by J. B. Jones, edited by James I. Robertson, Jr
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2015. Pp. x, 590.
Illus., notes, biblio., index. $50.00. ISBN: 0700621245
One Man’s Experience of the Civil War as it Happened
Jones (1810-1866), a Southern journalist and novelist of some accomplishment, served as a clerk in the Confederate War Department for virtually the entire war, and made almost daily entries in his diary. These entries provide a wealth of useful information and insights about the Confederate government, the war, many political and military leaders, and most particularly, daily life in Richmond and the Home Front in general. Jones recorded rumors, many of which he often believed, news stories, prices, conversations with officials and officers, and more, and was quite optimistic about the Confederate cause almost to the last. He also reveals commonly held deep prejudices against Jews, Yankees, bankers, and others, but is surprisingly largely silent about African Americans.
Jones not only gives us a picture of how military activities were perceived as they unfolded, and also offers some comments on infighting among Confederate political and military leaders, who collectively could hardly be said to have been a “band of brothers”.
Volume II covers events from the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg through the collapse of the Confederacy, as Jones experienced them. What is most striking about Jones’ writing is the remarkable degree of optimism he displays almost right up to the final hours of the Confederacy.
While editing the diary, Prof. Robertson (Virginia Tech), added extensive notes, providing cross references, commentary, and clarifications of some of Jones’ less clear references or comments.
A volume in the UP Kansas series “Modern War Studies,” A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary is an indispensable read for any serious scholar of the Civil War, offering a look at how one rather well placed individual experienced the war as it happened.
Note: Volume I of A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary is also available, see our notice at https://www.strategypage.com/bookreviews/1423.asp