Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Henry Rootes Jackson


[Source: Wikipedia]

Henry Rootes Jackson—lawyer, politician, and Confederate General—was born on June 24, 1820 in Athens, Georgia. His father, Dr. Henry Jackson, was at one time professor of natural philosophy at Franklin College. The young Jackson was educated at the Franklin College in Athens (predecessor of the University of Georgia) and eventually graduated from Yale University in 1839. He read law for two years and was admitted to the bar. In 1844, Jackson was appointed U.S. District Attorney for Georgia and served on the Georgia Supreme Court from 1849 to 1853. In 1850 Jackson published a volume of his poetry entitled Tallulah, and Other Poems. According to Evert A. Duyckinck, the themes are "chiefly local, and of a patriotic interest, or occupied with the fireside affections. The expression is spirited and manly. His Georgia lyrics, and his descriptions of the scenery of the state, are animated and truthful productions." [Evert A. Duyckinck, 1 Cyclopaedia of American Literature 669 (Philadelphia: T.E. Zell, 1875)(2 vols.)]

When the war with Mexico began, Jackson, then at Savannah, raised a company of one hundred men called the "Jaspar Greens" and marched to Columbus to form a regiment. Jackson attained the rank of colonel and went on to serve in Mexico.

When he returned from the war, he was appointed Judge of the Superior Court of the Eastern District of Georgia. For five years he served as Resident Minister at Vienna, Austria, appointed to that post in 1853.

During the Civil War he was a judge of Confederate courts in Georgia, and left that position to become a Brig. General in the Western Virginia campaign and at Cheat Mountain. In December 1861 he became Maj. Gen. of Georgia state troops fought in the defense of Savannah. He returned to Confederate service as Brig. Gen. in the Confederate Army in September, 1863 and was with the force that opposed General Sherman at Atlanta. After the loss of Atlanta, Jackson accompanied Hood to Tennessee, where he and his division were captured at Nashville.

After the war, Jackson practiced law, served as minister to Mexico (1885-1887), president of the Georgia Historical Society (1875-1898), and became a railroad executive and banker. Jackson is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia.

[Biographical Sources: Ed Jackson and Charly Pou, This Day in Georgia History; Evert A. Duyckinck, 1 Cyclopaedia of American Literature 669 (Philadelphia: T.E. Zell, 1875)(2 vols.)]

In an 1852 review of Tallulah, and Other Poems (1850), J.A. Turner (who we assume is Joseph Addison Turner) writes:

Judge Jackson is a native of Savannah, and is still a resident of that place. . . . He is a graduate of Franklin College, Athens . . . . After his graduation he was editorially connected with the "Savannah Georgian," one of the ablest democratic papers in Georgia. This connection continued until the winter of 1849, when, as he was called to other duties, it terminated . . . . In 1846, when the Mexican war broke out, [Jackson] was elected to the colonecy of the Georgia regiment, which position he gallantly filled; and several of his best poems are the result of his military expedition beyond the Rio Grande. In 1849, he was elected by the Legislature of Georgia, Judge of the Eastern Circuit for four years . . . .

I place Judge Jackson, as a poet, by the side of our best American poets—Bryant, Longfellow, &c.

[J. A. Turner, The Poetry of Judge Henry R. Jackson, 18 (33) Southern Literary Messenger 179 (1852) [online text]

Henry Rootes Jackson

My Father

As die the embers on the hearth,
   And o'er the floor the shadows fall,
And creeps the chirping cricket forth,
   And ticks the death-watch in the wall,
I see a form in yonder chair
   That grows beneath the waning light;
There are the wan, sad features—there
   The pallid brow and locks of white.

My FATHER! when they laid thee down,
   And heaped the clay upon thy breast,
And left thee sleeping all alone
   Upon thy narrow couch of rest,
I know not why, I could not weep,
   The soothing drops refused to roll,
And O' that grief is wild and deep
   Which settles tearless on the soul!

But when I saw thy vacant chair,
   Thine idle hat upon the wall,
Thy book—the penciled passage where
   Thine eye had rested last of all:
The tree beneath whose friendly shade
   Thy trembling feet had wandered forth;
The very prints those feet had made
   When last they feebly trod the earth:

And thought, while countless ages fled,
   Thy vacant seat would vacant stand;
Unworn thy hat, thy book unread,
   Effaced thy footsteps from the sand;
And widowed in this cheerless world
   The heart that gave its love to thee;
Torn like the vine whose tendrils curled
   More closely round the falling tree:

0, father! then for her and thee
   Gushed madly forth the scorching tears;
And oft, and long, and bitterly,
   Those tears have gushed in later years;
For as the world grows cold around,
   And things take on their real hue,
'Tis sad to learn that love is found
   Alone above the stars with you!

[The Ladies' Repository, January, 1852, p. 33] [online text]

The Live Oak

With his gnarled old arms, and his iron form,
   Majestic in the wood,
From age to age, in the sun and storm,
   The live-oak long hath stood.
With his stately air, that grave old tree,
   He stands like a hooded monk,
With the grey moss waving solemnly
   From his shaggy limbs and trunk.

And the generations come and go,
   And still he stands upright,
And he sternly looks on the wood below,
   As conscious of his might.
But a mourner sad is the hoary tree,
   A mourner sad and lone,
And is clothed in funeral drapery
   For the long since dead and gone.

For the Indian hunter beneath his shade
   Has rested from the chase;
And he here has woo'd his dusky maid—
   The dark-eyed of her race;
And the tree is red with the gushing gore
   As the wild deer panting dies;
But the maid is gone, and the chase is o'er,
   And the old oak hoarsely sighs.

In former days, when the battle's din
   Was loud amid the land,
In his friendly shadow, few and thin,
   Have gathered Freedom's band.
And the stern old oak, how proud was he
   To shelter hearts so brave!
But they all are gone—the bold and free—
   And he moans above their grave.

And the aged oak, with his locks of grey,
   Is ripe for the sacrifices;
For the worm and decay, no lingering prey,
   Shall he tower towards the skies!
He falls, he falls, to become our guard,
   The bulwark of the free,
And his bosom of steel is proudly bared
   To brave the raging sea!

When the battle comes, and the cannon's roar
   Booms o'er the shuddering deep,
Then nobly he'll bear the bold hearts o'er
   The waves, with bounding leap.
Oh! may those hearts be as firm and true,
   When the war clouds gather dun,
As the glorious oak that proudly grew
   Beneath our southern sun.

[Evert A. Duyckinck & George L. Duyckinck (eds.), 2 Cyclopaedia of American Literture 669 (Philadelphia: Baxter Publishing Co., 1881)] [online text]

Mount Yonah — Vale of Nacoochee

Before me, as I stand, his broad, round bead
   Mount Yonah lifts the neighboring hills above,
While, at his foot, all pleasantly is spread
  NACOOCHEE'S nacoochee's vale, sweet as a dream of love.
  Cradle of peace! mild, gentle as the dove
Whose tender accents from yon woodlands swell,
   Must she have been who thus has interwove
Her name with thee, and thy soft, holy spell,
And all of peace which on this troubled globe may dwell!

 NACOOCHEE—in tradition, they sweet queen—
    Has vanished with her maidens: not again
Along thy meadows shall their forms be seen;
   The mountain echoes catch no more the strain
   Of their wild Indian lays at evening's wane;

No more, where rumbling branches interwine,
   They pluck the jasmine flowers, or break the cane
Beside the marshy stream, or from the vine
Shake down, in purple showers, the luscious muscadine.

Yet round thee hangs the same sweet spirit still!
   Thou art among these hills a sacred spot,
As if shut out from all the clouds of ill
   That gloom so darkly o'er the human lot.
   On thy green breast the world I quite forgot—
Its stern contentions—its dark grief and care,
   And I breathed freer, deeper, and blushed not
At old emotions long, long stifled there,
Which sprang once more to life in thy calm, loving air.

I saw the last bright gleam of sunset play
   On Yonah's lofty head: all quiet grew
Thy bosom, which beneath the shadows lay
   Of the surrounding mountains; deeper blue
   Fell on their mighty summits; evening threw
Her veil o'er all, and on her azure brow
   A bright star shone; a trusting form I drew
Yet closer to my side; above, below,
Within where peace and hope life may not often know!

Thou loveliest of earth's valleys! Fare thee well!
   Nor is the parting pangless to my soul.
Youth, hope and happiness with thee shall dwell,
   Unsullied Nature hold o'er thee control,
   And years still leave thee beauteous as they roll.
Oh! I could linger with thee! yet this spell
   Must break, e'en as upon my heart it stole,
And found a weakness there I may not tell—
An anxious life, a troubled future claim me! fare thee well!

[From Charles Lanman (ed.), 1 Adventures in the Wilds of the United States and British American Provinces 358 (Philadelphia: J.W. Moore, 1856)(2 vols.)] [online text]


Henry R. Jackson, Tallulah, and Other Poems (Savannah: J. M. Cooper, 1850) [online text]

_____________, My Wife and Child; A Song (Richmond, Virginia: G. Dunn, 1863)(music by F. W. Rosier)

Research Resources

Henry Rootes Jackson
Georgia Historical Society

Soldier Poets
Cambridge History of English and American Literature