Legacy of General Stonewall Jackson

Updated April 19, 2022

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Legacy of General Stonewall Jackson essay

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This paper discusses General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s leadership attributes, competencies, his legacy, and how each helped develop my leadership philosophy, and legacy I hope to leave on my subordinates. It will demonstrate how Jackson applied his leadership philosophy with examples of his discipline, loyalty, resilience, and intellectual capacity for being a tactfully sound commander. Further, it will highlight how Jackson set the example as a leader for subordinates, communication flaw, developing his Soldiers, his achievements, and the impact he had on the Army. It will discuss the impact each attribute and competency had on my philosophy and how I apply each to my leadership, along with shaping my Army legacy. Stonewall Jackson had a significant impact on my career and leadership philosophy through his embodiment of leader attributes and competencies, which helped shape my leadership philosophy and legacy I leave.

General Stonewall Jackson was a disciplined leader that valued loyalty to country and commitment to the mission. Stonewall Jackson followed orders from superiors and demanded compliance of his orders by subordinates. In addition, “he was a stern disciplinarian, but his subordinates and his men trusted him and fought well under his leadership” (Tebeau, Britannica). General Jackson would punish subordinate leaders for minor discipline violations (“Stonewall Jackson”, 2009). As a leader, discipline is extremely important, as it plays a role in the ability to inspire others. Discipline is a fundamental aspect in my leadership philosophy, as well as my personal life. It keeps someone focused, such as training and mentoring subordinates or accomplishing a mission. Along with discipline, loyalty is significant in building and working together as a team to accomplishing tasks and missions. The ability to inspire others through discipline and trust builds loyalty with peers and subordinates.

One of Stonewall Jackson’s most important traits was his resilience and ability to persevere in some of the toughest situations. During his 1862 Valley Campaign, General Jackson and his 17,000 Soldiers were extremely resilient defeating a 60,000 strong Union army to ensure Richmond remained in Confederate hands (“Stonewall Jackson”, 2014). Like Jackson, I challenge my subordinates and myself each day to push through adversity. As a section NCOIC in charge of 10 Soldiers, I consistently adapted to overtasking and having limited resources to accomplish a mission. Additionally, Jackson’s confidence in his Soldiers and himself made a strong impression with his subordinates (Selby, 1968, p. 46-47). The confidence a leader exudes in the face of adversity can lead to mission success or failure. Further, this same confidence can influence and filter down to the lowest soldier, thereby enhancing the probability of mission success.

Another strong quality of General Jackson was his intellect, being tactically sound, and leading from the front. As an example, Jackson received a promotion to Captain following his decision to maneuver his section forward during battle against a heavier Mexican Artillery unit (Jackson, 1895, p 41). Jackson’s intellect greatly enhanced his unit’s chance of success and is a reason I consider education an asset for subordinates and myself. Subordinates want to follow a tactfully and technically sound competent leader into combat. I stress the importance of professional and personal education to my subordinates. It does not matter the job; all Soldiers should strive to become a subject matter expert in his or her profession. It enables commanders and senior leaders to train more adaptive subordinates. Additionally, increased intellectual capacity of subordinates gives leaders flexibility and ability to be creative during the planning process.

Stonewall Jackson always led from the front, was a master of maneuver and tactics, and as mentioned above, inspired his subordinates through trust established with each unit. During the Mexican War, then Lieutenant Jackson remained with his artillery gun while his men retreated, following heavy fire (Jackson, 1895, p 42-43). Events such as these prove General Jackson led from the front, no matter the situation. Leaders should always set the example for their subordinates to emulate. I seek to be the leader my subordinates want to model their leadership philosophy. As strong of an inspirational leader as General Jackson was, had a communication flaw in his leadership philosophy (Tebeau, Britannica). “Jackson was guilty of being too secret, a flaw that went far beyond securing important military information. He simply did not confide in anyone: not in his wife, his superiors, his friends, or even the fellow Generals among his division commanders” (Davis, 2007, p. 193). While I agree with Jackson’s discipline and commitment to the mission, I believe senior leaders should communicate and empower their subordinate leaders to take initiative. One of the six principles of Mission Command is to exercise disciplined initiative, while following lawful orders (ADP 6-0, p. 4). Commanders should provide the mission and end state, then enable leaders at each level to work through the process of meeting the commander’s intent. This promotes unit and team cohesion, along with creating adaptive and creative leaders.

In June 1842, Thomas Jackson entered as a Cadet at WestPoint in New York. According to a former classmate, he struggled his first year at the academy. However, he steadily improved each year and by the time he graduated four years later, he finished 17th in a class of over 70 cadets (Jackson, 1895, p. 34). In 1861, after Virginia succeeded from the Union, Major Jackson became a Drill Instructor at Virginia Military Institute training volunteers and cadets that would be under his command. What would become known as the Stonewall Brigade, Jackson diligently trained his Soldiers to ensure his unit was ready for combat, in turn earning their trust and respect (Jackson, 1895, p. 150). Training and developing Soldiers is one of the primary duties as a Noncommissioned Officer. Not only do you earn your subordinate’s trust and respect, along with promoting team cohesion, but also shaping their future career as a leader. Like General Jackson, I view self-development and subordinate mentorship and development equally important.

As far as accomplishments and legacy go, General Stonewall Jackson is one of the best-known Generals from the Confederacy, opposite General Lee. In fact, upon hearing of his death many Confederate Soldiers believe their cause was all but lost (Opie, 1899, p. 138). “Military historians consider Jackson to be one of the most gifted tactical commanders in United State History” (“Stonewall Jackson”, 2014). He is famous for his 1862 Valley Campaign, which his unit of 17,000 traveled 646 miles in 48 days and won five significant victories against a force of 60,000. Some historians believe if General Jackson lived through the Civil War, General Lee would have won the Battle of Gettysburg (“Stonewall Jackson”, 2014). Jackson’s legacy remains prominent throughout the old Confederate States. From his burial site in Virginia at the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, to his memorials on Stone Mountain in Georgia, statue in Manassas Battlefield Park, and State Park in West Virginia. Legacy to me means giving your life meaning and celebrating accomplishments in hopes of inspiring others, such as future generations. I hope to leave my mark on the Army, but more specifically my peers and subordinates. That I am able to coach and mentor future leaders, so they go far beyond their potential. While I have multiple deployments to Iraq and Kuwait and those are good accomplishments in my career, my goal is to pass my knowledge and experiences to my Soldiers.

In conclusion, General Jackson left a permanent legacy in our history through his leadership and loyalty to his superiors, peers, and subordinates. Jackson’s ability to inspire his units had a lasting impact on his Soldiers, the Confederacy, and my leadership philosophy. He placed an importance on discipline, development, and showing resiliency. Like Jackson, I set the example for my peers and subordinates to emulate. I train, educate, and mentor my Soldiers to become subject matter experts in their job. I want my Soldiers to remain loyal to the mission, the team, and myself. To inspire them in hope they look at me for guidance and direction in the absence of orders. I strive to have my legacy live on through my Soldier’s accomplishments, in hope they make the Army an even better organization than it is today.

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