James Jones of Raleigh, Valet of Jefferson Davis

A cane that was once used by Davis and given to Jones (right) and an article describing how Jones gave the cane to what’s now the N.C. Museum of History.

On May 10, 1865James H. Jones, valet to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, was captured near Irwinsville, Georgia, with Davis after warning him of the approaching federal troops. Jones had stayed awake through the night to warn Davis and his party of any Union forces on the horizon.

Upon being captured, Jones was taken with Davis and the rest of the group to prison at Fort Monroe near Norfolk, Virginia, though Jones was released less than a month later.

Jones in 1915. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.Jones returned to Raleigh, where he was living before meeting the Davises. He became a pillar of the black community there, going on to attend two freedmen’s conventions, serving as a city alderman and working for several railroad companies. He also helped found the state’s first black military company.

Jones was native of either Warren or Wake County, and was working as bricklayer and plasterer in Raleigh in 1862 when Davis’s wife Varina fled to the city to escape approaching Union troops. Jones was recommended to Varina, who hired him on as a servant before she returned to Richmond later that year.

Jones remained with the Davises until their capture and called the former president of the Confederacy “my best friend” after learning of his death in 1889.

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