There are two versions of this story. The popular one, and the following, which isn’t as popular. Regardless, there is no doubt Jackson holding the line saved the Confederate army at First Bull Run and led to their ultimate victory there.
“Get in a line, men, in a line,” Seneca yelled, not quite sure of the proper order to achieve what he desired.
The rest of the 33rd was deploying, moving forward among retreating soldiers, some of whom started in fear, seeing the blue uniforms in their midst. For a moment all was turmoil, but then a colonel stood up in his stirrups, his shockingly blue eyes aglow.
The men gave a shout that made the hair on the back of Seneca’s neck curl. Before he knew it, he was screaming the same inarticulate yell and pressing forward. They crested Henry House Hill in time to see a line of blue with a smattering of gray crest Matthews Hill, not quite a mile distant. The low ground in between was cluttered with retreating Confederate troops.
Union artillery suddenly began belching canister from Matthews Hill and wide, bloody swaths were cut in the men in the valley.
The blue-eyed Colonel rode along the crest of Henry Hill, now ordering the men to form and hold a line, to take the defensive and be prepared to face an attack. Seneca dismounted, handing the reins to one of his men. He saw a lieutenant in blue running by, a Virginian and grabbed him by the arm.
“Who is that?” Seneca demanded. “Why’s he ordering us to stop?”
“That’s Colonel Jackson, sir. Brigade commander.”
Seneca looked to his right and saw a Confederate unit flowing down the hill in the assault, another officer in the lead. “And who is that?”
“General Bee, sir.”
Seneca glanced once more at Jackson, weighed Colonel against General, the glory of the assault against that of the defense, then ordered his men to follow. He charged downhill, following Bee’s advance as fast as he could.
The General rose up in his saddle and looked over his shoulder, waving his sword. He saw that most of the Virginians were not following. “There stands Jackson like a stone wall,” he cried out.
Since General Bee died, no one quite knows why he called out what he did. But as they say in Liberty Valance: When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.