The fact there was wide-spread opposition in the south to the idea of succession during the Civil War is not the part of “The State Of Jones” that makes it worth reading. Instead the 2009 book by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer that makes compelling reading is the fast-paced and throughly researched events in the life of one man who basically told the confederacy to ‘go to hell.’
The man was Newton Knight, and as been written many times “is clearly the most famous Civil War hero you’ve never heard of.” I had never heard of Knight before buying this book earlier this year, and wonder how I could have missed such a colorful personality.
A gutsy, principled back-woodsman who stayed true to his principles makes this read a real treasure. While there were many morally in-touch white southerners who opposed slavery and secession, such as 31,000 in Tennessee who fought for the Union, or 8,000 is Arkansas who took up arms for the north, nothing seems to compare with what happened in Mississippi. That is where Newton Knight and his band of guerillas launched a virtual insurrection against the Confederacy in Jefferson Davis’ own home state!
The Piney Woods come alive, and readers get to slog along the way as Knight runs away from the Confederate army where he was a soldier in a war he did not believe in. Once back home we follow his life and his efforts in the swamps to thwart the Confederate soldiers. By the time the book ends readers will come to understand what American patriotism means.
The Tishomingo Hotel and depot in Corinth where the carpets were blood-soaked, and surgeons who operated pitched amputated limbs from the porch by flinging them with a finger or toe into a pile. They were piled like cord wood.
If you have a desire to read a gripping story of the Civil War, and learn about the life of someone who will leave a lasting impression, then I suggest you pick up “The State of Jones’ and become acquainted with Newton Knight.