“‘A Caring Man’: Remembering John W. Jones and Mark Twain in Elmira” by Jillian Spivey Caddell
Introduction: John W. Jones and Mark Twain in Relation
When you drive into Elmira, New York, today, you are greeted with a sign showing some of the city’s famous daughters and sons: Mark Twain, the broadcaster Brian Williams, the designer Tommy Hilfiger, the astronaut Eileen Collins. Among this varied company is an aging Black man with a white beard and gentle smile. His name is as unassuming as Tommy Hilfiger’s (or for that matter, Mark Twain’s) is central to his brand: John W. Jones. Jones was a central figure in the African American community in Elmira; after running away from slavery in Virginia, he became a sexton in Elmira’s First Baptist Church and a prominent Underground Railroad conductor.
Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain is the most famous man buried in Elmira. His family plot is at the expansive Woodlawn Cemetery, which lies adjacent to a more somber and uniform soldier’s cemetery that dates back to the Civil War. In the soldier’s cemetery are buried some three-thousand Confederate soldiers who died at the nearby prison called “Hellmira” by those who survived it.  John W. Jones was their caretaker.  He kept the cemetery of Confederate soldiers who died at Elmira’s notorious prison camp, transporting bodies, digging graves, overseeing the work of his helpers, and recording the names of the dead for posterity. We might consider Jones in relation to Twain, a relation that is borne out in geographical proximity: the two men are buried a mere 100 yards apart in Woodlawn Cemetery.
John W. Jones is a vital figure in Elmira’s nineteenth-century history and he continues to have an important place in the memorial landscape of the city today. His personal history reveals much about Elmira’s abolitionist past, as well as its importance as a stop on the Underground Railroad; its Civil War-era remaking as the site of a prisoner-of-war camp; and its post-war identity as a site of both opportunities and challenges for its Black citizens. Interpreting Jones’s life in relation to that of Twain, whom he met at least once, also illuminates certain themes and concerns of Twain’s fiction and demonstrates how particular histories made legible by Elmira impacted his work and his life. But Jones is not important only because of his connections with Twain: the story of his life continues to bear on issues confronting the United States in the 21st century, from the legacies of slavery and systemic racism to the persistence of Lost Cause memory and beyond.
“Born a Slave”
John W. Jones was born on a large plantation owned by the Elzy family near Leesburg, Virginia, on June 22, 1817. According to Clayton W. Holmes, an early historian of Elmira, Jones’s mother was born into slavery and his father had been sold before John’s birth. Holmes, who knew Jones in his old age, reported that “[Jones’s] life on the Virginia plantation was as happy as it could have been anywhere in bondage” and that “John… remembered with pleasure that [his mistress] never gave him a cross word” (140). Jones’s description of his relatively happy life as an enslaved person might be usefully compared with the writer and activist Harriet Jacobs’s experiences while enslaved. In her memoir, Jacobs wrote of the kindness of her first mistress and of her own pride in laboring for her; she described the complexity of knowing that even as one might be enslaved, some enslaved persons had a much more difficult time than others. These insights may help us to understand Jones’s complicated feelings toward the family that enslaved him as he looked back in old age. What is certain is that no matter how kind his mistress was, Jones still decided to risk his life to run away on June 3, 1844. Accompanied by his two half-brothers and two other men from nearby plantations, Jones’s 300-mile journey to freedom ended in Elmira. Near the journey’s end, Jones and his friends were given shelter by Dr. Nathaniel Smith and his wife, who cooked for the men as they hid in a barn. According to Barbara S. Ramsdell’s account of Jones’s life, Mrs. Smith’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery always had fresh flowers on it while Jones was alive.
Once (relatively) safe in Elmira, Jones immediately set about earning money by taking a variety of odd jobs and gaining the education he had been denied while enslaved. Ramsdell writes that Jones was befriended by Judge Arial Standish Thurston, who arranged for Jones to attend school in the winter and to work as a janitor in Clara Thurston’s Female Seminary during the spring. In 1847, within 3 years of arriving in Elmira, Jones was appointed sexton of the First Baptist Church, a position that allowed him to earn enough money to buy his own home (the “yellow house next to the church”) for $500 in 1854. Remarkably, at the same time that John W. Jones worked tirelessly to contribute to Elmira’s civic landscape, he also became deeply involved in a covert effort to help people like him who wanted to escape the horrors of human bondage.
Jones the Conductor: The Underground Railroad and Elmira
Elmira was a well-established center of abolitionist sentiment in the nineteenth century.  One of the city’s most prominent businessmen, Jervis Langdon, was also a vocal abolitionist; later, he would become Mark Twain’s father-in-law. In addition, the preacher Thomas K. Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher) moved to Elmira in 1853 to lead the Independent Congregational Church. (Read more about Thomas K. Beecher here.) He married Samuel Clemens and Olivia Langdon in Elmira in 1870. Beecher and Jervis Langdon were both connected with the Underground Railroad in Elmira, as were other white allies including Mrs. John Culp; Simeon Benjamin, the founder of Elmira College; Thomas Stanley Day; S. G. Andrus; John Selover; and Riggs Watrous. But histories record that John W. Jones was the chief conductor in the city. According to newspaper reports, Jones lived two blocks from Elmira’s railroad yard and would house runaway slaves at his home before putting them on the train to Ontario, allowing Elmira to become the central stop between Philadelphia and the Canadian border.
In his role as chief conductor, Jones coordinated closely with William Still, the Philadelphia-based “Father of the Underground Railroad.” Unlike Jones, Still was born free in the North after his parents had escaped slavery; like Jones, he received little formal education but distinguished himself as an active agent on the UGR and as a successful businessman. One of the few places in the archive where Jones’s own voice emerges is in a letter he wrote to Still in 1860 as the country sat on the precipice of war. Still republished the letter in his magisterial history of the UGR, where he also recorded Jones’s importance in conducting UGR activities in Elmira. The letter reads:
Elmira, June 6th, 1860
FRIEND WM. STILL:–All six came safe to this place. The two men came last night, about twelve o’clock; the man and woman stopped at the depot, and went east on the next train, about eighteen miles, and did not get back till to-night, so that the two men went this morning, and the four went this evening.
O, old master don’t cry for me, for I am going to Canada where colored men are free.
P.S. What is the news in the city? Will you tell me how many you have over to Canada? I would like to know. They all send their love to you. I have nothing new to tell you. We are all in good health. I see there is a law passed in Maryland not to set any slaves free. They had better get the consent of the Underground Rail Road before they passed such a thing. Good night from your friend,
JOHN W. JONES
This remarkable missive reveals a number of aspects of Jones’s personality that are sometimes obscured by a reticent archive. We see his organizational prowess, his kindness and generosity toward friends, and, in the letter’s closing salvo, a sense of defiance that stands at odds with the image of the benign caretaker of the Southern dead.
This sense of defiance is mirrored in another story told about Jones during the pre-war period. A newspaper article from the mid-1850s records how a con artist posing as a fugitive slave was begging for money in the streets of Elmira. Unfortunately, the man was recognized by another person who had seen him in Buffalo a few weeks prior; as the imposter tried to get away, he was caught by Jones and “kicked very severely.” The newspaper report ends with a quotation, seemingly from Jones, that states that men like the imposter will do great harm to the actual fugitives aided by the UGR because conductors will doubt the authenticity of their claims. Again, the violence of this episode contrasts strongly with later hagiographies of Jones and reveals another side of his activism of his personality. He was a man who was unwilling to see the work that he and Still and others like Jervis Langdon had fought so hard to complete be threatened. Ultimately, it is estimated that John W. Jones helped 800 fugitives escape slavery, an astonishing number that places his accomplishments alongside those of other more famous freedom fighters like Harriet Tubman.
As his UGR work continued, Jones also took on more paid work in the city of Elmira. In 1859, he became caretaker of Woodlawn Cemetery, a city cemetery chartered in 1858 that was designed according to the garden cemetery concept popular in the nineteenth-century U.S. Jones’s personal life also transformed during this time, as he married Rachel A. Swails (also spelled Swales) in 1856 and had four children over the course of the next few years: Ida, John, George, and James. The toddler George sadly died in 1864, at the same time that Jones was occupied by caring for the dead at Elmira Prison. Meanwhile, Rachel’s brother Stephen Atkins Swails was a lieutenant in the famous 54th Massachusetts and later served as a State Senator in South Carolina after the war. (For more on the life of Stephen Atkins Swails, see this article.)
Sexton John W. Jones and Mark Twain at War
The reasons that made Elmira an important stop on the Underground Railroad network, its location on the Chemung River with access to several important canals and its good railroad links, also made it an ideal location for a Civil War military depot and later a prison for Confederates captured by the Union. Holmes describes how the prison was hastily constructed in order for the first detachment of prisoners to arrive on July 6, 1864. The story of my own great-great-great grandfather’s imprisonment at Elmira will perhaps serve as an ordinary example of how Southern soldiers came to the camp. James Stewart enlisted in Company 6 of the 35 North Carolina Infantry on February 16, 1863. He was captured near Petersburg, Virginia, on June 17, 1864, during the initial Union siege on the town. Later in June he arrived at the prison at Point Lookout, Maryland, before being transferred to Elmira just after it opened in July. Conditions in the camp were notoriously bad, and Stewart died of pneumonia only three months after he arrived at Elmira.
The U.S. government did not initially provide a place for dead prisoners to be buried, but as Holmes states, prisoners began to die almost as soon as they arrived at the camp and Elmira city authorities decided to set aside a plot at the city’s cemetery, Woodlawn, for the enemy dead (128). As the sexton of Woodlawn, John W. Jones was given the task to burying the Confederate dead. Holmes describes the careful preparation of the dead overseen by Jones:
The dead-house was located on the flat. Every body was buried in a good pine box, usually with clothing and jewelry left on the person. The name, rank, company, regiment, grave number, and date of death were carefully written on a paper, which was put in a bottle, sealed up, and deposited in the coffin… The same information was written on the lid of the coffin. The dead-wagon carried six bodies, four on the inside and two on top, and was driven by a government employee. (129)
Once they arrived at the cemetery, the coffins were placed in trenches at regular distances apart lying east to west, and Jones then copied the information on the coffin into a book recording burials. It was this information that was used by the U.S. government to identify the dead of Woodlawn when it erected marble headstones there in 1907.
Of the approximately 12,000 Confederate soldiers imprisoned at Elmira during the year of its operation, roughly 3,000 died and were buried at Woodlawn, a rate of death roughly equal to that of Andersonville, the most notorious Southern prison. The camp more than earned its nickname “Hellmira,” yet as memory of the Civil War transformed over time, the story of John W. Jones became one of the most noteworthy narratives to emerge from Elmira’s experience of the war. The prison buildings are long gone but the graves remain, where Jones and his men carefully placed them. (Some accounts, including an application for historical registry status, state that materials from the dismantled prison buildings were used to construct Jones’s house at 1259 College Avenue, suggesting the prison’s ongoing, if obstructed, presence in Elmira.)
The story of Jones’s work burying the Confederate dead can be told and interpreted in many ways. One version of the story emphasizes the immense compassion and care that must have been required for Jones, the self-emancipated formerly enslaved Black man, to bury with such diligence the bodies of Southern white men who were fighting a war to preserve slavery. This is the story that is preserved on a memorial erected in Woodlawn National Cemetery in 1997. The memorial reads:
Between July 1864 and August 1865, 2973 Confederate soldiers were buried here with kindness and respect by John W. Jones, a runaway slave. They have remained in these hallowed grounds of Woodlawn National Cemetery by family choice because of the honorable way in which they were laid to rest by a caring man.
The memorial to Jones was part of a careful and deliberate attempt by Elmirans to recover the memory of Jones, an effort that has resulted in Jones’s house being saved from demolition, moved to a site opposite Woodlawn Cemetery on Davis Street that is still a part of Jones’s original farm, and turned into the John W. Jones Museum. Holmes makes much of the remarkable nature of Jones’s act of care and duty, writing:
The history of the Elmira prison camp is unique in one striking particular. The last sad rites paid to those Confederate soldiers who died in prison were performed by one who was born a slave. History does not record anything to challenge the assertion that at no prison, North or South, were the dead so reverently cared for, or a more perfect record kept, and all this by a former slave. (140).
One of the most famous stories about Jones’s work during the Civil War relates to his former enslaver. As Holmes describes, at one point while administering his duties burying the dead of the prisoner camp, Jones encountered a name he recognized: John R. Rollins, which was the name of the son of his former overseer in Virginia, and a friend of Jones before his escape. According to lore, Jones wrote to the Rollins family to learn their son’s fate; when he heard back that their son had enlisted and was missing, Jones wrote to the mother “that her boy was found and had been tenderly laid to rest in grateful remembrance of her loving kindness to him when he was a slave” (Holmes 146). Here, Jones’s forgiveness takes on a Christ-like quality; if he can forgive the man who once controlled him as property and provide a beautiful and sacred burial for that man, then why can’t the wounds of the war be healed?
This forgiving version of Jones also emerges in a story told in Holmes’s history of Elmira Prison about Jones returning to the plantation in Virginia where he was born three years after the war ended. According to Holmes, “All his relatives and slave friends were dead or gone away, none knew where, and he only found one representative of the Elzy family, by whom he was greeted cordially and received in his home as a guest” (147). Holmes gives no source for this story, and the confusing pronoun in “his home” (is “he” Jones or the Elzy family representative?) gestures toward the reconciliatory tone of this tale. The home, of course, was never Jones’s, yet Jones’s forgiveness and the lack of any other witnesses of the atrocities of slavery on the plantation allows for the former site of atrocity to become a peaceful domestic object again. Notably, the mobility that Jones demonstrates in the anecdote replicates the mobility he fostered as a conductor on the Underground Railroad but reverses the trek toward freedom in the North in order to heal the old wounds of slavery. 
Yet Jones’s care and forgiveness are not the only aspects of his work as caretaker of the Confederate dead that we could emphasize. Those efforts can also be interpreted as part of his lifetime of hard work and entrepreneurship. Jones received $2.50 for every Southern body he buried, a fee that he re-negotiated when the extent of the work required became clear. A number of stories about Jones from late in his life remark on his wealth, including an obituary in the Elmira Daily Gazette and Free Press that features the headline “Born a Slave—Died Rich.” In addition, Holmes declares that the money Jones received from the U.S. government to bury bodies “was the basis of the comfortable fortune he amassed in the years after the war. He was rated as the wealthiest colored man in this part of the State” (Holmes 131). This version of Jones as capitalist taking advantage of an opportunity to profit from war aligns him more with Horatio Alger-type post-war heroes than angels of mourning on the battlefield and near the prison, and provides more nuance to Jones’s act of memorialization. To probe the motivations behind the stories told about Jones—which indeed provide some of the only stories told about Elmira’s prison anymore at all—is not to question and dismiss the location of his motivation, which was likely altruistic and self-serving at the same time, as so many of our impulses are. Rather, it is to ask how the figure of the ex-enslaved person in postbellum America became a safe story of remembrance.
Just as Jones bears a complex relation to the war, a relation marked by ambivalences, so does Mark Twain. Twain participated only tangentially in the war; he famously penned “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed” to explicitly detail just how little he did in the war. “You have heard from a great many people who did something in the war,” that essay begins; “is it not fair and right that you listen a little moment to one who started out to do something in it, but didn’t?” (47) He continues that people who entered the war and then left it “ought at least to be allowed to state why they didn’t do anything, and also to explain the process by which they didn’t do anything” (49). While Twain was enlisted for two weeks in the Confederate cause (though never officially joined the army), he embellished his experience in those two weeks tremendously in both “The Private History” and other speeches, leaving the exact nature of his participation in the war and his loyalties up to debate. 
Jones W. Jones’s remarkable story of self-emancipation and resistance and success is not the only expression of the intersections of Black history and memory that we can situate in the specific space of Elmira in the years following the Civil War. In 1874 Mark Twain published “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It,” making pains to emphasize the story’s truth not only in its title, with its gesture toward journalistic veracity (“repeated word for word”), but also in his letter sending the story to William Dean Howells, editor of the Atlantic. In the letter, Twain writes, “I have not altered the old colored woman’s story except to begin it at the beginning, instead of the middle, as she did—& worked traveled both ways.”  The “old colored woman” who becomes Aunt Rachel in the story is Mary Ann Cord, the cook at Quarry Farm in Elmira where the Clemens family summered with their Langdon relatives. The plot of “A True Story” is thus: an enslaved woman’s family is sold away from her, and she ends up serving as a cook in North Carolina. When Union troops occupy her city during the war, the woman cooks for the soldiers and is unexpectedly reunited with her son Henry.
Aunt Rachel’s story of separation and reunion (which is really Mary Ann Cord’s story), told after the war that ended slavery, and rendered by a white author in dialect, uses many of the set pieces of slave narratives—families torn apart, the horrors of the auction block, the uncaring master, the unexpected reunion, the coming of war—to stage a scene in which subjectivity is explored and shown to be deeper and more complex than one individual could imagine. Though the story is framed by a narrative voice that is clearly Clemens’, Aunt Rachel gets the last word as well as the upper hand over her employer when she is shown to have had as much trouble and joy as could be imagined.
Reading Twain’s story alongside other “true stories” of race and reunion (to borrow a phrase from David W. Blight), the tales often circulated in Elmira of Jones burying the white son of his former overseer and of Jones returning to the plantation where he was enslaved after the war’s conclusion, illuminates how deeply the processes of post-war reconciliation were dependent on narratives of Black forgiveness told within a White envelope (recalling the critic John Sekora’s indelible description of antebellum slave narratives). Yet it is also true that these Elmira tales contain traces of other stories we might tell: a story of Mary Ann Cord instructing her white employer on the true depths of despair wrought by slavery; a story of John W. Jones becoming comparatively rich through burying the Southern dead with respect; another story of Jones seeking out his own family that he had been forced to abandon after self-emancipation, only to find that “all his relatives and slave friends were dead or gone away” (Holmes 147). In these traces we see an insistence on understanding and sharing past traumas and triumphs, troubles and joys.
Jones and Twain in the Wake of War
It was after the war’s conclusion that Jones’s path and Twain’s met in Elmira. As previously stated, Clemens married Olivia Langdon in 1870 in Elmira, and thereafter he and his family spent summers at his in-law’s home at Quarry Farm, where he heard and transformed into fiction Mary Ann Cord’s “True Story.” In his study overlooking the city, he also wrote substantial parts of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, A Tramp Abroad, and more.
At the same time that Twain was writing his most famous works in Elmira, John W. Jones continued his work as church sexton as well as usher and “general helper,” according to Ramsdell. After the war, he was caretaker of three Elmira cemeteries at once: Woodlawn, Second Street, and Wisner Burial Grounds. Holmes records Jones’s centrality to his church community and to Elmira in general, writing that Jones never came to collect his paycheck as sexton without bringing “some seasonable token, a nice bouquet of flowers, strawberries, apples, pears, walnuts, chestnuts, whatever might be obtainable,” to distribute to the clerks and the treasurer, Holmes himself (148). Then Jones would sit and tell stories, either about his life in slavery, a story of the prison, or about “some poor soul in the church who needed assistance” (148). Jones’s commitment to charity and civic participation, evident since his earliest days in Elmira, continued throughout his long life.
We know from letters between Susan L. Crane (Twain’s sister-in-law and the owner of Quarry Farm) and Wilbur H. Siebert, a scholar who was writing a history of the Underground Railroad, that Jones and Twain met at least once later in their lives, when Twain interviewed Jones for a potential biography. As Crane describes the meeting that took place around 1888, Twain “took no notes and was unwilling to make any use of [Jones’s story], because he said it should only be told in Mr Jones [sic] language.” It seems noteworthy that in 1874 Twain had no qualms about transcribing Mary Ann Cord’s story of separation and reunion into his own words, but that he insisted that Jones’s story could only be told in his own “language.” Perhaps the passing of nearly 15 years allowed Twain to see that some stories can only be told in first person, by the person who lived it.
Crane’s 1896 letters to Siebert show the centrality of Jones in Elmira’s communal memory of the UGR and its antebellum abolitionist past. To aid Siebert’s quest to learn more about UGR activities in Elmira, Crane agreed to consult with the older members of the community, and particularly with Jones. It is clear from Crane’s letters that Jones’s memory was fading by this time: he was nearly 80 years old, and Crane relates that while she doubts he could write clearly, in conversation he could still recall many facts about the UGR. In one of the letters, dated September 23, 1896, we see the real danger under which Jones’s work for the UGR took place: “for many years Mr. Jones was careful never to mention these facts [about a “young mulatto” who made free papers for fugitives],” she writes, “but he now feels differently, as the man has died, although he will not make known his name.” Eventually, Jones himself writes to Siebert on December 17, 1896, and January 16, 1897. These short missives confirm some of the facts about UGR activity in Elmira; by this time, John W. Jones represented one of the only living links to Elmira’s abolitionist past. He was a living representative of the city’s history; as caretaker of the dead, his life had been dedicated to the preservation of memory, and now it was his own memory that Crane and Siebert sought to preserve. Siebert’s research eventually became The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom, published in 1898, which frequently cites the letters of both Crane and Jones to establish Elmira’s prominence as a UGR route. (You can read a copy of Siebert’s history here.)
Crane’s and Jones’s correspondence with Siebert took place at the same time that Twain’s beloved daughter Susy died of spinal meningitis and was buried in Elmira at Woodlawn Cemetery; after this event, Twain didn’t return to Elmira until his own burial there in 1910. Jones died only a few years after his conversations with Crane and Siebert, on December 26, 1900. He was buried in one of the cemeteries he’d devoted his life to maintaining, Woodlawn; Rachel lived another 19 years. In life and in death, Twain and Jones were connected through Elmira’s history, its memorial landscape, and through a complicated relation to storytelling and the Black experience before, during, and after the Civil War.
Coda: Remembering John W. Jones Today
The past several decades have seen local efforts to commemorate the life and actions of John W. Jones accelerating. The memorial stone that was erected in 1997 in Woodlawn National Cemetery by a group of Elmira high school students to honor the care with which Jones looked after the Confederate dead was one step in permanently inscribing Jones in Elmira’s memorial landscape. Following on the stone’s dedication, local activist Lucy Brown and other Elmirans spearheaded an effort to save Jones’s farmhouse, relocate it (as described earlier), and to turn it into a museum dedicated to Jones’s life and legacy. The John W. Jones Museum officially opened to the public in 2016, and the museum’s board of trustees have ambitious plans to add an interpretation center and statue to increase the museum’s community impact and to spread awareness of Jones’s life beyond Elmira. As the United States attempts to reckon with the racism that permeates its history and its institutions, the story of John W. Jones is instructive in showing paths forward. We can read Jones’s story not simply as a parable of Black forgiveness of White sins, but as a story of Black resistance and success.
-  Two recent histories of Elmira Prison are Michael Horigan’s Elmira: Death Camp of the North (2002) and Michael P. Gray’s The Business of Captivity: Elmira and Its Civil War Prison (2001).
-  For more on Elmira’s abolitionist networks and their relation to Twain, see Seybold.
-  Stories of reunions between ex-slaves and ex-masters were very popular in the decades following the war. Two of the most striking portrayals of these reunions may be Winslow Homer’s 1876 painting A Visit from the Old Mistress and Frederick Douglass’s 1877 account of his reunion with his former owner Thomas Auld.
-  For a summation of Twain’s known activities in the war, see David Rachels, “Introduction,” Mark Twain’s Civil War.
-  Quoted in Mark Twain’s Letters, Volume 6, p. 212.
The episode of the C19 Podcast, “Monumentalizing John W. Jones,” by Jillian S. Caddell can be found HERE.
- Caddell, Jillian. “Monumentalizing John W. Jones.” C19 Podcast, August 2020
- Crane, Susan L. Letter to Wilbur H. Siebert, 14 September 1896.
- Crane, Susan L. Letter to Wilbur H. Siebert, 26 September 1896.
- Gray, Michael P. The Business of Captivity: Elmira and Its Civil War Prison. Kent State UP, 2001.
- Holmes, Clayton W. The Elmira Prison Camp. New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912.
- Horigan, Michael. Elmira: Death Camp of the North. Stackpole Books, 2006.
- Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. 1861.
- Rachels, David. Mark Twain’s Civil War. UP of Kentucky, 2007.
- Ramsdell, Barbara S. “A History of John W. Jones.” The Crooked Lake Review, Fall 2002.
- Seybold, Matt. “The Gospel of Revolt: Mark Twain in Elmira.” C19 Podcast, December 2019.
- Seybold, Matt. “‘Silent Work in Elmira’: Letters from the Wilbur H. Siebert Underground Railroad Collection,” 13 February 2020
- Twain, Mark. “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed.” Mark Twain’s Civil War. Ed. David Rachels. UP of Kentucky, 2007.
- Twain, Mark. “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It.” From Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old. The American Company, 1875, pp. 202-207.
About Jillian Spivey Caddell
Jillian Spivey Caddell is lecturer in nineteenth-century American literature at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. Dr. Caddell joined Kent in 2019 after teaching at George Mason University and American University in the US. Her current work centers on literature of the American Civil War and its intersections with questions of history and memory. She has published her work in The New England Quarterly, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century American Literature, Apollo: the International Art Magazine, as well as two edited collections: Literary Cultures of the Civil War (ed. Timothy Sweet) and Visions of Glory: The Civil War in Word and Image (eds. Kathleen Diffley and Benjamin Fagan).
Her interest in Elmira’s memorial spaces began when she was a graduate student at nearby Cornell University and culminated in a recent episode of the C19 Podcast, which built upon Matt Seybold’s work on Elmira’s abolitionist past and its influence on Twain to think about John W. Jones’s activist work and his commemoration in the city. As the episode explored, her own great-great-great grandfather was one of the Confederates buried with “care” by John W. Jones in Woodlawn National Cemetery, a discovery that adds an additional layer to her work on the memorial spaces of Elmira.