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Excerpt from 'Rebel Yell'

"Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson" by S.C. Gwynne (Scribner, September 2014). Credit: Scribner

Lexington [Virgina] knew the caricature Jackson, the health crank, the unbending, automaton-like professor, the social bore with high Christian principles. This was the strangely two-dimensional face he presented to the world, and he wore it for a decade, like armor. Because he seemed a decent enough man, a polite and conscientious man with no apparent malice in his heart, the town adopted him. If he could never adjust his habits and ways to those of Lexington society, no matter: Lexington would adapt itself to him. It got used to Major Jackson and in its own way came to appreciate him. He was a curiosity, a sort of minor civic institution.

But he was not what he seemed. Concealed behind this carefully constructed social front was a layered, highly complex, passionate, deeply sensitive man who loved deeply and grieved deeply. He had a poetic heart, and a nineteenth-century romantic's embrace of beauty and nature. He loved Shakespeare and European architecture. He was self-taught and completely fluent in Spanish; he was a devoted and talented gardener; and he read widely in world history and military history and reveled in travel. He had an ecstatic, almost mystical sense of God. He loved walking in the country around Lexington, gloried in sunsets and mountain views and in the blooming Shenandoah spring. He was a man who could laugh uproariously, and roll around on the floor in play with a child, speaking Spanish baby talk, a man who kept close track of news and gossip inside his large, extended family. He was a doting, affectionate, and passionate husband who, behind closed doors, had an expansive and often joyous personality.

Almost no one in Lexington -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- knew or suspected any of this. His students and fellow parishioners would have been astounded to learn it. Many would not have believed it. The real Thomas J. Jackson was almost entirely private. He was deliberately and ingeniously cloaked. The more fully realized part of him was revealed only to a very small group of people, all of them female, and all of them close to his heart. All came to full prominence in his life during his time in Lexington.

Excerpted from "Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson," by S.C. Gwynne. Copyright © 2014 by Samuel C. Gwynne. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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