Page 16,The Institute Report, June 2013
At the Rocks Gala
A group of cadets traveled to Washington, D.C.,
in April to attend a gala event sponsored by
the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Rocks, an
organization founded by a group of African-American
officers that provides mentorship, scholarship,
fellowship, and professional development to
National Capital Region ROTC cadets and others
connected with the military. Shown with Maj.
Sean Lanier ’94, whom the cadets met at the gala,
are (from left) James Ethington ’14, Nathaniel Gant
’13, Terresa Simmonds ’14, Nicole Augins ’14, and
Charles Gray ’14.
– Photo courtesy of Maj. Chris Perry.
‘Peculiarly Our Own’
National Park Historian Describes Death of Jackson, Still Relevant 150 Years Later
He was an orphan from the wilds of what is now West
Virginia who lived less than four decades and died of
pneumonia in an obscure Virginia crossroads town. But the
shock waves created by his death would cross the mighty
Atlantic Ocean and bring a lionizing eulogy in
The Times of
, one of England’s most establishment newspapers.
Almost 130 years later, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who
led coalition forces to victory in the Persian Gulf War, led
his troops to success in the sands of Kuwait with tactics
borrowed from the VMI professor whom cadets once
casually referred to as “Tom Fool.”
That was the life, death, and legacy of Gen. Thomas
J. “Stonewall” Jackson, as presented May 19 in VMI’s
Jackson Memorial Hall by Frank O’Reilly,
a National Park Service historian who
works at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine at
Guinea Station in Caroline County, where
Jackson died on May 10, 1863, eight
days after being wounded by friendly
fire at the battle of Chancellorsville. The
occasion of O’Reilly’s talk was the 150th
anniversary of Jackson’s death.
O’Reilly, a 1987 graduate of neighboring
Washington and Lee University whose
childhood interest in the Civil War brought
him to attend college in Lexington, chose
to begin his remarks at 3:15 p.m., as
that was the hour at which Jackson died.
O’Reilly’s talk, which was attended by about 100 people, was sponsored
by the Stonewall Jackson House and the VMI museum system.
O’Reilly opened his remarks by telling his listeners what was
happening on the war front in the spring of 1863, especially in light of
the carnage at Chancellorsville, where thousands of Confederate soldiers
were killed or maimed for life. “The Confederacy was dwindling and
dying,” explained O’Reilly. Seen in this context, Jackson’s
mortal wounding would make him “the hallmark of the
American Iliad,” said O’Reilly.
O’Reilly then recounted the details of Jackson’s
wounding – he was shot at about 9 p.m. under a full
moon, while returning to camp on horseback – and the
subsequent amputation of his left arm about two inches
below the shoulder. At first, Jackson seemed to have
weathered the operation well, said O’Reilly, becoming
talkative and asking his physician, Dr. Hunter Holmes
McGuire, when he could return to the battlefield.
Just one day after his arm was removed, Jackson
was moved 27 miles from the field hospital to Guinea
Station, a journey that took 15 hours
in those pre-automotive days. The goal
was for Jackson to be put on a train
bound for a hospital in Richmond.
O’Reilly explained that Union forces
had damaged the railroad tracks,
though, so Jackson was placed in an
outbuilding on a plantation to rest
while waiting for the tracks to be
McGuire, all too aware of the weight
of responsibility upon him, stayed
awake for four days straight to tend to
the wounded hero of the Confederacy. At
first, his efforts seemed to be rewarded.
“This was not a man who was dying,” said O’Reilly of Jackson in those
first few days after the amputation. “This was a man who was getting
stronger and whose stamina was improving.”
After receiving the welcome news on the evening of May 6 that the
railroad line would be open again the next day, an exhausted McGuire
Frank O’Reilly discusses Jackson’s life and legacy in
Jackson Memorial Hall.
– VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.
Please see page 20