Last Tribute of Respect
by Mort Kunstler
Jackson’s Funeral, VMI, May 15, 1863
After being accidentally wounded by friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Thomas I. Jackson struggled for eight days after an amputation, before finally succumbing to pneumonia on May 10, 1863.
In the days following his passing, newspapers printed tributes to the man that many considered a national treasure. The Richmond Times Dispatch published an especially warm homage that summed up the grief of the Confederate faithful. It stated, “Words have no power to express the emotion, which the death of Iackson has aroused in the public mind.” The general’s body was first placed at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond for the public to mourn, and then it was transported for burial near his home in Lexington. Upon arrival the casket was received by a corps of cadets, escorted to the Virginia Military Institute, and placed in the very same lecture room where, as a Professor, Jackson had taught prior to the war.
Major General F.H. Smith, the superintendent at VMI, issued a declaration to his students that stated, ”Surely the Virginia Military Institute has a precious inheritance in the memory of General Jackson. His work is finished. God gave him to us, and to his country. He fitted him for his work, and when his work was done He called him to Himself.”
The stately funeral procession that followed was a testament to the service and sacrifice of the man they called "Stonewall." In accordance with military tradition, his casket was draped with a Confederate flag, placed on a caisson adorned by six mourning plumes, and drawn by four horses. An honor guard comprised of VMI cadets acted as escorts.
Jackson’s personal staff, including Major A.S. Pendleton, Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire and Captains Morrison and Smith accompanied his grieving widow, Mary Anna. Virginia governor Iohn Letcher and a delegation of citizens from Lynchburg were also in attendance.
Hundreds of mourners lined the road to pay their final respects to a man who had obscurely left for service in the defense of his state, and returned in death as one of the most admired commanders in the history of warfare.
Following a service at the Lexington Presbyterian Church where Jackson had been a deacon, his body was then laid to rest in what is known today as the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery.
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