Reverend John Jones served under Robert E. Lee as a chaplain in the Army of Northern Virginia. Chaplain Jones played a significant part in numerous revivals in the Confederate troops under General Lee's command. Reverend Jones was an ordained Baptist minister preparing to travel to China when the War for Southern Independence began. Enlisting as a private in the Confederate Army; within a year he served as a chaplain in the Confederate army.
Chaplain Jones recorded the ongoing revival of the Christianity he witnessed in the book Christ in the Camp which was published in 1887. The revivals of Christianity among the soldiers in the Confederate Army resulted in over 100,000 conversions to the Christian faith.
“Any history of this army which omits an account of the wonderful influence of religion upon it – which fails to tell how the courage, discipline, and morale was influenced by the humble piety and evangelical zeal of many of its officers and men – would be incomplete and unsatisfactory.”
“It is believed that no army in the world's history ever had in it so much of genuine, devout piety, so much of active work for Christ, as the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of our noble Christian leader.”
“On the bloody campaign from the Rapidan to Cold Harbor in 1864, when the army was constantly in the trenches or on the march, and fought almost daily, Bryan's Georgia Brigade had a season of comparative repose, while held in reserve, when they had from three to five [religious] meetings a day, which resulted in about fifty professions of conversions, most of whom...[were] baptized in a pond which was exposed to enemy's fire, and where several men were wounded while the ordinance was being administered.”
Chaplain Jones writes of a prayer meeting where a Captain of the Georgia Brigade was converted professing Christ as his Lord and Savior. The Captain publically declared:
“Men, I have led you into many a battle...Alas! I have (also) led you in all manner of wickedness and vice...I have enlisted under the banner of the Cross, and mean, by God's help, to prove a faithful soldier of Jesus...I call upon you, my brave boys, to follow me, as I shall try to follow 'the Captain of our salvation.'”
A remark which A.P. Hill addressed to Richard Ewell concerning Stonewall Jackson is recorded in Christ in the Camp. A.P. Hill told Ewell “Well, I suppose Jackson wants time to pray over it,” after a meeting in which General Jackson was discussing strategies with his officers. Later that evening Richard Ewell discovered Jackson on his knees fervently praying for guidance. Ewell exclaimed, “If that is religion, I must have it.”
On August 21, 1863, a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer had been declared throughout the south. Chaplain Jones recorded the response to the proclamation:
“I can never forget the effect produced by the reading of the order...A precious revival was already in progress in many of the commands...The work of grace among the troops widened and deepened and went gloriously on until over fifteen thousand of the soldier's of Lee's army professed repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as a personal Savior.”
Chaplain B.T. Lacey, Stonewall Jackson's chaplain, and Chaplain J. William Jones visited General Robert E. Lee. They informed General Lee that all the chaplains were praying for him. Tears came to General Lee's eyes and he declared:
“Please thank them for that, sir – I warmly appreciate it. And I can only say that I am nothing but a poor sinner, trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and nee all of the prayers they can offer me.”
Robert E. Lee served as President of Washington College after the War for Southern Independence. In 1869, Lee invited Chaplain John William Jones to speak to the student body at Washington College. After Chaplain Jones gave his message to the students, General Lee made the this declaration:
“Our great want is a revival which shall bring these young men to Christ. We poor sinners need to come back from our wanderings to seek pardon through the all-sufficient merits of our Redeemer. And we need to pray earnestly for the power of the Holy Spirit to give us a precious revival in our hearts and among the unconverted.”