Book Review: The State of Jones by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer

Published 2:33 pm Thursday, December 24, 2009

For Civil War buffs this is the story of an almost forgotten period in history of the Civil War as it was fought in the Vicksburg and Corinth areas of Alabama. It is also a vivid and fascinating account of a large group of Union supporters and Confederate deserters from Jones and surrounding counties, led by a determined man who owned a small farm in Jones county. Finally, it is a graphic picture of the post-war conditions in that area of Alabama and how Confederate sympathizers although defeated succeeded in controlling the area through harsh leadership, corrupt methods, and intensive racial hatred. The book also provides a detailed account of Union General Shermans march through Alabama prior to his historic march through Georgia.

The riveting investigative account describes in detail the activities of and leadership provided by Newton Knight. Although Knight fought in the battles of Corinth and Vicksburg as a Confederate soldier, he quickly became disillusioned with not only the miserable conditions under which he and his associates fought, but also the whole concept of secession in support of slavery. He was not a slave owner, and as the story unfolds, not only was married to a white woman, but had a long-standing relationship with a slave from a neighboring plantation.. This resulted in many offspring from both relationships, and numerous descendants.

Led by Knight, the Unionists were hated by the Confederacy officers located in the area. Additionally, they completely frustrated the southern military forces as they would make selective attacks, and then retreat deep into the many swamps located in the area. Their forces were so defiant that Jones County was almost considered a separate state and allied with the Union forces.

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Many excellent historical books about the Civil war have been written, but the events described in this book add greatly to the complex issues that made the account of the war of still great interest today.

The book is available at Lanier Library, 72 Chestnut St. Tryon. Library hours are Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon. 1 to 4 p.m.