Stonewall Jackson’s Way
Probably the most famous poem about Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is “Stonewall Jackson’s Way,” a poem that was set to music.
The authorship of the poem is generally attributed to John Williamson Palmer, a doctor and writer who lived from 1825 until 1906.
Palmer was a native of Baltimore, Md. He became the city physician of San Francisco during the Gold Rush, then traveled the world, visiting Hawaii, China and working as a surgeon on an East India Company war steamer.
When he returned to the United States, he wrote about his experiences and what he had seen of Oriental life. Right before the Civil War began, he published “Folk Songs,” a collection of popular poetry. In the “Representative Authors of Maryland,” Palmer is mentioned as being “endowed with a vigorous lyric faculty and in this regard stands in the foremost rank of representative Maryland poets. The Fight at San Jacinto, The Maryland Battalion, For Charlie’s Sake, Ned Braddock and Stonewall Jackson’s Way, illustrate his poetic capacity in its purest and most attractive phases…. The best known of Dr. Palmer’s creations, Stonewall Jackson’s Way, was written at Oakland, in Western Maryland, during the progress of the battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), September 17th, 1862, and within sound of the guns. The poem leaped to life under the inspiration of the conflict, the bloodiest single day that marked the long carnival of the War between the States.”
Many books that included the poem did not credit it to Dr. Palmer but claimed it had been “Found on the Body of a Sergeant of the Old Stonewall Brigade. Winchester. Va.”
In her 1916 book, The Story of the United States, Mary Louise Herdman mentions the poem, noting that “in some of its uncouth verses it gives a vivid picture of Lee’s most famous general.” Dr. Palmer was probably rolling over in his grave.
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