James Jones’ Silence
The following is transcribed from the Atlanta Journal of Friday, 15 April 1921, page one. James Jones (1831-1921) was the servant and confidential courier of Jefferson Davis. He was a native of Wake (not Warren) County, North Carolina and born to free parents.
Jones accompanied President Davis after Richmond fell to the enemy, and was directed by Davis to hide the Great Seal of the Confederacy before capture. As only the silver dies of the Great Seal of the Confederacy had reached Richmond from England by the end of the war, and perhaps Jones had these in his possession at the time of capture. As the blockade tightened greatly in early 1865, the large embossing press and brass dies remain in Bermuda today.
Jones attended the cornerstone laying of Richmond’s Jefferson Davis monument in 1906, where he saw Mrs. Davis for the last time. Shortly before her death, she sent Jones her husband’s favorite buckhorn walking cane.
James Jones’ Silence
“Death Claims Jefferson Davis’s Negro Bodyguard: The following interesting account of a Negro of much notoriety and of sterling worth is taken from the Atlanta Journal. Jones was a native of Warren County and evidently was well raised and trained in his youth – as the Negroes of Warren County were raised, being servants of the most aristocratic and intelligent men and women of any land or Country.
The latest information, however, about the Great Seal of the Confederate States is that it is in the Museum at Richmond.
“Washington, D.C., April 9. – Taking with him to the grave the secret of the whereabouts of the great seal of the Confederacy, which he hid away when Jefferson Davis was captured, James Jones, the colored body guard of the president of the Confederate States, is dead here to-day. The body of the faithful old servant of the sixties will be sent to Raleigh, N.C., for burial on Sunday.
Throughout his long life, with its latter years spent in the government service in Washington, James Jones would never reveal what became of the Confederate seal. “Marse Jeff” had bidden that he never tell – and he never did.
Veterans of the Union and Confederate armies, newspaper writers, curiosity seekers and the curie hunters from time to time urged Jones to reveal where he buried the Great Seal. They argued that the Civil War was far in the past and the seal should be produced for the inspection of the younger generation of today and generations that are to follow in a reunited country. Always James Jones shook his head and to the end he maintained his silence.
The colored bodyguard was with Jefferson Davis when his capture was [effected]; in fact, he is said to have warned his master of the approach of the enemy, but President Davis did not escape in time. Jones accompanied President to Fort Monroe, where he was placed in prison.
After the war he headed a colored fire department in Raleigh, and became a minor city official. He turned Republican in politics, but always voted for Representative William Ruffin Cox of North Carolina, who represented the State in the House in the Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Congresses. Later, when Mr. Cox became secretary of the United States Senate, he brought Jones to Washington with him and gave him a messenger’s job in the Senate.
That was in 1893. Since that time he has had several jobs about the capitol and was a messenger in the Senate stationery room until a short time before his death.”