STONEWALL JACKSON rides beside Lee, a strange and beautiful figure. To describe the scourge of the Shenandoah as beautiful, may be to shock the reader who has only a superficial knowledge of the career and character of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, yet it is the only possible word. But Borglum has beautified, not prettified, Jackson. There is a world of difference.
The ablest corps commander of the Confederacy rides with his head slightly bent, his attention upon the troops, his outstretched right arm, with the hand holding his hat, indicating the marching column, upon which he is making some comment to Lee. His beard rests upon his breast.
His face commands attention. This is not "the soldier . . . seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth." This is rather a seer of visions, one who broods upon some majestic and perhaps terrible image unperceived by any around him. It is the face of an Old Testament prophet. One remembers Ezekiel's chant, "The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Prophesy, O son of man!" One thinks of Ecclesiastes and Isaiah's rolling music.
But it is a magnificent head. The ruthlessness of ancient Judea is there, that could put to the sword man, woman and child, the very cattle of the enemy; but the splendor of ancient Judea is there, also, that was touched with the glory of the Lord and held familiar converse with cherubim and seraphim. And that, after all, was Jackson. Not since Cromwell has any commander so impressed his army with religious fervor as did Jackson. It was a commonplace saying among his men that when Stonewall went to prayer, the horrors of hell were about to be loosed upon the Yankees. Yet, while he never doubted that his cause was the cause of the God of battles, never did he regard himself as anything but the Lord's most unworthy instrument. He had no regard for the bodies of men. He could order a regiment into certain destruction without the quiver of an eyelash. But he yearned over the souls of his troopers as the prophets yearned over Israel. That accounts for the curious tenderness of a face that yet could express a flinty purpose which death alone could balk.
The religion of Stonewall Jackson was, and still is, to a large extent, the religion of the South. Like any other movement of a people that is profound and strong, it has its lunatic fringe, and this, of course, is more spectacular than the movement itself. There are in the South repellent fanatics, prophets whose only function is to curse, and they are, inevitably, much more in the public eye than are their more temperate brethren. No one who knows the Southern States even slightly, can fail to note the great part that religion, in the sense of organized churches, plays in the lives of their inhabitants. But many, misled by the antics of fantastic dervishes, have fallen into the error of believing that it is all of this type.
However, those who have lived long in the region and studied it with understanding, know that there is a different story to be told. Bigotry exists, it is true, and it leads in the South, as it leads everywhere, to insensate hatreds and appalling persecutions. But only a man devoid of understanding will conclude that the religion of the South derives its strength from bigotry and the fury of hate. Rising above that, and casting it out of millions of hearts is the high aspiration "to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
The most poignant chapter of the history of the Confederacy is the story of the women in the stricken land. The heroism of the gray army has aroused the admiration of the world, but it was eclipsed by the heroism of the women from whom it sprang. Of what great army, indeed, may not as much be said? This heroism, in the case of the women of the Confederacy, was unquestionably sustained by the same faith that animated Stonewall Jackson. It may have been a hard and narrow faith, it may have been an ignorant faith, but a mighty fortress was their God, a rampart never failing, and that, when all else was falling into ruin.
No true history of the Confederacy can be written, in words or in stone, that fails to take into account this element. Such indomitable resistance never could have been sustained by a people whose philosophy was wholly materialistic. There had to be, somewhere, a profound belief in a Power not affected by material disaster, that could retrieve a just cause from ruin apparently hopeless, or the Confederacy would have collapsed years earlier than 1865.
Nor can such a faith ever be ugly in its essence, no matter how ugly some of its misinterpretations may be. It presupposes a benevolent Deity, and that is a beautiful faith. How beautiful it can be, may be judged only by those who have come intimately into contact with it, but the records of the Confederacy are full of it, and the states that formed the Confederacy are full of men and women whose lives have been touched into ineffable beauty by it. Even among those sects that have the worst name for superstition, ignorance and blind fanaticism, it is found, touching minds otherwise narrow and brutish with a fineness and dignity that leave the discoverer dumb.
The extraordinary thing is that a man from Idaho should have pierced so deeply and so surely into the spirit of a people alien to him. Yet Jackson is unmistakably the faith of the Confederacy, as Lee is its resolution. The beauty of his figure is the beauty of that belief in a God whose ways, although past understanding, are merciful and just. In that figure, martial and emphatically masculine as it is, the women of the Confederacy have their memorial, for theirs was the faith that, beleaguered, could lift up its e;yes to the hills and behold the mountain filled with chariots and horsemen, and then could lie down in peace in the midst of war.
Jackson's brows are knit, and his face is concerned, but it is over some trivial disturbance, some obstruction in the line of march, some momentary break in the cadence which his soldierly instinct instantly protests. Yet underneath, his face has a wonderful calm. Fundamentally, all is well with Jackson. He is the soldier of the Lord, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against him.
At Chancellorsville his body was torn by shot from the guns of his own men, and three days later he died, while war still raged around him, but with a vision of peace, of still waters and green grass before his closing eyes. Perhaps it is that vision that illumines his face in this sculpture. Perhaps the words that he is saying to his chief are, "Let us cross over the river and rest in the shade of the trees."