Anna Elinor Jones Imprisoned on Confederate Spy Accusations
Jones was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and educated in the common schools.
Following the start of the Civil War in early 1861, she left home and traveled to Washington, D.C., to become an army nurse. She was turned down because of her youthful age. Instead, she found employment as a vivandière, cooking and cleaning for the soldiers. She was also suspected of offering personal services as a private companion or escort to officers.
Her frequent travels between the army and contacts in Virginia garnered additional suspicion. Jones was arrested several times, including once by Confederate authorities. She denied being a spy, but admitted that she had depended on the kindness of Union officers for her sustenance. "I have spent two years and a half in the Union Army, and during this time have been the guest of different officers, they furnishing me with horses, orderlies, escorts, sentinels at my tent or quarters, rations, etc."
In the summer of 1863, Jones "went to the front as the friend and companion of General Custer," she later wrote in a sworn statement. "Gen. Kirkpatrick became very jealous of Gen. Custer's attention to me, and went to Gen. Meade's headquarters, and charged me with being a rebel spy." The War Department incarcerated Jones in the Old Capitol Prison until November when Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered her freed. As part of her parole she promised to stay out of Virginia, but in March 1864 she was arrested while trying to bluff her way into the state. She was transported to her native Massachusetts to serve her sentence in confinement on Cape Cod. U.S. Congressman Fernando Wood, a former mayor of New York City and a political rival of Kilpatrick's, took an interest in Jones' case after she contacted him and asked for his assistance. He appealed to President Abraham Lincoln and to Stanton for her release, and she was set free in July 1864.
She was later arrested again for violating the terms of her parole by trying to sneak back into Virginia. After the war, she moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where she disappeared from public record.
She arrived inauspiciously in the spring of 1864, in what would be the final year of the Civil War. The Yarmouth Register announced her appearance with a long, run-on sentence, as if the author could not take a second to breath:
"Miss Emma Jones, better known several months since in the army of the Potomac as 'Major Jones,' and subsequently arrested as a rebel spy and sent north to be confined in some House of Correction in this State, has been sent to Barnstable, where she arrived on Wednesday night, in charge of U.S. Marshal Keyes, who left her with Mr. Easterbrook [Albert Esterbrook, keeper of the Barnstable County House of Correction].