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The Man Behind the Stonewall

by douglas batson  
6/22/2016 / Skits and Plays


Isabella Hill. Cottage Home, NC, November 24, 1862. Dear Husband, your Comfort, Hope, Jewel, and Pet-Boy are well. Baby Irwin, however, whom you should call your Bright Star, remains very ill. He undoubtedly would be strengthened by your presence here. But, alas, little Irwin is no longer the youngest child here. O joyous news; yesterday, Anna gave birth to a beautiful and vivacious baby girl, to be christened Julia Laura! Julia in memory of Tom's mother; Laura in honor of his sister. Mother and child are very well. O pray our merciful Lord to keep them both strong! How delighted Tom will be as a father, and his deep sorrows turned to joy! God bless and keep you, Affectionately, Isabella

Daniel Harvey Hill. Port Royal, VA December 10, 1862. Dearest Wife, or shall I say Aunt Isabella? How the telegraphed news of Gen Jackson's, I mean Tom's, baby girl has quickened the spirit of the Army!

My wife, Isabella Morrison Hill, comes from the finest Christian family in Charlotte. Her father, the Rev. Robert Hall Morrison, was the founding President of the Presbyterian Davidson College, where I was late prof of mathematics. I am MG Daniel Harvey or D. H. Hill, a Div Commander in the Army of N. VA., in the Corps of my brother-in-law, Lt. Gen "Stonewall" Jackson.

My Div of 9000 men marched 200 miles from the Shenandoah Valley in freezing rain and snow, and reached Fredericksburg just 10 days later without losing a single man! Gen. Lee was not little impressed! [PAUSE] Last night I was very restless with---an unaccountable presentiment of evil. Before dawn, I forced myself and two equally miserable staff officers to ride to an insignificant river crossing that I could not get out of my mind. My premonition was true---our cavalry picket was NOT there, but Federal engineers constructing a pontoon bridge! Our Gen Stuart leaves too much cavalry operation to a vainglorious reputation rather than vigorous execution of duty!

Dearest wife, why 120K Yankees opposite us have not attacked earlier is Burnside's buffoonery. God Bless you, my dear, and our quiver full of children. Affectionately, Husband


IH. Cottage Home, December 20, 1862 Dear Husband, much has transpired since your letter of the 10th instant. Our brood is well, as are Mrs. and Little Miss Stonewall. But the entire country is disturbed, even distracted from celebrating our Savior's birth. The Yankee Gen Foster hath loosed his marauders from New Bern. At Goldsboro they burned the Wilmington & Weldon RR bridge. They fired part of Kinston and attempted to destroy the ram under construction at White Hall Ferry. Gen Beverly Robertson, sent by Gen Lee to command our militia, turned them back at the Neuse River, thank God. We receive news each day of awful battles at Fredericksburg. Dear husband, how anxious I am for you. Do not leave me widowed with 5 children! Alas, my chronic headaches force me to close for now. God bless and keep you, Affectionately, Isabella.


D.H. Hill. RICHMOND, VA, January 11, 1863. Dearest Wife, I pray for your health and that of the children. The bitter cold has greatly afflicted me since our glorious triumph at F'burg. The ignorant puppies in the Conf Congress boast and toast over sumptuous Christmas dinners while the men who wrought victory shiver without tents! The Yankee is still opposite us and is not licked. This war will be a fight to the finish. [PAUSE] Your wifely entreaties that I return to you have been effectual. On the 1st instant, I ruefully penned to the Army Adjutant General:

STAND: I have the honor hereby to tender my resignation as a MG in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. Many motives induce me to take this step; one, I only need mention, as it is sufficient and conclusive. My strength and health are not sufficient for the proper discharge of my responsible dutiesI have been in service for 20 months and have been habitually at my post. I have been in 11 pitched battles, besides skirmishes, and have most earnestly tried to do my duty in the field, in camp, and on the march. I feel therefore that I have some claim upon the Department for the only favor asked of it.
With great respect, D.H. Hill, Major General

With great respect, indeed! I have suffered only abuse from newspaper puffs for the loss of South Mountain to a foe six times my number; for the loss of some untold order, and for alleged censure of Gen Lee, whom the Richmond papers have elevated to Savior of the Confederacy! Humbug! I give my unvarnished opinion for the good of the service. Twas near superhuman valor and exertions in the sunken farm road that preserved the Army at Sharpsburg! For that reason I noticeably bristle when I hear otherwise. "History, O history, what a tissue of lies thou art!"

Perhaps not surprisingly, when the Army was reorganized in October, I was denied promotion. Theophilus Holmes? a Lt. Gen? He is a North Carolinian, 'tis true, but so old and deaf that he could not hear our guns at Seven Pines and failed to support my Div's success. And John Pemberton? A Yankee by birth, but a friend of the President's who held merely a Departmental Command. How many battles has he been in, I ask?

Tom, I mean Gen Jackson, spoke to that injustice and told me: "Harvey, if I had been treated as you have been, I would resign from the Army and go home!" Now that I have resigned, they come a runnin' from all quarters: In Richmond, the War Dept., Secretary Seddon and Pres. Davis, In Raleigh, Gov. Vance and Senator Graham. Oh, Isabella's politician Uncle is William Graham, former Governor of NC! Gen Lee and Tom also courted my sense of honor, insisting that, in the wake of Foster's raid on the Weldon RR, the Old North State cannot do without my services. Well, it is a funny world!

January last, it was I who swayed Tom from resigning over the insubordination affair at Romney. Now he exhorts me how it is my solemn duty to end the chaos engulfing the entire state! Huh, I have once been Departmental Commander in NC---with great expectations foist upon me, but armed with 2nd rate militia and 3rd rate guns. [Look heavenward] Lord Jesus, I beseech thee, what am I to do?

SITS: Dearest wife. I am so unlike other folks that you could not understand my feelings if I tried to explain them for a week! I looked forward to us reunited, but you will have to be satisfied with the closer proximity of Goldsboro. Analogous to the Saviors' suffering in Gethsemane I have agonized over the choices before me. You can inform Uncle William that his ministrations have had the desired effect. I will assume Command of the Dept. of NC from my friend and West Point classmate, Gustavus Smith, as soon as my health and the weather improve. Our scouts incredulously report the enemy's attempt to march in this winter mud! Much Rumor-mongering concerning a deplorable state of affairs in NC is afoot. I lean on your keen judgment to inform me of the veracities. Affectionately, D. H. Hill, Husband.

IH. Cottage Home, March 2, 1863. Dearest Husband, at last you are out of Lee's Army and again in NC. The children have been sickly but I pray their compositions improve come spring. Anna intends to visit Tom in VA so he can hold his precious little girl in his arms. In reply to your inquiry, despondency prevails throughout NC. In the Western counties our Home Guards battle organized deserters and bushwackers. Fomenting the unrest is the despicable editor of the Raleigh Standard, a Mr. Holden, who urges peace meetings to end the war, and so encourages desertion and skulking. The horror of Union occupation in the Eastern counties is made worse by criminal gangs called "Buffaloes" who infest the swamps and perpetrate every kind of violence and crime against their former neighbors. Charlotte has become a sanctuary with scores of pitiful refugees roaming the streets. [PAUSE] Lord, deliver us from the fury of our foreign and domestic enemies!
Now a happier tiding: the bogus Union Gov. of NC, Edward Stanley, has quit his post in protest of Mr. Lincoln's emancipation pronouncement, which has seduced thousands of servants to flee to Federal lines. To his credit, Mr. Stanley exposed the hypocritical war aims of the North by noting: "Had the war in NC been conducted by soldiers who were Christians and gentlemen, the State would long ago have rebelled against rebellion. But instead of that, what was done? 1000s of dollars worth of property conveyed North: libraries, pianos, carpets, mirrors, in short everything that could be removed was stolen by men preaching liberty, justice, and civilization."

Lastly, a poem, attributed by some soldiers to you, dear husband, is circulating in literary societies. I think not; it is too want of good rhyme and meter.

And when this war is over / we will let the ladies know / we marry no young lady / that had a coward for a beau / The rich man flies around / he fixes up all cute / He goes and hires / His son a substitute! Brave Soldiers, Brave soldiers / let it be widely known / 'Tis far better to be a soldier /than a skulking coward at home.

May God protect you from all harm, Affectionately, Isabella

D.H. Hill. STANDING: Skulkers, buffaloes, deserters! Cowards, all of them, merely satirized in verse? Surely, a day of retribution awaits these abortions of humanity! When I assumed Command in NC, I made it clear to the troops what their duty is. Gen Longstreet, my West Point classmate of 1842, and I were ordered to demonstrate against the Federal garrisons on the coast; he in Suffolk and I in New Bern and Washington so that Confederate supply trains could move unmolested thru the rich corn country to supply Gen Lee's Army via the Blackwater River.

To invest New Bern beginning on March 13, I had Infantry Brigades under Generals Daniels and Pettigrew, another to be detached from Gen Whiting in Wilmington, and some dubious Cavalry under Beverly Robertson. In my many battles with the Army of N. VA, I never once saw dead Confederates with spurs on! Thus, I told the horsemen:

The safety of the entire Army depends on the eyes and ears of the cavalry. Those who permit themselves to be surprised deserve to die. Equally criminal are the scouts who thru fright bring in wild and sensational reports. They will be court martialed. Many opportunities will be afforded the cavalry to harass the enemy. Those who have never been in battle will thus be enabled to enjoy the novel sensation of hostile shot and shell. If the enemy gets possession of the Weldon Railroad, Holden and his followers are ready to go to Goldsboro to meet the Yankees and welcome them to the State!

To prevent this, I ordered Gen Robertson to break up the Atlantic & NC Railroad. Well, he sent out a LT who partly cut it. He then sent out a Colonel, who saw some Yankees and hurriedly came back. Did Gen Robertson go himself? No, he did not! We must have a better man! Despite Gen Daniels' success at taking Deep Gully, Gen Pettigrew could not carry Ft. Anderson, stating that his artillery and ammunition were worse than useless. We still may have met with success had we had the Whitworth gun and Gen Whiting's troops from Wilmington. My plans went awry because Whiting did not comply with my order. Instead, he requested of Gen Longstreet that he remain under his command. [PAUSE] Am I the Departmental Commander in NC or am I not? If I am to be cut down to 2 BrigadesI will not submit to the swindle!

Undaunted, my next objective will be the Union Garrison at Washington on the northern arm of Pamlico Sound, but first I relish a reply to correspondence from my Federal counterpart.

GOLDSBOROUGH, NC, March 24, 1863. Major General J. G. FOSTER, Federal Army.
SIR: As a signatory to the exchange cartel, the prisoners from the 7th North Carolina are true prisoners of war, and if not paroled I will retaliate five-fold. In regard to your communication on our burning of Plymouth, a Southern, not a Northern town, you forget, sir, that you are a meddling Yankee who troubles himself about everybody's matters except his own, and repents of everybody's sins except his own.

Let me also remind you that you have made two raids when you were weary of debauching in your Negro harem. Your whole line of march has been marked by burning churches, school-houses, private residences, barns, stables, gin-houses, negro cabins, fences in the row, etc. Your men have plundered the country of all that it contained and wantonly destroyed what they could not carry off. Before you started on your freebooting expedition toward Tarboro you told your soldiers that you were going to take them to a rich country full of plunder. With such a hint to your thieves it is not wonderful that your raid was characterized by rapine, pillage, arson and murder.

Your forgetfulness consists in your not remembering that you are the most atrocious house-burner as yet unhung in the wide universe. Last December you partially burned Kinston and entirely destroyed the village of White Hall. The elegant mansion of the planter and the hut of the poor farmer and fisherman were alike consumed by your brigands. How matchless is the impudence which in view of this wholesale arson can complain of the burning of Plymouth! But there is another species of effrontery which New England itself cannot excel. When you return to your harem from one of these Union-restoring excursions you write to your Govt the deliberate lie that you have discovered a large and increasing Union sentiment in this State. No one knows better than yourself that there is not a respectable man in NC in any condition of life who is not utterly and irrevocably opposed to union with your hated and hateful people. No one knows better than yourself that our people are true as steel and that our poorer classes have excelled the wealthy in their devotion to our cause. You knowingly and willfully lie when you speak of a Union sentiment in this brave, noble and patriotic State. Sir, we are a different people, and wherever the trained and disciplined soldiers of NC have met the Federal forces, you have been scattered as leaves before the hurricane.

In conclusion, let me inform you that I will receive no more white flags from you except the one which covers your surrender of the scene of your lust, your debauchery, and your crimes. No one dislikes New England more cordially than I do, but even there are thousands of honorable men who abhor your career fully as much as I do.

Sincerely and truly, your enemy, D. H. HILL, Major-General, C. S. Army

I had Washington invested by March 30 and learned that Gen Foster himself, had come up from New Bern just ahead of Gen Garnett's VA troops, who surrounded the town. Tho they tried, by steamer and by land, the Federals were unable to break our siege. After 2 weeks, I thought we just might re-capture the town when their gunboats, with stores of fresh supplies, ran the blockade. It was now mid-April and Gen Longstreet wanted his VA troops returned. Thus the design upon Washington had to be abandoned. The State will be bitterly disappointed, but not so much as I. Instead of lying back at Goldsboro, as tho afraid of the Yankees, we have pushed the enemy back everywhere to his fortifications. Yet, I will get a great deal of abuse for not effecting impossibilitiesBe it so!

As expected, the newspapers emitted a chorus of scathing criticism, which induced even my veteran troops to grumble against me. Yet, much good has been done, so I asked my generals to furnish me with lists of men who had distinguished themselves at New Bern and Washington. I then assembled the men and my address to them was printed in the newspapers:
"How much better it is to deserve the thanks of the country by your courage and patience, than to skulk at home as the cowardly exempts do! Some of these poor dogs have hired substitutes; as though money could pay the service every man owes his country. Others claim to own 20 Negroes, and with justice might claim to be masters of an infinite amount of cowardice. Others are stuffy squires---bless their dignified souls, so sweet and delicate."

Isabella, simultaneously reading this letter, continues aloud:

...For them the sight of blood is unpleasant, and the roar of cannon shocks their sensibilities. Others kindly mill shoes for the Army, and generously give them to the poor soldiers, only asking 2 months pay. When our independence is won, the most trifling soldier in the ranks will be more respected, as he is now more respectable, than an army of these skulking exempts!

(Reacts, turns to audience) Though a most loving husband and tender father at home, it is truly said of my husband that he offends many and conciliates few.

SITS. Cottage Home, May 1, 1863. Dearest Husband, except for Mother, we are all well on this May day and spring is in full bloom. Irwin is now an ambulatory "Bright Star." Rest assured that no one in these parts blames you for the lack of success in Pamlico Sound. Anna writes from Fredericksburg that she, Tom, and Julia lodged comfortably in quarters once used by Gen Leethat she had never seen Tom looking so well, and that, at first, he was afraid to touch the child whom he sweetly adores. His chaplain, the Rev. Tucker Lacey, baptized Julia and our Brother Joseph was able to attend. Following the new Yankee General Hooker's crossing of the Rappahannock, Anna and the baby hastily fled to Richmond. They were staying with Gov & Mrs. Letcher, but Anna complained that the constant callers gave her no rest. She now enjoys seclusion with Mrs. Moses Hoge, the wife of the minister of the 2nd Presbyterian Church. The Rev is presently in Europe procuring Bibles for our soldiers. God Bless you, Affectionately, Isabella


D.H. Hill. STANDS: The news! (EXASPERATED) The news---last week so joyous: Gen Hooker's leviathan Army of the Potomac rolled up at Chancellorsville by only a portion of Lee's Army! With Gen Rodes ably leading my old Div on the flank attack.I am so proud of my boys. PAUSE But now, news of how much this victory has cost. Oh, the irony of it all: That Gen Lane's 18th NC mistakenly shot him down will be an indelible blemish on the State. PAUSE We were relieved to learn that the wound was not fatal, that he had only lost an arm. Then yesterday, shockingly, (sob) the news came that the great and good Jackson is dead. We have lost our greatest leader. May God help us, there is none to take his place, whose genius and courage have been the chief elements of Southern success and Yankee discomfiture. PAUSE In life he taught us that he who most fears God least fears man. And now (pause, choke up) he is in Heaven! PAUSE The men expect me to say something in the midst of my griefOh how Tom would chastise me now, and remind me that in Heaven there is no grief....Very well, very well.

(Next day) Men of NC: Words failed the prophet Isaiah and St. Paul when attempting to describe heaven. How can mortal minds comprehend it? For Thomas Jonathan Jackson, heaven is neither a consoling handkerchief nor windy platitude of a better place. Seeing heaven takes faith. In the midst of fierce battles and earthly sorrows, the invisible walls of the Kingdom of Heaven rose around him, cool and serene. In his last hours he anticipated heaven thru faith, noting that that he "will be an infinite gainer to be translated." Behold the dwelling place of God is with man---that's Rev. 21:3. My brother-in-law & friend, the Christian hero, General Stonewall Jackson, saw beyond natural horizons. Indeed, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."


IH Cottage Home, June 7, 1863. Dearest Husband, words cannot describe the pain and sorrow of this last month. Father dispatched Brother William to Richmond for Anna's comfort. The widow Jackson, with wounded and crushing heart, has returned home after an exhausting trip of much fanfare and sympathies for her late husband. Father says "God only can see the end and He will bring it to pass in mercy or judgment." 5000 people in Richmond crowded around the train that bore Tom's body and even more dropped tears around his casket. Businesses close and eulogies flow: The Rev. Ramsey in Lynchburg compared Tom to Joseph in Egypt, the deliverer of his country, and to Hezekiah, Daniel, Edward VI, Gustavous Adolphus, and other heroes ancient and modern. Is this the same odd & eccentric man I knew in Lexington? I admit that I was opposed to the union of the widowed country bumpkin, who falls asleep in church, with Anna! Do not regard my words as jealousy over our late brother-in-law, last year Hero of the Valley and now a martyred saint! God knows my heart; I am only jealous for our family name.

While we still mourn, Uncle Wm warns of new troubles. Husband, a vicious Savannah newspaper reported that you lost a confidential order in Maryland and are to blame for Gen Lee's setbacks there. I would dismiss it as mere fiction, were it not for the prints of this Special Order 191, addressed to you, appearing in the papers. I recalled that you had sent me your Army correspondence and I have located among them that same order in Tom's own hand. So how can the Order have been lost? One word from Tom would clear your name and close down that libelous newspaper! [PAUSE] But Tom is gone, lionized by the nation's press, the same press that maliciously assails you! O the injustice of it all!

If only our people knew, dear Husband:

(1) that your recommendation to the superintendent secured for Tom a faculty position at Virginia Military Institute.
(2) that when he struggled, and his cadets called him Tom Fool, it was you who tutored him to improve his instruction.
(3) that, upon arrival in Lexington, Tom was unchurched. His Christian faith, once wanting in orthodoxy, was shaped at the Lexington Presbyterian Church, where you had him schooled in the Westminster catechism.

(4) though engaged at the time to Miss Junkin, he providentially met Mary Anna in our Lexington parlor, who, later as his second wife, convinced Tom that he could love life and still love God. We marvel now at the man he became!

Dearest Husband, how few realize, as I do, that you----are the man behind the Stonewall!

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