Thomas Stonewall Jackson was born in Clarksburg, Virginia, on January 21, 1824. After graduating 17th in his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He served in the Mexican War and won two brevets. While he was in Mexico, Jackson became a Presbyterian. A friend said that, "He never smoked, he was a strict teetotaler and never touched a card." In 1851, Jackson was recruited to teach at the Virginia Military Institute. His students called him Deacon Jackson, while others compared him to Oliver Cromwell.
On the outbreak of the Civil War, Jackson was commissioned as colonel and was given the job to organize volunteers for the new Confederate Army. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and he took part in the first battle at Bull Run (July 1861) against the Union Army, led by Irvin McDowell. The Confederate troops led by Joseph E. Johnson, Jeb Stuart, Jubal Early and Pierre T. Beauregard defeated the Union troops. It was during this battle that Brigadier General Barnard E. Bee said Jackson stood against the Union forces "like a stone wall". After this, he was known as “Stonewall” Jackson.
The summer of 1862 the main Union Army under George McClellan was ready to march on Richmond. McClellan and his 115,000 men met the Confederate Army at Williamsburg, in May. McClellan moved his troops into the Shenandoah Valley and surrounded Jackson and his 17,000-man army.