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The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect

The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect

The Life and Diary of Confederate Artillerist William Ellis Jones

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Constance Hall Jones


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
272 pages, 6 x 9, 31 illustrations

Engaging the Civil War


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Table of Contents

Table of Contents



About the Book

This remarkable biography and edited diary tell the story of William Ellis Jones (1838–1910), an artillerist in Crenshaw’s Battery, Pegram’s Battalion, the Army of Northern Virginia. One of the few extant diaries by a Confederate artillerist, Jones’s articulate writings cover camp life as well as many of the key military events of 1862, including the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Manassas, the Maryland Campaign, and the Battle of Fredericksburg.

In 1865 Jones returned to his prewar printing trade in Richmond, and his lasting reputation stems from his namesake publishing company’s role in the creation and dissemination of much of the Lost Cause ideology. Unlike the pro-Confederate books and pamphlets Jones published—primary among them the Southern Historical Society Papers—his diary shows the mindset of an unenthusiastic soldier. In a model of contextualization, Constance Hall Jones shows how her ancestor came to embrace an uncritical veneration of the army’s leadership and to promulgate a mythology created by veterans and their descendants who refused to face the amorality of their cause.

Jones brackets the soldier’s diary with rich, biographical detail, profiling his friends and relatives and providing insight into his childhood and post-war years. In doing so, she offers one of the first serious investigations into the experience of a Welsh immigrant family loyal to the Confederacy and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Civil War–era Richmond and the nineteenth-century publishing industry. Invitingly written, The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect is an engaging life-and-times story that will appeal to historians and general readers alike.


Constance Hall Jones is an antiquarian book dealer and author working in Raleigh, North Carolina.



"A valuable contribution to Southern Civil War literature, not only for its descriptions of soldier life. She also reveals much about antebellum and post-bellum society in Richmond and dissemination of Lost Cause propaganda, as well as examining a Welsh family’s heritage in the Old World and success in the New. No reader will be disappointed in this gem of research and reporting."—Kendra BrownJournal of America's Military Past

“The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect has so much more in it than Jones’s diary. Ms. Jones, in fleshing out her relatives life, has compiled a thoroughly researched documentary of the Welsh immigrant experience in antebellum Richmond. . . . The book surprised me. Objective, thoroughly detailed, and rich in social and political history, I found it illuminating and thought provoking.”—John Michael Priest, Civil War News

“In expanding her study's purview beyond a brief Civil War diary to encompass its writer's personal, family, and professional connections with Richmond commerce, culture, and society over many decades, Constance Hall Jones has created a work of significant historiographical value on multiple levels. The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect is highly recommended.”—Andrew J. WagenhofferCivil War Books and Authors

"An inherently fascinating and impressively informative Civil War biography"Midwest Book Review

Witty, candid, and informative, the diary illuminates the harrowing experiences of an artillerist in the Army of Northern Virginia. Constance Hall Jones has performed a valuable service by making it available to scholars and lay readers alike.”—Michael E. Woods, author of Bleeding Kansas: Slavery, Sectionalism, and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border

“This book is not a dry chronicling of daily life in the ranks. Rather, Jones used his diary as a confessional, digging deep in his interior world to confront war’s absurdities, and reminding us that scores of Civil War soldiers were deeply introspective when it came to the killing and dying of war.”—Peter S. Carmichael, author of War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies

“Jones’s compelling portrait of her ancestor takes us on a sweeping journey from his family’s origins in Wales to Industrial Richmond to the fall of the Confederate Capital and the making of the Lost Cause myth, all the while breaking stereotypes of the ‘typical’ Southern soldier.”—Gregg D. Kimball, author of American City, Southern Place: A Cultural History of Antebellum Richmond

“As lush with literary allusions as it is sharp with critiques of military life, the diary of William Ellis Jones epitomizes the soldier’s plight—the relentless sickness, deprivation, and discipline—as well as the small comforts of friends, drink, and reading.”—Kathryn Shively Meier, author of Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia