There Stands Jackson, Sucking On A Lemon

on September 27, 2013 in American Civil War, People and Biographies

Stonewall_JacksonFew conflicts caused as many rich personalities to be put into the historical spotlight as the American Civil War, and arguably the most eccentric among them was that of Stonewall Jackson. He was the devout Presbyterian who frequently fell asleep during services, and worse, was a snorer to boot; his passion for fruit in general led him to suck on lemons, something almost all contemporary observers found strange enough to comment on; his peculiar mix of rigidity of habit and rich imagination colored just about choice the man made.

Much had been made of Jackson’s hypochondria and his embrace of quackery, although some of his complaints read as very real indeed. Jackson’s oft-quoted statement that he never ate pepper because it weakened his left leg certainly sounds off, but if Jackson suffered from dyspepsia, his preference for plain, unseasoned food makes plenty of sense. So it was with many things Jackson said and did: his pronouncements were often peculiar, but his practices sometimes appear sensible, especially if viewed from the right perspective.

So what is a historical novelist to do with the legendary tics of Stonewall Jackson? The man certainly offers plenty of fodder to work with, but in a broad sense I had only two real choices in how to characterize the man: I could either use Jackson as a Richard Taylor-style caricature, playing his eccentricities up for maximum color; or I could try to imagine how those eccentricities might work in a real person. I went down the latter path.

This is the reason lemons are mentioned only twice in Stonewall Goes West: once when Jackson apologizes for not having any, and then in a single instance of sucking on one. Because I was imaging Jackson as how he might really have been, I was obliged to depict his well-documented passion for fresh fruit in general. Peaches, and not lemons, were Jackson’s favorite. A second and lesser reason I made only slight use of lemons is that I had two more books to write, and that simple fact dictates I don’t overuse any of Jackson’s┬ápeculiarities by always depicting him as sitting on a fence rail, thumb up, eyes blazing, sucking on a lemon, and quoting the Bible.

One Response to “There Stands Jackson, Sucking On A Lemon”

  1. MOM says:

    Great titles, Sunshine.

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