When war broke out in 1861, Seaborn organized an infantry company called the Polk Rifles and served as it's Captain. Younger brother Abraham was the company's 2nd Lt. The company travelled to Camp McDonald at Big Shanty in June 1861 to join the newly formed 4th Georgia State Brigade under command of State General William Phillips. Seaborn Jones was immediately elected Lt Colonel of the Brigade's Rifle Battalion, 1st Lt Henry F Wimberly took over as the Company Captain and thirty three year old Ham Jones moved up to 1st Lt.
When the Brigade was disbanded at the end of July amidst a bitter argument between Governor Brown and Confederate President Davis over control, the Rifle Battalion became the infantry component of the newly organized Phillips Legion with the Polk County company designated as Company D. The Legion shipped out for Lynchburg Virginia in early August, arriving there and mustering into Confederate service on August 9th 1861. In a letter written to his brother Bob on August 19th, 1861, Ham relates that the Legion is well situated with good supplies of food and water, mentions that many men are sick with measles and mumps, and speculates that the war will be over by Christmas. He bases his opinion on the observation that the Federal armies are made up of foreigners who are only fighting to make a living and will quickly tire of fighting southerners and go home. He also jokes that he is "going to marry one of those large, slave holding ladies here provided I can make the arrangement before I come back." He goes on to mention that "Our preacher Smith (George Gilman Smith, Legion chaplain) found some very nice girls yesterday in town that eat out of silver plates entirely. I told him to bring any of his young friends any time he chooses, so you can see it is well enough to have a preacher in camp even when they fine a man $1.00 per oath he swears."
This tranquil period would soon end as the Legion received orders to report to General John B Floyd's Army at Sewell Mountain in western Virginia and departed Lynchburg on September 23rd. In a letter written October 5th 1861 from Lynchburg, Ham relates how the Legion is greatly scattered with sick men left at various places . He himself had to return to Lynchburg after falling ill just 30 miles into the journey north. He states that "one of the Habersham (Co C) boys died at the hospital last night and they think one of the Blue Ridge (Co E) boys will die today. If he dies that will make three of the Legion that has died, none of the Polk Rifles have died as yet, although there has been a great deal of sickness among them, one of them was given up several days ago but he (Luke) has been improving several days and they think he will get well." Private Frank B Luke did recover and survived the war.
We next pick Ham up writing from Cotton Hill, Virginia (just across the Kanawha River from present day Gauley Bridge, W. Va.) on October 28th 1861. He had rejoined his command at Sewell Mountain and recounts the terrible weather and road conditions encountered on their march to Cotton Hill which has taken a heavy toll on men and animals alike. He mentions that "William Wood of Cedartown died at New River on Thursday (16th) of this month - Typhoid Fever, A O Barton at Meadow Bluff the week before that of pneumonia. We are sometimes tollerably hard now for something to eat and pretty hard living at that; no sugar and coffee; bread and meat scarce; beef, beef, beef is the cry." He notes that Floyd's army is camped across the river (Kanawha) from the Federal army which is said to number fourteen ofr fifteen thousand men and says that Floyd has only 3000 men fit for service. He writes of a fight that the Legion cavalry had with Federal pickets across the river on the day they arrived and claims the southerners killed twenty nine Federals including a Colonel with only a few minor wounds to the cavalrymen. He goes on to speculate that Floyd will retreat after shelling the Federals for a few days since he has neither the manpower or the supplies to remain in place. Writing again from the same area on November 8th, Ham has taken his estimate of Federal strength down considerably to 6000 men and states Floyd's strength as 3500. He says that "the prisoner that we got day before yesterday says most of their forces is composed of Irish and Dutch with some Kentuckians who, by the by, made the bullets wistle pretty close about our boys heads while on picket duty. They are armed with Enfield rifles and they keep them on the bluffs to shoot at our pickets." He goes on to complain about a lack of support from General Lee and states "that there has been the poorest generalship displayed in the arrangement of this part of the war. If we had only been commanded by Ben McCulis, or some such man, we would have taken Rosencrantz and all his men at Big Sewell and saved half the sickness and hardship we have been exposed to on the march from there to here which I fear will cost us the lives of some more of our best men. I do hope for the sake of the men that we will be ordered to the railroad for the winter or back to Georgia. If it was not for the men I would resign and come home as soon as I heard the first gun was fired against Georgia But I hate to leave the men who came here with me." Ham would get his wish for within several days Rosecrans moved to surround Floyd's army in early November. Floyd wisely decided to retreat and on November 12th the Legion started a long, miserable march back to Dublin Station on the Virginia & Tennessee railroad. In December, it became obvious that the campaigning was over in these wild mountains and it was decided to send the Legion to South Carolina to rest, recruit and help repel Federal raids from the coast.
We next hear from Ham on January 25th 1862 in a letter written from Camp Lee near Hardeeville, SC. He indicates that he has been ill but has now resumed his duties. He goes on to say that they are comfortably situated and are feasting regularly on "high seasoned oysters". Writing on February 12th, Ham tells Bob that he is anticipating a Federal move inland, predicts "desperate fighting and great sacrifice of lives", and worries about having enough soldiers to resist the movement. He goes on to say that "the southern people have grown careless from their confidence in the bravery of the southern troops and we have been fighting aginst too much odds - bravery can do much but it is a useless sacrifice of life to meet them with such great odds against us in a country like this where they can out flank us and subject us to cross firing from an overwhelming force. They are bound to make a move shortly." In another letter written March 13th Ham is still expecting a Federal attack and notes that new recruits are beginning to arrive from Georgia. A letter dated May 15th finds him speculating on the future of the Confederacy. He writes that "if we can whip them in Virginia and at Corinth I think it (the war) will have to close. If not we will have to fight til the last one goes down. All feel that upon those two battles depend our all and blood will be in it's Spring ???? when they are fought. It may be that our legion will be in that fight for I understand from the mail boy that Major Mills told him this evening that Gen Drayton had orders to be ready to start for Virginia in two hours after notice. The men are all in high glee thinking we will be one of the regiments. I suppose we will know before morning if we will have to go. The legion is filling up very fast now and I suppose will be full in a few days. We will then have about 2000 men."
June finds Ham and the Legion still in South Carolina and trouble is brewing. Ham writes brother Bob on June 17th that "I fear our legion is going to the devil or disgrace as fast as it can. It is just as I told you last winter. Phillips is not fit (to be) Colonel. He has no discipline and since Seab (his brother, Lt Colonel Seaborn Jones who would resign effective July 6th 1862 citing failing health) left he is beginning to show it very plain. The men see it and say THE OFFICER of the legion is gone and those who do not know it now will soon find it out. They say what the Legion was was owing to Seab. What it will be Phillips will get credit for it. I would to God and so does the Captain (Henry Wimberly) wish our company was out of it before it is disgraced. He looks and acts more like a candidate for some office than Colonel of a Legion. He boot licks all that will allow him to do so and those who will not allow it does not remember when he makes his honorable dictates such as court martials and committees. He is nothing but a puff, self conceited brogadocio and no dependance in anything that he says. Major Wilcoxon (commanding Legion cavalry battalion) has resigned and starts home tomorrow. I don't know the reasons but suppose he does not like the treatment he has received. It won't be long before many others will do the same thing if they can; but enough of him (Phillips) for this time." On June 26th, he writes Bob that "I expect that we will be ordered away from here soon" and goes on to speculate that they will be sent to Chattanooga.
His guess was incorrect as we next find him writing Bob from Richmond, Virginia on July 31st. The Legion had been brigaded with the 3rd SC Battalion, 15th Sc Infantry and the 50th and 51st Ga Infantry regiments under the command of Brigadier General Thomas F Drayton and sent north to Richmond on July 19th 1862. Ham had attempted a bit of romance on the trip north writing that "I arrived here on the 29th safe after stopping one day in Lynchburg to see Miss Fannie G, who, by the by, is as pretty and smart as ever and appeared to be mighty glad to see me, but, she and I had so many friends that I had no chance to talk to her of the future, but from the way she talked, she had been making some enquiries about the family and appeared to be in no ways displeased with the information she had received. She asked me about you all and where each one lived and how far from any town or city. You would have thought she was going to fix up a geography of Polk (County). She insisted on my staying one more day with them but I told her that I always liked to obey legal orders and come up to time. We will leave here in the morning for camps eight miles below here on the river near Drewry Bluff. The General thinks we will not remain there long but did not say where we would go....thought we would have to march rapidly when we left here. He told me we would be allowed flies but no tents - that by quick movements we would finish the war in a short time. I have not been able to catch any correct idea how things stand or what will be the plan of operations but from appearances something will be done soon. The pickets on the south side of the James River think that the Yankees are sending their forces from McClellan's position every night." The remaining three pages of his letter are packed with instructions detailing how he wants his farm managed so it is obvious that he is thinking in terms of a quick end to the war and returning home.
His next letter is written August 10th 1862 from Chafins Farm (southeast of Richmond)and details the events in motion. "Sgt Thompson arrived here with your letter after rambling about Richmond two days enquiring for Phillips Legion. It is almost impossible to find any brigade here unless you happen to come on someone belonging to the one you are looking for. There is quite a stir here now. The news is that Jackson and Pope are fighting and Lee is sending Jackson reinforcements. The long roll was beaten in several camps within hearing of ours last night and this morning news is that they were going to Stonewall. I hear that 850 prisoners landed at Richmond yesterday from Jackson. God grant he may take and kill the last one of Pope's men. We were ordered out last Tuesday at the time of the Malvern Hill affair which you have seen an account of before now. We are ordered to have all of our mules shod today (Sunday) and ammunition ready and baggage lightened. I would not be surprised if we were ordered somewhere before 12 o'clock tonight." This letter is also completed with several pages of detailed farm management instructions. In a short note written three days later, Ham tells Bob that "we have just received orders to move to Richmond tonight to take the cars at 4 o'clock in the morning to join Stonewall Jackson. It appears that Lincoln intends to whip us if men in numbers can do it. I expect all up to 45 (years old) will be called out by Pres Davis soon. We have had no fight yet but have been called out twice to the breastworks. It is believed that McClellan's forces are being sent away from his position down the river and sent to Pope."
The Legion would indeed entrain early the next morning for Gordonsville and would spend the next fifteen days in hard marches and skirmishing that led up to the battle of Second Manassas. On August 29th the Legion and the rest of Drayton's brigade were used as a guard for the far right flank of Lee's army and saw no direct action. They maintained this position for most of the 30th until getting orders to come forward and join the final Confederate attack on the Federal left flank. Confusion delayed Drayton's arrival however and the Legion was only lightly engaged in an action at dusk suffering about twenty casualties. Ham's Company D had three men wounded and he came through the fight unscathed. He wrote to Bob from Leesburg, Virginia on September 6th. "Ever since we left Richmond we have been on the move and for the last 12 days we have been driving the enemy before us whipping them out whenever they would make a stand with their best troops to protect their rear. Last Monday was the last fighting that I have heard from though we heard cannonading up the river yesterday . This is the grandest movement of the war and will have a decided and powerful effect upon the North either for the best or worst. I think it will bring out the peace party at the North strong enough to check the war party and with the effect upon Europe will give us peace this winter provided we do not invade - which will tend to destroy the peace party entirely and all will unite in defending their own soil. If we invade it will become a war of extermination certain and there will be no end to it until the last one is gone on our side. It is said that Jackson crossed the river at Harpers Ferry last Monday. Cannonading north of us while I am writing. Lee and Jackson will let them have no rest. Now we have blankets, that is some of us, not a change of clothes so you can see we are in a fix to move as fast as it is possible for a large army to move. We live hard but very little grumbling; all seem to think we are (four illegible words) - the Yankee prisoners started home singing "We're going home to fight no more". They say the war would stop if left to the privates. It is reported that Lincoln and his cabinet has gone to Philadelphia. You did not write me how my corn crop was. I want you to buy me as many hogs as you think I can fatten. Together with what I have that will do to make meat. I think if they will let out the men over thirty five years and they keep us (at) this heavy hard service I will resign and come home and rest until next Spring and then go into the Cavalry or guerilla service so that I won't be in such a large body of troops. A man has to live like a hog where there is so many troops. I had rather be a private in a guerilla company than (an) officer where there is such a large force where there (is) so little discipline. If I do I will be at home sometime in October. You said nothing about how John got on having brandy made. It looks like we are fixing to cross the (Potomac) River tonight. No more time. Give my love to all, Affectionately, Ham.
It was as he predicted. The Legion crossed into Maryland the following day and headed for Frederick where they rested for a couple of days before marching on to near Hagerstown, Maryland on September 11th. General George B McClellan had worked a minor organizational miracle and gotten a rebuilt Army of the Potomac on the road in pursuit of Lee's army. Arriving at Frederick, he came into possession of a lost copy of Lee's orders for the execution of the campaign. Realizing that he had an opportunity to catch Lee's army separated into detachments he moved rapidly towards South Mountain in an attempt to place himself between Lee with Longstreet's troops at Hagerstown and Jackson's men who were laying siege to Harpers Ferry. General D H Hill's single division blocked the South Mountain passes at Turners' and Fox's Gaps as McClellan's huge army approached on the morning of September 14th. Fighting desperately against two Federal Corps, Hill sent Lee word that he could not hold on without reinforcements. Lee quickly put Longstreet's men on the road and the lead brigades of G T Anderson and Drayton (including the Legion) arrived at the foot of Turners' Gap around 1PM. These two brigades were moved up into the gap where they found a very anxious D H Hill. Hill knew that Garland's North Carolina brigade had been driven out of Fox's Gap a short distance to the south that morning. He had sent two of his own brigades (G B Andersons and Roswell Ripleys) over to stabilize the situation but knew he had to regain the gap itself to keep the Federals from pouring into the valley beyond. Personally leading Anderson and Drayton's brigades to Fox's Gap he ordered a sweeping, left wheeling attack by the four brigades which he hoped would drive the Federals back out of the gap and down the east side of the mountain. Hill then left to attend to the action developing north of Turners Gap leaving General Roswell Ripley in charge. The plan was ill conceived since it involved a charge by most of the troops through the jungle-like landscape of the western side of the mountain, but the inept General Ripley made things even worse by marching the three lead brigades too far down the west side of the mountain leaving Drayton's lone 1300 man brigade alone at Fox's Gap. Drayton, who had been criticized for not moving up promptly at Second Manassas was not about to be tardy again and, in compliance with his orders for an attack, he launched three of his five units southwards across a four acre field at the gap. The Federals could not be readily seen but were believed to be in or just beyond the trees lining the southern south and east sides of the field. What Drayton did not realize was that two fresh Federal divisions had arrived since the morning action and he was attacking over 10000 Union troops with 800 of his own.
The Legion, on the left of the attack ploughed into the woods east of the field and quickly ran into a wall of fire from their left and front. Pushed westward out of the woods into the field, they were now fired on from east, south and west as they scrambled to cross the field and escape. Somewhere in the confusion, Ham Jones went down. We do not know if he was killed instantly or lingered for a bit since no written account of his death has been found. All we know is that his military record shows him killed in action on September 14th. His company, whittled down to only about 30 men by disease, exhaustion and straggling over the previous month, lost seventeen men in the vicious action.
The young, prosperous Lieutenant whose letters hint at his plans to marry and tell us that he would soon be back at his Polk County farm was no more. The Confederate dead were hastily buried on the field on September 15th and the armies moved on to fight the great battle at Sharpsburg on the 17th. In 1872 the state of Maryland disinterred the Confederate graves on South Mountain (those that could be located) and reinterred the remains in a mass grave at Washington Confederate Cemetery at Hagerstown, Maryland.