Thursday, May 19, 2011
The Piety of "Stonewall" Jackson: Part Five: Body Steward
Dabney describes Jackson’s typically self-disciplined oversight of his physical appetite and bodily health. He describes Jackson as a “valetudinarian,” but by this term he does not seem to mean that Jackson had an excessive concern for this physical health but a “regimen of body” that “contributed no little to his character for singularity” (p. 73).
He suffered from “weakness of eyes” and thus “made it a conscientious duty, as well as found it a necessity, to forgo all reading after nightfall, except the short portion of the Scriptures with which he invariably closed the day” (p. 65).
Jackson was “ever scrupulously neat” (p. 73).
He became a great “votary of cold water” p. 73).
In diet he was rigidly abstemious. Dabney observes: “It is noteworthy that, at all times, he preferred the simplest food, and that he lived absolutely without any stimulant; using neither tea, coffee, tobacco, nor wine” (p. 74). “One of his most rigid rules was, never to eat a morsel after his frugal supper” (p. 77).
On a wet and chilly night near the battlefield in 1862 he consented to a medical attendant’s urgings to take “ardent spirits” (p. 74). When he coughed and swallowed with difficulty, he was asked if he found the drink unpleasant. “No,” he said, “no, I like it; I always did; and that is the reason I never use it” (p. 74).
On another such occasion, a fellow officer who was “a temperate and God-fearing man” urged him to take some brandy and water. “No,” he said, “I am much obliged, but I never use it; I am more afraid of it than of Federal bullets” (pp. 74-75). Dabney adds, “How many a young man would have escaped the drunkard’s grave if he had acted on that manly philosophy!” (p. 75).
Jackson had little patience with those who suffered from over-indulgence. When those about him complained of headaches or other problems caused by “imprudence,” he declared, “Do as I do; govern yourself absolutely, and you will not suffer. My head never aches; if a thing disagrees with me, I never eat it” (p. 75).
Once he set a rule for personal discipline he felt morally obligated to keep it. When told that to relax his system in one instance would not bring injury, his typical response: “Perfectly true; but it would become a precedent for another and thus my rule would be broken down, and health would be injured, which would be a sin” (p. 75).