Civil War Death: Moon Blamed for Shooting of Stonewall Jackson

May 1, 2013 2:41 pm Last Updated: July 18, 2015 5:20 pm

Civil War death moon: Civil War General Stonewall Jackson may have died partially due to a full moon, researchers said.

Jackson, who fought for the Confederate forces, was fatally wounded on the evening of May 2, 1863, nearly 150 years ago to the day. One of his own soldiers shot him on accident.

Astronomers Don Olson and Laurie E. Jasinsk say that the full moon on that night may have cast light on him from an odd angle, making him visible only via silhouette, according to “Sky and Telescope” magazine.

The soldiers from the 8th North Carolina Infantry Regiment then fired on Jackson but didn’t know it was him, according to CNN.

“The Moon was shining very brightly, rendering all objects in our immediate vicinity distinct…,” reads a writing from Confederate Captain William Fitzhugh Randolph several years after his death, according to Red Orbit. “The Moon poured a flood of light upon the wide, open turnpike.”

The Washington Post says that the accidental shooting was blamed on Jackson getting out in front of his own troops without others knowing. Low visibility, trees, and heavy brush were also to blame.

Olson and Jasinski poured over battle maps and astronomical calculations to come up with their findings.

“The 18th North Carolina was looking to the southeast, directly toward the rising moon,” both said, according to CNN. The moon was positioned at “25 degrees above the horizon” and means the “bright moon would’ve silhouetted Jackson and his officers, completely obscuring their identities,” they added.

At the time, soldiers “would see the riders only as dark silhouettes. Now, 150 years later, we can explain why they didn’t recognize this famous Confederate general. Our astronomical analysis partially absolves the 18th North Carolina from blame for the wounding of Jackson,” Olson said, according to Red Orbit.