that he steadily worked his way along and rose far above others who had more advantages.

Stonewall Jackson, at West Point, was in a state of constant improvement. He was a religious man then, and some of us regarded him as a fanatic. Sometimes his religion took strange forms—hypochondria—fancies that an evil spirit had taken possession of him. But he never relaxed in his studies or his Christian duties. I knew him in Mexico. He was always a brave and trustworthy officer, none more so in the army. I never knew him or encountered him in the rebellion. I question whether his campaigns in Virginia justify his reputation as a great commander. He was killed too soon, and before his rank allowed him a great command. It would have been a test of generalship if Jackson had met Sheridan in the Valley, instead of some of the men he did meet.

From all I know of Jackson, and all I see of his campaigns, I have little doubt of the result. If Jackson had attempted on Sheridan the tactics he attempted so successfully upon others he would not only have been beaten but destroyed. Sudden, daring raids, under a fine general like Jackson, might do against raw troops and inexperienced commanders, such as we had in the beginning of the war, but not against drilled troops and a commander like Sheridan. The tactics for which Jackson is famous, and which achieved such remarkable results, belonged entirely to the beginning of the war and to the peculiar conditions under which the earlier battles were fought. They would have insured destruction to any commander who tried them upon Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan, Meade, or, in fact, any of our great generals. Consequently Jackson's fame as a general depends upon achievements gained before his generalship was tested, before he had a chance of matching himself with a really great commander. No doubt so able and patient a man as Jackson, who worked so hard at anything he attempted, would have adapted himself to new conditions and risen with them. He died before his opportunity.

I always respected Jackson personally, and esteemed his sincere and manly character. He impressed me always as a man of the Cromwell stamp, a Puritan—much more of the New Englander than the Virginian. If any man believed in the rebellion he did. And his nature was such that whatever he believed in became a deep religious duty, a duty he would discharge at any cost. It is a mistake to suppose that I ever had any feeling for Stonewall Jackson but respect. Personally we were always good friends; his character had rare points of merit, and although he made the mistake of fighting against his country, if ever a man did so conscientiously he was the man."

Text from Around the world with General Grant By John Russell Young, pages 210-211.

Text Source: Google Books

1 comment:

Naim Peress said...

It's always interesting to read the assessments of commanders by their opponents. I once read a quote from Lee saying that his most effective adversary was McClellan. Thanks for posting this quote.

Naim Peress