"The Old Stonewall Brigade" - from The Southern Illustrated News

        A writer in the "Southern Illustrated News" has the following paragraph in reference to the Stonewall Brigade, so long commanded by Jackson:

The Stonewall Brigade's Color Bearer        "The Old Stonewall Brigade! What a host of thoughts, memories, and emotions do these words excite! How like a call to the charge sounds the simple mention of the famous band! These veterans have fought and bled and conquered on so many battle-fields, that memory grows weary almost of recalling their glories. Gathering around Jackson in the old days of Patterson in the Valley, when Stuart had but a handful of cavalry td watch the whole border, and Ashby, our dead hero, was a simple captain-they held in check an enemy twenty times their number, and were molded by the hand of their great leader into that stern phalanx which no bayonet could break, and no odds intimidate. They were boys and old men, the humblest of the sons of toil, and the flower of the land-but united, trained, and looking with supreme confidence to their commander. And then commenced their long career of glory-their wonderful marches over thousands of miles-their incessant combats against odds that seemed overpowering-their contempt of snow and rain, and cold and hunger, and want of rest. The soul of their leader seemed to have entered into every breast - and Stonewall's Band became the terror of the enemy. To meet that enemy, was to conquer him, it might almost be said, so obstinately did the eagles of victory continue to perch upon the old battle-flag. The laws of the human body seemed to have been reversed for these men. They marched, and fought, and triumphed, like war machines, which felt no need of rest, or food, or sleep.

        In one day they marched from Harpers Ferry to Strasburg, nearly fifty miles. On the advance to Romney they walked-many without shoes-over roads so slippery with ice that men were falling and their guns going off all along the column-and at night lay down, without blankets, on the snow, with no camp-fires and no food. At the first great battle of Manassas they were nearly starved, but fought with desperation. At the last battles there I saw them by the road-side, where they had halted, and one of my friends, a brave young officer of the command, thanked me for a biscuit. The very rapidity of their marches separates them from all soldier-comforts-often from their very blankets, however cold the weather; and any other troops but these and their Southern comrades would long since have mutinied and demanded bread and rest.

        But the shadow of disaffection never flitted over forehead in that command. Whatever discontent may be felt at times at the want of attention on the part of subordinate officers to their necessities, the long roll has only to be beaten-they have only to see the man in the old faded uniform appear, and hunger, cold, fatigue, are forgotten. The Old Brigade is ready - ' Here!' is the answer to the roll-call, all along the line-and though the eye is dull from want of food and rest, the arm is strong, and the bayonet is sharp and bright Before those bayonets no foe shall stand-to pass them, is to advance over the bodies of dead heroes, grasping still the trusty musket, even in death.

        The campaigns of the Valley; the great flank movement of the Chickahominy; the masterly advance upon Manassas in the rear of Pope-these are the fadeless glories of the Old Brigade. Their path has been strewed all over with battles. Incredible have been their marches; countless their combats -almost always against overpowering numbers. The scythe of death has mowed down whole ranks of them; but the Old Brigade still marches on, and fights and conquers. The war worn veterans still confront the foe, though the thinned ranks tell the tale of their glories and their losses. Many brave souls have poured out their blood and fallen; but they are conquerors, and more than conquerors, in the world's great eye. The comrades of these heroes hold their memory sacred, and have offered bloody sacrifices to their manes. 'Steady! Close up!' were the last words echoed in the dying ears-and the aim of the survivors was only more steady, the charge with the bayonet more deadly. Those survivors may be pardoned if they tell their children, when the war is ended, that they fought under Jackson, in the Old Stonewall Brigade. They may be pardoned even if they boast of their exploits-their wonderful marches their constant and desperate combats-the skill and nerve which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and, even when they were retiring before overwhelming numbers, made it truly better that the foe had never been born,' than meet their bayonet charge.

The Stonewall Brigade Fording The Potomac        In speaking of this veteran legion, praise is virtue. Their history is blazoned all over with glory. They are happy names, beloved children - the favorites of fame, if not of fortune. In their dingy uniforms, lying stretched beneath the pines, or by the road-side, they are the mark of many eyes which see them not-the absorbing thought in the breast of beauty, and the idols of the popular heart In line before the enemy, with their bristling bayonets, they are the terror of the foe, and the life-guard of their dear old mother, Virginia. The heart that does not thrill at sight of the worn veterans is cold indeed. To him who writes, they present a spectacle noble and heroic; and their old tattered, ball-pierced flag is the sacred ensign of liberty. Their history and all about them is familiar to me. I have seen them going into action-after fighting four battles in five days-with the regularity and well dressed front of holiday soldiers on parade. There was no straggling, no lagging-every man stood at his work, and advanced with the steady tramp of the true soldier. The ranks were thin, and the faces travel-worn, but the old flag floated in the winds of the Potomac as defiantly as on the banks of the Shenandoah. That bullet-torn ensign might have been written all over, on both sides, with the names of battles, and the lists have then been incomplete. Manassas, Winchester, Kernstown, Front Royal, Port Republic, Cold Harbor, Malvern Hill, Slaughter Mountain, Bristow Station, Groveton-Ox Hill, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, were to follow. And these were but the larger names upon the roll of their glory. The numberless engagements of minor character are omitted - but in these I have mentioned they appear to the world, and sufficiently vindicate their claim to the title of heroes. I seemed to see these great names, as the Old Brigade advanced that day; and my whole heart went to greet them. Every heart that is true to our great cause, and loves its defenders, will do as much.

        For these men of the Old Stonewall Brigade have been brave among the bravest-with their noble comrades of Gen. Jackson's corps, they have turned the tide of battle upon many hard-fought fields. They have done well for the Republic - and let their names be honored. Let the public salutation greet them salutation by the lip and pen, no less than by the heart meet them and greet them, and call them glorious-children of glory marching on to the Pantheon of Fame, in a great and peaceful land".

Taken from The Life of Stonewall Jackson. From Official Papers, Contemporary Narratives, and Personal Acquaintance, by John Esten Cooke      

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