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The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  618 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews
In 1863, after surviving the devastating Battle of Corinth, Newton Knight, a poor farmer from Mississippi, deserted the Confederate Army and began a guerrilla battle against the Confederacy. For two years he and other residents of Jones County engaged in an insurrection that would have repercussions far beyond the scope of the Civil War. In this dramatic account of an almo ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by Anchor (first published 2009)
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♥ Sandi
Jul 21, 2016 ♥ Sandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It does not read like a text is non fiction but mixes the historical fact of the civil war with the war that was going on in Mississippi with the Jones County Scouts led by Newton Knight. Knight and a small group of men spent considerable time for two years in the Piney Woods fleeing both the North and the South as they tried to help the Negro claim his independence. Even with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and Reconstruction the black man still s ...more
Nov 18, 2010 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like Southern history, especially the Civil War era, this drawn out account might be a good bet for you. I won't rehash the plot. The premise, a white man "married" to an African-American lady, in race-torn Mississippi during the reign of Jim Crow is an intriguing one. Newton Knight is a strong character with a definite worldview on things. Some of the material, like Grant's gritty siege of Vicksburg, is familiar ground to us Civil War buffs. From what I can tell, the title is well-resear ...more
Dec 05, 2009 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This and interesting story of southern unionists and confederate deserters. Although the story focuses on Newt Knight, it really talks in general about the life of poor farmers who were opposed to the confederacy during the civil war and afterward. Its appalling the conditions people were expected to life and fight under. Particularly Mississippi after the war was horrific. An interesting read, but the book was slow at times.
Aug 31, 2009 Mariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-general
I am assigning the prologue and first chapter to my students this semester. I wanted a book that talked about the war and the conditions of war without focusing on military history in a battle-tastic way. There is a compelling narrative here, well written, straight-forward without being boring. The book does a great job presenting the class differences of the South, which sometimes gets lost in the discussion.
Steven Peterson
Aug 04, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the more intriguing tales of the Civil War. In Jones County, Mississippi, we see a movement by residents to steer clear of the South. Yes, in Mississippi--at the heart of the Confederate States of America and home of Jefferson Davis' plantation. This breakaway region fought against and gave heartburn to the Confederacy.

The book focuses on the character of Newton Knight. He began the war drafted into the southern force. He fought at the bloody battle in Corinth, where a harebrained
Michael T.
Aug 02, 2011 Michael T. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's a book to confound your sense of the Civil War era deep south as "unified, racist & Confederate". Dirt farmer Newton Knight was none of these things. A lifelong resident of rural Jones County, Mississippi, Knight was morally opposed to slavery, and an avowed Unionist. He resented, naturally, being conscripted into a Confederacy which did not represent him nor his interests, nor the interests of the poor people with whom he lived. And he was far from alone. Knight and his fellow insurr ...more
Jan 31, 2012 Skipr rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I didn't know about the controversy surrounding this book when I checked it out of the library. It's entertaining; just hard to believe. The authors lost credibility with me when, in describing the Piney Woods of south Mississippi they spoke of "red deer" (what happened to the white-tails?), and pine trees "shooting up nearly 60 feet high" (what happened to all the pines over 100 feet?). Then there was their description of Mobile, Alabama on the "shimmering azure of the Gulf." Have the authors n ...more
Neil Pierson
It's pretty widely known that a large number of northerners opposed the Civil War. But I didn't realize that a lot of southerners opposed secession and the war. In this telling, the Confederacy was an attempt by wealthy, upper class landowners to maintain their privileges, only one of which was ownership of slaves. Yeomen--poor whites farming small patches of land and owning no slaves--had nothing to gain from secession or war.

But they stood to lose what little they had, as the men were forced t
Mickie Benson
Jul 05, 2009 Mickie Benson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book about the Civil War, and a man in the deep south who, after being drafted to fight for the South, joins the North to preserve the Union. It is a true story, and his life and family had far reaching effects in the years that follow.
Brenda Osborne
Jul 13, 2016 Brenda Osborne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit I never heard of this book until I saw the movie with Matthew McConaughey. The movie intrigued me and I found this book very satisfying. There is a lot about Newton Knight that we will never know. This book mixes fact with some pretty accurate sounding conjecture. Knight was a Confederate soldier who deserted and led a packet of like-minded soldiers in guerrilla warfare against The South. Newton ends up fathering at least eight children with his Black common law wife and about as many wi ...more
Bob Costello
Oct 26, 2014 Bob Costello rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to recording. Very interest history of Mississippi during and the 20 years after the civil war. The write up on the cover is misleading when it says the Jones county seceded for the Confederacy. In the middle of the war Jones county was the center of Confederate deserters who were pro-union. They were able for a short time make Confederate civil authorities flee the county. The sadist part of the story was the rise of the clan and the suppression of the blacks in the 1870s, as former le ...more
Todd Stockslager
The events that followed the end of the American Civil War from 1865 through roughly 1900, known as Reconstruction, mark the darkest days and events in American history, because they revealed a cold-blooded racial hatred that was deep-seated in the hearts and minds of the majority of white Americans. The history of individual families, black and white, from those years who lived through the worst of the violence, particularly in the deep south states like Mississippi, is one of terror and violen ...more
Stephanie Pounds
In the middle of the Civil War, after participating as a Southern soldier in two losing battles, Newton Knight left the Confederate Army and returned to his home in Jones County, Mississippi. A few months later he was leading a group of over 150 men in open rebellion against the Confederacy. I enjoyed listening to this book. It dealt with a part of history that I didn't know about, and in fact, had never really thought about. What happened to American loyalists in the South after secession? The ...more
There is a part of the history of the American Civil War that is not very well-known, that is rarely taught in the schools. It is the story of southerners who believed in the Union, who not only refused to fight for the Confederacy, but actively fought against it. Some did so by joining the Union forces, others did so by engaging in guerrilla warfare. The rural county of Jones in Mississippi was a stronghold of men who opposed secession. Some were staunch Unionists. Some were anti-slavery. Some ...more
Jul 12, 2010 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The authors missed so many basic facts, that I found myself wondering how much I could believe. For example: they described the muskets as weighing 18 lbs! (maybe two muskets might weigh that) On another page, they described the sound of musket hammers falling on gunpowder. On the standard muskets used by both sides, the hammers fell on percussion caps producing a sharp snap, not the pfft they claimed.

I finally gave up when Knight (maybe) kills McLemore, and the authors claimed the others in t
Aug 01, 2009 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard the authors on NPR and thought that the story sound intriguing. I knew nothing about the particulars of the story of Newton Knight and his fellow countians/Mississippians who fought in Mississippi to preserve the Union. It really is a story of the poor yeoman farmer in the South who had little in common with the upper elite of the Confederate army who ultimately came to the conclusion that the Southern motive were not worth fighting and dying for. The story centers on Newton and his fami ...more
J Todd
Feb 07, 2016 J Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written with fascinating language, this tale of the sins of the fathers in SE Mississippi before, during, and after the Civil War is riveting and thought provoking.

I believe the first lines of chapter 4 are some of the best I've ever read in a book about war, "War destroyed all that was familiar to Mississipians; it collapsed the old certainties like bricks and boards and altered the physical profiles of things into narcotic seeming visions."
There are so many books about the Civil War that I'm surprised to find one that is totally unique. This is the story of the Unionists who fought on the side of the Union even though they were deep in Confederate territory and formed independently of the Union Army. It is also the story of Newton Knight who was a member of the Jones County Unionists and also a white man who "married" an African American woman and raised a family, who he acknowledged as his own, with her. Sadly it also points out ...more
Feb 13, 2010 Marsha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This history of a southern county that did not secede from the Union during the American Civil War reads like a novel.

Newton Knight was an abolitionist from Jones County, Mississippi, who actively fought against the Confederacy. Several times impressed into Confederate ranks, he returned to his home none-the-less, despite threats of execution for desertion. Having survived the war and reconstruction, Knight's views on race relations (he in fact had a second family with a black woman named Rachel
Bob H
An extraordinary story of resistance to the Confederacy, both during and after the Civil War. I've read, and researched, considerable Civil War history and find that the authors have been meticulous in their research. Certainly the War Department's Official Records kept enough angry Confederate reports of a loyal Unionist revolt in southeastern Mississippi, but there's signs that their research went much further.

Indeed, the story puts the revolt in the greater context - many of the Jones County
The State of Jones is a great book based on the Civil War contributions of Newton Knight and his band of men that ditched the Confederate Civil War effort in a small Mississippi county. Jenkins and Stauffer show how a country man changed the course of the Civil War and racial relations in the postbellum years and into the mid-20th century. This book tells an amazing story and is written in such a way that it is almost like a novel and not a history book.
Oct 20, 2009 Pat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Mississippi before, during and after the Civil War. There were Unionists who didn't agree with secession. They lived primarily in Jones County, and the leader was Newton Knight. What a wonderful book about how the Confederacy treated not just blacks, but poor farmers who made up the majority of the troops, and about how those downtrodden folks maintained their dignity and strength to build lives in a nondemocratic state.
Expanding Bookshelf
One of the weirdest adjustments I had to make when I moved down south last year was getting used to seeing Confederate flags. As the Boston-bred child of a man who considers anything below Pennsylvania to be the Deep South, I was totally unprepared to see these flags flying over houses and car dealerships. Nor was I aware that people who call the Civil War the War of Northern Aggression are not necessarily ironic hipsters. Even though I rarely brought my feelings on this (there’s something to be ...more
Jun 27, 2015 Zazzu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Fascinating subject--one generally forgets that not every person in the South agreed with secessionism. I would give this book much higher marks, but sometimes the writing gets a little over-flowery, and I felt there was something of a lack of primary sources. For instance, describing the poor farmers as "yeomen" felt a little....too fancy a term for my taste.

Admittedly, Newton Knight, Rachel, Selena and others involved likely left little if anything, but something about the writing style occasi
Oct 24, 2010 james rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book chronicles a civil war inside the Civil War. From 1863 to 1865, most of the southeastern part of Mississippi was opposed to the Confederacy and the then government of the state. Attempts by the Confederate Army to restore control were disastrous defeats for that army. Most of this rebellion was centered in the area of Jones County, which contains the city of Laurel, and thus the name.
Tom Darrow
Jul 21, 2011 Tom Darrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story. Does a good job at showing how the south was not united as one in their fight against the north. Class divisions were pretty extreme and caused many lower class people to give up the fight or, in the case of Jones County, try to join the other side. Does a good job at showing the nature of backcountry fighting and how the home guard units operated in the south.
Edward Sullivan
A fascinating, largely unknown piece of Civil War history. There were a considerable number of anti-slavery, pro-Unionists living in southern Mississippi, some of whom took part in guerilla warfare against Conferderate forces. The authors sometimes rely too much upon conjecture and speculation, but the book appears to be well-researched and quite interesting.
May 29, 2016 Mallory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This has been on my to-read list for awhile, but since the movie is coming out soon, I was prompted to finally grab a library copy. Deep in the heart of the Confederacy, a group of men and women, slaves and free, stood up for their beliefs and refused to fight for the dismantling of the Union. For their stand, they were harassed, intimidated, threatened, even killed - so they waged their own war in response, led by the complex and fascinating Newton Knight.

I learned so much. I feel like I mostl
Aug 07, 2014 Carey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched and very interesting for the most part. Great book on Southern Unionism and the story of Newton Knight, a forced Confederate conscript who deserts and flees into the swamps of Mississippi. He forms a band of like minded deserters and Unionists and wages a guerrilla war on the Confederacy. The real value of the book is its descriptions of farm life during the war.

The book-flap/Goodreads blurb is misleading. Several attempts were made, Jones County never seceded from the Confedera
Mike Noel
Jun 16, 2011 Mike Noel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredible story of an anti-slavery, Unionist Southerner who deserted the Confederate Army to protect himself and his friends and family from a rich man's war. Newton Knight is one of the great heroes in American history that you will probably never hear of.
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