Continued from Part I of James Jackson’s Civil War: The Story of a Confederate Colonel Accused of Cowardice at Gettysburg.
It is extremely difficult to make sense of Colonel James Jackson’s performance at Gettysburg. The letter he wrote to his wife was quite descriptive of the battle action. It chronicled in much detail the 47th’s movements up and over Big Round Top and their repeated attempts to dislodge Vincent’s men on Little Round Top. Yet it is clear from other sources that Jackson was simply not with his regiment when it went into battle that day. It was, instead, commanded by Lt. Col. Michael Bulger. Because of this, Jackson most likely based the contents of his letter home strictly on what he had heard from other members of the regiment in the aftermath of the fight.
As the 47th Alabama advanced that late Thursday afternoon at Gettysburg, Colonel James Jackson remained behind and he apparently stayed well to the rear. Perhaps his body had finally given up and failed him; perhaps he was among those many “hundreds” he claimed had fainted or collapsed from exhaustion after so trying a day. There can be no denying that his body had been wracked with illness and with pain ever since he had first donned the uniform in 1861 and especially after his wound at Antietam. It is possible, though, that Jackson intentionally remained in the rear that day. He had already tendered his resignation and he may have been simply looking forward to returning once more to his family, which that year grew to include a newborn son. Perhaps we will never know for certain. But to Major James Campbell of the 47th Alabama there was no question. Left in command of the regiment after the resignation of Jackson and the wounding of Lt. Col. Bulger on the slopes of Little Round Top, it was up to Campbell to write the Official Report of the 47th’s actions on July 2. He wrote it on August 7 and in it, he complained of Jackson’s performance and hinted about Jackson’s cowardice. According to Campbell, there was “some confusion” during the regiment’s advance “owing to the fact that in the charge the lieutenant-colonel [Bulger] expected the colonel [Jackson] to give all necessary commands, and the colonel remained so far behind that his presence on the field was but a trammel on the lieutenant-colonel.” At the end of the report, Campbell wrote that out of the 21 officers in the regiment, “All of these (the 21) acted well. The colonel and adjutant are not included in this number.” It is possible, of course, that Major Campbell may have bore a personal grudge against Jackson for some, unknown reason, but still, and as Gary Bruner pointed out in an article documenting the actions of the 47th Alabama at Gettysburg, “the fact that Major Campbell’s report stood, uncorrected by any higher officer, accusing Colonel Jackson of not only mishandling his troops, but strongly implying cowardice as well, is extremely telling.”
Colonel James W. Jackson paid a high price fighting in support of his cause but despite his physical sacrifice—his sickness and his injury—the deepest wound the young officer sustained in the war may have very well been this post-Gettysburg report, which attacked his character and his bravery. We may never know what happened, exactly, that Thursday afternoon, but since the history of Gettysburg so thoroughly dominates the historiography of the Civil War, Colonel James Jackson’s name, when it is discussed, is oftentimes linked to cowardice. Citing Major Campbell’s report as testimony, some historians claimed Jackson resigned in disgrace following Gettysburg, although he had originally submitted his resignation prior to the battle. Either way, Major James Campbell was unkind to Jackson and his words continue to haunt the colonel’s legacy. Captain Joseph Burton, however, who also served under the sickly young doctor in the 47th, was more charitable when years later he wrote that Jackson was “. . .a good officer and a brave man, but he was so thoroughly disqualified physically to be a soldier.”
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It had been almost two years since Gettysburg and since he had last worn his faded, dust-covered gray uniform. Ever since his resignation in mid-July 1863, Jackson had lived at his parents’ plantation home in Greenville, along with his wife Jennie and their two children—six-year-old Tallulah and two-year-old Clyde. He had spent most of those two years bedridden, having never been able to recover his ruined and wrecked health. But that day in April, 1865, duty summoned him once more to uniform. The war may have been over but Union raiding parties were still out there and now, one of them was galloping fast toward Jackson’s home and family.
Fully dressed, James Jackson ventured outside while his wife, mother, and two young children remained in hiding in the house. He painfully mounted his horse and rode out toward the spot where his father had just taken the family’s livestock. Along the way, however, Jackson came to a sudden halt when he spotted the blue-coated horsemen heading in his direction. They also caught sight of him and, suddenly, half the Union men galloped after him while the other half continued riding to the house. When that half arrived at the house, Jackson’s blind mother, amid much commotion and shedding tears, pleaded with the officer in command of the raiding party to take what they wanted but to spare her son’s life. As she begged, she told them that her son was so weak, so sick that he had essentially come home to die. Hearing the heartache in the elderly woman’s voice, the officer promised that her son, if captured, would not be hurt. The Union men soon galloped away, leaving James’s mother and wife no doubt weeping and the children fearful that they may never see their daddy again. Word soon arrived that Colonel Jackson had been ridden down and captured—and that he was most likely dead—but this proved to be a false report, for not long after, Colonel Jackson was seen limping up the plantation road and toward the house. He had, indeed, been captured but the Union officer, after confiscating Jackson’s horse, ordered him to be released. Now, he was returning home. …for the last time, as it turned out.
Colonel James Jackson did, indeed, come home to die and following this brief but nerve-wracking encounter with the blue-coated Union horsemen in mid-April 1865, he retired once more to the bedroom. He never again rose but remained bedridden for the next two-and-a-half months. Finally, on July 1, 1865, Jackson called upon his father, Hinson, and begged that he look after his beloved Jennie and their two young children; he knew the end was near. Later that same day, Colonel James Jackson breathed his last. He was only 33 years old. Next day—July 2—James Jackson was buried in the Greenville City Cemetery. It was exactly two years from the date of that fateful day at Gettysburg when his 47th Alabama charged up the boulder-strewn slopes of Little Round Top; two years from the date when his reputation was ruined and his wartime record scarred with accusations of cowardice, whether fairly or not. And those accusations continue to haunt Colonel Jackson’s legacy to this day just as tragedy continued to haunt his family. Less than a week after the death of his son, Hinson Jackson collapsed and died suddenly, while dear little Tallulah Jackson died in 1866 at the age of seven.
John Hoptak, Park Ranger
 Report of Major James Campbell, in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 27, Part II, page 395.
 Bruner, 21.
 Burton quoted in Ibid.; In Lee’s Colonels, Robert Krick suggests that Jackson resigned in disgrace [pg. 189], while Stewart Sifakis, in his work, Who’s Who In the Confederacy, recorded of Jackson that “not all of the officers in the Army of Northern Virginia were heroes.” In his article on the 47th Alabama, Gary Bruner also wrote that Jackson “resigned in disgrace immediately after Gettysburg.”
 Laine and Penny, 131-132.
 Ibid.; “Family Group Record” James Washington Jackson, in 47th Alabama Regimental Unit File, in the Collections of the Antietam National Battlefield Library.