Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cooly Watching His Coming Death: John Marshall Jones

Brigadier General John Marshall "Rum" Jones

       John Marshall Jones was born in 1820 in Charlottesville, Virginia. He attended the United States Military Academy and graduated 39th among 52 classmates in the Class of 1841. He stood below average because of his ranking in conduct. His nickname may have something to do with his conduct problem. He was called "Rum" because of his fondness for the bottle. 
       He would serve in the U.S. Army until the outbreak of the Civil War having seen no action whatsoever. He served as a staff officer for General Magruder, General Ewell, and General Early until May 15, 1863 when he was elevated from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general. It would seem unfair that a general of his talent remained so long at a lower grade of rank, but it seems his nickname had something to do with his being promoted. Ewell often stated that Jones was a fine officer deserving of higher rank. 

Pre-war picture of General Jones

       Lee had a conversation with Jones about his drinking before asking that President Davis promote him. Lee told Davis that Jones had promised to resign if his old habits began to occur again. Regardless, Jones had an assignment ahead of him that would drive most sober men to drink. He was taking over the second brigade of Stonewall Jackson's old division (not the Stonewall Brigade). This brigade had been under several inept officers. The last officer was John Robert Jones (not related to John Marshall Jones) who had been court-martialed for cowardice at Antietam. 
       John Marshall Jones proved to be just what the brigade needed. He would prove to be a strict disciplinarian, yet he proved that he truly cared for the welfare of his men. He quickly turned the brigade into a proud hard fighting unit. He would lead them in a desperate assault on Culp's Hill at Gettysburg and fall with a severe thigh wound there. He would recover in time for the fight at Mine Run and fall again with a slight head wound. 

Battle of the Wilderness

       At the Battle of the Wilderness, Jones's brigade was struck in the right flank scattering his men. He and a staff officer Robert Davies Early attempted to rally the brigade. Having failed to stop them from retreating, Jones turned and faced the enemy. He and his staff officer "cooly watched watching the enemy when he was slain." Word soon spread throughout the army that "rather than survive the disgrace of his command, preferred death." 
       General Ewell considered Jones's loss an irreparable one. There was a stone placed on the south side of the Pike marking where Jones was shot down, but has since vanished. 

John M. Jones

General Jones Grave

       His body would be carried back to the town where he was born in Charlottesville, Virginia and laid to rest in Maplewood Cemetery. He was 43 years old. 

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