Stonewall Jackson’s Military Genius
In his 2004 book “The Deceivers, Allied Military Deception in the Second World War,” author Thaddeus Holt writes that “Stonewall Jackson was the “great-great-great grandfather of modern British deception.” He also notes that British General Sir Archibald Wavell was fond of quoting Jackson’s strategic mantra, “mystify and mislead the enemy,” as he spread deceptive radio communications he knew his Japanese adversary would intercept in June of 1942.
Holt writes in his Prologue admiringly of Jackson:
“June 1862. For two months Stonewall Jackson has marched and counter-marched his little C0nfederate army in a bewildering choreography up and down the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, striking where least expected and disappearing again, leaving four different Union commanders wondering what had hit them.
Now he slipped his army across the Blue Ridge to join Lee’s main body for a surprise attack upon McClellan’s host bearing down on Richmond. If the Yankees should suspect even for a moment that this is happening, the telegraph will flash the word to Washington and thence to McClellan. So they must be made to act on the belief that Jackson is headed down the Valley towards the Potomac in pursuit of retreating Federals.
To this end Jackson has directed his engineers to perform a new topographical survey of the Valley, as if he were planning a further campaign there. He has ordered rumors spread of an impending advance to the Potomac.
He has sent cavalry to follow the enemy retreat, and the troopers themselves have no idea where their infantry is. His outpost lines and cavalry screen are airtight. His officers have been told nothing. His men have no notion what is afoot; they have been instructed to answer all questions with “I don’t know,” and have been forbidden even to ask the names of villages they pass through.
[Jackson] himself is riding ahead to Richmond incognito. And in a few days his men will pour yelling out of the woods against McClellan’s right wing. “Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy,” Jackson said once to one of his generals. He is a master of that game.”
Fast forward to 1900. Colonel G.F.R. Henderson is a distinguished military historian and scholar, who since 1892 has been Professor of Military Art and History at the British Staff College . . . Henderson is the closest of all students of Stonewall Jackson. His two-volume biography of the Confederate genius, published in 1898, is (and a century later will still be) one of the masterpieces of Civil War studies.
The greatest general, says Henderson, is “he who compels his adversary to make the most mistakes,” whose imagination can produce “stratagems which brings mistakes about;” and in this respect he compares Jackson to Wellington – “Both were masters of ruse and stratagem” – and contrasts him with Grant, who had “no mystery about his operations” and “no skill in deceiving his adversary.”
(The Deceivers, Allied Military Deception in the Second World War, Thaddeus Holt, Scribner, 2004, excepts pp. 1-3)