Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Booknotes: William Edmondson "Grumble" Jones

New Arrival:
William Edmondson "Grumble" Jones: The Life of a Cantankerous Confederate
by James Buchanan Ballard (McFarland, 2017)

The book bills itself as the first complete biography of Jones to appear in print, and I don't have any reason to believe otherwise. I can't think of another one. As an irrelevant aside, I'm a little amused by the author's name. The convention of naming kids after favored presidents or other major American historical figures isn't what it used to be, and I wonder if Ballard's first and middle names are mere coincidence or his parents really do think the 15th president has gotten a bad shake.

Anyway, getting back to Jones, he's certainly deserving of a call up from the sidelines. If I recall correctly, Eric Wittenberg, who has written extensively about many of the actions that Jones was involved in during the war, considers him one of the Confederacy's most underrated cavalry generals.

Ballard's biography spends around 80 pages on Jones's early life, his West Point and antebellum army days, and the brief civilian period between his 1857 resignation from the army and the beginning of the Civil War. Coverage of cavalryman Jones's Civil War career appears to be pretty thorough, and the bibliography is at the very least suggestive of a serious research effort. Jones's brigade was arguably the hardest fighting one at Brandy Station, and Jones and his men also fought with distinction on the retreat from Gettysburg. In addition to feuding with J.E.B. Stuart, he's also known today for his long 1863 West Virginia cavalry raid (the Jones-Imboden Raid) and for being killed in action fighting at the head of the small Confederate Shenandoah army defeated at the Battle of Piedmont on June 5, 1864.


  1. Just to clarify, my parents did not name me after the 15th president. I acquired my first name, James, after my father and my middle name, Buchanan, after my maternal grandmother's maiden name. It is a coincidence that my first and middle names match that of perhaps one of the worst presidents in US history. I do admit, however, a very distant blood relation to the man.


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