- Apr 29, 2013
The what if novel Stonewall Goes West spends a lot of time on Jackson's military family, like Sandie Pendleton and John Harman. A real nod is made to the importance of staff work in that book.
I'm most familliar with Jackson, and the size and functioning of his staff reflected his own austere and reticent personality. For example, he chose Rev. R. L. Dabney as his Chief-of-Staff with the rank of colonel BECAUSE he was a Methodist minister, and had absolutely NO experience or qualification for the most important post on a staff! The reason was that Jackson with his secretive ways acted as his own chief-of-staff and only wanted someone to pass on orders and NOT to help formulate strategy as a "typical" European ( think Prussian ) chief-of-staff might have. Dabney was mainly a moral and religious "companion" whose civillian position was expected to translate into respect as Jackson's chief.
The real staff duties ( mainly paperwork ) fell on Jackson's younger staff members, particularly Alexander "Sandy" Pendleton, son of Lee's incompetent chief-of-artillery, Brig. Gen. Wm. Nelson Pendleton, another civillian minister, this time an Episcopalian like Lee, Jeff Davis, and Bishop Leonidas Polk in the western army. Sandie was a brilliant Washington ( later Washington and Lee ) College student who served Jackson and his successors Ewell and Early faithfully until he was killed as a lieutenant colonel and Chief-of-Staff at Fisher's Hill in the Shenandoah in Sept., 1864. His transcriptions of orders were considered especially clear and consise.
For Jackson, probably the "perfect" subordinates were mapmaker Jeddiah Hotchkiss, Dr. Hunter McGuire, and stagecoach line operator John Harmon , once again all 3 civillians with NO military background but ranking as majors. Hotchkiss occupied the position of topographical engineer: he made excellent up-to-date maps without asking exactly what they were for ( anathema to Stonewall ); McGuire was Jackson's Medical Director and personal physician who attended him in his last days; and Harmon was a profane ( much to Jackson's displeasure ) mule driver who was able to keep the various trains of wagons moving under often averse conditions.
Trouble naturally occurred when Jackson expected these non-military men to perform duties they hadn't been trained for or were tempermentally unsuited to. A case in point was Dabney's mishandling of what should've been simple communication of orders for movement on the Peninsula: as a minister Dabney failed to understand or observe the proper military chain-of-command, creating a snafu resulting in the delay of combat units moving into position. Harmon was often irate, threatening to resign because he hadn't been given enough information or time to prepare for Jackson's notoriously quick marches.
Dabney and Pendleton were also assisted by a number of young students like James Power Smith and Henry Kyd Douglas who as aides-de-camp with the ranks of lieutenant or captain performed various duties acting as couriers, secretaries, scouts, etc. ( It was said of Napoleon's Aides-de-Camp - who were generals - that they should know everything from how to lead a charge to how to cook a chicken! ) Douglas was an intelligent and especially observant witness who left an outstanding memoir that goes into great detail about Jackson's staff; fortunatly at the time he usually knew to keep his mouth shut around his tight-lipped superior!