Monday, March 12, 2012

Stonewall Jackson's Strange Habit

Painting of Stonewall Jackson's famous gesture
General Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson is a Confederate icon and considered by many to be one of the best Confederate commanders of the Civil War. According to various sources, Stonewall Jackson had a number of strange habits, one of them being that he often walked around with his hand in the air to balance the blood in his body.

According to the book “Thomas Francis Meagher and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War,” Stonewall Jackson believed one side of his body was heavier than the other. To balance the weight of his body, he would often walk around or ride his horse with his hand in the air so the blood would flow from one side of his body to the other. He believed this tactic “lightened” his arm and improved his balance.

Modern physicians suggest Jackson's feeling of unbalance may have been the result of a diaphragmatic hernia, which also gave him stomach problems and caused him discomfort while sitting.

Incidentally, Stonewall Jackson received a bullet or shrapnel wound in his hand as a result of holding it up in the air during the first battle of Bull Run. The wound was not deadly but a surgeon recommended amputating one of his damaged fingers. Fortunately, the wound healed without any need for amputation.

Stonewall Jackson later had his left arm amputated after he was shot multiple times by friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863. His arm was buried near Chancellorsville with a marker that read "Arm of Stonewall Jackson." Jackson survived the wounds and the amputation but died from pneumonia a week later. His body was buried in a plot at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Va before being reburied under a monument in the cemetery.
Marker for Stonewall Jackson's arm
Stonewall Jackson's first grave in Lexington

"How the North Won: a Military History of the Civil War”; Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones; 1983

"Thomas Francis Meagher and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War”; Daniel M. Callaghan; 2006 

National Parks Traveler: Where Is Stonewall Jackson's Arm Buried?

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