Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.
General Stonewall Jackson speaking to Captain John D. Imboden (24 July 1861)
On April 17, 1861, Virginia seceded from the Union; however, it was not until June of that year that Isle of Wight County began to prepare for war. The campaign on the Peninsula across the James River from Isle of Wight and Yankee gunboats cruising the James shuttling troops to Hampton, prompted its residents to realize that their homes and families were in danger. On June 23, 1861 three Jones brothers; Abraham, Isaac Newton, and Jacob, along with relatives and friends from the county signed up with the James River Artillery stationed at Fort Boykin, which later became Company I (2nd) of the Third Virginia Infantry. Their younger brothers Junious and Josiah Benjamin enlisted April 1, 1863 and April 1, 1864 respectively. All total there were 46 related men who served in units such as the Third Virginia Infantry Company I (Second), Surry Light Artillery, Ninth Virginia Infantry, Smithfield Light Artillery Blues (Nineteenth Virginia), and Thirteenth Virginia Cavalry.
My great-great-grandfather was Abraham Jones, Corporal, CSA. On May 31, 1862 during the battle of Seven Pines, he came upon his wounded first cousin, Captain James Thomas Gwaltney. James asked Abraham for a drink of water. To his dismay, Abraham was unable to satisfy James’ request because both of their canteens had been shot through. Abraham did drag his cousin under a nearby tree and left him for the medics. On June 16, 1862, James died as a result of his injuries, thus becoming the first of the Jones related men to die in the War Between the States.
The Third Virginia was engaged in such battles as the Battle of Big Bethel, the Seven Days’ Battle, the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Five Forks, and the Battle of Sailor’s Creek. It was at the Battle of Gettysburg where my great-great-grandfather and three of his brothers were part of Kemper’s Brigade. “Kemper’s Brigade had the misfortune of being assigned the unsupported right flank of Pickett’s charge. As a result, it was racked by concentrated artillery fire from its front and right and then hit by Standard’s Brigade’s savage flank attack. Losses were heavy, but the men did as well as could be expected.” according to Bradley M. Gottfried in his book, “BRIGADES OF Gettysburg“. It was during this battle on July 3, 1863, that Corporal Abraham Jones was shot in the thigh and captured. His three brothers left the battlefield that day unsure if Abraham was dead or alive. As Pickett returned to Seminary Ridge, he sadly replied, “General Lee, I have no division now, Armistead is down, Garnett is down, and Kemper is mortally wounded.” Lee’s fatherly response was, “Come, General Pickett, this has been my fight and upon my shoulders rests the blame. The men and officers of your command have written the name of Virginia as high today as it has ever been written before.”* It is amazing to see the exceptional faith the men had in their leader, General Robert E. Lee. A faith, so strong, that staring in the face of certain death pushed them to fill in the gaps created by their fallen comrades as they made that devastating charge towards the Union soldiers.
On September 25, 1863, Abraham Jones was exchanged at City Point, Virginia, and transferred to Chimborazo Hospital No. 5 in Richmond where he remained until October. Upon his release, he was given a 20-day furlough to visit his home before joining his regiment. Abraham and his brothers fought side by side for the duration of the war. During the final days of the war, Abraham’s brothers, Isaac Newton, Jacob, and Junious were captured and his youngest brother Josiah Benjamin was wounded and captured.
Of those 46 young men, 13 were killed in battle or died as a result of illness and another 13 were wounded or captured. Even though all five Jones’ brothers were wounded or captured, not a one died. By the middle of the summer in 1865, all of them were back with their families. The only explanation I can provide for this miracle is found in General Jackson’s statement, “Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”
*”BRIGADES OF Gettysburg” – Bradley M. Gottfried