William Edmondson Jones (1824-1864)
William Edmondson Jones, known as Grumble Jones, was a planter, a career U.S. Army officer, and a Confederate cavalry general, killed in the American Civil War.
Jones was born in near Glade Spring, Washington County, Virginia, in May, 1824; died near New Hope, Augusta County, Virginia, June 5, 1864.
After graduating from Emory and Henry College in Virginia in 1844, he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1842 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Mounted Rifles. He served with the cavalry fighting Indians in the west until he resigned his commission in 1857 to become a farmer. His nickname, "Grumble", reflects his irritable disposition, undoubtedly exacerbated by the death of his wife, who was washed from his arms in a shipwreck shortly after their marriage.
At the start of the Civil War, Jones joined the 1st Virginia Cavalry regiment in a company he raised, serving under J.E.B. Stuart in the First Battle of Bull Run. He became colonel of the 7th Virginia Cavalry and led them in western Virginia, along the Potomac River.
Returning east, Jones' brigade was distinguished in the Second Bull Run Campaign; he was wounded in a skirmish at Orange Court House. He was part of Stuart's ostentatious raid around George B. McClellan's army following the Battle of Antietam. He was promoted to brigadier general on September 19, 1862, and on November 8, was assigned to command the 4th Brigade of Stuart's Cavalry Division in the Army of Northern Virginia. This brigade was known as Robertson's, or the "Laurel brigade," and consisted entirely of Virginians, formerly commanded by Turner Ashby. Based on the request of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, on December 29, 1862, he assumed command of the Valley District.
In the spring of 1863, Jones and Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden raided the Baltimore & Ohio railroad west of Cumberland, Maryland, destroying much of the railroad and public property in the area. Rejoining Stuart, he fought in the largest cavalry engagement of the war, the Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863, at the start of the Gettysburg Campaign. He was surprised, as was all of Stuart's command, to be hit out of blue by Union cavalry under Alfred Pleasonton. Jones' brigade was outnumbered by the division of his West Point classmate, John Buford, but it held its own and ended the fight with more horses and more and better small-arms than at the beginning, capturing two regimental colors, an artillery battery, and about 250 prisoners.
As the Gettysburg Campaign continued, Jones screened the Army of Northern Virginia's rear guard during the advance north through the Shenandoah Valley, by holding gaps in the mountains that separated them from Union observation and interference. As the Battle of Gettysburg commenced on July 1, 1863, Jones' brigade crossed the Potomac River at Williamsport, Maryland, but stayed away from the principal battlefield, guarding the trains and Harpers Ferry. Jones was disgruntled that Stuart had not taken him on the ill-fated cavalry adventure with the rest of his division (although the absence of Stuart in the early days of the battle is considered a major reason for the Confederate loss at Gettysburg). The disagreeable Jones often clashed with Stuart. On July 3, Jones' brigade fought a sharp battle with the 6th U.S. Cavalry at Fairfield, Pennsylvania, then again at Funkstown, Maryland, a few days later. After Lee's army completed its retreat back to Virginia, Jones' men fought twice again with Buford at Brandy Station: on August 1 and October 10, 1863.
In October, Stuart's dissatisfaction with Jones reached a boil and he court-martialed Jones for insulting him. Although Grumble was found guilty, Robert E. Lee intervened, and he was transferred to the Trans-Allegheny Department in West Virginia. Jones recruited a brigade of cavalry there and campaigned in eastern Tennessee with James Longstreet's forces during the winter and spring of 1864. In May, Jones assumed command of the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley who were defending against the halting advance of David Hunter towards Lynchburg, Virginia, in the Valley Campaigns of 1864. In the Battle of Piedmont on June 5, 1864, Jones was shot in the head and killed while leading a charge against a superior attacking force.
Grumble Jones is buried in the Old Glade Spring Presbyterian Church graveyard, Glade Spring, Virginia. His fellow cavalry general, Brig. Gen. Imboden, wrote that Jones . . . was an old army officer, brave as a lion and had seen much service, and was known as a hard fighter. He was a man, however, of high temper, morose and fretful. He held the fighting qualities of the enemy in great contempt, and never would admit the possibility of defeat where the odds against him were not much over two to one.