Jackson and Cadet Pranks

Jackson during VMI yearsStonewall Jackson was the subject of many cadet pranks during his years Professor at VMI. His ungainly appearance, strictness, and lack of humor provided fuel for "much juvenile wit & merriment." Cadets delighted in drawing caricatures on the blackboard in Jackson's classroom--often a sketch depicting an officer with enormous feet (his exceptionally large shoe size inspired "Square Box," one of his several nicknames; others were "Old Jack," "Tom Fool," "Old Hickory"). Other incidents included throwing spitballs in class, making noises when his back was turned, dropping a brick as he passed underneath a barracks window, and pulling linchpins from cannon wheels during artillery drill.

The following excerpt from the 1853 VMI Court Martial Book documents one of many pranks:

Charge-  Disrespectful conduct to superior officers.

Specification-  In this, that he the said Cadet Thomas Blackburn having by the aid of one or more cadets, fastened cadet J. E. Towson of the Virginia Mil Institute to a chair by cords or straps, did place him when thus fastened on the stoop of the Cadet Barracks immediately in front of the door of the quarters occupied jointly by Major T. J. Jackson Prof. of Nat. Philosophy VMI and Lt. Thos. A. Harris Asst. Prof of Languages VMI, in such a manner that it was impossible for him the said Cadet Towson to extricate himself, and after placing him in this position did violently knock or caused to be knocked the door of the quarters...all of which was disrespectful conduct to his superior officers--this at the Va. Mil. Institute on or about the 23 day of Jany 1853.