J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “West Point”

In Honor of Two Famous Generals

This week marks the birthdays of two famous Confederate generals: Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee’s birthday was yesterday, January 19, and Jackson’s birthday is tomorrow, January 21.


Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807. He was a son of the famous Revolutionary War hero, “Light Horse Harry” Lee. Robert E. Lee’s upbringing was atypical of Virginia gentry. Although his first home was at Stratford Hall (a beautiful plantation in Virginia that is now a tourist attraction), Lee’s family moved to Alexandria when he was four because his father was thrown into debtor’s prison. Robert E. Lee was accepted into West Point Military Academy in 1825, where he excelled and graduated at the top of his class with no demerits. He served as a military engineer, and married Mary Custis, the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, at Arlington House.

After fighting in the Mexican War, Lee continued with the United States military until Virginia seceded in April, 1861. He then decided to stay true to his state, so he resigned his commission. He served under Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who eventually gave Lee total control of the Confederate Army. During the first two years of the war, Lee and Jackson fought side-by-side in several battles.

Following his surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, Lee served as the President of Washington and Lee University in Lexington. His tenure was short-lived, however. He died on October 12, 1870, and is buried on campus. Lee was a true patriot, hero, and gentleman. He was deeply religious, and was greatly admired and respected by his men, as well as his students and the citizens of Lexington.


Thomas J. Jackson, born on January 21, 1824, was also a deeply religious man. He was sometimes ridiculed for his peculiar, eccentric behavior. Jackson was extremely shy, but after a harsh upbringing, he learned to read, and managed to graduate from West Point in 1846. He fought in the Mexican War, where he met Robert E. Lee. In 1851, Jackson became a professor at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Virginia, where his teaching methods received criticism. His first wife died in childbirth, but he remarried a few years later.

When the Civil War broke out, Jackson was assigned to Harpers Ferry, where he commanded the “Stonewall Brigade.” His strategic military genius helped win battles at First and Second Manassas, the Peninsula and Valley Campaigns, and the Battle of Fredericksburg. During the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863, Jackson was mistaken for the enemy by his own men and wounded. His arm was amputated, and it was thought he would recover. But after eight days, he succumbed to pneumonia. He died on May 10, 1863, and is buried in Lexington Cemetery (his left arm is buried at Ellwood Manor).

Lee and Jackson were two of the most prolific generals of the Civil War. Their religious conviction and military genius will always be admired and revered. Both men, along with Jefferson Davis, are featured in the carving on Stone Mountain, Georgia.



England and the Confederacy

England provided many seacoast guns for the Confederate cause. One of the most formidable guns in the service of the South, as it was called by the historian William C. Davis, was the work of Sir W. G. Armstrong & Company of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

The Big Gun was capable of firing its 150 pound shells a distance of 4 miles and was one of the most powerful weapons that served the South. The massive cannon defended Fort Fisher at Wilmington, North Carolina until January 15, 1865, when the fort fell during the attack by the Union Army. Shortly thereafter, the gun was brought to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Soon after the end of the war, it was moved to a prominent place on Trophy Point overlooking the Hudson River. There it remained until wind & weather damaged its wooden carriage beyond repair & it fell into storage.

Thanks to the donations of the Military Academy’s Class of 1932, the gun is now back in place & is supported by  a re-creation of the original carriage.

(Information from “The Big Gun,” American Heritage Civil War Chronicles, Summer 1991, Vol. 1/Number 1:38-39)

Confederate Cadets

With the outbreak of the war, the men of West Point faced very different challenges depending on which side they fought. Those who defended the Confederate cause had the enormous task of building an army from scratch, while their Union counterparts had to deal with the beauracracy that denied them promotion. Either way, they had to take what they had learned at West Point and put it to the ultimate test on the battlefield. Of the 278 cadets at West Point on the day that Lincoln was elected, 86 were appointees from the South. Of them, 65 were discharged, dismissed or resigned because of their loyalty to their native states. More than 300 West Point cadets and graduates affirmed their loyalty to the South.

If there was one graduate whose class ranking overshadowed the greatness to come, it was Robert E. Lee, the legendary Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee was known as “the Marble Model” at West Point. He had a perfect record in conduct. He never received a single demerit, an accomplishment that remains unmatched, and he graduated second in his class.

Being a graduate of West Point himself, Jefferson Davis appointed West Pointers throughout his administration as general officers in the Confederate Army.


Davis, William C., Ponhanka, Brian C. & Troiani, Don, ed. Civil War Journal, The Leaders, (Nashville, Tennessee: Rutledge Hill Press, 1997), 33-41

Lee and Jackson – Denied?

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It seems the assault on Confederate history is never ending. Last month, the U.S. Army War College took under consideration whether or not it would purge its history of all Confederate generals. Apparently, the college received complaints from certain faculty members about two full-length portraits of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson that are currently on display. The staff members argued that the two Confederate generals were “enemies” of the U.S., and therefore, should not hold a place of honor in its hallowed halls.

I’m not sure if this issue has been resolved, but it is just another example of political correctness trying to eradicate our history. The school claims that this isn’t a racial issue, but I have to wonder. It doesn’t seem to matter that both generals graduated from West Point, fought in the Mexican War, held high-ranking positions with the U.S. military, and received military honors. After over 200 years, the case of trying to dispense with these portraits has suddenly become an issue.

If the school decides to “do away” with these portraits, what’s next? I’m sure they’ll find fault in Washington and get rid of his painting somehow. When it comes down to politics, nobody wins.

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