By Colin Woodward
After some searching, I finally found Stonewall Jackson’s arm. Actually, I found where his arm supposedly is buried. Now that I have found the marker, located on the Wilderness battlefield, west of Fredericksburg, Virginia, I can mark off another item on my Civil War bucket list.
The Civil War has students, scholars, buffs, and fanatics. If you have visited the site of the headstone for Stonewall Jackson’s arm, you might fall into the latter category. Finding Stonewall’s arm, however, took some doing.
Anyone who studies the Civil War knows that Stonewall Jackson was shot on 1863 May 2 by his own troops during the battle of Chancellorsville. The general was doing some night recon after his masterful flank attack when jittery North Carolinians shot at him. After being hit, Stonewall was carried a few miles way. The wound required the amputation of the general’s left arm, which was performed the day after he was shot. By then, the Confederates could claim a great victory against the much larger Union army under Joe Hooker.
After the amputation, Stonewall became sick with pneumonia (some have argued that he might’ve been getting sick before the amputation) and died on 1863 May 10. The South mourned. Said Robert E. Lee of Jackson, “he has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.” In his General Orders No. 61, Lee wrote, “The daring Skill & energy of this great & good Soldier, by the decree of an All Wise Providence are now lost to us. But while we mourn his death, we feel that his Spirit Still lives, & will inspire the whole army with his indomitable courage & unshaken Confidence in God, as our hope & strength.”
Apparently, Rev. Beverly Tucker Lacy, a military chaplain, buried Jackson’s arm not far from where it was removed. Today, the marker for Stonewall’s arm is in a field close to the Ellwood house, which was used as the headquarters for the Union general Gouverneur K. Warren during the Wilderness battle, which was fought on much of the same ground as the Chancellorsville fight of the year before.
Earlier in the year, on a rainy Sunday, I drove with my daughter, who is three, to find the Stonewall marker. Despite having studied the Civil War for most of my life, I never gave much thought to looking for Stonewall’s arm. However, last year, I began following “StonewallJacksonsArm/Old Tom Fool” on Twitter, who posts, with much humor, about Jackson and his Civil War travels. How could I call myself a Civil War scholar and not know where Stonewall’s arm was buried?
I became determined the find where the marker was. Yet, there is no sign that leads you to where it is. On my first attempt to find the grave, despite the fact that my iPhone was telling me I was in the right place, I ended up wandering aimlessly around a cemetery near the Wilderness battlefield. I couldn’t find the marker. It was frustrating. Once again, I was a Yankee bested by an elusive Confederate.
Last week, I visited Montpelier, the home of James Madison. To get to Montpelier from Fredericksburg, you cut through the Civil War battlefields that were part of the Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Mine Run campaigns. With some time left in my day after visiting Montpelier, I was determined to find where Stonewall’s arm was buried.
This time, I found it. Or did I? I spoke with a tour guide at the Ellwood house, which is run by the National Parks Service. I told the guide that I was looking for Stonewall’s arm. He said that it was a short walk from the house. The area around the marker, however, was dug up some years ago, and the diggers found no evidence of an arm.
So, where is it? After doing a little research on the history of Stonewall’s arm (can a book be far behind?) Union soldiers apparently dug up the arm in 1864 during the Wilderness battle. But no one knows where they reburied it or where the arm is now.
Most of Stonewall Jackson’s remains are in downtown Lexington, where he was buried. The general was never reunited with his arm. The fact that people like me go out of their way to visit where Stonewall’s arm reputedly is buried seems a fittingly odd memorial to one of the oddest figures of the Civil War.
How to find Stonewall’s arm: The marker for Stonewall’s arm is located a short walk from the Ellwood house on the Wilderness battlefield. Find the Ellwood house, and you are as good as there. To get to the marker, though, you will need to get on Route 20, which merges with Route 3, not far from the Ellwood House. If you are traveling east or west along Route 3, your turn for Route 20 will be where you will see a Sheetz and some other stores. Once you turn at the Sheetz and are heading west on Route 20, the road to get to the Ellwood House will be a short drive away, on your left.
The Ellwood house also has an interesting history. Visitors looking for Stonewall’s arm should take 20 or 30 minutes to get a tour inside. The grounds outside are nice, too.