In his youth, Jackson had limited formal education.
But he went on to West Point in the 1840s, where he scored 109th -- in the bottom of the class -- on an entrance exam. Encouraged to leave the military academy, he often stayed up half the night and through "sheer determination," finally graduated 17th in the class of 1846.
"You may be whatever you will resolve to be" is one of Jackson's favorite quotes. The words are engraved along an entranceway at Virginia Military Institute, where Jackson taught cadets before the Civil War.
Robertson and many historians regard Jackson as a military genius, but he viewed the war and life in simple terms.
"He was a military genius and yet a Christian soldier in every sense of the word," Robertson said. "He thought of the war as a religious crusade."
He viewed himself as an Old Testament warrior -- like David or Joshua -- who went into battle to slay the Philistines, Robertson said.
"He was convinced the South would win," he said. "Otherwise, God wouldn't have created the Confederacy."
Still, Jackson was believed to have disliked the institution of slavery, Robertson said, even speaking about it in ways that were against Virginia law while at VMI.
But Jackson did not question God's reasons for allowing slavery and did not believe it was man's right to do so, Robertson said.
"Hopefully, God Almighty would alter the situation," he said in explaining Jackson's belief.
Using a football metaphor, Robertson said Jackson became the running back to Gen. Robert E. Lee's quarterback, and the two completely turned the course of the war in the 11 months they campaigned together.
Several years younger than Lee, Jackson viewed the relationship as that of a father and son. Jackson said of his superior, "General Lee is the only man I would ever follow blindfolded," Robertson said.
As Jackson lay dying -- after suffering a wound during the Battle of Chancellorsville -- Lee famously said he had lost his "right arm."
Over the next five years, many of the battles Jackson and Lee fought will be commemorated during Virginia's Civil War Sesquicentennial. Robertson is a charter member of Virginia's Sesquicentennial Commission, and sits on its executive committee.
Cities and counties will take the lead on their own projects, with assistance coming from Richmond, Robertson said.
For instance, the city of Fredericksburg will lead up the project that commemorates its famous battle from December 1862.
"What we are doing is we are trying to keep this thing local," Robertson said, learning lessons from the centennial in the 1960s. "If you wanted to know what was going on in the centennial, you had to call Richmond.
"Every county in the state sent men into the Civil War, so every county in the state can tell stories," he said.
Projects will be rolled out through 2015, which marks 150 years after Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
"Appomattox County won't come alive until 2015," Robertson said, referring to the place where the war ended.
Robertson is especially proud of a DVD collection that is now part of the curriculum for schoolchildren in Virginia.
Producers earned a grant from the commission to produce the collection, which is titled "Virginia in the Civil War: A Sesquicentennial Remembrance."
Nine 20-minute videos display different facets of the war, including military campaigns, the African-American experience and life on the home front.
Reach Davin White at davinwh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1254.