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The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook


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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Abridged edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739382810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739382813
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 5.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,960,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, July 2009: Make room in your understanding of the Civil War for Jones County, Mississippi, where a maverick small farmer named Newton Knight made a local legend of himself by leading a civil war of his own against the Confederate authorities. Anti-planter, anti-slavery, and anti-conscription, Knight and thousands of fellow poor whites, army deserters, and runaway slaves waged a guerrilla insurrection against the secession that at its peak could claim the lower third of Mississippi as pro-Union territory. Knight, who survived well beyond the war (and fathered more than a dozen children by two mothers who lived alongside each other, one white and one black), has long been a notorious, half-forgotten figure, and in The State of Jones journalist Sally Jenkins and Harvard historian John Stauffer combine to tell his story with grace and passion. Using court transcripts, family memories, and other sources--and filling the remaining gaps with stylish evocations of crucial moments in the wider war--Jenkins and Stauffer connect Knight's unruly crusade to a South that, at its moment of crisis, was anything but solid. --Tom Nissley
Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer on State of Jones

Newton Knight is the most famous Civil War hero you’ve never heard of, because according to Mississippi legend he betrayed not only the Confederacy but his race as well. In 1863 Knight, a poor farmer from Jones County Mississippi, deserted the Confederate Army—and began fighting for the Union—after the battle of Vicksburg. It was rumored he even started a separate Unionist government, The Free State of Jones, and for two years he battled the Confederacy with a vengeance that solidified his legend. During his life Knight was hardly regarded as a proper soldier by either side, and after his death his Mississippi backwoods grave went unstrewn with flowers. Many southerners would have preferred to spit on it, and most northerners never recognized that such loyalty to the United States could exist in Dixie. But in truth, this lost patriot was a vital actor in helping to preserve the Union.

The recovery of the life of a Mississippi farmer who fought for his country is an important story. The fact that southern Unionists existed, and in very large numbers, is largely unknown to many Americans, who grew up with textbooks that perpetuated the myth of the Confederacy as a heroic Lost Cause, with its romanticized vision of the antebellum South. Some historians have even palpably sympathized with Confederate cavaliers while minimizing—and robbing of credit—the actions of southerners who remained loyal to the Union at desperate cost.

One would never know that the majority of white Southerners had opposed secession, and that many Southern whites fought for the Union. In Tennessee, for example, somewhere around 31,000 white men joined the Union army. In Arkansas more than 8,000 men eventually served in Union regiments. And in Mississippi, Newton Knight and his band of guerillas launched a virtual insurrection against the Confederacy in Jefferson Davis’ own home state.

“There’s lots of ways I’d rather die than being scared to death,” Knight said, and it was a defining statement. At almost every stage of his life this yeoman from the hill country of Jones County, Miss., took courageous stands. The grandson of a slave owner who never owned slaves, he voted against secession, deserted from the Confederate Army into which he was unwillingly impressed, and formed a band called the Jones County Scouts devoted to undermining the Rebel cause locally. Working with runaway slaves and fellow Unionists and Federal soldiers caught behind enemy lines, Knight conducted such an effective running gun battle that at the height of the war he and his allies controlled the entire lower third of the state. This "southern Yankee,” as one Rebel general termed him, remained unconquered until the end of the war. His resistance hampered the Confederate Army’s ability to operate, forced it to conduct a third-front war at home, and eroded its morale and will to fight.

Knight also burst free of racial barriers and forged bonds of alliance with blacks that were unmatched even by Northern abolitionists. He fought as ardently as any man for racial equality during the War, and after, during the terrifying days of Reconstruction, when his life was, if anything, even more in danger. He lived with an ex-slave named Rachel, fathering several children with her (but he never divorced his Caucasian wife, Serena), and worked on behalf of U.S. Grant’s Republican administration and against the nascent Ku Klux Klan, and envisioned a world that would only begin to be implemented a century later. Moreover, he operated in an inverted moral landscape in which fealty to country was labeled traitorous, and kinship with blacks was considered morally repugnant. He survived only because he could reload a shotgun before the smoke cleared.

As an Alabama Unionist told a Congressional committee in 1866 in testifying about the little appreciated service of southern loyalists, “You have no idea of the strength of principle and devotion these people exhibited towards the national government.” —Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer

(John Stauffer photo © Greg Martin; Sally Jenkins photo © Nicole Bengiveno) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The grandson of a wealthy Mississippi slave-owner, Newton Knight was an abolitionist and two-time rebel deserter who actively fought against the Confederacy, and bore a large family with a former slave. His home, Jones County, Miss., saw great hardship during the Civil War; Confederate taxes "pushed small farm families, who provided the rank and file foot soldiers, to the brink of destitution." Jenkins (The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, a People, a Nation) and Stauffer (Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln) employ painstaking research into Knight and Jones County, resulting in an engaging and original portrait of life inside the Confederacy. Knight's Scouts, formed after Vicksburg set off a wave of rebel desertions, carried out their own justice in Jones County, using clever techniques for communication, intimidation and warfare against the home team ("the sorts of exploits" that Sherman would appreciate). Knight's post-war efforts for equality included building an integrated school; when residents objected to his own mixed-race children attending, however, Knight burned it to the ground. Spanning more than 100 years, this family story brings home the lasting effects of hate and fear, love and acceptance, as well as the strides that have brought us to where we are. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

I read the book quickly and found it to be a page turner.
Lew Craig
The author has a lively and interesting writing style and has combined it with solid research into the subject (seriously, dozens of pages of citations).
M. Flegal
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 142 people found the following review helpful By E. Payne on July 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rating as Historical Fact: *
Rating as Historical Novel: ***

"State of Jones" purports to deal with the events surrounding an insurrection against Confederate authority that took place in 1863-4 in Jones County, Mississippi. Prior to the outbreak of the war, the Piney Woods area in which Jones County is situated had relatively few slaves and an economy based on livestock rather than cotton. Hence many of its men were reluctant participants in the war and, when Union forces clearly established the upper hand with the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863, they deserted and returned to their farms. Their numbers and their effective control of the area alarmed Confederate officials who sent in troops. There were several small scale engagements and about a dozen of the deserters (and a few unfortunate kinsmen) were hanged. Whether the Piney Woods renegades were simply deserters and bushwhackers or were true Unionist--and to what degree they were truly an effective military force--has been debated ever since. Adding to the debate is its central character: Newton Knight. Knight was the leader of the most prominent band of deserters. Following the Civil War he capped his lifetime of independent action by maintaining a second family with a mulatto woman, Rachel Knight--a former slave who had assisted him during the war.

The book under review has received a fairly substantial promotional push by its publisher perhaps owing to the fact that, as the authors note in their acknowledgement, it developed out of a screenplay for a proposed movie project by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit).
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By DavyCrockett on September 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The authors of this book used language associated with discrediting those who dissagree with certain parts of this story. They specifically called Dr. Rudy H. Leverett, the author of "Legend of the Free State of Jones" a neo-confederate. He published that book in 1984 and has since passed away. Dr. Leverett was a native of Mississippi and a veteran of the Korean War. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from The University of Southern Mississippi; a master's degree in Library Science from The University of Washington; and a doctoral degree in Education from The University of Idaho. He served for a number of years as an Educational Consultant for the Idaho State Department of Education, and wrote extensively on such topics as the Civil War, religion, philosophy, education, and language philosophy. He died January 9, 1999. He work is a work of facts and does not promote any political stance. For these facts alone this book should be avoided.

[The Free State of Jones]

First of all there is very little official documented history of Newt Knight. I was curious to see how any historian could write 400 pages on this subject. The only official records of Newt Knight are the U.S. and Mississippi Census records (a fact I find humorous- the law could not find Newt but the Census taker could), his Confederate Service records, and his Union pension applications. Everything else we know of him is handed down from the family or from a 1920's interview by a dime-novel reporter who tries to portray Newt Knight as an Old West gunfighter. Newt Knight left no letters, no diary, no manuscript, no memoirs, nor any information about his early life, or his service in the Confederate Army.

I found the historians promoting this story instead of investigating it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Zendicant Penguin on June 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book just missed getting four stars from me, likely through no fault of the authors. The problem is that while the topic of the book is utterly fascinating, its narrative suffers greatly from a lack of primary source material.
Doubtless, the intent of the authors was to accomplish three things. First, to shine light on a phenomenon that was utterly foreign to me: Pro-Union Southrons acting against the Confederacy before, during and after the Civil War. Second, to focus in on one particularly strong anti-confederacy pro-Union county in Southern Mississippi. Third to discuss in particular the most dominant actor in that county; who he was, how he lived, what he believed, and how he acted.
In other words, this book has the makings of a real pot boiler for, who'd have thunk that the confederacy was anything but a monolithic pro-slavery anti-union force? Even if we allowed for that possibility, who knew about a small Mississippi county that became a hotbed of anti-insurrection insurrection? Finally, how can we not find ourselves in the thrall of a man who not only waged war against the confederacy from within the confederacy but also practiced a way of life that was completely outside of the normative functions of society then and now?
That's right, one Newton Knight, a Mississippi dirt farmer from Jones County almost singlehandedly defied the might of the rebel government and its military in defense of the United States of America. Not only that, but he also fell in love with an enslaved negress who bore him many children at the same time that we was married to and creating children with a caucasian, maintaining separate but equal households first on shared land and then on adjoining plots of land.
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