Book Review: A Rebel War Clerk's Diary: At the Confederate States Capital, Vol. I: April 1861-July 1863


by J. B. Jones, edited by James I. Robertson, Jr

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2015. Pp. xx, 468. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0700621237

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, but 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 I covers events from the formation of the Confederate government through the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg.  In general, Jones sees the Confederacy as doing quite well, and anticipates ultimate victory, which, within the framework of the information available to him was not entirely inappropriate.  

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 II of A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary, is also available, see our notice at


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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