John M. Jones was born on July 20, 1820 in Charlottesville, Virginia. He attended West Point, graduating 39th out of 52 in the class of 1841 and earning the nickname of “Rum” Jones in honor of his favorite pastime.
Second Lieutenant Jones joined the Seventh United States Infantry and spent four years on the frontier before returning to West Point in 1845 as an assistant instructor of infantry tactics. In 1854 and 1855 he served on a commission to revise rifle and light artillery tactics.
On March 3, 1855 Joned was promoted to captain and joined his regiment in garrison duty. In 1858 he joined the Mormon Expedition, and was in Utah until 1860.
On May 27, 1861 Jones resigned his commission and offered his services to the Confederacy. He was made a captain of artillery, but by fall had joined the staff of Major General Thomas Jackson, participating as a staff major in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. He went on to serve as AAG, adjutant general and inspector general for Generals Magruder, Ewell and Early, rising to lieutenant colonel. By mid 1862 he was still a field officer, while his comtemporaries from the Academy and the 7th Infantry were commanding brigades and divisions.
In May of 1862 Jones was promoted to brigadier general and given the brigade of John R. Jones (no relation) in Edward Johnson’s Division. One unusual provision of his appointment that Robert E. Lee promised President Davis was that “Should Jones fail in his duty he will immediately resign,” possiby a clue, along with his West Point nickname, for his slow advancement up to that time.
Jones led his brigade at Gettysburg in the attack on Culp’s Hill (see monument at Gettysburg), where on July 2nd he was badly wounded in the head. He shortly returned to duty to replace Brigadier General William “Extra Billy” Smith, who had been elected Governor of Virginia. But he was wounded again on November 27th at the Battle of Payne’s Farm in the Mine Run Campaign.
Jones again returned from recovering from his wound, and in the opening battle of 1864, the Battle of the WIlderness, was killed along with his aide Robert Early while they were was attempting to rally his faltering brigade under overwhelmng Federal attack.
Jones’ body was sent home to Charlottesville, where he is buried in Maplewood Cemetery.