When touring all the major battlefields of the Civil War, one cannot help but look upon the legendary officers of both sides with a sense of awe. Thomas J. Jackson is one that inspires many people to this day. There are monuments to him in several different places. His colorful nickname, “Stonewall”, contributed to his revered status in Virginia. That nickname has a Texan connection which is kind of an unusual story in itself.
After General Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto, he took the “Napoleon of the West” into custody. Many people wanted to hang Santa Anna, so Houston needed to do something with the dictator. He decided to send the maniac to Washington, DC and turn him over to President Andrew Jackson for his own safety. Houston thought President Jackson could resolve the dispute between Mexico and Texas. Santa Anna spent several days at the White House where President Jackson hosted a state dinner in his honor. “El Presidente” wanted to negotiate a purchase of Texas with Jackson, but he was rebuffed. Santa Anna was surprised at that because Mexico had been in negotiations to sell Texas for several years. The Mexicans previously strung Jackson along in purchase negotiations with the snag being the “green grease” they expected for the Mexican officials personally. This time it was the Americans who pushed back. Jackson said it would offend the Texans who conquered Texas with their own courage and military prowess. Jackson then put Santa Anna on a USN vessel and sent him to Vera Cruz where he would continue to cause mischief.
When Houston sent Santa Anna to Washington, the mission was overseen by a Texan officer named Bernard Bee. Bee took the Mexican dictator to Washington under guard. Santa Anna had no uniform as his were ripped to shreds at San Jacinto with Bowie knives and Texan steel. Santa Anna asked Bee for a loan so he could procure a fine suit of clothing fit for a head of state. Bee provided his personal funds and “his excellency” was outfitted for a state visit at the White House.
Fifteen years passed and Bee found himself on a battlefield in Manassas, Virginia. Union troops were pressing the Alabama rebels under Bee’s command in the Civil War’s first major battle. He saw the Virginian standing like a stone wall and supplied Thomas J Jackson the moniker that would stick with him the rest of his life and beyond. The South won the battle that day owing much of their success to a previously unknown officer, and the legend of Stonewall Jackson was born.
Incidentally, if you are wondering, Santa Anna never repaid his debt to Bee.
Photos: Jackson Monument, Manassas and monument at the location where Jackson fell at Chancellorsville.