My third and final thoughts on what Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s death meant to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (ANV).
Though Stonewall was dead, he really never left the army. The Second Confederate national flag, often called the “Stainless Banner” was and is also called “the Jackson Flag” because it made its first public appearance draped over the general’s coffin.
Besides that visible reminder, there was always sense of looking back and asking “what if?” especially as the ANV started suffering more and more reversals on the battlefield. Lee himself was not immune to this, stating that he would have won the Battle of Gettysburg had Jackson been there. Over time many other Southerners started sharing similar thoughts as if the day Dixie died was the day Jackson died.
Over the years scholars and historians have also asked, “what if Jackson have lived?’ Though the answers are varied, there is a general consensus that Lee may have or would have won at Gettysburg and that in time Jackson would have taken command of the western Confederate Army, the Army of Tennessee. That scenario would have put the war’s two best strategists, Sherman and Jackson, head to against each other, in a life or death game of chess.
(As to how Jackson would have fared versus Sherman is a tough question. Jackson was a better tactical general, but Sherman had more men and supplies as well as better logistics and subordinate generals.)
Today, Jackson’s ghost still haunts the South in memorials, monuments, artworks, and children who have been named after the fallen general. Perhaps no more so in The Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson by Everett B. D. Julio (1843-1879), an artist of Scot and Italian descent who was living in St. Louis. Julio’s powerful painting, depicting an allegorical final meeting between the two Southern legends was started in 1864, a year after Jackson’s death and while the war was yet to be decided. The 13 feet, 10 ½ inch by 9 feet 7 inches painting was finished in 1869 and had a Walnut cabinet custom made to display it.
Julio tried to give the painting to Lee, but the general politely declined. The artist then tried to sell prints of his painting and the paining itself, but often found himself in in debt and in ill health and was unable to sell it before his death.
Despite its lack of success during the artist’s life, prints of it in time became a common sight in parlors and livings rooms throughout. Today the original is one of the most viewed items in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va. and prints of it still sell well.
While the mystique that the South could or would have won the war had Jackson not been shot will never die, the fact remains that even had Stonewall lived, the odds of a Southern victory were still not great.