View Full Version : Rising 8th Grader from New York loves Stonewall Jackson

Emmanuel Dabney
07-30-2007, 09:24 AM

New York teen, who knows more about her Confederate hero than most grown-ups, impresses National Park Service

Date published: 7/30/2007


At age 13, Stephanie Mackowsi has spent enough years studying Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stone-wall" Jackson to have earned a doctorate.

Instead, the precocious adolescent, who became curious about the Confederate icon at age 4, has created an award-winning documentary about the man.

Her film, "Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville: Triumph and Tragedy," was shown to visitors at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park's Chancellorsville Visitor Center yesterday afternoon. About two dozen people saw it, and they clearly were impressed.

They applauded as soon as the 10-minute film ended. One couple provided their unsolicited reviews as they filed out of the small auditorium.

"Wonderful, wonderful," the woman said.

"You did a wonderful job," the man echoed.

Stephanie, a rising eighth-grader from Limestone, N.Y., has volunteered at the park for the past three years.

Known affectionately by staff as "Stonewall Steph," she's trained to handle visitor inquiries at both the Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg visitor centers, but relishes her time at the park's "Stone-wall" Jackson Shrine in Caroline County.

There, the 5-foot tall, 92-pound youngster can share her vast knowledge of Jackson with visitors who often come in just one or two at a time.

Chris Mackowski, a journalism instructor at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., drives 6 hours with his daughter to the park about one weekend per month.

He said her interest was sparked nine years ago by a chance visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park, where she was inspired by the imposing statue of Jackson astride his horse.

Just beginning to read, Stephanie wanted to learn more, leading the family to start visiting other national parks devoted to Civil War history.

She created the documentary after learning about a statewide contest through her school's history club. Given the theme of triumph and tragedy, she had no trouble picking a topic.

She knew her man Jackson had been felled by friendly fire at the apex of his military career.

So, she set about using her resources. She borrowed a digital camera from the journalism and mass communications school where her dad works. She interviewed key people at the Fredericksburg-area park--historians John Hennessy and Frank O'Reilly, a man she considers a mentor and friend.

She shot about eight hours of footage in the Chancellorsville area.

She then got a crash course in documentary work from the folks at St. Bonaventure, and spent about 48 hours pulling it all together.

The finished product has a professional look and includes her own narration, and the voices of her parents and other adults reading quotes from big players in her story like Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and Jackson's second wife, Mary Anna.

She even edited in some period music.

The documentary won first place in the Junior Individual Documentary category in the New York State History Day student contest, was recognized by the National Archives for its use of primary sources, and was named best Civil War project by the Abner Doubleday Civil War Round Table in Cooperstown, N.Y.

O'Reilly has been impressed with Stephanie since he heard her, at age 7, upstaging a staff historian at the Jackson Shrine.

When she called at age 10 to ask about volunteering, he didn't hesitate.

"She's a natural," he said.

Chris Mackowski has encouraged his daughter's interest and is proud of the commitment she has shown.

Whether she sticks with history, pursues an interest in veterinary science or switches to something else altogether is up to her. He just wants her to find something that she's passionate about.

For now, her passion is unmistakable.

But once, he and her mother, Heidi, needed to rein it in.

That's when her brother was about to be born.

"I wanted to name him Stonewall, but it didn't go over so big," Stephanie said.

But she couldn't complain; they opted for Jackson.

Despite her success with her first documentary, Stephanie's a bit hesitant about committing to another statewide competition because of the amount of time and work involved.

But given the new theme--conflict and compromise--she might be swayed.

She said she's had an instant inspiration for that topic, too: battlefield preservation.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Email: pgould@freelancestar.com

Online at: http://www.fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2007/072007/07302007/304154

Chad Teasley
07-30-2007, 11:11 AM
As my teenagers might say: That is SO awesome! :)

Huzzah for this amazing young lady!!

07-30-2007, 01:37 PM
CWPT should grab this little girl and make her the poster child for battlefield preservation. The fact that a statue stimulated a passion in the mind of one that could only just read is marvelous. This is the cornerstone reason why preservation is necessary. I could think of nothing that could resonate more!


07-30-2007, 03:36 PM
Man, what i would give to go back and come up with that idea myself

when i was 13.... all i ever aspired to be was a "reenactor" .....

i should have gotten into the "child prodigy historian buisness"

Thanks for another cool find Emmanuel

Gary of CA
07-30-2007, 08:46 PM
Ed Bearss can really retire now. Kidding.

Chuck Reynolds
07-31-2007, 11:17 AM
Wonder if it was for sale?

07-31-2007, 06:02 PM
That is great to read about. I hope that it may motivate someone to try their hand at a similar project.

08-06-2007, 08:30 PM
Sort of makes video games, strip malls, and professional sports spectating all grow strangely dim.

Jonathan Vaughan

08-27-2007, 02:31 PM
That is great to read about. I hope that it may motivate someone to try their hand at a similar project.

I would think a profile of one of the other Virginian CW heroes - Farragut or Thomas - would be a good follow-on for such impressionable young hearts and minds. Let them build pillars, not shrines.

- Dan Wykes