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They picked their way through the high country of western Virginia, led by Major General Thomas J. Jackson. Just a year earlier, he was an obscure mathematics professor at V.M.I., jokingly called "Tom Fool" Jackson by his students. Now he was the famous "Stonewall" Jackson, hero of First Manassas and defender of the Shenandoah Valley. On this winter expedition, designed to destroy a concentration of Federal forces near Romney, Virginia, he would battle the enemy, the weather and problems within his own command. Heavy snow and ice posed a severe challenge on this expedition, but Jackson and his Stonewall Brigade persevered.
What lay ahead after difficulties and defeats was the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. It would be a campaign ranked by historians to come as among "the most brilliant in history," and it would give Stonewall Jackson almost legendary stature. "He lives by the New Testament and fights by the Old," historian Douglas Southall Freeman would later note. "A man he is of contrasts so complete that he appears one day a Presbyterian deacon who delights in theological discussion and, the next, a [modern day] Joshua."
Striking were the contrasts of his life at war. A humble, gentle, and compassionate husband and father, when summoned to fight he was a ferocious, relentless and remarkably successful warrior. Always, he was devout, disciplined and devoted to duty. "Through life," he once advised, "let your principle object be the discharge of duty." Before another winter would cloak Virginia's highlands, Stonewall Jackson would rank among the great military leaders of history