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Original Publication: 1989
Applying a novelist’s shaping hand to history, Bowers gives a dramatic closeup of one of the most important generals of the South–his childhood as a poor orphan shuttled among strict relatives, his two marriages, and the driving ambition he fought to control throughout his life.
Arguably the Civil War’s most interesting figure, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was a rigid Calvinist, unforgiving of human weakness, but also a man of considerable depth, adored by his ragged soldiers. A ludicrously incompetent professor at the Virginia Military Institute, “Tom Fool” Jackson, to the astonishment of all, turned into a brilliant military leader early in the war, leading his troops (among them many former students) to one classic victory after another. Though seemingly indestructible, he fell at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1862, shot accidentally by his own men while scouting forward of the lines.
Bowers’s descriptions of the battles are beautifully wrought but remain secondary to the portrait of the man himself. No previous biographer has delved as sensitively into Jackson’s background, his death-haunted youth, his love life, the formation of his unique character, or the reasons for his eccentric behavior.