Stonewall and Slavery

The hardest mythology to overcome for our movement, particularly for those of us with Southern inclinations, is the mythology of rainbow cuckfederate iconography. In this warped and self deceiving narrative, we are told to ignore our ancestors frank and open discussions about race relations. One of the great pillars of this mythology is that of Stonewall Jackson.

The “Jackson friend of the slave” mythology has its basis in the belief that any kind word, charity, or nuanced response to the great schism of the age (the slave question) is a product of the Lost Cause narrative. Proponents of this narrative seek to remove all discussions of race and slavery from the raison d’etre of the Confederacy, and in particularly to the pantheon of heroes (especially Jackson and Lee).

The oft cited view of Jackson in Lexington, Virginia, as related by his second wife Mary Anna Jackson was: “He preferred that my labors should be given to the colored children, believing that it was more important and useful to put the strong hand of the Gospel under the ignorant African race, to lift them up.” This view of Jackson towards blacks was not born out of a sense of human kinship with them; rather, it was the charitable and “Christian” view of a dutiful patriarchal master towards his property. Jackson was to own as many as six slaves while a professor at VMI, a strong indication of his social status as well as his own participation in the institution. Jackson viewed slavery through the moral compass of his strict Calvinist doctrine: the good Christian slaveholder was to treat his servants fairly and humanely at all times.

One of the most pivotal events in Jackson’s life, and the event that was to mark a sea change in the politics of Virginia towards the growing sectarian divide, was the Harpers Ferry raid of 1859 by John Brown. Jackson, along with William Gilham, led a contingent of the VMI Cadet Corps to Charles Town, WV (then Virginia) to provide additional military security for Brown’s execution.

The raid, Brown’s execution, and the subsequent outpouring of sympathy in the Northern press towards Brown, who had planned to raise a slave army a la Spartacus and rampage down the Appalachians, had been felt like a shockwave across the South. But to a Virginian like Jackson, here was verifiable proof that the abolitionist movement meant to murder white southerners in their beds, much as had been done during Nat Turner’s rebellion. Brown, a radical abolitionist of puritan stock, represented the gravest of essential threats to white southerners. Here was the embodied vitriol of abolition, and to many a Virginian (Jackson included), it now looked as though their northern brethren wanted to “Brown” them all.

This was the core of why men like Jackson would go to war in 1861, why Virginia cast her lot with the Confederacy, and why even those who had no particular attachment to plantation agriculture would shout for secession.

-By William Poole