Born in Virginia on September 25, 1836, Jones later attended school before going on to graduate from the University of Virginia, helping support himself along the way as a teacher. Next he entered the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1860. Intending to serve as a missionary to China, Jones instead enlisted in the Confederate Army under General A.P. Hill when the state of Virginia seceded.
From Harper's Ferry until the war ended, Jones played a significant role. He first fought as a private before becoming chaplain of the regiment and then missionary chaplain to Hill's troops. A daunting task to help so many people, Jones preached tirelessly for Generals' Hill, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee's men. He involved himself in the revival services held throughout Lee's army during the winter of 1862-63 and later recorded the experiences in Christ in the Camp.
Having served under Lee, Jones respected him tremendously. After the war, Jones worked as pastor of the Baptist Church of Lexington and as a chaplain at Washington College. Here Jones often saw General Lee and spent time with him. Following Lee's death, the Lee family asked Jones to pen a biography, which he did. Published in 1874 as Jones's first book, Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of R. E. Lee portrayed Lee sympathetically, showing his character as well as describing his later years. In the closing years of his own life, Jones wrote another biography of Lee entitled Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee. Jones was known as a writer who searched out unknown facts, leaving no stone unturned, so to speak.
Jones wrote numerous articles and edited fourteen volumes of the Southern Historical Society's Papers, thereby preserving valuable information about the Confederates and Southern history. He defended the South's cause in fighting the Civil War, or the War Between the States, and thus promoted the "Lost Cause." Jones believed the South had fought and lost a holy war, and he worked to keep alive the ideals represented by the Confederacy.
Famous in the South, Jones traveled, lectured, and preached. He'd become not only an important Baptist leader, but a leader in the collecting and keeping of historical information about the Civil War years. A Confederate and religious believer until the end, Jones passed away on March 17, 1909.
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