Arnold Elzey Jones was born on December 18, 1816, at "Elmwood" in Somerset County, Maryland, descended from one of Maryland's oldest families. After graduating from West Point in 1837 (33rd in the class), he used his middle name, belonging to his paternal grandmother, as his last name, and stopped using "Jones." There were a multitude of Joneses in the army, but not so many Elzeys, and he wanted to set himself apart. Elzey was assigned to the 2d artillery and served with credit during the Seminole uprising in Florida, in the Canada border disturbances and in the war with Mexico, being twice brevetted for gallant and meritorious action at Contreras and Churubusco, and was also at Fort Brown, Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, San Antonio, Molino del Rey, Chapultepec, and the capture of the City of Mexico, earning the respect of his superior officers. In 1847 the General Assembly of Maryland offered official thanks to Elzey for "gallantry, bravery and good conduct" as an American soldier. He was promoted to captain on February 14, 1849 and fought in the Seminole wars of 1849-1850 and 1856. |
When the Civil War erupted Elzey was in command of the US arsenal at Augusta, Georgia, and unhesitatingly surrendered it to Confederate forces in April of 1861; then he conducted his troops to Washington where on April 25, 1861 he resigned his commission and traveled to Richmond, Virginia. A native Marylander, Elzey soon assumed colonelcy of the First Maryland Infantry. On July 21, 1861, at the Battle of First Manassas, when his brigadier commander, E. Kirby Smith, fell wounded, Elzey became responsible for his entire brigade. He rose to the occasion and aided in repulsing Federal troops in the first major engagement of the war. A letter in the Richmond Dispatch described Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard rushing up to Elzey and proclaiming him the "Blucher of the day". President Jefferson Davis purportedly promoted Elzey on the spot to brigadier general.
In any event, promotion did come and Elzey continued as brigadier of the 4th brigade in Richard Ewell's division during "Stonewall" Jackson's brilliant Valley Campaign. At the battle of Port Republic, Elzey's horse fell wounded beneath him and he received a slight leg injury. But his fighting spirit had not waned, and he continued in active duty through the early weeks of the Peninsular campaign. At the Battle of Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862, Elzey sustained a near fatal bullet wound to his skull. The injury prevented him from again taking field command, and the Confederacy lost a dependable fighter. When he returned to duty, he had been promoted to major general, to date from December 4, 1862. to major general, to serve as head of the Department of Richmond. Elzey retained this post through 1864, organizing defenses for the often-threatened Confederate capital.
In March 1863, General Robert E. Lee recommended Elzey for the position of chief of artillery in the Army of Northern Virginia, but apparently Elzey's continued weakened condition prevented him from accepting the post. A year and a half later, he did become chief of artillery in the Army of Tennessee, though records do not indicate his participation in the invasion of Tennessee late in 1864. Relief from duty came on February 17, 1865. The man, once hailed as the "Blucher" of the Confederacy no longer had a place in the army. He was paroled in Washington, Georgia, in May of 1865, then returned to Maryland to spend quietly the remainder of his years as a farmer. General Elzey died in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 21, 1871.
Colonel J. R. Herbert, of Baltimore, called General Elzey "a gallant soldier and loved by all who served under him." General Beauregard wrote that he was "brave, zealous and intelligent." Bradley Johnson called him "the soul of chivalry," "a superb soldier, " and "the center and the soul of our [Maryland troops] patriotic day-dreams."