East Coast Road Trip 2018 – Day #2 – Stonewall Jackson Shrine

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After our trip to Monticello, W- and I camped at a KOA in Fredericksburg, VA.  Half of the campground was underwater due to a recent torrent of rain, but thankfully we lucked out with a dry site due to the campground being under-booked for the weekend.

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While W- was cooking dinner over the fire (full disclosure: best meals I’ve ever had while camping were on this trip), conversation turned to a sign we had seen on the road to the KOA, which said “Stonewall Jackson Shrine ahead.”  The idea of a shrine was highly amusing, and W- stated it made him think of a little old lady lighting candles on a wall.  Since it was so close to the campsite, we decided it would be worth stopping by in the morning before we hit the road again.

For non-American Civil War aficionados, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was one of the most infamous Confederate Civil War generals.  He was Robert E. Lee’s righthand man until his death, and commanded the illustrious Stonewall Brigade – a group of soldiers known for their incredible mobility and willingness to stand their ground under all circumstances.  Jackson himself earned the nickname “Stonewall” at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861 when, in a low point of the battle for the Confederates, fellow General Barnard E. Bee told his troops, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians!”  W- told me while on this trip that historians debate whether or not Bee meant the simile as a compliment (as in he was heroic for standing his ground) or a criticism (as in he should be blamed for not moving faster to the aid of the rest of the army); however, I personally think that the second sentence indicates the former, since Bee wouldn’t likely have wanted his troops to rally behind someone he was castigating.  We’ll never know for sure, though, since Bee died shortly after uttering those words.

Upon arriving at the Shrine Sunday morning, we discovered it’s actually the place where Jackson died, as well as part of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.  People theorize that the Civil War could have ended in a much different result had Jackson been present at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863, but sadly for Lee and the Confederacy, he was wounded by friendly fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 and died eight days later.

According to the very enthusiastic park ranger (we got the impression they don’t get a ton of visitors), Jackson was brought to the then-Chandler Plantation Office to recuperate and be transported to a Confederate hospital.  Unfortunately, Union troops had destroyed some railroad track, so there was no way to get additional medical help, and he passed away on May 10, 1863.

The “Shrine” is actually the Plantation Office where Jackson spent his last days and subsequently died.  The blanket on the deathbed and the clock on the mantle are original items, but everything else is a reproduction (Side Note: Mrs. Chandler brought the clock specifically from the house to the Office, thinking Jackson would find the noise soothing.  W- and I, however, both commented on how loud and distracting the ticking was.).  Guests can also view the room next door where his staff and doctor would have stayed, as well as the quarters on the second floor.  Just watch the stairs because I personally was concerned that I would fall straight through them if I stepped too hard.

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