On this day in 1854, in Lexington, Elinor Junkin Jackson gave birth to a stillborn son and died the same day. Not long before she had returned from a trip to western Virginia with her husband, Thomas J. Jackson, the future Stonewall, who was a professor at the Virginia Military Institute. The labor came on fast and within two hours she was gone.
Encyclopedia Virginia contributor Ethan S. Rafuse, in his biography of Stonewall Jackson, writes of the husband and father’s intense grief:
Ellie Jackson and her child were laid to rest the next day in the town Presbyterian cemetery. It was a bitterly cold day, with snow falling, as a stoic Jackson watched the single coffin containing the remains of his wife and child be placed in the grave. One of the cadets from VMI who accompanied the coffin as it was escorted through town to the cemetery later wrote of Jackson that “He did not shed a tear, yet everyone who saw him was impressed with the intense agony he was enduring.” Jackson was the last to leave the graveside, and he did not do so until Dr. White came back to personally escort him out of the cemetery. Jackson would return daily. Later he confided to D. H. Hill that more than once he had to fight the urge to dig up the coffin so he could “once more be near the ashes of one he had loved so well.” “I look forward with delight to the day when I shall join her,” he wrote his sister in November, adding, “Religion is all that I desire it to be. I am reconciled to my loss and have joy in hope of a future reunion.”