Thursday, May 17, 2007

Before Henry Hill, there was Vesuvius

Old Blue Light visits Old Europe

If you think "Stonewall" Jackson covered a lot of ground in his celebrated 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, check out the itinerary of his 1856 European tour. The letter below is one of many Jackson missives that the Virginia Military Institute has made available online. Most of them are addressed to his sister Laura, for whom he had such great affection [Laura will be the subject of the next blog entry here, later today].

TJJ to his sister, Laura Arnold

Date: 1856 September 9

Place: Naples, Italy

Sept 9th 1856

My Dear Sister,

You must excuse my long silence as I have been much pressed for time, and now barely hasten to drop you a line.

Since landing at Liverpool I have been at Glasgow, Sterling Castle & Edinburgh Scotland, York, London & other places in England; Antwerp, Brussels, Waterloo & other places in Belgium. Since then I have passed through Aix La Chapellr, Bonn, Frankfort on the Main,[? going] ascended the Rhine. From Frankfort I proceeded to Heidelberg and thence on to Baden Baden in Germany, Strasbourg in France, Basle, Lakes Lucerne, Brienze, Thun, Geneva & the city of Geneva in Switzerland, and so on to the great ice berg called Mer de Glas that is sea of ice. I continued in Switzerland for about a week and crossed the Alps by the Simplon Pass as it is called through which Napoleon entered Italy. The scenery of Switzerland is very grand.

Upon entering Italy I passed on through the cities of Milan, Venice, Mantua, Modena, Florence, Pisa, Leghorn and finally to this place. With Venice, Florence and Naples I have been very much gratified. I was at the volcano of Vesuvius last Friday and went about half way down one of the active craters. The scene was truly grand this evening. I leave for Rome. Much love to all.

Your much attached brother


The VMI Archives has done a nice job with their website, featuring much more than their Civil War holdings, of course. While you're there, check out the Jackson photo exhibit.
See, also, the Civil War Resources, including Professor Jackson's detailed reporting ("His face, upon the scaffold, was turned a little east of south") on the execution of John Brown. And as you would expect, there is tons of great material on the participation of VMI cadets at the Battle of New Market.

[photo at top: Mt. Vesuvius, near Naples, from Google Earth]

1 comment:

Terry B said...

This post was on my mind when I came upon Stonewall Jackson in James Murfin's 1965 book on Antietam. Murfin writes about the dispute between AP Hill and Jackson during the early September entry into Maryland. The argument was on the matter of Hill's men marching forward despite an order to halt. Finding that it was Jackson who ordered the halt, AP Hill handed over his sword in anger. Jackson snapped back that Hill was now under arrest. Refused a copy of the formal charges, he didn't survive to learn them in any military hearing. As Murfin presents the incident, Jackson's temper surely was volcanic.