Friday, March 14, 2014

February 11, 1864 (Thursday): Jones Removed

Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon

Richmond, Va., February 11, 1864.
Major General SAM. JONES,
Commanding, &c., Dublin Depot, Va.:
    GENERAL: I have received your letter of the 4th instant, and reply to it not without sincere regret and feeling. You have been misinformed in supposing that it had been announced to the President that you wished to be relieved and that it was the purpose of the Department to announce that you were relieved at your own request. It has, however, after hesitancy and deliberation by the President, no less than myselft, been determined that the best interests of the service require a change of command in your department. Without intending disparagement to you and the zealous efforts which it is not doubted you have made to fulfill the arduous duties of your position, it has to be acknowledged that you had ceased to command the general confidence of the people, and discountent and apprehensions of hurtful nature were prevailing in regard to the security of your department. Other considerations, which it is needless to dwell upon, pointed out as probably better adapted to secure the confidence of the people and promote the essential ends of your command an officer of distinction in the Western army, who has political as well as military influences to aid his administration. General Breckinridge has accordingly been selected to relieve you, and orders to that effect will be issued in a few days, on his return form a brief visit to Dalton. As this change is made in no unkind spirit and from no harsh judgment in respect to yourself, but with regret and solely in deference to considerations of public utility, confidence is felt that it will be understood and received by you in the spirit of self-sacrifice and patriotic devotion which is demanded of us all in the prosecution of our great and vital struggle.*
     Very respectfully,

     Secretary of War.

* For Jones' reply see VOL. XXXIII. p. 1172. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 1, Page 820.

Jones was a very well qualified officer with an undersized command and much territory to defend.  He had accomplished his primary mission, maintaining the defense of the salt works in western Virginia.  But he did not have the confidence of the people of the region.  As he would point out in his letter of reply to the President, no one preceding him in command had, either.  His letter to Davis was as polite as that of Seddon to him and is refreshing to read in light of the many self serving documents to be found in the O.R.  Jones was essentially swap commands with Breckinridge and continue in Confederate service until the war's end.

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