Elisha Franklin Paxton

Confederate General Elisha Franklin Paxton        Brigadier general "Bull" Paxton and "Stonewall" Jackson were fellow townsmen, fellow Presbyterian worshipers, and dead within a week of each other

        Elisha Franklin Paxton was born March 4, 1828, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the son of Elisha Paxton and Margaret McNutt. His grandfather, William Paxton, came to Rockbridge in its earliest settlement about the year 1745. He was a man of character and substance and commanded a company at the battle of Yorktown. Margaret McNutt was the daughter of Alexander McNutt and Rachel Grigsby. She was one of a family of eight sisters and four brothers, many of whom possessed marked intelligence and great force of character. Alexander Gallatin McNutt, Governor of Mississippi, was one of the brothers. Margaret McNutt Paxton possessed the family characteristics to a high degree. She was a granddaughter of John Grigsby, whose sobriquet was "Soldier John," going back to his service under Admiral Vernon in his expedition against Cartagena in 1741. He also commanded a company in the Revolutionary War. His soldierly qualities were stamped on his descendants, four of whom were brigadier-generals in the Confederate army, and many others were officers of lower rank who followed the stars and bars.

        As a boy Paxton attended the classical school of his cousin James H. Paxton, and at the age of fifteen entered the junior class at Washington College, where he received his degree of A. B. in two years. He then went to Yale, where he graduated in two years, and afterward took the law course at the University of Virginia. He was five feet ten inches high, heavily built and of great bodily strength. As an indication both of his physical and soldierly qualities he was known both at school and in the army as "Bull" Paxton. Dr. John B. Minor wrote the following of his course at the University of Virginia:

        "Gen. E. F. Paxton, who fell at the battle of Chancellorsville, in May, 1863, was a student of law here, and a graduate in the Law Department of the University in 1849. As a student, none of his contemporaries acquitted themselves more satisfactorily, and in point of conduct, he was entirely exemplary. I think he could then have been not more than twenty-one years of age, but I have retained a lively recollection of him during the intervening period of forty-three years, so that whilst, after so great a lapse of time, I cannot recall particulars, he left on my mind an impression of unusual merit and a conviction that if he lived, he was destined not only to achieve eminence, but what in my estimation is far better, to attain to distinguished usefulness."

        Upon his admission to the bar, he spent several years in the prosecution of land claims in the State of Ohio and resided there. He was successful in this enterprise and made some money. In 1854 he opened a law office in Lexington, Va., and married Miss Elizabeth White, the daughter of Matthew White of Lexington. This union was a most happy one and there were born of it four children, three of whom survived him -- Matthew W. Paxton of Lexington, Va., the writer, and Frank Paxton of San Saba County, Texas. Frank Paxton at once took a high rank in his profession and engaged in important business enterprises, among others becoming the President of the first bank in Rockbridge. His strength of character was shown by the fact that at this time, when the drinking of whiskey was a universal custom, he abstained altogether from its use, and continued to do so until his death. In 1860 failing eyesight compelled him to abandon his profession and he purchased a beautiful estate near Lexington, known as Thorn Hill.

The Stonewall Brigade        Bull Paxton, heavy of build and strong of opinion, had no special military training and entered the service as first lieutenant of the Rockbridge Rifles, and afterwards a part of the 27th Virginia Regiment, Stonewall Brigade. With this company, at the first call for troops in April, 1861, he marched to the front. Paxton became major of the Twenty-seventh Virginia, but lost his position in the spring 1862 army elections. Thomas J. Jackson promptly named him his adjutant general and chief of staff. On November 1, 1862, at Jacksons recommendation and to the dissatisfaction of senior and more qualified officers, Paxton jumped three ranks to brigadier general and took command of the Stonewall Brigade. The appointment was made by President Davis, and General Paxton took charge of the brigade November 15, 1862. His letters show that owning to a deep sense of the responsibilities of the rank and a modest estimate of his own qualifications, he accepted the command with much reluctance; but his subsequent record vindicated Jackson's judgment.

        He commanded the brigade in but two great battles, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At the former engagement he handled his troops with skill and promptness, and during part of the 13th occupied the front line of the division of General William Boothe Taliaferro, by whom he was particularly mentioned in official report. On May 2, 1863, during Jackson's flank movement he was stationed to guard an important point, the Germanna Junction, from which he was called to the main line the following night, after Jackson had fallen and the command had devolved upon Stuart. Before battle resumed the next morning, Paxton had a premonition of death. He made hasty arrangements, donned his best uniform, and led his men through the dense woods against the Federal position. Dismounting, he marched on foot in the front line of his brigade until they came with the enemy's fire, when he was instantly killed by a shot through the breast. Dr. R. L. Dabney relates that when the news of General Paxton's death was conveyed to General Jackson, then on his deathbed, the great commander showed much emotion, "and spoke in serious and tender strain of the genius and virtues of that officer." His loss was mentioned with appreciative reference to his ability and courage in the official report of General Lee. At the time of his death he was thirty-five years of age. Paxton was buried at Guineys Station, only yards from where Stonewall Jackson lay dying. His remains are now in Lexington, appropriately close to those of his friend and benefactor.

The Stonewall Brigade