Astronomy
Statue of Thomas J.

Researchers say Moon may have Obstructed View on Fateful Evening



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Statue of Thomas J.
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"Researchers say Moon may have Obstructed View on Fateful Evening"
Caption: Statue of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson at Manassas Battlefield
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Image by: Leigh Goessl
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Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson made his permanent mark in history as a Civil War Confederate officer.

As an officer who was well known for his successful military maneuvers and strategies, he was second in command to General Robert E. Lee.

Jackson died at the hand of his own men during the pivotal battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in May 1863.

On May 2, an order was given by a Confederate soldier, Maj. John D. Barry to shoot figures that were believed to be Union troops. It turned out to be Jackson and some of the men under his command, and he was injured by "friendly fire."

The Lieutenant General needed his arm amputated as a result.

He subsequently died on May 8, 1863 due to complications stemming from that injury and his coming down with pneumonia. Barry died two years later and has been historically documented as suffering from extreme guilt from the fatal decision he made that night.

Two researchers from Texas State University are saying that the moon could be partially to blame for Barry's mistake, reported CNN.  

Astronomer Don Olson and researcher Laurie E. Jasinski have put forth a theory that is appearing in the May issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.

The duo reconstructed the conditions on that 19th Century evening using moon phases, astronomical software and local maps. They also reportedly used battle maps and Confederate almanacs.

On that evening in Chancellorsville, the moon was full.

Reportedly, history has been divided on what the light conditions were on that night Jackson was shot. Now with this new information, it is possible the matter may be resolved once and for all.

"Once we calculated the compass direction of the moon and compared that to the detailed battle maps published by Robert Krick, it quickly became obvious how Stonewall Jackson would have been seen as a dark silhouette, from the point of view of the 18th North Carolina regiment," Olson said, reported Space.com.

It was determined that this silhouette would have made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to know who was approaching.

"The bright moon would've silhouetted Jackson and his officers, completely obscuring their identities," said the researchers, CNN noted. "Our astronomical analysis partially absolves the 18th North Carolina from blame for the wounding of Jackson."

Many historians are wondering if the future of the United States would have gone very differently had Jackson not died so prematurely. His absence was a missing piece in the key Battle of Gettysburg that occurred in over the Fourth of July weekend in 1863. Had he and his strong military strategies been present, that could have contributed to a different outcome to the Civil War.

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.cnn.com/2013/05/01/us/stonewall-jackson/?hpt=hp_t2
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.space.com/20926-astronomer-detectives-stonewall-jackson-death.htm