Rev. John William Williams Jones, (CSA)

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Rev. John William Williams Jones, (CSA)

Also Known As: "J. William Jones"
Birthplace: Louisa Court House, VA
Death: March 17, 1909 (72)
Columbus, Muscogee County, GA, United States
Place of Burial: Richmond, VA, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Francis William Jones; Freancis William Jones and Anne Pendleton Jones
Husband of Judith Page Jones and Judith Page HELM
Father of Private; Meredith Ashby Jones; Carter Helm Jones; Edloe Pendleton Jones; Howard Lee Jones and 2 others
Brother of Lt. Francis Pendleton Jones (CSA); Pvt. Philip Edloe Jones (CSA); Mattie Bernard Jones; Helen May Jones; Lucy Marshall Jones and 5 others

Managed by: Private User
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About Rev. John William Williams Jones, (CSA)

J. William Jones (25 September 1836 – 17 March 1909) was an American Southern Baptist preacher and writer who became known for his evangelism and devotion to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. During the American Civil War of 1861–1865, the newly ordained Rev. Jones served as a Confederate chaplain and conducted many revival meetings. Later, he became a campus minister at several universities and in his final years, chaplain for the United Confederate Veterans. After editing the papers of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Rev. Jones became the Secretary/Treasurer of the Southern Historical Society for 14 years, and also served on his denomination's Home Missions Board as well wrote many books about the Lost Cause and Christianity.

Early life

John William Jones was born on September 25, 1836 in Louisa County, Virginia. His father, merchant Francis William Jones (1811-1890) married Ann Pendleton Ashby Jones (1817-1863) in 1834, and owned six slaves in the 1850 census and eight in the 1860 census. The family had enough money to educate John, including at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia (from which he graduated in 1859), and the first class to attend the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina.


After ordination as a Baptist minister in Charlottesville, Rev. Jones first led Little River Baptist Church near his home in Louisa County, Virginia. When Virginia seceded from the union, he and his younger brothers Francis Pendleton Jones (1841-1863) and Philip Edloe Jones (1843-1863) enlisted in the "Louisa Blues", which became part of the 13th Virginia Infantry. Jones thus canceled his original plan to become a missionary in China. Their uncle, John M. Jones of Charlottesville, also resigned his U.S. Army commission to join the Confederate States Army, eventually rising to the rank of brigadier general, although like both younger Jones siblings, he did not survive the war.

Rev. Jones initially served as the company chaplain, then the regimental chaplain, and led many mass revivals during the war, especially after being designated as the Baptist missionary to Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill's corps. Jones also helped found the chaplain's association of the Army of Northern Virginia. In writing about wartime chaplaincy, Jones estimated that he baptized 520 soldiers and preached at meetings (often with ministers of other Protestant denominations) that resulted in the conversion of at least 2000 men. He later recalled that Colonels often discouraged religion as they feared it might give soldiers qualms about killing the enemy, but the yeoman soldiers demanded it and considered sermons as their privilege.

After the war, Jones served as Baptist minister in Lexington, Virginia and as campus minister at Washington College, later known as Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, where he often met with Robert E. Lee. Jones later served a pastor in Ashland, Virginia and at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as well as campus minister at his alma mater, the University of Virginia, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He later estimated that four-fifths of the college students had become Christians in army camps, and that nearly all were maintaining their faith, many becoming pillars in their local churches.

After a planned memorial volume concerning Gen. Lee by Washington College languished, Jones expanded the project with the approval of Lee's family, publishing his Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Letters of General Robert E. Lee in 1874. Jones would publish another Lee biography in 1906, and both volumes collectively would be reprinted 29 times before 2012. In 1875, Jones became secretary of the Southern Historical Society. Before resigning in 1887, he oversaw the publication of 14 volumes of papers, defending the Confederate States of America as righteous in waging a holy war against Northern intolerance of states' rights. Jones also defended the reputations of Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson in many venues, as well as denounced Reconstruction and ignored violence of Southern white nationalists against African Americans.

By 1884, Jones had moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and become assistant corresponding secretary of his denomination's Home Mission Board (1884-1893). His Christ in the Camp (1887) would be republished many times, and his textbook School History of the United States(1896) became widely used in the South. During his final years supervising Baptist missionaries (including his four sons), Jones also served as the chaplain-general of the United Confederate Veterans (1890 to 1909). Jones wrote an article entitled "The Old Virginia Town, Lexington" for the first issue of the Confederate Veteran in 1893.[ Jones became the superintendent and secretary of the Confederate Memorial Association in 1903, which succeeded in finishing a memorial which now houses the Virginia Historical Society.

Personal life

Jones married Judith Page Helm in Nelson County, Virginia on December 20, 1860. They had five children: Carter Helm Jones, Edloe Pendleton Jones, Francis William Jones, Meredith Ashby Jones and Howard Lee Jones. Four of their sons became Baptist ministers.


Jones died on March 17, 1909 while visiting family in Columbus, Georgia. Survived by his widow, sons and grandchildren, he was buried in Richmond, Virginia with Jefferson Davis and other Confederate veterans at Hollywood Cemetery. The Library of Virginia has his papers.



Contemporary historian Charles Reagan Wilson aptly calls J. William Jones "the evangelist of the Lost Cause" and refers to him as "the single most important link between Southern religion and the Lost Cause." Jones's own generation knew him as "the fighting parson," a Confederate chaplain who became a celebrity because of his close association with several Southern generals, and the author of many books. When Confederate general Robert E. Lee died, his family tapped Jones to serve as Lee's biographer, and Jones produced his first book, Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of R. E. Lee, in 1874. His other well-known books include the influential 1896 textbook School History of the United States and his remembrance of wartime life, Christ in the Camp; or, Religion in Lee's Army, which appeared in 1886 and has often been reprinted since.

Before the Civil War (1861-65), Jones, a native Virginian, became interested in the ministry and belonged to the first class of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was ordained in 1860. During the war he helped form the Chaplains Association of the Army of Northern Virginia, and ministered to troops who served under Generals A. P. Hill, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and Lee. He was indefatigable as a preacher and revivalist, once baptizing more than 220 men in a single year.

After the war Jones became embroiled in Lost Cause apologetics, arguing that the South had waged a just and holy war, and that the Confederacy produced "the noblest army... that ever marched under any banner or fought for any cause in all the tide of time." He held the powerful position of secretary-treasurer of the Southern Historical Society for more than a decade (1875-87) and edited fourteen volumes of the society's Papers, the major organ for the dissemination of Lost Cause ideology.

At the same time Jones became an influential leader of the Southern Baptist denomination. Especially notable is his service in Atlanta as the assistant corresponding secretary of the Home Mission Board, from 1884 to 1893. He became a well-known figure at the Southern Baptist annual conventions, and four of his sons followed him into the Baptist ministry. Decades before Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones of the Atlanta Braves baseball team were given the moniker, J. William Jones and his sons were affectionally known in Baptist circles as "The Jones Boys."

In his final years Jones lectured and preached widely. His standard prayer opening wedded his two passions: "Oh, God! Our God, our help in years gone by, our hope for years to come—God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of Israel, God of the centuries, God of our fathers, God of Jefferson Davis, Robert Edward Lee, and Stonewall Jackson,Lord of hosts and King of kings."

On March 17, 1909, Jones died in Columbus while visiting one of his sons. He was buried in Virginia. A member of the Virginia Historical Society at the time wrote that Jones was "never 'reconstructed'" and while "worshipping Lee and Jackson next to his God, devoted his whole life to defending by tongue and pen the eternal righteousness of the 'Lost Cause,' after it went down in defeat, and who at the last died not only in the 'faith once delivered to the saints,' but in the good old Confederate faith."

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Rev. John William Williams Jones, (CSA)'s Timeline

September 25, 1836
Louisa Court House, VA
November 30, 1861
Nelson County, VA, United States
Lexington, VA
November 10, 1863
Oakley, Nelson County, VA
November 10, 1866
April 29, 1870
March 17, 1909
Age 72
Columbus, Muscogee County, GA, United States