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The State of Jones

A book by Sally Jenkins

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Just when you thought you knew everything about the Civil War...

  • Jun 16, 2009
In an era when everybody and his mother is writing yet another book praising Lincoln, The State of Jones by Harvard historian John Stauffer is a fresh and original history of the Civil War. Even if you've already read a lot about the Civil War, this book will radically change your understanding of Civil War history.

The book discusses a pro-Union insurrection deep in the heart of the Confederacy - Jones County, Mississippi. It begins with the horrors of war during the battle of Vicksburg and how many Confederate citizens became disillusioned with the South's cause. It also discusses the socioeconomic situation in Jones County, especially the divide between the wealthy plantation class and the poor yeoman farmers. Traditionally, we assume the antebellum South was split by race - white owners and black slaves. However, this history makes clear that only the upper class owned slaves and poor farmers often resented them. During the Civil War, many of the poor farmers in the infantry who bore most of the suffering, resented the wealthy plantation class who often became incompetent officers. For many regular Southerners, the Southern cause became a "rich man's war" and desertion became a common problem among Confederate ranks.

Enter Newton Knight and Jones County. The leader of the rebellion within the rebellion and star of the book is Newton Knight, a poor yeoman farmer with progressive social and political views. Knight eschews slavery and event becomes involved in a romantic relationship with one African-American woman. He also becomes a pro-Union activist during and after the war. He leads a band of followers in the swamps of Mississippi to launch raids against Confederate targets. Throughout the book, Knight remains something of a mysterious character, but also an unsung hero of the war.

This book is great for history fans who have a basic background in the Civil War. It will probably change the way you view the Confederate South. I predict it will be this year's best and most innovative popular history book. You'll certainly learn more about U.S. history than reading that 20th biography of Lincoln.

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More The State of Jones reviews
review by . August 23, 2009
The events that followed the end of the American Civil War from 1865 through roughly 1900, known as Reconstruction, mark the darkest days and events in American history, because they revealed a cold-blooded racial hatred that was deep-seated in the hearts and minds of the majority of white Americans. The history of individual families, black and white, from those years who lived through the worst of the violence, particularly in the deep south states like Mississippi, is one of terror and violence, …
review by . June 29, 2009
First off, The State of Jones is extremely well written and exhaustively researched. That alone would earn it at least 4 stars in my estimation. The Civil War category of history books tends to get over crowded with dry academic readings and revisionist polemics that aim to bolster someone's modern agenda (with themes that range from "clearing the family name" to defending racial politics). The subject and storytelling here dodges the first bullet, making for an engrossing read that truly is "difficult …
review by . July 10, 2009
In his 1927 work Liberalism (Lib Works Ludwig Von Mises PB), Ludwig von Mises wrote, "The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state …
review by . June 23, 2009
This is one of the most fascinating historical accounts I have ever read, as it emphasizes some points of American history that are rarely emphasized. Furthermore, it also demonstrates how mindless patriotic fervor can be mishandled into catastrophe, something that the United States has unfortunately not been able to outgrow.    One terrible fact rarely mentioned is that if there had been an honest and binding vote of all white males of voting age in each of the states of the Confederacy, …
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Dominic J Nardi ()
Ranked #78
I am a recent law school grad with an interest in Southeast Asia legal issues. Unfortunately for my checkbook, ever since high school I have been addicted to good books. I have eclectic tastes, although … more
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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 inThe State of Jonesjournalist 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 NissleySally 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 ...

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ISBN-10: 0385525931
ISBN-13: 978-0385525930
Author: Sally Jenkins
Genre: History
Publisher: Doubleday
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