Lessons in Bravery from Stonewall Jackson


He was a man of few words but could inspire many.

Stonewall Jackson was the most famous general of the Confederate Army in the Civil war, second only to Robert E Lee. As Lee’s right hand man, it is said that Jackson could understand what Lee was thinking.

Today, military strategists still study Jackson, who could defeat large armies with just a small number of soldiers. He would strike where the enemy was weakest, mislead the enemy, and hide his soldiers behind tall grass to surprise.

All the while, Jackson would stand on the battlefield with bullets flying all around him. He was fearless. Jackson’s bravery carries lessons for us today, as we navigate life’s complexities.

You may be whatever you resolve to be.

In a recent documentary on motivational speaker Tony Robbins, Robbins admits that he created “this character” who would use human psychology to help people live to their potential. It took guts for Robbins to re-invent himself. But we can all do that. Using just a bit of bravery, we can become who we want to be.

And something else will help us be brave – practice. Jackson would drill his troops relentlessly, believing that practice could make all the difference between not being ready, and being prepared for whatever came. The degree of bravery in the pursuit of your dreams is in direct proportion to the degree of your readiness.

I am more afraid of alcohol than of all the bullets of the enemy.

As far as Stonewall Jackson was concerned, standing in the middle of a war zone was less risky than drinking too much. His lesson was that we must put our fears into perspective. If you wish to start a business or apply for a management position – these things carry less risk than many other things. You can always readjust as your adventure unfolds. Being brave is easier when we see risk in its correct light.

God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.

Jackson never worried about the future. He believed that “duty” was his role to play, and that consequences were up to God. That gave him the power to have courage in the present. If we remove our preoccupation with tomorrow, we can be brave enough to accomplish what is needed today.

It was in one of the first battles of the Civil War in 1861 when Jackson charged his army straight into Lincoln’s Union army to disrupt its defenses that Thomas Jackson got the nickname “stonewall.”

It was a name that instilled fear in the hearts of Northern armies. Jackson was so effective, President Lincoln made it a top priority to defeat Jackson.

Stonewall Jackson, prior to the war, was shy and awkward. As a teacher, his students made fun of him because he was a hypochondriac, always believing something was wrong with his health.

But in the war, Jackson resolved to be a different person.

General Robert E Lee depended upon Jackson greatly and was heart-broken when his most trusted commander died.

The cruel irony is that this brave man, who survived many enemy attacks on the battlefield, was shot by his own troops who mistakenly believed he was part of a Union Calvary force.

Jackson took 3 bullets and was rushed to a nearby plantation. He died later from pneumonia and was heard to say on his deathbed: “I have always desired to die on Sunday.”

Some historians have argued that Jackson was so important to Robert E Lee that his death contributed to Lee’s eventual defeat.

Resolve to be who you want to be, see your fears in perspective, and worry not of the future.

About the photo: This iconic photo of Stonewall Jackson was taken in a farmhouse on April 26, 1863 just 7 days before he was accidentally shot. 

See other posts related to the U.S. Civil War:

Robert E, We Need You Now
Leadership Lessons from History’s Most Unlikely Leader (Ulysses S Grant)

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