Stonewall at Chapultepec

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Sam Grant

Aug 4, 2011
displaced Baltimorean
This is one of a series of 'essays' I've written on another forum I used to be a member of, hopefully it may be enjoyed.

In September of 1847, one of the most famous battles of the Mexican-American War was fought at Chapultepec, the location of the Mexican national military academy. At this time, many future Civil War generals were serving as young officers in the US Army, experiencing their first taste of linear warfare.

Among them was Thomas Jonathan Jackson, hailing from what is now West Virginia. One of the most eccentric but fiercely dedicated and well-studied cadets of his West Point class, Jackson would later be immortalized as 'Stonewall Jackson', one of the heroes of the Southern Confederacy.

At Chapultepec, he was a twenty-three year-old artillery officer, but was already displaying many of the traits that would make him one of the South's most formidable assets over a decade later.

During the battle, Jackson and two other officers, D.H. Hill and Barnard Bee, outstripped their comrades in their haste to begin firing on the enemy. Between them they commanded forty men and two guns - and to their horror they found they were being charged by no less than 1,500 Mexican lancers.

Showing no sign of worry at these grim odds, Jackson opened fired on the Mexican cavalry, and, in his own words 'cut lanes through them'.

Some years later, Jackson was serving as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute. A cadet asked him why he stayed and fired on the Mexicans rather than running before their vastly superior numbers. Jackson's reply was typical: "I was not ordered to do so. If I had been ordered to run, I would have."

Jackson's courage and peace of mind under fire was to become the stuff of legend. It was at another battle, almost exactly fourteen years after Chapultepec, that Barnard Bee and T.J. Jackson again served side-by-side. Right before being hit by a fatal bullet, Bee famously called out "look, there is Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!"

A legendary military reputation forged in the early months of the American Civil War, but few remember the incident over a decade before in which it was first born.
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