Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Stonewall Brigade & The Bedford Boys

General Thomas Jackson and Virginia's First Brigade at First Manassas
About to step into immortality...
One of the most famous battle units in American history, the Stonewall Brigade – trained and first led by Thomas J. Jackson - achieved a record for marching, fighting, and sacrifice rarely equaled in the annals of war. The organization is remarkable for remaining a potent fighting force until late in the War, despite severe attrition. Writers over the years have likened it to Caesar’s Tenth Legion, Charlemagne’s Paladins, and Napoleon’s Old Guard. The brigade’s original members were in the initial wave of volunteers who answered Virginia’s call to arms. All the soldiers in the unit were from the Shenandoah Valley and adjacent areas. In April of 1861, the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th and 33rd Virginia Infantry Regiments, plus the Rockbridge Artillery Battery, were organized into a brigade.

Their commander was Gen. Thomas J. Jackson. His severe training program and ascetic standards of military discipline turned these raw but enthusiastic recruits into an effective military organization. The unit was Virginia’s First Brigade until July 21, 1861, when, at the Battle of First Manassas, it and its general received the nickname “Stonewall”. Barnard E. Bee made his immortal remark between 2:30 and 3:00 P.M., when, looking for more of his brigade to rally for the final phase of the battle. He probably said, “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall; let’s go to his assistance… Rally behind the Virginians!” - Source
Few units capture the imagination of the historian like the Stonewall Brigade and it's first commander, Thomas J. Jackson.

Lt Gen Thomas J. Jackson (CSA)
West Point, Class of 1846

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (January 21, 1824 – May 10, 1863) was a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and one of the best-known Confederate commanders after General Robert E. Lee. His military career includes the Valley Campaign of 1862 and his service as a corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee. Confederate pickets accidentally shot him at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. The general survived with the loss of an arm to amputation, but died of complications from pneumonia eight days later. His death was a severe setback for the Confederacy, affecting not only its military prospects, but also the morale of its army and of the general public. - Wikipedia
The military lineage of the brigade has reached modern times in the form of the 116th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 1st Brigade "The Stonewall Brigade" of the 29th Infantry Division (Light), Virginia Army National Guard, which counts historical ties to the 5th Virginia Infantry, one of the five original regiments in the Civil War Stonewall Brigade. As a result of US Army modularization, the 1st Brigade is now the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The brigade's colors carry battle streamers for the Stonewall Brigade's actions in the Civil War. - Wikipedia
Now about that 116th Infantry Regiment...

National D-Day Memorial pool with Overlord Arch

There is a little town in Virginia, name of Bedford, where the National D-Day Memorial stands. Now that little town made an awful sacrifice to this nation back in World War II. Most of that sacrifice was made on one day, one day in Normandy. Operation Overload, D-Day.
Bedford, Virginia... Like eleven other Virginia communities, Bedford provided a company of soldiers (Company A) to the 29th Infantry Division when the National Guard's 116th Infantry Regiment was activated on 3 February 1941. Some thirty Bedford soldiers were still in that company on D-Day; several more from Bedford were in other D-Day companies, including one who, two years earlier, had been reassigned from the 116th Infantry to the First Infantry Division. Thus he had already landed in both Northern Africa and Sicily before coming ashore on D-Day at Omaha Beach with the Big Red One. Company A of the 116th Infantry assaulted Omaha Beach as part of the First Division's Task Force O.
By day's end, nineteen of the company's Bedford soldiers were dead. Two more Bedford soldiers died later in the Normandy campaign, as did yet another two assigned to other 116th Infantry companies. Bedford's population in 1944 was about 3,200. Proportionally this community suffered the nation's severest D-Day losses. Recognizing Bedford as emblematic of all communities, large and small, whose citizen-soldiers served on D-Day, Congress warranted the establishment of the National D-Day Memorial here. (Source)
The 116th also fought in World War I and has served in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. At one time they wore this patch on their uniforms...


If that looks familiar, here's why...

Statue of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on the battlefield of Bull Run or Manassas if you prefer. (Source)
I'm sure General Jackson would still be proud of "his" brigade. As we all should be.

They wore butternut and gray back in the 1860s. In the 1940s they wore olive drab. Now they wear the latest Army camouflage. No matter what they wore, then or now, they were and are Americans.

Like Cap'n Steve said, "The Brigade lives on."

Yes, it does Sir, yes it does.

Next time I'm in Virginia, I think I need to head on over to Bedford...


And pay my respects.


10 comments:

  1. Great post (as usual). Did not know that about the town. Will have to add it to my list for when I'm back there.

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    1. It looks to be a bit of a drive from DC, but it will happen.

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  2. Thanks for this Sarge. FYI--29th Infantry now wears the Blue and Grey "Ying-Yang" patch.

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    1. No problem Cap'n, it's easy honoring those who earned it.

      I have seen that patch.

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    2. @Capt Steve/

      IIRC the 29th Div has always worn the Blue& Gray "Ying-Yang" patch. Think the JACKSON patch was/is a Regimental one?

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    3. The Jackson patch was worn by the 116th, so yes a regimental thing. Later they wore the same patch as the remainder of the division.

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  3. Sarge, by the time you make that trip, My Lady and I will have relocated to North Carolina, most likely near my hometown a couple of hours south of Bedford. It will be my pleasure to revisit the "Bedford Boys" with you.

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  4. Quite the story, and some units live on, thankfully carrying on the traditions!

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)