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Robert Lewis Dabney (March 5, 1820 – January 3, 1898) was an American Christian theologian, a Southern Presbyterian pastor, and Confederate Army chaplain best known for being chief of staff to General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson during his famous Valley Campaign and the Seven Days Battles. He also wrote Life and Campaigns of Stonewall Jackson, an invaluable biography of the general that was published in 1866, just a year after the Civil War had ended.
Stonewall Jackson needs no formal introduction, being one of the most famous generals of the Civil War, revered throughout the South for his extremely successful military skill. At the same time, Jackson’s pious Christianity and seeming eccentricities have continued to fascinate historians, scholars and readers, who often still argue why he would hold his left arm up with his palm facing outward while in battle.
Jackson earned his famous “stonewall” moniker at the Battle of First Bull Run, when Brigadier-General Bee told his brigade to rally behind Jackson, who was standing like a stone wall. It’s still unclear whether that was a compliment for standing strong or an insult for not moving his brigade, but the nickname stuck for the brigade and the general itself.
Jackson would go on to lead an army to one of the most incredible campaigns of the war in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. Known as the Valley Campaign, Jackson kept 3 Union armies occupied north of Richmond with less than 1/3 of the men. Jackson’s forces marched about 650 miles in just 3 months, earning the nickname “foot cavalry.”
Although Jackson’s Valley Campaign was an amazing campaign still studied by military officers around the world, he is equally known for his famous flank march and attack at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. Known for being ambitious and daring on the battlefield, Jackson led one of Lee’s wings on a march about 15 miles around the Army of the Potomac’s right flank and completely surprised the 11th Corps with an attack, overwhelming them and rolling the Union line up. The march would end up winning the battle for the Confederates, who were outnumbered by nearly 50,000 men at Chancellorsville.
Jackson, of course, was mortally wounded at the height of what may have been his finest hour. Conducting reconnaissance later on the night of May 2, 1863, he and his scouting group were mistaken for Union men and fired upon by a North Carolina regiment. Jackson’s arm was amputated, but he died of pneumonia 8 days later, depriving the Confederacy of one of its best generals.
Dabney’s biography of Jackson is invaluable not just as a contemporary source but as a study of Lost Cause ideology, coming even before the phrase itself took hold. Dabney’s hatred of the Yankees is evident throughout the book, as is his adulation of Jackson, who comes off as nearly perfect in this book. Slavery is depicted as a benign institution, and the Yankees are treated as inferior in every respect to Southerners. The frequent Lost Cause argument that the South lost only because of inferior manpower and resources can be found in this book, much of which was written before the Confederacy had been defeated. At the same time, Dabney wrote the book to demonstrate the importance of Christianity and its influence on Jackson’s generalship, helping create the image of Confederates as dignified, Christian fighters. The biography will be of interest to anyone interested in Southern attitudes toward the North and the war in the 1860s.
This edition is specially formatted with a Table of Contents, original commentary, and pictures of Jackson and other important leaders.