Sunday, May 12, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Jackson Women

Today, in the United States, it is Mother's Day.

It is important to remember that during the Civil War, life could be short.  Dying during or right after childbirth was common.  Infant mortality was high, as was death from a number of illnesses that are treatable today.

Many casualties of the Civil War came from infection, and illness, not directly from the hazards of the battlefield.  A number of Civil War generals (on both sides) died in action.  Perhaps the most mourned was a Confederate general by the name of Thomas ("Stonewall") Jackson.

150 years ago Friday,"Stonewall") Jackson died from pneumonia.  This followed Jackson's wounding several days earlier, towards the end of the Battle of Chancellorsville, by friendly fire.  His left arm was amputated in a field hospital not long after in an attempt to save his life.  150 years ago today, Jackson's body lay in state.  And in more modern times, candlelight vigils were held on the anniversary of the last night of his life.

But, this made me think of Stonewall Jackson's family, and what their fates were.  What follows is a little slice of 19th century life.  (A genealogy of Thomas Jackson is available online, if you are interested.)  As tragic as Stonewall Jackson's death at the age of 33 was to many, we may want to consider this:

1.  Julia Neele Jackson, Thomas Jackson's mother:  Two years after Thomas (the youngest of her three children) was born, his 6 year old sister and his father died from typhoid fever.  Jackson's mother was 28 and was 9 months pregnant with her fourth child at the time.  The day after Jackson's father died, Julia gave birth to his sister Laura.

A young widow, Julia Jackson supported her three remaining children in various ways, eventually remarrying.  She died from complications of childbirth when she was 33 years old.

2.  Eleanor Junkin Jackson, Thomas Jackson's first wife:  married less than a year to Jackson, she died in childbirth.  A son was stillborn.

3.  Mary Anna Jackson, Thomas Jackson's second wife:  Mary and Thomas had two daughters.  The first daughter died in infancy.  The second daughter, Julia Jackson Christian, was an infant when Jackson died, with Anna (the name she preferred) at his side.

Anna lived into her 80's.  She never remarried and wore clothes of mourning for the rest of her life.  She was a published author of two books.

Julia lived into adulthood, married, and had two children of her own (a boy and a girl) before she died, a young mother, of typhoid fever.  Anna raised her two grandchildren.  The boy, Thomas Jonathan Jackson Christian, died the year I was born.

Julia Preston, Thomas Jackson's granddaughter, lived to 104, passing away  in 1991.

But, in a story so tragic in many ways, there is one more tragedy to explore.  We talk about how the Civil War tore apart so many families. As it happens, Thomas Jackson's family was one such family.  Remember his sister Laura, the sister born a day after their father died?  Her sympathies were with the Union.  And, she paid a huge personal cost for that loyalty.

Laura Jackson Arnold became estranged from her beloved older brother and never reconciled with her family after the war. Her husband divorced her over her Union loyalties.  She died in West Virginia (a part of Virginia that split from that Confederate State and joined the Union on June 20, 1863, the only state to join the Union during the Civil War - in another bit of irony) in 1911.

All civil wars are tragic.  Ours was no exception. As we pay tribute to the mothers in our lives today, let us take a moment to remember the many mothers who suffered (and continue to suffer) in war.


  1. Great story. Thanks for sharing. My grandmother was from Heber Springs. My paternal great-grandfather fought for the Union after coming over from Lithuania and took the place of a shoe factory owner's son. Think he fought in the Tennessee campaign--Battle of Shiloh and one of the Battle of Bull Run's. My father and I shared a love for the Civil War together.

  2. All wars are ugly aren't they, you wrote this blog so well I really liked reading about it, I'm thinking about moms everywhere today, very thought provoking blog x

  3. Thanks for your research, well-written article and for this glimpse of the Jacksons' lives. One feels fortunate to have lived as long as one has.

  4. Thank you for sharing this poignant bit of history.

  5. Fascinating story. We tend to forget how hard women's lives were back then. Each family must have suffered tragedies and loss of loved ones. The split in families over the war is so sad. Most amazing of all is the women who lived on to such advanced years.

  6. A nice tribute to women and mothers in particular. The dangers of childbirth make one appreciate the risk and sacrifice given by a mother even more so than in modern day.


Your comments sustain me, as long as they are civil, are on topic, and do not contain profanity, advertising of any kind, links or spam. Any messages not meeting these criteria will immediately be composted, and my flowers will enjoy their contents.