<< Back to Steven A. Jones Home Page



Origins of My Civil War Interests


To some degree, my interest in Civil War history comes from learning of my great grandfather, who lived in Caroline County Virginia.  Thomas Henry Jones enlisted in the 47th Virginia Infantry (Co. K) in 1862.  He was captured at the Battle of the Wilderness, and spent the last year of the war at Elmira prison in New York. This story is typical of the times, and as with all such stories it raises questions.  To me, the questions do not relate to “who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.”  The primary question is, “How did this happen?”  How could the citizens of a modern country who are ostensibly rational beings allow an event to occur that killed over 600,000 people?  It’s an important question because it also relates to every war ever fought in the history of mankind.


Living in Atlanta provided the opportunity to learn about the Atlanta campaign and to cultivate an interest in W. T. Sherman, who has the odd dual role of being the “scourge of the south” and the first superintendant of Louisiana State University, which is just one of the ironies that pervade that era.  I heartily recommend that anyone interested in the Atlanta campaign, or the Civil War itself, for that matter, read the memoirs of Sherman, Johnston and Hood, preferably simultaneously.  Sherman’s memoirs are by far the most intriguing of the three, and they have the added bonus of describing his pre Civil War days in the San Francisco area, where I grew up.


On another level of the war, the Diary of John Ransom is another remarkable work, not so much because of what it says about Andersonville Prison, but because of what it says about John Ransom.  He was a man who went through an indescribable nightmare.  Not only did he survive, but he came through the experience without the sort of bitterness that one would naturally expect.