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The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War
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The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War

(Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies)

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  467 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Between late 1863 and mid-1864, an armed band of Confederate deserters battled Confederate cavalry in the Piney Woods region of Jones County, Mississippi. Calling themselves the Knight Company after their captain, Newton Knight, they set up headquarters in the swamps of the Leaf River, where, legend has it, they declared the Free State of Jones. The story of the Jones Coun ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 24th 2003 by University of North Carolina Press (first published September 10th 2001)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
”It was easy to see why the legend had endured. Its characters were larger than life: men bound to one another by kinship, economic status, and membership in a paramilitary band armed against the Confederacy; women equally bound by kinship and unfettered by the chains of ladylike behavior; and even some slaves, although Piney Woods, Mississippi was not a major slaveholding region. Towering above all other characters in popular memory were ‘Captain’ Newt Knight, the grandson of a slaveholder, and ...more
Significant, Obscure in Civil War History [full disclosure: main character, Newt Knight, is my first cousin, 4 times removed]
short ad for movie released today 6/24

from Smithsonian mag:
Matthew McConaughey thought the Free State of Jones script was the most exciting Civil War story he had ever read, and knew immediately that he wanted to play Newt Knight. In Knight’s defiance of both the Confederate Army and the deepest taboos of Southern culture McConaughey sees an uncompromising and deeply mor
Maya B
This was a very dry read. This book felt like a genealogy of the entire Knight family. It was a lot to take in and a lot to keep up with. I would compare this book to a textbook. It would have been great if the book focused on Newt Knight. His life seemed to be very interesting from what I read in this book
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mississippi, history
Some of my best friends would probably unfriend me if I tried to talk about this book and got my facts wrong, so I'm just going to say I enjoyed the book, and I'm fascinated with the topic.
Marion Morgan
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book months ago and still cannot believe that there is so much hidden about the South during the Civil War that I have been oblivious to. The book introduced me to real people of the South, who did not own slaves, saw the war for what it was, and then seceded from the Confederacy. Bynum does the best anyone has to date to separate fact from the myths that arose to cover up the horrible wrongs that were committed or to excuse ingrained practices, including miscegenation.
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't often pick up a book after seeing a movie, much less a movie trailer, but in this case I am glad I did. Victoria Bynum presents a detailed history of a rebellion of small farmers, deserters from the Confederate Army, and escaped slaves against the Confederate slave holding aristocracy. Loyal to the Union, Captain Newton Knight successfully fought off repeated Confederate cavalry raids from 1863 to the end of the Civil War, and was notorious throughout the next century not only for his su ...more
To be honest, I zoned out several times while listening to this. I think I struggle with history books, especially in audio (see Understanding Japan: A Cultural History). Mahershala Ali, the narrator, is not at fault for my struggles though. He did an excellent job keeping an interested tone without over dramatizing anything (which I find some narrators of non-fiction will do in an attempt to be more engaging).

So, the history of Newt Knight is interesting and I like how Bynum structured the book
Debbie Jacob
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Deciding on how to rate this book was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make when it comes to rating a book. The story is fantastic, almost unbelievable, but the writing is stuffy, chronological history that really needed some life in it. I would have liked to get a better feeling for the characters. You really had to be interested in pursuing this story to not get bogged down in the detailed writing that tells rather that shows the story. It's hard to imagine a county that broke of ...more
Matt Cleere
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
A great look inside the Civil War south. Contrary to what confederate flag waiving Southerners like to think, not everybody in the South was keen on secession from the North. My family on my Mom's side are from Jones and Forest counties and many of them still live in that area. The "white" Knights of Jones county are something of a legend down there. This book really fleshes out that legend. Highly recommended.
I have wanted to read this book for a long time because it takes place in Jones County, Mississippi where my ancestors lived during the Civil War. I wish they had been part of the Knight Company rebels, but my folks were fighting with the Confederates not against them. However, these men and women were their neighbors/cousins raised with all the same issues, culture, history and social codes. With over 100 pages of endnotes, bibliography and family trees, the scholarly work has given me a lot to ...more
Jul 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This is a highly detailed and fabulously researched book about a fascinating and important subject. So it is a little disappointing that it is such a slog to read. Bynum's scholarship is beyond question, not just in assembling meticulous research among the locals of the region, but also in her analysis of the various factors leading both to the Union-sympathising rebellion and the mixed-race isolated community one of the rebels subsequently founded. But the book is overwhelmed by genealogical de ...more
Delway Burton
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is soon to be a movie. I have long been fascinated how individuals caught in the great tides of history, can often have completely different experiences. Individual histories are not monolithic. The fictional novel, Cold Mountain, touched on the fact that the American Civil War was not all about epic battles. Ms. Bynum is a historian and this book reads like a text book, heavily based on genealogy. Keeping the characters even half-way straight took considerable effort and I was often l ...more
Wynn Netherland
On the whole, this is a well-researched book that pierces the fog of the Lost Cause myth to reveal a complex picture of Southern antebellum culture where economic pressures and bloodlines determined political loyalties more than pure ideology. For those (like me) who haven't seen the movie and were not already familiar the history of Jones County, Mississippi, Bynum's panoramic historical lens makes it difficult to see the main storyline during the Civil War period. Instead of laying a groundwor ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
These are my kind of people!
Dec 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting but very dry.
Daryl Thompson
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable read about a subject I before knew nothing about. Before reading this book about the County of Jones Mississippi I thought I was a student of the Civil War. I learned a lot about Black history reading this book and the large part they had during the Civil war and this section of the country.
Timothy Shea
A well written, easy to read book.

I learned a lot about anti-slavery efforts in the south as well as the anti-secessionist movement among yeoman farmers in Mississippi. Interesting stuff.

I was particularly disgusted to learn of the origins of some racist myths that are still perpetuated today, some of which have come out of my state's governor's mouth.
Steven Traylor
Aug 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked it ieven though it was kind of a plod. Heavy with historical information and family trees, I watchedthe movie first then read this book I think that gave me more reason to want to read the book
This book was very dry, and as much as I like Mahershala Ali as an actor, his quiet narration of the audiobook left something to be desired. The information is good and well-researched, but reads like a genealogy of the Knight family and a textbook history of race-relations in Mississippi.
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
About 3.5 stars. Fascinating history and story of class and race in the South. Well researched, drily told, but maybe no better alternative.
Ashley Reyes
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Talk about dancing around the issue. This book talks more about the history surrounding the Free State than the state itself.
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Victoria Bynum is obviously a professional genealogist, and it's from this perspective that she has "reconstructed" the Free State of Jones: its insurgents under Newton Knight, their class background reflecting their attitude to slavery and secession, and the legacy of racism and Lost Cause mythology as embodied in this multi-racial family. It certainly is an original social take on these events, introducing a flesh-and-blood human dimension into causes and layers of the Civil War that are usual ...more
Adam Windsor
If you're looking for a clean and straightforward account of what happened in Jones County before, during and after the Civil War ... well, you're not going to get it. Bynum's too dedicated to scholarly standards for that, and presents a multi-faceted situation via multiple facets, often comparing and contrasting two or three different accounts of an event with what the evidence actually supports having happened (this last often being a pretty scant resource, alas). Probably the cleanest and mos ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Only got about 1/2 through this book before it was due at the library. And I never saw the movie. But I have a feeling this was everything (scholarly research using primary docs & oral histories to reveal intricacies of racial politics large & small as seen through black communities, white communities, mixed communities, folks who pass, and white supremacists) that the movie wasn't (hollywood boom boom simplicity). Makes me think the real story was a truly fascinating microcosm of race in Americ ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I listened to this as an audio book. At the beginning that made it difficult because there were so many people and relationships to keep track of. If I'd have had a paper copy, I'd have flipped back and forth a lot. However, this is a history book not a novel (or even historical fiction) so I don't think I'd have made it through the book if I was reading and not listening. It is a compelling story about a difficult topic. It gives insight into race issues starting many years prior to the Civil W ...more
Leann Moore
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Having little background on the topic, I found this very hard to grasp. It was like reading a history book, where you haven’t taken the intro class yet. Once I started to grasp the timeline and the players, I began enjoying the paradoxes and hierocracy of the people and the legends. This definitely isn’t a “fun” or beach read, but it a very historically accurate and uses proven facts to compare two competing stories of the Free State of Jones. I would have liked to see it be a little less logica ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another part of history not well known

When I started the book I had hoped it would be based on the movie. I was disappointed to find the book more of a documentary than a story. I, however, came to enjoy it as a documentary and history lesson. My mother’s maiden name is Knight so I have a personal interest in this ancestry. I am proud to at least by in the Knight name lineage. Newt was a brave man to live by his beliefs and convictions. Sadly, he seems to have been vilified and shunned in histor
Donald King
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fascinating and thorough study of Jones County and the Free State of Jones, exploring familial roots and race as a social construct from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, through today.
I was looking for more exploration of the wartime tactics and strategies employed by the Knight Company, but the book is a product of a historian, rather than a military historian, and the book does not suffer from this distinction.
The book is formulated much like a textbook, with incredibly
Laura Trombley
Nov 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an interesting story of one county, one man, one family, one band of dissenters and the way history gets written down by people who interpret events to agree with their long standing assumptions.
Nov 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: listened
I didn't get much out of this book because I couldn't concentrate on the narrator. The delivery threw me off completely. And so I may want to read it (actually with my eyes) to learn and to give it a proper review.
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Contemporary YA: Free State of Jones Book vs. Movie 1 5 Jun 04, 2016 09:57AM  

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