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

The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy
The State of Jones The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy
Author: Sally Jenkins, John Stauffer
ISBN-13: 9780767929462
ISBN-10: 0767929462
Publication Date: 5/4/2010
Pages: 432
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.

3.8 stars, based on 5 ratings
Publisher: Anchor
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

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bup avatar reviewed The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy on + 164 more book reviews
While the subject matter is fascinating - and so romantic and swashbuckling that I doubted its truth when I first heard about it (in To Kill a Mockingbird), I can only go 4 stars. The subject matter, by the way, is a man who defied the confederate government and remained loyal to the Union, organizing a company to antagonize the confederate government of Mississippi. Which still makes it well worth the read, but I was expecting to love this book.

Either most of the life of Newton Knight, the man who led a loyal Union band of Mississippians in the backwoods of Jones County during the Civil War, effectively neutralizing the local confederate government, is truly mostly lost to history, or the authors didn't uncover enough of it. Much of the book is about ancillary events during the war and Reconstruction, and with the authors admitting "we don't know what Newton thought about X, but we can imagine..."

Also frustrating was the obligatory photo pages in the middle. There is a picture of our hero, Newton, there's two pictures of women that might be his wife Rachel, and then there are random pictures of Civil War generals, Civil War camps, and Civil War dead bodies. No pictures of his wife Serena, although a photo of her is described in the text, and no picture of the land/swamps where they lived, or descendants. I hope it was because of legal issues they couldn't print the photos that exist of Serena, and not an editorial decision, because that's just inexplicable.

In the end, the book is really neither a biography of Knight, nor a story of The State of Jones, but some of each, plus some more "listen to all this bad stuff that happened in Mississippi and throughout the South." But I'm glad I read it. You take what you can get, and this does have a lot of fascinating stuff.

Newton Knight was the son of a slave owner, and had a white legal wife, but also an acknowledged black (as meaningfully as that term can be used, anyway - she almost certainly had some European blood and Indian blood, too - hey, welcome to America!) common law wife and families by each. Rachel, the wife of color, seems to have been the love of his life, and Knight lived by his own set of rules, pretty clearly, in all aspects of his life. And not because he was doing what was easy, either - he clearly followed a true internal moral code. And he didn't back down, even when that life was threatened.

So, in short, we should all know the name of Newton Knight, and the story of the meta-rebellious union enclave in Mississippi during the Civil War, but nobody seems to.
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