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Jackman, Alonzo


Age: 0, credited to Thetford, VT
Unit(s): State
Service: Norwich Class of 1836, BGen, prof. of Mathematics during war [College: NU 36]

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: 03/20/1809, Thetford, VT
Death: 02/24/1879

Burial: Elmwood Cemetery, Northfield, VT
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Denis & Karen Jaquish
Findagrave Memorial #: 13714760


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Unknown
Portrait?: Findagrave
College?: NU 36
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: See also: Correspondence at UVM's Center for Digital Initiatives.


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Copyright notice



Elmwood Cemetery, Northfield, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.

(Dave Morin Collection)


Gen. Alonzo Jackman, LL.D.
By Rev. Franklin W. Bartlett

The name of Alonzo Jackman occupies an illustrious place in the annals of Vermont, and on account of his distinguished services, as an educator and a soldier, as well as his virtues as a man, he deserves a longer biographical notice than our limits permit. He was born in Thetford, Mar. 20, 1809, the second son of Joseph and Sarah (Warner) Jackman, who were industrious and worthy people. When nearly 3 years old, his father, a farmer, died of an injury, and his mother was left in straightened circumstances, with three children, Enoch, Alonzo and Joseph. Shortly after that, they removed to Strafford, and the next year, 1813, to New Boston, in the town of Norwich; and that summer, the young lad commenced attending school. One day, he had a narrow escape from drowning in the swollen brook nearby. The same year, he was very low of a fever, and not expected to live. He had early religious impressions; for when he was only 5 years old, he believed he saw a vision of the Lord walking on the sky. In 1814, while his mother was at Enfield, N. H. a few weeks, to learn the art of making oil-cloth, he was placed in the care of a Mrs. Sawyer, who instilled into his young mind a knowledge of the Bible. Many years afterwards, the mature man looked back to that period as having had an important influence on his subsequent life. In 1815, he lived in the same house with a Smith family; and their boy, Joseph, who afterwards became the Mormon Prophet, was his play-fellow. In 1816, Mrs. Jackman was married to Eli Clark, who took a farm to carry on by the halves, and the two older boys worked as steadily on it as if hired men. Alonzo cut wood for the family bare-footed, with a warmed board between his feet and the snow. One day when Enoch and he were cutting from the same log, the latter sat down to rest, when Enoch's axe glanced and cut his brother slightly, nearly from hip to knee.

In 1820, these two boys left home, never to return again, except on a visit, their mother having given them the parting admonition, "Go for yourselves and remember there is a God." Alonzo went to work with a farmer, James Powell, for board, clothing and schooling. He remained one year.) While there he heard much religious discussion, and commenced reading the Bible through by course, in order to know the truth more perfectly. In 1821, he commenced work for another farmer, about half a mile from his birthplace. Here he was to have board, clothing and 3 months at school. He did his part faithfully, but was unjustly treated, and some of the winters was allowed but little time at school, a disadvantage in early years, which he always afterwards felt. Having worked here 6 years, he left with $4, and two days provisions. His brother Enoch accompanied him, and the two, with $12.47 between them, went on foot down the Connecticut river until they reached Middletown, Mar. 16, with 25 cents left. They crossed over to Chatham, now Portland, where they secured work in the sandstone quarries, near which his brother still resides. He attended school in the winter.

In 1828, young Jackman went to New York and engaged as seaman before the mast, on a new ship, the St. John, bound for Mobile, and from there, as he supposed, to Liverpool. This expectation was not realized, and he returned by another ship to New York and thence to Portland, where he worked in the quarry during the season, and then went to Vermont, where he visited and helped his mother, spending the winter at school. In the spring of 1830, he was again at work in the quarry, and the next winter attended the high school at Portland. About this time he decided to be a Christian. One wakeful night he revolved the subject in his mind and firmly resolved to give himself wholly to the service of God. He joined the Methodist class in March, 1831, and the following summer was baptized by immersion. The year 1831 was employed like the year before, partly in the quarry and partly at school.

In 1832, the two brothers left Portland for Ohio; but Enoch, when they had reached Troy, N. Y., could be persuaded to go no further. After a few weeks in the stone cutter's business, they left for New York, where they got employment on a steamboat for a short time, and then returned to the quarries. Alonzo, however, did not abandon the idea of going west to settle. In October, he left for Ohio. He traveled in various parts of the state, looking for a farm; but he finally shipped on a steamboat, engaged in the iron trade, between Cincinnati and Wyandotte, Va. He was next employed on a New Orleans and Mobile boat. In May, 1833, he again went to work in the Portland quarry.

The scanty opportunities which he had snatched for reading, and his short seasons of school life had given him a desire to pursue a regular course of study. He considered whether to accept an agency for a line of steamers, go to farming in Ohio, or to get an education. He decided, left Portland, and about Dec. 1, 1833, entered Franklin Seminary at Norwich, Vt. The next year, the principal, Mr. Buck, removed his school to New Market, N. H., and young Jackman went with him, and, while prosecuting his studies, rendered assistance in teaching mathematics, his favorite branch. In the summer of 1835, he taught the same branch while pursuing his studies in an academy at Kingston, N. H., and also on its removal in the autumn to Rochester, N. H. Norwich University had, in the meantime, been chartered and opened. He decided to enter it, and did so in December of that year, having passed his examination for admission to the Senior class. He graduated at the first commencement, Aug., 1836, with the degree of B. A. Being the only graduate that year he stands at the head of the alumni. Soon afterwards he was elected to the chair of mathematics. In the next summer vacation, he visited in New England, New York and Canada. In 1838, on account of the uneasiness caused by the projected Canada rebellion, he was employed to drill troops at Enosburgh, Berkshire and Sheldon. On returning to open the spring term of 1839, Zerah Colburn, Professor of Languages, had died, and the charge of the whole institution rested upon Captain Partridge and himself. In Feb., 1840, Josiah Swett, who had been Jackman's room-mate and graduated a year after him, became professor of ancient languages, and that summer these two professors established a paper at Norwich, devoted to military science, national defence, and the interests of the militia. It did not prove a financial success; and one reason may have been that it stood aloof from politics during the great excitement of the presidential campaign of that year. Professor Jackman contributed a series of articles on tactics valuable for their clearness and precision. Sometime during the publication of this paper, both editors resigned their professorships and removed to Windsor, where they opened a school, which they called the New England Seminary. They were both Methodists, but after much reading and discussion concluded to enter the communion of the Episcopal church, and received confirmation from Bp. Hopkins, in 1843.

While at Windsor, Jackman had as mathematical treatise printed on the subject of "Series," in which his investigations were carried beyond the ability of the ordinary student. Having conducted the school for 3 years, he and his friend Swett returned by invitation, in 1844, to the University, and resumed their professorships under the new president, Gen. T. B. Ransom. After the commencement of 1845, the two friends left for Claremont, N. H., proposing to set up a school; but finding the project unpromising, they abandoned it. Jackman, at the solicitation of the president and the trustees of N. U., again went on duty in the fall term.

In 1846, he wrote and published an article on the subject of an oceanic magnetic telegraph. He gave in detail plans for the construction, materials and manner of lay ing a telegraphic cable across the Atlantic.

In lecturing to his school on magnetism, he had expressed the belief that if the necessary expense could be met, a telegraph might be thus extended across the ocean. In 1846, the Hon. Amos Kendall, then president of a Telegraph Co., at Washington, D.C., communicated to a Philadelphia paper the difficulties of crossing, with the telegraph, large bodies of water. Prof. Jackman, happening to see this article, wrote Mr. Kendall, and explained how the difficulties could be surmounted. Receiving no reply, he was induced to write out for publication the article to which we have referred, that no other person might have the credit of solving the problem which he had worked out in this field of science. Accordingly, he wrote a paper, answering all objections, providing against all the difficulties, and including all the necessary particulars of construction and the method of laying an oceanic telegraphic cable. This was about I2 years before the first Atlantic cable was successfully laid. He sent the article to periodicals in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston; but editors refused it, considering the plan visionary. He then sent it to Woodstock, where it appeared in the number dated Aug. 14, 1846. He forwarded copies to prominent men in the United States, England, Canada and France. It seems, therefore, that the credit is due him of having matured a successful plan for this gigantic enterprise. The cable as it was laid was of the same general description with that which he had proposed, differing in some minor details, among which was the use of gutta-percha instead of India rubber for the purpose of insulation.

Prof. Jackman was well versed in tactics, and had a reputation as an excellent drillmaster. This led to his being appointed Brigade drill master by the Governor of New Hampshire, with the rank of Major. He drilled the officers of the brigades of that State at certain times in 1847, '48. Returning to Norwich from a drill he had held at Exeter, N. H., he suffered from a severe attack of typhoid fever, from which he narrowly escaped death. This is one of the many times when he was near death, either by accident or sickness.

In Aug., 1849, he obtained 3 years leave of absence from the University, and in October, sailed from Boston for California by way of Cape Horn. His object was to see the country and to add to his resources. He reached San Francisco March 13, 1850. Within a few weeks he took out a claim in the gold region. The prospect seemed fair; but it was desirable to turn the course of the river, and Jackman was elected the Engineer. He was 100 miles from a civilized center, and had to work at a disadvantage; but his ingenuity and acquirements came to his aid. He accomplished the work he had undertaken, and Californians pronounced it the greatest achievement in engineering in the state. He did not find much gold, however. When the rainy season was approaching, he sold out, and the same autumn went to Oregon, and took out a claim of 320 acres, not far from Pacific city, now included in Washington Territory. When Pacific County was organized, June 2, 1851, and county officers elected, Mr. Jackman was made Probate Judge and School Superintendent. In December, he quit Oregon, with some of his farm products on board a bark bound for San Francisco, expecting to realize a goodly sum of money for them. The passage was rough, and his property was rendered worthless by leakage of the vessel. While in this city, he learned that a large amount of gold had been realized from his old mining claim since he left it.

He returned to Norwich Apr. 10, 1852, intending to settle up his affairs and return to his western farm. Dr. Bourns, at this time President of N. U., induced him to teach until the next commencement. Meantime, the reports he heard from the West dissuaded him from returning thither, and he consented to remain with Dr. Bourns and assist him not only in teaching, but in paying the indebtedness of the institution. In 1857, the N. U. cadets were organized under the militia law, as an infantry company, and Prof. Jackman was commissioned Captain, and in 1859, when officers of the 2d Regt. were ordered to meet at White River Junction for choice of regimental officers, he was chosen and commissioned Colonel. The next fall, he held an officers' drill there, and a regimental muster at Bradford. The same year the Vermont militia were consolidated into one brigade and Col. Jackman was made Brigadier General. He was very painstaking and thorough in his instructions and drills; and was himself skilled in the use of fife or drum.

At the beginning of our late civil war, he received a telegram from Gov. Fairbanks, summoning him to meet him at St. Johnsbury with Gens. Baxter and Davis. The Secretary of War had called for troops. A long consultation was held, and an extra session of the legislature was called. Several companies were detailed and equipped. The governor offered the general any position in his power to grant, if he wished to go to the front; but expressed the preference that he should remain where he was, and qualify men for duty. He rendered service as an officer during this period; inspected and got in readiness the old militia, organized new companies and regiments; sent out cadets to drill companies' in different parts of the State, as he was notified of their formation, and regimental officers from different States went to him for instruction at Norwich.

At the time of the raid on St. Albans, he took the cadet corps to Derby Line, in response to an order from the governor, with authority to take command of any forces he might find, and to organize more if needed. As no danger had been apprehended the militia had been disbanded; but the cadets were always ready, and were on route by rail 2 hours after the order was received. Honor is due the general for the results of his work on behalf of his State and the Union during these years; his industry was untiring; and his clear, precise, thorough instructions to officers and men were of great value to them in the service.

On March 13, 1866, the N. U. "South Barracks" building was burned, whereby Drs. Bourns and Jackman, who had paid up the indebtedness, lost heavily. The latter now thought of leaving to seek a support elsewhere; but the friends of the institution were anxious that he should remain to aid in establishing it in a new place, and to this he consented, with the understanding that he should not be responsible for its finances or government; and he removed with it to its new location in Northfield, and remained connected with it until his death Feb. 24, 1879. He had attended to his duties as professor the previous week, and been at church the day before. He died from an affection of the heart.

He had been a close student, often so absorbed when studying as to be oblivious of what was passing. His delight was in mathematics, in which he excelled, and he was conversant with natural science. His culture lay mostly in these channels and in military science. The degree of L.L.D. was conferred upon him in 1862. He wrote some mathematical works which he never published, and demonstrated the problem of squaring the circle to his own satisfaction and to that of some other eminent professors that old problem which had vexed mathematicians for centuries.

In person, Gen. Jackman was of sturdy compact frame, though of somewhat less than medium height; his complexion slightly dark, his eye, dark grey and keen; the countenance indicating both benevolence and decision of character. He was very methodical, earnest, and honest; had great endurance and strength of body, and mind; under the trials of life was submissive and patient, and was a devout and faithful Christian, and in this respect has left an example which will not soon be forgotten. For several years he was Senior Warden at St. Mary's Church, Northfield; and bequeathed at his death his small estate to the poor. He was married to Miss Charlotte Sawyer of Royalton, Jan. 1, 1856. They has two children: Alonzo, born in 1857, and died 1859; Helen, born 1860, and died 1877; Mrs. Jackman died 1874.

Source: The Vermont Historical Gazetteer: A Magazine, Embracing a History of Each Town, Civil, Ecclesiastical, Biographical and Military. Abby Maria Hemenway. 1882 - Vermont; iv:677-681

Provided by Dave Morin.

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