UK Heritage

General Jackson's Statue

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By John Bennett

 

(This article appeared under the same title in 'Crossfire', the magazine of the ACWRT (UK) no. 75 - December 2004. Reproduced here with alternative picture)

 

Paid for by British gentlemen-admirers, Stonewall Jackson's pedestrian memorial in Richmond, Virginia was designed by a renowned Irish sculptor but only erected a decade after the war had ended - and after the artist's death.

 

"With deep grief the Commanding General announces to the army the death of Lieutenant-General Jackson ... The daring skill and energy of this great and good soldier, by a decree of an all-wise Providence, are now lost to us. (Signed) R. E. Lee".


The death of Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson has been called 'the greatest personal loss suffered by the Confederacy'. He died from pneumonia on 10th May 1863, after being accidentally wounded by his own men at the battle of Chancellorsville eight days previously. There was widespread sorrow and grief, not only throughout the South but much further afield.

 

John B. Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department in Richmond, recorded his diary that the following day flags were at half-mast and government offices and places of business closed, as people stood silently in the streets, awaiting the arrival of the special train carrying his body.

 

A Richmond paper thought that, not since the death of Washington had any event caused the people of Virginia such distress. In far away Louisiana, Kate Stone noted, the widely-held opinion that, "In the death of Stonewall Jackson we have lost more than many battles. We have lost the greatest general on our side he is lost to the country at the time w hen she needs him most". And even in the North, most newspapers expressed regret at Jackson's death and could find no fault in him, other than that of not having fought for the Union.

 

Across the Atlantic, The Times was of the opinion that, "Even on this side of the ocean the gallant soldier's fate will everywhere be heard of with pity and sympathy. Not only as a brave man fighting for his country's independence, but as one of the most consummate generals that this century has produced. Stonewall Jackson will carry with him to his early grave the regrets of all who can admire greatness and genius". It went on to compare his death with that of Nelson at Trafalgar: "The national feeling of England recorded the victory of Trafalgar as dearly purchased by the death of Nelson. A similar feeling pervades the South for the loss of Stonewall Jackson ... The South will be exceptionally fortunate if it find another man with all the qualities and capacities General Jackson possessed. It is only a just tribute to his memory to admit that the cause of the South has received a severe blow by his death".

 

Americans living in London also noticed the public reaction to this distant event. Benjamin Moran, assistant secretary at the United States legation in Portland Place, recorded in his journal: "Stonewall Jackson is dead of wounds", adding, evidently with some surprise, "The British people are as sensibly affected by this last news as if the disaster were their own".

 

Henry Hotze, editor of the Index, the weekly Confederate propaganda newspaper published in Bouverie Street; expressed a similar view in a letter to Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin: "The death of Jackson has elicited a feeling, the depth and power, if not the very existence, of which had wholly escaped my observation before, a feeling altogether incommensurate to anything ever manifested on any previous event of the war. I am quite prepared to believe, what I am assured on all sides, that the death of no foreigner has ever so moved the popular heart".

 

The Times had already announced a public meeting, to be held in St. George's Hall, Liverpool, on 3 June, "for the purpose of testifying respect to the memory of the late General Thomas J. Jackson", and predicted that it would be well attended. The following day the Index reported: "It is proposed to raise a subscription in England for the erection in the Confederate States of A BRITISH MONUMENT to this gallant man". A prospectus issued in connection with this spoke admiringly of "a fame which has won the kindly respect of enemies and the admiration of the Old World", and suggested that, "Some general recognition from Great Britain of the worth of such a man would be a graceful token of friendly feeling from the old country to our kinsmen across the Atlantic". It pointed out that subscribing to the statue would not, of course, imply any bias regarding "the merits of the American struggle".

 

A committee of 16 prominent Confederate sympathizers was formed to manage the 'British Jackson Monumental Fund', with Alexander J. B. Beresford Hope as treasurer and William H. Gregory, M.P, as secretary, and on 29 June 1863 an account for 'General Jackson's Statue' was opened at Coutts Bank in the Strand.

 

The staff of the Index contributed 10 guineas and the donations received each week were listed in its columns; by the end of August 1863 more than 600 had already been subscribed. According to the records of the 'Stonewall Jackson Memorial Account' at Coutts Bank, 114 named individuals, two firms and a few anonymous donors contributed to it, mostly during the second half of 1863. The most generous donations came from Liverpool businessman James Spence, formerly the Confederacy's financial agent in Europe, Alexander Collie, a leading blockade-runner, and City banker J. Henry Schroder, who had been the English agent for the Erlanger Loan; they each gave 50.

 

The man chosen to execute Stonewall Jackson's statue was the eminent Irish born sculptor John H. Foley, R.A. (left) whose best-known work is the figure of the Prince Consort on the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park. The statue was to be based on a recent photograph, possibly the one taken "a week before the General received his fatal wound", which was advertised for sale in the Index in April 1864.

 

There seems to have been some delay before work could begin on the statue, but in July 1865, in reply to an enquiry from a subscriber, Alexander Beresford Hope reported in the Index that sufficient money had now been raised and that, "Mr Foley is at work, with the confident expectation of a very successful result". His studio was at No. 10 Osnaburgh Street, Regent's Park.

 

In spite of Beresford Hope's optimistic statement, there were further long delays. John Foley was a conscientious and fastidious artist, who would sometimes spend many years working on an individual piece of sculpture, and this anxiety to perfect the likeness, together with competition from other commissions, and increasing ill health, meant that Jackson's statue was not completed till shortly before the sculptor's own death in August 1874. When it was exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year, the Illustrated London News commented on the "thoroughly soldier-like carriage and physique, the sagacity and indication of heroic capabilities and fortitude". After being formally offered to, and accepted by, the Governor and Legislature of Virginia, the statue set out on its final journey, arriving by steamer at Richmond on 22 September 1875. The following day enclosed in a packing case draped with the flags of Great Britain and the State of Virginia, it was loaded onto a wagon, and escorted by a regiment of state troops, was drawn through the streets by a number of Confederate veterans and leading citizens, to be received by the Governor at the State Capitol, 'the entire population turning out to witness the ceremonies'. The man in charge of the state troops was Brigadier General Bradley T Johnson, C.S.A., who 12 years before had commanded Jackson's funeral escort. The statue was then deposited in the Capitol building (where Jackson's body had lain in state) while a pedestal for it was built in the grounds.

 

"The Stonewall Jackson statue, presented to Virginia by Englishmen, was unveiled at Richmond yesterday, 12 October 1875", The Times reported. "There were imposing ceremonies, and the demonstration was the greatest ever seen there. A long procession marched to Capitol Square, where addresses were delivered by Governor Kemper (Major General James L. Kemper, C.S.A) and the Rev. Moses Hoge (a volunteer chaplain to confederate soldiers). Jackson's widow and only child decorated the statue after the unveiling amid the greatest enthusiasm. Richmond was finely decorated, the British colours being prominent".

 

In a leading article a day or two later, the paper made clear its disapproval of what it regarded as an act of indiscretion on the part of some Englishmen, one considered likely to "revive half-buried resentments by glorifying the prowess of a Confederate soldier" and harm post-war Anglo-American relations. It was a very different attitude from that displayed during the war.

 

As treasurer of the British Jackson Monumental Fund, Alexander Beresford Hope was not slow to take up his pen in its defence. He reminded the editor that the project had originated within weeks of Jackson's death in 1863, but had been seriously delayed for reasons beyond his control, and had been completely forgotten by the public until the statue was exhibited at the Royal Academy recently.

 

Furthermore, all involved felt obliged to keep their word and offer the statue to the people of Virginia, to whom it had long been promised. Had that offer been considered "distasteful or inconvenient", it would surely have been refused. He concluded by observing that, "If the admirers of Stonewall Jackson have given him a statue at Richmond, the admirers of Lincoln have given him a steeple in London", a reference to the recently-built Lincoln memorial tower of Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road.

 

It is also worth adding that most Confederate monuments actually date from the late 1880s, the 1890s and early 1900s, so General Jackson's statue was rather ahead of its time. As far as can be ascertained, it would also seem to be unique, the only memorial in the Confederacy paid for with British money.

 

The original proposal had been for a marble statue, but for whatever reason (perhaps cost?) the one which finally emerged was made of bronze. It shows Jackson standing, hatless, holding his sword. On the pedestal are the words:

 

PRESENTED BY ENGLISH GENTLEMEN AS A TRIBUTE OF ADMIRATION FOR THE SOLDIER AND PATRIOT THOMAS J. JACKSON AND GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED BY VIRGINIA IN THE NAME OF THE SOUTHERN PEOPLE DONE A. D. 1875 IN THE HUNDREDTH YEAR OF THE COMMONWEALTH

 

"Look! There is Jackson standing like a stonewall."

 

ACWRT(UK) 2004