Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reads for Fun: Byron Farwell's "Stonewall"

Our series on inerrancy will resume tomorrow after I get an important article from the seminary library today. In the meantime here’s my latest Fun Read, a biography of one of my beloved Mrs H’s favorite people, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

She got interested in Jackson after seeing him portrayed in Gods and Generals. The movie gives a picture of a very devout man fighting for what he believes in, but as is usual with a movie, it doesn’t capture the whole. Farwell paints Jackson as a “dark” and also “quirky” figure – very devout, yes, but also very peculiar in his own way.

What strikes me most is Jackson’s apparently extreme Calvinism, though whether he would have called himself a Calvinist I cannot say. His ideas of providence were such that he fearlessly went into battle, thinking that if he was meant to be killed, he couldn’t do anything about it anyway, so there was no reason to hold back. There are several descriptions of Jackson in this vein; the one that stands out to me has him calmly writing a message during a battle, and having a shell explode nearby that sent splinters from a tree all over his paper – which he casually brushed aside, then continued to write the message.

On the darker side, Jackson wasn’t a very good team player. He was frequently vindictive towards those that offended him, and didn’t always let in his subordinates on what he was planning. He seldom thanked or praised others for their performance, and sometimes ignored them (though this may have been because he was going deaf). Of personal interest to me was that Jackson was briefly stationed in Florida before the Civil War and even made a march to a lake not far from where I live.

Jackson is certainly an interesting and colorful figure, and Farwell does a good job bringing him to life. And by the way: For "balance" I have a bio of Ulysses S. Grant on the way!

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