Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Stonewall Jackson's Way

Come, stack arms, men! Pile on the rails,
Stir up the camp-fire bright;
No matter if the canteen fails,
We'll make a rousing night!
Here Shenandoah brawls along,
And burly Blue-Ridge echoes strong,
To swell our brigade's rousing song
Of "Stonewall Jackson's way."

We see him now, - the old slouched hat,
Cocked o'er his eye askew;
The shrewd, dry smile, - the speech so pat,
So calm, so blunt, so true.
The "Blue-Light Elder," his foe knows well.
Says he, "that's Banks, - he don't like shell;
Lord save his soul! we'll give him hell!"
In Stonewall Jackson's way.

Silence! ground arms! kneel all! caps off!
Old "Blue Lights" going to pray.
Strangle the fool that dares to scoff!
Attention! it's his way.
Appealing from his native sod,
In forma pauperis to God,
Say "tare Thine arm; stretch forth thy rod,
Amen!" "That's Stonewall Jackson's way."

He's in the saddle now, Fall in!
Steady the whole brigade;
Hill's at the ford, cut off, we'll win
His way out, ball and blade!
What matter if our shoes are worn?
What matter if our feet are torn?
Quick-step! we're with him before morn!
That's "Stonewall Jackson's way."

The sun's bright lances, rout the mists,
Of morning, and by George!
Here's Longstreet, struggling in the lists,
Hemmed in an ugly gorge.
Pope and his Yankees, fierce before,
"Bay'nets and grape!" hear Stonewall roar;
"Charge, Stuart! Pay off Ashby's score!"
In "Stonewall Jackson's way."

Ah! Maiden, wait and watch and yearn
For news of Jackson's band!
Ah! Widow, read, with eyes that burn,
That ring upon thy hand;
Ah! Wife, sew on, pray on, hope on;
Thy life shall not be all forlorn
The foe had better ne'er been born
That gets in "Stonewall's way."

Lyrics/poem from Wikipedia

One of the items I mentioned that we went over in Paul Fleischmann's book Bull Run was about the music originating in the U.S. Civil War. One poem, set to music, that I ran across in S. C. Gwynne's Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson (Scribner, 2014, hardcover) was "Stonewall Jackson's Way" (lyrics above and more on the history of the poem at the Wikipedia link noted). From Gwynne's account about Jackson's spreading fame:

One of the most telling signs of his renown—and his inability to escape it—was the song, written on the eve of Antietam, that was sweeping through Confederate ranks and that would become one of the more popular Confederate songs of the war. Set to a spirited, upbeat tune, "Stonewall Jackson's Way" was a faithful reflection of the way he was seen in the ranks in the fall of 1862. In its third verse, the song dares anyone to "scoff" at Jackson's habits of worship. ... Jackson had a contentious relationship with his fame, which he battled with a combination of flight and prayer.

Jackson was full of contradictions, although he probably would have easily explained his apparent incongruities through his religious faith. More on Jackson and the "selective biography" by Gwynne in a separate post. For now, enjoy what went to #1 on the Southern hit parade (with a bullet, of course) just over 150 years ago. It sums up Jackson's biography in a way that a simple post can't.

(If you go to YouTube, I prefer the Bobby Horton audio version, but I'm linking the Tennessee Ernie Ford version because of my mom's love for him.)

Update (9 Jan 2015): For more on the song, see Donald R. McClarey's article.


Brian Joseph said...

Thanks for this.

I just saw an interview with S. C. Gwynne about his book on Jackson. He seems like he was indeed a fascinating character.

Dwight said...

He definitely was. The contradictions in the guy (not that he would have seen them that way) is remarkable. I find the Civil War turn-out of first-rate generals from men that were pretty much screw-ups in the regular world (which I realize is overstating things) pretty amazing.

By the way, where did you see the interview? I was planning on including one from C-SPAN in my post on the book, but if it's a different interview I'd love to include it as well.