Stonewall Jackson, The Man - by French Harding

Praying Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson        ...While falling back from Strasburg after eluding the converging columns of Generals Fremont and Shields, we learned from a source deemed reliable that the Federal authorities, then holding Randolph County, Virginia, from which most of our Company F, Thirty-first Virginia Regiment had enlisted, were compelling some of our parents to leave their homes and go South through their lines.

        On the evening of June 6, 1862, the same day General Ashby was killed, three of our company, Eugenius Hutton, Milton Crouch and Noah S. Channell (than whom three more gallant gentlemen or braver soldiers never wore the gray, all of whom shed their blood and two of whom gave their lives as tribute to the cause they loved) came to me and requested that I procure for them, if possible, leave of absence for a few days in order that they might visit our county and learn the facts in relation to the report, and to lend such aid to the refugees as might be in their power. The campaign was still unfinished, and I felt it would be useless to make such application at the time and so informed them; but when the company roll was called that evening none of these boys answered to his name, nor did they appear again during our stay in the Valley. Naturally I was greatly concerned for their safety. On account of the enemy whose lines they had to penetrate, they would necessarily be in great danger. Besides this, the orders against absence without leave were rightly very strict, their violation heavily punished, and if the absentees were caught and forcibly returned, possibly the death penalty might be inflicted.

        After the battle of Port Republic, June 9, 1862, which closed the Valley campaign, we went into camp for a few days near that place. General Jackson was with us, occupying a "fly tent." I called at his quarters, found him alone and was invited in. I then told him of the report we had received from home and that many of us had parents and sisters there who must necessarily suffer if compelled to become refugees, making the case as strong as I could and closing by asking permission to send two or three men through the lines to look after and take care of the situation, but did not tell him that they had already gone. He refused my request, sternly and apparently absolutely. I undertook to plead our cause, and convinced myself, at least, that it was a meritorious one, and that my request should be granted; but the General remained unconvinced and firm in his denial and I turned to leave the tent.

        Possibly I was irritated, and probably my countenance or bearing indicated it, for just as I reached the opening in the tent General Jackson spoke very sharply and sternly, I thought, saying, "Stop, Captain. What are you going to do?" My reply, in effect, was that I intended to assume the responsibility to ascertain the facts in the case and to provide for the situation as far as possible, and that I would be found at my quarters when wanted, to account for my action. A flash as of a glint of tempered steel shot from the General's eyes and lighted up his countenance, but he bowed his head upon his hands as he was sitting in his camp chair or stool, and I could see that he was strangely agitated, and stood still for what seemed then to me to be an almost interminable interval of time, but which in fact was but for a few moments, and then he lifted his head. The transition in the whole man was wonderful. His countenance was bright and beautiful, his voice low and sweet and full of pathos as he said, "Well, Captain, it is a hard case. I fully appreciate and sympathize with your feelings and you can do as you please."

        It is possible that I do not remember his exact words. I think I do, but there was no mistaking, as there will be no forgetting, the kindness of the heart that prompted them, and the only condition attached to his permission was that I let him know, when the boys came back, the result of their investigation. I did so when they returned to us at Ashland just before the Seven Days' fight at Richmond, and the fact that the report we had heard was only true to a very limited extent, seemed to give to him as much pleasure as it did to us. General Jackson never learned of my deception.

Taken From Civil War Memoirs by French Harding, Chapter VI

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