History’s Mysteries

What became of Lt. Col. Samuel Jones?

If you read I Fear We Shall Never See Home Again, in chapters nine through 12 you will encounter the commandant of Cahaba Federal Prison. It is my humble opinion that Lt. Col. Samuel Jones was even more evil than the infamous Captain Henry Wirz of Andersonville Prison.

Lt. Colonel Samuel Jones

If my memory serves me right, Capt. Henry Wirz did at least try to find food for the prisoners, some of which could have come from the local residents, but they refused to share what little food they had with the Union prisoners, understandably so, since food was scarce by this time in the war, not to mention that Major General William Tecumseh Sherman was leading his army through Georgia, causing much destruction along the way and taking whatever they could find, cattle, pigs, chickens, etc., to feed the troops.

Not so with Lt. Col. Jones, who did not care in the least if the prisoners starved to death. The only saving grace is that he shared command of the prison with a more compassionate man, Captain Howard Andrew Millet Henderson. Captain Henderson made arrangements to have articles of clothing, and other necessities delivered to the prisoners, however, food acquisition was still a problem. Be that as it may, Henderson was responsible for the arrangement to have prisoners exchanged.

Captain H.A.M. Henderson

I won’t go into detail about the atrocities Jones committed or allowed to happen, as you can read more about it in the book.

So, just what is the mystery concerning Lt. Col. Jones? The mystery is that he somehow disappeared shortly after the prisoners were released from Cahaba Prison. I have made several attempts to find out what happened to him, but so far I have come up empty, so I am left to speculate as to what happened to him.

First, I have looked at what military records are available, but they seem to end with the release of the prisoners, and the possible murder of Union Captain Hiram S. Hanchett, alias George Schellar.

Captain Hiram S. Hanchett

After the mutiny inquiry, seven men, including Captain Hanchett, were taken from the prison, marched into town to the county jail, where they were confined in what was referred to as “the dungeon.” The following day, all but Captain Hanchett were released. The following report is from the 1886 Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois** by J. W. Vance, in the section on page 561 about the Sixteenth Cavalry:

There is also this account from the 1899 Congressional Serial Set, on pages 117-120, 467, 794-795, 834-835, and 951 of Series 2, Volume 8, Part 1 (Prisoners of War and State, Etc.) in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies****.

The first report from the Adjutant-General of the State of Illinois seems counter to all that I read during my research for my novel. I choose to believe that the report by the War Department is more likely to be most accurate.

The location of Captain Hanchett’s remains is unknown. It is believed that after the murder was committed, he most likely was buried in the woods somewhere near Cahaba.

Finally, on August 8, 1866:

As to the disappearance of Lt. Col. Jones, I think that he got word of the orders by the War Department for his arrest and decided to flee to Louisiana, which is where he was from, possibly New Orleans.

Another scenario is that, if he remained in the area of Cahaba, at least into mid-November of 1865, he might have heard of the hanging of Capt. Henry Wirz on November 10, 1865, he might have seen the handwriting on the wall and decided that it would be best to return to Louisiana, perhaps changing his name, hoping he would not be discovered.

One more scenario leads to the question, did Jones have any enemies who might want to do him harm? Oh, of course, he had enemies. Every Union soldier and a few civilians, who survived Cahaba Prison, and who were victims to Jones’ cruelty, had plenty of reason to seek revenge. Perhaps they did exactly that, and perhaps, like Captain Hanchett, was buried in the woods, or the swamps of Louisiana. I did go on and did a search of not just cemeteries in New Orleans, but all of Louisiana, but I could find nothing. I then had the idea to attempt a search for graves of his wife, and his son, thinking that he may well be buried nearby. The problem is, all I had to go on as to their names, are photos of Jones and his family, that Dennis Headlee allowed me to use in the novel.

The image on the left is Lt. Col. Jones and four of his guards. On the right is an image of Jones’s wife and son.
These are the names written on the back of the photo of Jones’s family.

The name of Jones’s wife is smudged. In my search on Find-A-Grave, I tried Adie, Adia, even Alice, with no success. The name of Jones can be clearly seen to the right of Jones’s wife. His son’s name appears abbreviated, Jno. That abbreviation is often associated with the name Jonathan, or Johannes. I could not find a grave for either.

The final scenario is that Jones, his wife, and his son, may have fled the country, which would explain why no trace of them has been found here in the U.S.

If someone were to find out what happened to Jones, with supporting documents, I would be eternally thankful. I would like to have a conclusion to this mystery.

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