Brigadier General Alfred Eugene Jackson

Thomas' Legion
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  Brigadier General Alfred Eugene Jackson

(January 11, 1807 — October 30, 1889)

Brig. Gen. A. E. Jackson

Gen. A. E. Jackson
General Alfred Jackson.jpg
General Alfred Jackson

Name: Alfred Eugene Jackson
January 11, 1807, Davidson City, TN.
October 30, 1889, Jonesborough (aka Jonesboro), TN.
Jonesborough (Jonesboro), TN.
Pre-War Profession: Farmer, merchant.
War Service: 1861, staff major, quartermaster, paymaster, served in East Tennessee; April 1863, Brigadier General in command of a brigade, served in the Cumberland Gap and southwest Virginia; unfit for field service in November 1864; remained on staff duty under Maj. Gen. Breckinridge until the war ended.
Postwar Career: Farmer

Brig. Gen. Alfred Eugene Jackson, commonly referenced as A. E. Jackson, was a lifelong resident of Tennessee and slaveholder and farmer prior to the Civil War. Lacking any prior military service, the aged brigadier exhibited poor leadership and the inability to adapt and adopt the warrior's mindset, therefore forcing poor morale and contention among the soldiers who served in his brigade. On September 8, 1863, he tasted his only victory of note by capturing 300 soldiers of the 100th Ohio Infantry at Limestone, TN. When the Confederates were pushed out of Knoxville in December, Jackson would lead a brigade while assigned to the rugged southern Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee. He would later assume temporary control of the Rebel forces at Saltville, VA., during the first fight over the prized salt production facilities on October 2, 1864. With a large Federal command marching toward Saltville, Jackson led the troops well as they prepared fortifications and rifle pits, but Richmond had already made a career changing decision for the Tennessean, and during the next month of November, 1864, Jackson was declared unfit for the field and ordered to light duty on Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge's staff, where he would remain until the conflict ended.

They Call Me "Old Mudwall"


Unlike most generals of the conflict, Brig. Gen. Alfred E. Jackson lacked any formal military training and had never donned a uniform, but was a farmer who owned 20 slaves prior to the Civil War. Jackson received his disparaging nom de guerre, the moniker "Old Mudwall," by troops under his authority. Some men under the Tennessean's leadership routinely complained to headquarters with statements accusing Jackson of being unfit for command to pointing out how the farmer turned brigadier had only commanded 20 slaves prior to the war. For much of the war, Alfred Jackson did little to gain the confidence of his men. He was known to discipline officers in the presence of enlisted men — chastening actions that a slaveholder would openly practice — but such harmful conduct toward military personnel was crippling to morale and esprit de corps of the entire unit, and it was shunned by veteran soldiers and grads of West Point and VMI.

Brig. Gen. Alfred Jackson
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Alfred Jackson post war astride his favorite mount Jeff Davis

(About) Albumen print of Alfred Eugene Jackson. Undated. Post war image of Brig. Gen. Jackson astride his favorite horse Jeff Davis. The brigadier was rather fond of this mount and included ole Davis in his will. If Jackson should precede the handsome steed in death, Jeff Davis shall remain on the farm where he is to be later buried. When Jackson was said to be unfit for field duty and then stripped of command and reassigned to light duty on Breckinridge's staff, it was none other than the other Jeff Davis who would approve the reassignment of the aged Tennessean. Image has been altered from the original. This rare photo is courtesy Tennessee State Library and Archives.

What's in a Name


Two Jacksons, one dogged and the other neurotic. Whereas Lt. Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson could be seen resonating leadership and confidence on the field, Brig. Gen. "Old Mudwall" Jackson was said to be a rather nervous man. Regarding both "Old Mudwall" and "Stonewall," it was the troops they commanded that bestowed the nom de guerres. While the wise "Stonewall" Jackson executed aggressive tactical decisions and exuded mettle in the face of the enemy, "Old Mudwall," on the other hand, appeared to be quite nervous in any given skirmish and apprehensive regarding decisions in the field. "Stonewall" was a strategist who was well-known for pressing the action and carrying the day, but the other Jackson, to the contrary, was (stuck) like that proverbial deer staring at the headlights and unsure of its next decision. Whilst "Stonewall" was resolute and commanding in the throes of battle, "Old Mudwall" was unassertive on the battlefield — so the namesake stuck.


Faltering Morale


Captain James W. Terrell, of the Thomas Legion, was one of many who wrote to Governor Vance and stated that Jackson was trying to destroy the legion by making it his brigade. Notwithstanding, reports of poor discipline in the ranks of the Jackson brigade may be more intrinsic to the soldiers themselves and should therefore share strongly in the equation of culpability with Jackson.


As brigade general, A. E. Jackson would command Thomas' Legion, which, for much of his generalship, comprised most if not all of his entire brigade. The legion, which included some 400 Cherokee Indians, had fielded some 2,500 men in 1862, but the unit, like other legions of the war, would be more a legion in name only as exigencies of conflict required its artillery and cavalry to be detached. Since the legion had at various times formed all of Jackson's Brigade, conflict was inevitable between Colonel William H. Thomas, the legion's namesake, and the brigadier who had assumed authority of Thomas' unit.


By 1864, several officers of Thomas' Legion signed a petition stating that Jackson was "a man of irritable temper intensified by diseased nerves and aggravated by being in a position for which the man is morally and physically unfit." This letter further stated that "General Jackson would reprimand the officers in the presence of the enlisted men," which only added to the list of grievances. The letter was forwarded from Gov. Zebulon Vance and read by President Jeff Davis.


The scathing allegations against Jackson would gain traction when Colonel William P. Johnston, President Jefferson Davis' aide, stated to Davis that Brig. Gen. Jackson was a "very nervous person under responsibility." (O.R., 30, IV, 602*). This rhetoric became action when General Bragg wrote Davis in 1864 and recommended that Jackson be relieved of command and that Col. William H. Thomas resume control of the Thomas Legion (which Bragg knew had formed the nucleus of the brigade under Jackson). But the organization change would have to wait. Having been signed on May 5, 1864, General Order 105 would order the Thomas Legion to return to western North Carolina, but the exigencies of war would postpone the order by first moving the legion into the Shenandoah Valley to serve under Lt. Gen. Jubal Early.


While the soldiers enjoyed a laissez-faire atmosphere under Col. Thomas, Brig. Gen. Jackson was said to be a strict disciplinarian. Lt. Col. W. W. Stringfield, Thomas' Legion, recorded the unit's history for North Carolina in 1901. Although he made critical remarks for some soldiers, Stringfield gave the following account of the brigadier. "[General Alfred E. Jackson] was a cultivated gentleman and personally a brave man. He was a good man and always managed the men to the best advantage in so hostile a region. He was personally and scrupulously honest, and demanded the same of his men; but he was a little too strict for the "old soldier" ideas of those who wanted to prowl." W. W. Stringfield, 10 May, 1901. Clark, Walter, 1846-1924, ed. Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina, in the Great War 1861-'65. Vol. III, p. 743.


*Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; hereinafter cited as O.R.

A. E. Jackson's Brigade
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Cherokee Indians of Jackson's Brigade at New Orleans Reunion in 1903

Alfred E. Jackson
Gen. Alfred E. Jackson.jpg
Brig. Gen. Alfred E. Jackson

Commander Nemesis


Because they were too much alike may be the single greatest reason why they remained at odds with each other.


Alfred E. Jackson and William H. Thomas had much more in common than not. The two alpha males were in their mid-50s when the war broke out and were from adjoining homogenous mountain regions; both had owned slaves prior to the conflict; each had amassed fortune and stature; neither had spent a single day of his life in the military prior to the four year conflict; the leadership of both Jackson and Thomas was often viewed with skepticism by generals reporting to Richmond; the aged duo would conclude the war with physical and or mental disabilities; both were insolvent in 1865 and would spend the remainder of their lives striving to regain their former estates; and whereas each would outlive the majority of all Americans, the two senior citizens would have several years to reflect upon and contemplate the many decisions and actions of a lifetime. Jackson would pass in 1889 at 82 years young and across the border in North Carolina, Thomas, aged 88, would be laid to rest in 1893.


Brig. Gen. A. E. Jackson, like many general officers from the South, was a slaveholder who had attained wealth and prominence. But unlike the majority of Confederate generals, Jackson, who had spent much of his adult life farming, had never donned the military uniform prior to the conflict.


Colonel W. H. Thomas, commanding Thomas' Legion, was also a slave owner, but to his credit he had amassed in his 50 plus years an array of experiences to warrant solid complaints on poor leadership, but only through proper channels of course. Thomas, prior to Civil War, had owned stores, acquired a law practice, was elected as an N.C. state senator, and served as Chief of the Eastern Cherokee, which he would continue through the war by wearing the hat of both colonel and chief.


The unit known as Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders was mustered in with the belief that it would be assigned only in defense of the East Tennessee and adjacent North Carolina mountains. But war being war and the exigencies of combat requiring hard, difficult decisions, it was not practical to have such a large force of some 2,500 men, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, left intact for the entire four year fight. Once the legion was thrust over the mountains and into East Tennessee and placed in a brigade under the command of Brig. Gen. A. E. Jackson, morale faltered. Since the legion comprised the entire brigade, save another artillery battery at various times, it brought confusion and many complaints from the troops while questioning who was their commander.


In fairness to Jackson, Thomas, who assumed the role of co-captain of the legion, did absolutely nothing to extinguish the rising flames of anger in the ranks, but he himself fueled it. Jackson was "Old Mudwall," but the Thomas Legion would soon assume a few monikers for itself — from useless to utterly worthless according to some reports by division and corps generals. As the soldiers under Jackson longed for duty on the front, as in front door of hearth and home, they daily recalled the promises of being stationed only in defense of the mountain region. So it was the path of least resistance for the ranks to vent their discontentment by bickering and complaining about Jackson. But "Old Mudwall" would engage and further enrage the already fractured unit by leveling petty charges and minor infractions at its officers in the front of the entire brigade. Morale and bitterness would continue to drop to such levels that some soldiers under Jackson returned to North Carolina with the likelihood of facing desertion charges rather than serve another day under the so-called unfit leader.

Brig. Gen. Alfred E. Jackson
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Tennessean and Brig. Gen. Alfred E. Jackson

Jonesborough, Tennessee
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Gen. Alfred Eugene Jackson



"General A. E. Jackson was formerly paymaster at Knoxville, and was appointed brigadier general last spring. He is an East Tennessean and was a citizen of wealth and prominence. I make these statements because you were not fully satisfied what General Jackson it was. I hear that he has very complete topographical knowledge of the county, but is a very nervous person under responsibility, although undoubtedly brave and energetic." Letter dated September 5, 1863, from William Preston Johnston, Colonel and Aide-de-Camp, to President Jefferson Davis. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Volume 30, part IV, p. 602.


Although several soldiers stated publicly their dislike of Jackson, it would be remiss to discount or discard the brigadier's abilities. The Tennessean was a self-made man who had evolved into an expert wartime strategist. He understood the strategic importance of the railways and was by all accounts a seasoned topographer. While the aged general was an expert of the ground to which he was assigned to defend, he sought throughout the conflict to use the terrain for an advantage. Whereas Jackson was undoubtedly brave and energetic, the same words could not always be said of the troops he commanded. Because Headquarters Confederate States constructed and then permitted the contentious command structure of the Jackson Brigade, one will never realize the full potential of the mature brigadier.


One soldier serving under the old brigadier would say in a single sentence what many had tried to convey through lengthy prose during the entire war, that Jackson was a "man who cared only about himself." In the several complaints that Thomas would bring against Jackson during the conflict, many had the eerie semblance as though he was actually talking about himself. Whereas the two highlanders were similar in many respects and neither was accustomed to riding shotgun, in unawares during the course of a lengthy conflict they were creating a two-headed commander with monstrous results. (See Brigadier General Alfred Eugene Jackson v. Colonel William Holland Thomas.)


Although Thomas often berated Jackson, there was no love lost between these two men, so when he said that "Jackson never governed any man in his life, just his 20 slaves, and he received his command by accident," it came as no surprise to Jackson. The Thomas Jackson friction rose to such a level that it led to Thomas receiving his first of many court-martials. Allegations would be hurled at Thomas and protests would be aimed at Jackson, in what resembled a schoolyard squabble with neither swallowing his pride and taking a hike on the highway of humility. But as Richmond had tried at times to place pacifiers in the mouths of the bickering commanders, there was actually a war going on.


On a few occasions petitions circulated through the ranks of the Thomas Legion with some men stating their grievances against Jackson, but it was the legion's James W. Terrell who wrote to Governor Vance and stated that "Jackson is trying to destroy our organization. It is no longer Thomas' Legion, but Thomas' Regiment, Walker's Battalion and Levi's Battery, in order to make it a show of a his brigade." (O.R., 1, Vol. 33, p. 1137.)


It was only after the likes of Bragg, Longstreet, Breckinridge, and Jefferson Davis had been thoroughly briefed with the present state of affairs, that Jackson's military service would turn to that of a nonsupervisory role. Jackson was initially relieved of command and sent to the Army of Tennessee (O.R. 37, I, 753), but as his nervous condition worsened, he was again dismissed from command (O.R., 45, I, 1240) and reassigned to the staff of Breckinridge, where he would remain until the war concluded.


With the anger and nervousness of Jackson being witnessed and reported by several in the army over an extended period of the war, the general may have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, a condition that had yet to be recognized. The former Confederate officer would gradually reclaim a portion of his East Tennessee estate, where he would remain until his death on October 30, 1889. See also Brig. Gen. Alfred E. Jackson History and General Alfred Eugene Jackson Biography.

(Additional sources and related reading below.)


Recommended Reading: Shook over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War. Description: Eric T. Dean Jr., a lawyer whose interest in the Civil War prompted him to return to school to obtain a Ph.D. in history, makes a unique contribution to Civil War studies with his research on the psychological effects of the war on its veterans. Digging through the pension records of Civil War vets, Dean documents the great number who, suffering from severe psychological problems triggered by intense combat experience, were dutifully provided with disability pensions by the U.S. government. Continued below...

Dean's central thesis--that these veterans provide a mirror for the experiences of their counterparts in Vietnam a century later--is supported with lucid reasoning. Of particular interest are the many stories of intense Civil War combat and its psychological aftereffects, including many cases of Civil War veterans committed to asylums well into the 1890s--case studies seldom found in standard histories which offer painful testimony to the war's enormous impact on the nation.

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Gen. Alfred Eugene Jackson Historical Marker
Alfred Eugene Jackson.jpg
General Alfred Jackson

Related Reading:

Recommended Reading: Storm in the Mountains: Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers (Thomas' Legion: The Sixty-ninth North Carolina Regiment). Description: Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains, spent 10 years conducting extensive Thomas Legion's research. Crow was granted access to rare manuscripts, special collections, and privately held diaries which add great depth to this rarely discussed Civil War legion. He explores and discusses the unit's formation, fighting history, and life of the legion's commander--Cherokee chief and Confederate colonel--William Holland Thomas. Continued below...

Numerous maps and photographs allow the reader to better understand and relate to the subjects discussed. It also contains rosters which is an added bonus for researchers and genealogists. Crow, furthermore, left no stone unturned while examining the many facets of the Thomas Legion and his research is conveyed on a level that scores with Civil War students and scholars alike.


Recommended Reading: North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865: A Roster (Volume XVI: Thomas's Legion) (Hardcover, 537 pages), North Carolina Office of Archives and History. Description: The volume begins with an authoritative 246-page history of Thomas's Legion. The history, including Civil War battles and campaigns, is followed by a complete roster and service records of the field officers, staff, and troops that served in the legion. A thorough index completes the volume. Continued below...

Volume XVI of North Carolina Troops: A Roster contains the history and roster of the most unusual North Carolina Confederate Civil War unit, significant because of the large number of Cherokee Indians who served in its ranks. Thomas's Legion was the creation of William Holland Thomas, an influential businessman, state legislator, and Cherokee chief. He initially raised a small battalion of Cherokees in April 1862, and gradually expanded his command with companies of white soldiers raised in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and Virginia. By the end of 1862, Thomas's Legion comprised an infantry regiment and a battalion of infantry and cavalry. An artillery battery was added in April 1863. Furthermore, in General Early's Army of the Valley, the Thomas Legion was well-known for its fighting prowess. It is also known for its pivotal role in the last Civil War battle east of the Mississippi River. The Thomas Legion mustered more than 2,500 soldiers and it closely resembled a brigade. With troop roster, muster records, and Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) this volume is also a must have for anyone interested in genealogy and researching Civil War ancestors. Simply stated, it is an outstanding source for genealogists.


Recommended Reading: Generals in Gray Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Description: When Generals in Gray was published in 1959, scholars and critics immediately hailed it as one of the few indispensable books on the American Civil War. Historian Stanley Horn, for example, wrote, "It is difficult for a reviewer to restrain his enthusiasm in recommending a monumental book of this high quality and value." Here at last is the paperback edition of Ezra J. Warner’s magnum opus with its concise, detailed biographical sketches and—in an amazing feat of research—photographs of all 425 Confederate generals. Continued below...

The only exhaustive guide to the South’s command, Generals in Gray belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in the Civil War. RATED 5 STARS!


Recommended Reading: Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders (Hardcover). Description: More than forty years after its original publication, Ezra J. Warner’s Generals in Blue is now available in paperback for the first time. Warner’s classic reference work includes intriguing biographical sketches and a rare collection of photos of all 583 men who attained the rank of general in the Union Army. Here are the West Point graduates and the political appointees; the gifted, the mediocre, and the inexcusably bad; those of impeccable virtue and those who abused their position; the northern-born, the foreign-born, and the southerners who remained loyal to the Union. Continued below...

Warner’s valuable introduction discusses the criteria for appointment and compares the civilian careers of both Union and Confederate generals, revealing striking differences in the two groups. Generals in Blue is that rare book—an essential volume for scholars, a prized item for buffs, and a biographical dictionary that the casual reader will find absorbing.

Recommended Reading: Civil War High Commands (1040 pages) (Hardcover). Description: Based on nearly five decades of research, this magisterial work is a biographical register and analysis of the people who most directly influenced the course of the Civil War, its high commanders. Numbering 3,396, they include the presidents and their cabinet members, state governors, general officers of the Union and Confederate armies (regular, provisional, volunteers, and militia), and admirals and commodores of the two navies. Civil War High Commands will become a cornerstone reference work on these personalities and the meaning of their commands, and on the Civil War itself. Continued below.

Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the high commanders are legion in the Civil War literature, in reference works as well as in narrative accounts. The present work brings together for the first time in one volume the most reliable facts available, drawn from more than 1,000 sources and including the most recent research. The biographical entries include complete names, birthplaces, important relatives, education, vocations, publications, military grades, wartime assignments, wounds, captures, exchanges, paroles, honors, and place of death and interment. In addition to its main component, the biographies, the volume also includes a number of essays, tables, and synopses designed to clarify previously obscure matters such as the definition of grades and ranks; the difference between commissions in regular, provisional, volunteer, and militia services; the chronology of military laws and executive decisions before, during, and after the war; and the geographical breakdown of command structures. The book is illustrated with 84 new diagrams of all the insignias used throughout the war and with 129 portraits of the most important high commanders. It is the most comprehensive volume to any Union or Confederate general--and it can be found in here. [T]he photos alone are worth the purchase. RATED FIVE STARS by

Bibliography: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Walter Clark, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-1865; National Park Service: American Civil War; National Park Service: Soldiers and Sailors System; Weymouth T. Jordan and Louis H. Manarin, North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865; D. H. Hill, Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865; Vernon H. Crow, Storm in the Mountains: Thomas' Confederate Legion of Cherokee Indians and Mountaineers; Vernon H. Crow, The Justness of Our Cause; E. Stanly Godbolt, Jr. and Mattie U. Russell, Confederate Colonel and Cherokee Chief: The Life of William Holland Thomas; The Civil War Diary of William W. Stringfield, Johnson City, TN: East Tennessee Historical Society Publications; and John R. Finger, The Eastern Band of Cherokees; Library of Congress.


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