by Michael Aubrecht, Copyright 2005
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A few weeks ago, the concept of “religious conviction” and the “power of faith” came up during our Sunday evening Bible study. Our Pastor recalled several instances in both the Old and New Testaments in which individuals were able to overcome extreme circumstances due to their unwavering belief in the Word of God. We also discussed some of the challenges met by those attempting to spread the Gospel and how they petitioned non-believers to not only learn and live by the Word, but to teach it to others as well. I found the idea of sharing faith to be very enlightening and was working on a related study of someone who personified this wonderful concept of “student/teacher”. That individual is General Thomas Jackson whose “spiritual strength” and devotion has inspired generations of Christians since the days of the Civil War.

Regarded as one of the more “godly heroes” in American military history, Thomas Jackson is still considered to be one of the most inspirational and eccentric of all the Confederacy’s leaders. Raised an Episcopalian, he joined the Presbyterian Church in the early 1850s and later became a deacon who generously donated one tenth of his earnings to the church. Eager to share his renewed faith with all people, Jackson started a Sunday school in Lexington for African Americans and proudly practiced civil disobedience while teaching black children the ways of salvation. Although he could not alter the social status of slaves, he committed himself to Christian decency and pledged to “assist the souls of those held in bondage.”

Despite his patriotic devotion as a career military man, Jackson maintained that his first duty was always that of a soldier in what he referred to as “The Army of the Lord”. After graduating 17th (out of 59) in his class at West Point, he served in the Mexican War before accepting a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute. Specializing in “Natural Physics” Jackson established the reputation as a brilliant artillery commander and was personally selected by General Robert E. Lee to command a company of VMI cadets. Distraught over the North’s impending invasion of the South, he swore his allegiance to the Army of Northern Virginia and vowed to fight for God and country to the bitter end. Duty however, did not stifle his religious convictions and many members of his fearless brigade were quickly indoctrinated with their commander’s infectious faith.

Perhaps best known as “Stonewall”, Jackson earned his nickname at the First Battle of Manassas, after refusing to withdraw his troops in the face of total carnage. After Brigadier General Barnard Bee informed him that his forces were being beaten back, Jackson replied, "Sir, we will give them the bayonet." Inspired by the bravery of his subordinate, General Bee immediately rallied the remnants of his brigade while shouting "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer." A devout believer in predestination, Jackson insisted that God had already determined his time on earth and that no spot on the battlefield was safer than the other. It was this unwavering conviction that enabled him to lead his troops into battle without the fear of death and inspire countless others to rally behind him.

Courage however, could not hide his obvious distaste for war and regardless of victory; Jackson remained committed to ending the conflict as soon as possible. Preaching a harsh philosophy of swift and total destruction, Jackson believed that the sooner an enemy force was destroyed - the less lives would ultimately be lost. He referred to this action as “the black flag” and reminded his officers that regardless of their orders, duty was theirs – the consequences were God’s.

During the Shenandoah Campaign of 1862, Jackson repeatedly proved himself to be a brilliant strategist, but still found time to hold Bible study and hymnal sessions with the senior officers of his brigade. Despite being an “academic”, he resisted the urge to glorify war and routinely quoted “battle accounts” taken from the Bible in place of his own reports. Always eager to share his relationship with the Father, Jackson wrote letter after letter urging his countrymen (and women) to actively seek repentance. One letter, written to his sister, summarized his faith:

You wish to know how to come to God; so as to have your sins forgiven, and to receive "the inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." Now my dear sister the way is plain: the savior says in Mark XVI chapter, 16th verse "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." But you may ask what is it to believe. To explain this I will quote from an able theologian, and devoted servant of God. To believe in the sense in which the word is used here, "is feeling and acting as if there were a God, a Heaven, a Hell; as if we were sinners and must die; as if we deserve eternal death, and were in danger of it. And in view of all, casting our eternal interests on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. To do this is to be a Christian."

Always a teacher, Jackson dedicated almost every waking moment (that did not require his military service) to educating the uneducated, uplifting the downtrodden and introducing those around him to the glory of God. His popularity with the troops also enabled him to reach them in ways that other men could not and he was often found praying with the wounded at their bedside. After a series of tremendous victories, the Confederacy appeared to be well on its way to declaring independence. However, the fortunes of war would quickly turn in the Union’s favor after the sudden and accidental death of the general they called “Stonewall.”

On May 2, 1863, during the battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson’s own men accidentally fired upon him resulting in three wounds and an amputated arm. Initially, he looked to make a full recovery, but he later developed an incurable case of pneumonia. After a few days, it was a foregone conclusion that death was drawing near. Upon hearing his prognosis, Jackson replied that he had always wanted to die on a Sunday and that, "It will be infinite gain to be translated to Heaven." He then asked his wife to pray for him but to always use the petition of “Thy Will Be Done.” In the end, he clearly accepted his fate as part of God’s divine plan and resolved to spend his last hours before delirium set in, reading the Bible.

A few moments before he died, he cried out, “Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action!” Then a smile spread over his face, and he quietly whispered his last words saying, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” Finally, without the slightest sign of pain or discomfort, his spirit passed with open arms back to God, who was most certainly awaiting his arrival. He was 39 years old.

Excerpts taken from Onward Christian Soldier: The Spiritual Journey of Stonewall by Michael Aubrecht, Publish America, Copyright 2004













Southern Knight
by Michael Aubrecht, Copyright 2005
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For non-believers, death is often considered the end of all things, but, to Christians, it represents a new beginning. Our time here on Earth is short compared to eternity in Heaven, and what we do with this time determines our reward in the afterlife. Unfortunately, many people today waste their precious time focusing on self-fulfillment. Sadly, few leave behind a meaningful legacy. A legacy is the memory of who we were and the ways in which we touched the lives of others. History has recorded countless men who served their time on Earth in such an inspirational way. Their legacy continues to live on, years and years after their death. Such is the story of J.E.B. Stuart: soldier, servant, and Southern hero.

James Ewell Brown Stuart was born in Patrick County, Virginia, on February 6, 1833. His lineage was that of a Scotch Presbyterian, his forebears having immigrated to the Americas seeking refuge from religious persecution. Thanks to a distinguished ancestry, it’s not surprising that Stuart men were widely known as gentleman of great virtue. Both their Christian roots and their sincere appreciation for their religious freedoms inspired them to give back to the community whenever possible. Their undying commitment to serve God provided a foundation of values and morality that benefited their family for generations to come.

In June of 1850, Stuart was accepted as a candidate for West Point. Both a good student and a skilled horseman, J.E.B. applied himself diligently and rose successively through the ranks. After graduating thirteenth in a class of forty-six, he was immediately commissioned as a second lieutenant in the prestigious regiment of Mounted Rifles and assigned to duties in the mid-western territories. It was during this period that J.E.B. became more intimate in his relationship with God. Often he would conduct a Bible study with his fellow Christian troopers, and his dedication to the reading of the written Word grew more each day. Both the desolate location of his post and the lack of distractions may have played a big part in Stuart’s salvation.

A few years later, secession and a “Call To Arms” for the recently established Confederate States of America, led J.E.B. back to his homeland of Virginia. As with many of his comrades, it was with a heavy heart that Stuart entered the War Between the States. After pledging his loyalty to the Union and serving the government with such impeccable duty over the years, his conscience was troubled over participating in what many referred to as a “forced resolution.” As with all civil wars, both sides believed they were justified. Both believed that they were acting on behalf of God.

Over the next few years, J.E.B. achieved many great victories that boosted the morale of Southerners everywhere. Many papers covered his actions with great bias, and his flamboyant reputation as a raider grew to immense proportions. One particular skirmish involving Stuart’s troops resulted in the largest cavalry battle in American military history.

On May 8, 1864, J.E.B. and his men prepared to engage the enemy at a strategically superior location known as Yellow Tavern. Although they had achieved the element of surprise, the cost was dear as both the men and horses were exhausted from the ride. Realizing the desperateness of their situation, Stuart rushed among his men and tried to rally them. As the Federals withdrew, a private hurriedly fired his pistol into a group of mounted Confederates by the Telegraph Road. Instantly J.E.B. clutched his side. Looking down at his bleeding abdomen, he calmly whispered, “I am shot.” Later he said, “I’m afraid they’ve killed me. I will be of no more use.” As several of his troopers rushed to his aid, the wounded general scolded them, yelling, “Go back! Go back! Do your duty as I’ve done mine.”

Fleeing the ensuing battle, an ambulance managed to evacuate Stuart to the house of his brother-in-law on Grace Street in Richmond. After placing the distraught commander in bed, the wound was inspected and judged mortal, given the medical capabilities of the time. After his worldly matters were concluded, J.E.B. focused his remaining thoughts on the journey that lay ahead. He turned to the Reverend Peterkin of the Episcopal Church and asked him to sing his favorite hymn, commencing, “Rock of ages cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee…” Then he joined the ministers in prayer. He said his last words to the doctor, stating, “I am going fast now; I am resigned; God’s will be done.” J.E.B. Stuart finally died at about 7:30 p.m. on May 12, 1864, just hours before his family arrived. He was 31 years old.

In the end, it was far more than the service record, personal items, horses, and other accoutrements that Stuart left behind. It was the deep spiritual roots and patriotism that he had instilled in his children and his men. These are the memories that have truly made his story unforgettable. Captain R. E. Frayser, from Stuart’s staff, later stated, “In this short period of thirty-one years, four months and twelve days, he won a glorious and imperishable name, and one that posterity will delight to cherish and honor.”

Such is the legacy of James Ewell Brown Stuart, the Christian cavalier who lived for the glory of God all the days of his life.

Excerpts taken from Christian Cavalier: The Spiritual Legacy of JEB Stuart by Michael Aubrecht, Publish America, Copyright 2005


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