Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

If you’re interested in Southern Unionism, especially within the Lone Star State, the upcoming symposium will be of great interest to you. Lots of great scholars and papers, and I’m honored to be included. My talk will be on Warren Jacob Collins, leader of the Unionist “Jayhawkers” of the East Texas Big Thicket. Warren was part of a Unionist family that included Jasper Collins of Mississippi, a member of the Knight Company of “Free State of Jones” fame.

Hope to see you there!

Vikki Bynum

Unionism symposium image

APRIL 5, 2014, SATURDAY   |   SYMPOSIUM
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
LONE STAR UNIONISM AND DISSENT: The Other Civil-War Texas

Support for the Union in Texas and rejection of the Confederacy did not solely consist of Sam Houston’s famous refusal to take oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. Before, during, and after the Civil War, significant numbers of Texans of all social, economic, and ethnic groups actively opposed the dominant southern slaveocracy for a variety of reasons. This symposium explores the diversity of that opposition and challenges the myth of a monolithic pro-Confederate Texas.

Presented by Texas State’s Center for the Study of the Southwest, this all-day symposium offers two morning sessions and one afternoon session of three presentations each, followed by keynote address and a Q&A period.

8:00 AM—CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST

8:30 AM — OPENING REMARKS
J. Frank de la Teja, director of Texas State’s Center for the Study of the Southwest

8:45–10:15 AM — SESSION ONE

Gray Ghost: Collective Memory of a Confederate Texas 
— Laura McLemore 
The “collective memory” of Confederate Texas is as elusive as a ghost. It is as lacking in definite shape as any restless spirit, and tracing manifestations of it is a challenge worthy of any ghost hunter. This nebulousness, like so many aspects of Texas history and memory, is inextricably linked with Texan identity, in itself a loaded term. From a survey of primary and secondary sources, however, a few conclusions emerge, the first and foremost of which is that Texans viewed and many continue to view themselves as “Texan” first and foremost. A second is that vast differences of geography and ethnic heritage mitigated against the formation of a genuinely “collective” memory of a Confederate Texas. A third is that Texas men were much more interested in getting back to making money than they were in memorializing a lost cause. This left the cultivation of “memory” to the ladies. McLemore explores the evidence for and the nature of collective memory of Confederate Texas through time.

The Problem of Slave Flight Before and During the Civil War 
— Andrew J. Torget
This presentation will focus on the problem that slave fight posed for Anglo Texans and Confederates, as enslaved people during the 1850s and 1860s escaped from plantations. The position of Texas along the far-western frontier of the American South, alongside Mexico, presented unique opportunities for enslaved people to flee their masters, leaving the state’s planters particularly concerned about the problem of slave flight and rebellion. The outbreak of the Civil War threatened to destabilize slaveholding in the state as it brought new opportunities for Texas slaves to escape, even as slaveholders from other parts of the Confederacy began shuttling slaves into Texas to isolate them from Union armies (and the opportunity to run to freedom across Union lines). Dr. Torget will examine both how the course of the war affected slave escapes in the state, and how Anglo Texans thought about both the threat of emancipation and the central problem that their enslaved servants posed: unionists in their midst.

Slaveholding Refugees in Wartime Texas 
— Caleb McDaniel
As Union armies occupied New Orleans and moved up the Mississippi River in late 1862 and 1863, slaveholding refugees from Louisiana poured across the border into Texas, bringing with them tens of thousands of enslaved people. As these slaveholders rented land, hired out slaves, moved back and forth across the border, and sometimes straddled the line between commitment to the Confederacy and grudging acceptance of Union gains, their presence created tensions with many native Texans who questioned their loyalty or feared the influx of “strange” people of color. As “outsiders” who were neither Unionists nor fully accepted by Confederate Texans, these refugees and the enslaved people they brought with them did not always fit neatly into the categories historians have used to understand wartime Texas. They reveal the heterogeneous and shifting nature of the state’s population as well as the multiple motives—economic, practical, familial, and ideological—that brought many strangers to Texas during the War.

10:15–10:30 AM — BREAK

10:30 AM–12:00 PM — SESSION TWO

New Americans or New Southerners? German Texans 
— Walter Kamphoefner
Texas, which was home to more than a quarter of Germans residing in the eleven Confederate states, was the only place with an appreciable rural German element, one that was large enough to play a role in politics and war. Just what role they played, however, still remains under dispute. In the popular media, various characterizations of Germans have portrayed them as everything from “fire-breathing secessionists” to “virtually all Unionists.” The range of scholarly opinion is nearly as broad. Older accounts often reflect the characterization of antebellum traveler Frederick Law Olmstead, portraying Germans as largely abolitionist in sentiment. More recent scholarship has cautioned against generalizing from a few radical Forty-eighters to the bulk of ordinary German immigrants. Kamphoefnel re-examines the role and attitudes of Texas Germans (and smaller continental European groups often allied with them) toward slavery, the Confederacy, and Reconstruction, drawing particularly on evidence from letters and from voter behavior. It also explores personal factors which made individuals more or less sympathetic to the Confederate cause.

Although We Are the Last Soldiers: Citizenship, Ideology, and Tejano Unionism 
— Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez
Mexican Texan resistance to the Confederacy and Tejano Unionism along the South Texas border will be examined by Valerio-Jiménez. He argues that Mexican Texans’ reactions to the U.S. Civil War were rooted in the relationships Mexicans had established with African Americans in the villas del norte (towns along the Rio Grande) during the Spanish and Mexican periods. Following U.S. annexation, Tejanos assisted runaway slaves who sought freedom in Mexico and they also intermarried with African Americans. The paper demonstrates that Mexican Texans who joined the Union Army did so for various reasons including anti-slavery sentiment, opposition to pro-Confederate local politicians, and expressions of U.S. citizenship. Although they endured hardships during the war and were not politically rewarded afterwards, Tejanos invoked their military service as a claim to U.S. citizenship.

Coerced Unionism: African American Testimonies of Violence During Reconstruction 
— Rebecca Czuchry
Immediately following the Civil War in 1865, African Americans in the former Confederacy faced extremely brutal violence perpetrated by whites. This was particularly true in Texas, a state known during the period for both violence and racial intolerance. Texas has been viewed by Reconstruction scholars as one of the most violent of the former Confederate states. Even so, the violent experience of former slaves in the state has not been fully examined. Although white Texans used violence to injure, kill, or control individuals, violence also served the larger purpose of creating a climate of fear in order to more easily subjugate and control the entire black community. Despite this brutal atmosphere, black Texans risked their lives by reporting acts of violence that occurred in their communities. Kosary  examines the testimonies of African Americans as a form of resistance; in testifying to federal officials, black Texans resisted re-subjugation and established a degree of autonomy and power over their own lives.

12:00 –1:30 PM — LUNCH BREAK

1:30 –3:00 PM — SESSION THREE

East Texas Unionism 
— Victoria Bynum
During the Civil War, Warren Jacob Collins of Hardin County, Texas, led a band of guerrillas that hid out in East Texas’s Big Thicket. Collins’s occasional appearance in Texas folklore as a backwoods, bare-knuckled fighter or, alternatively, the “Daniel Boone” of East Texas, has long obscured the deeply-held political views that led him (and six of his brothers) to support the Union against the Confederacy. A careful study of the Texas Collins brothers and the Big Thicket uprising reveals the uprising’s yeoman roots as well as its direct ties to the more famous yeoman uprising in Mississippi known as the “Free State of Jones.” The political postwar evolution of Warren J. Collins in turn provides a window on connections between Southern Unionism and the rise of third party challenges to the Democratic Party.

A Texas Reign of Terror: Anti-Unionist Violence in North Texas 
— Rick McCaslin 
Despite popular lore that tends to focus on events reinforcing common perceptions of Texan exceptionalism and virtues—which leads many Texans to assume their state emerged from the Civil War virtually unscathed—facts reveal many regions were deeply scarred by wartime experiences, and the violence did not come from invasions.  Confederate Texans proved just as intolerant of dissenters as Southerners in many other states, and they reacted just as violently to internal challenges. North Texas became the arena for many brutal operations against Unionists, which undermine claims of both exceptionalism and virtue by Texans concerning the Civil War. Instead, residents of the Lone Star State, like Southerners who lived elsewhere in the former Confederacy, had to reflect on a divided legacy that included not just the heroism of units such as Hood’s Texas Brigade, but also the viciousness of events such as the Great Hanging at Gainesville.

Three Cheers to Freedom and Equal Rights to All: Juneteenth and the Meaning of Citizenship 
— Elizabeth Hayes Turner
Occupying Union troops entered Texas in June more than two months after the Civil war had ended, but it was on June 19 (Juneteenth) that a portion of the 250,000 slaves—the last within the Confederacy—learned of their freedom. The emancipation announcement, made by General Gordon Granger in Galveston, tested the resolve of slavery supporters and began in earnest the development of a freedom tradition that has lasted to this day. During Juneteenth’s evolution from 1865 to the turn of the century, black communities came together annually to celebrate their liberation and to honor the president who had freed them. Over time, leaders and social justice activists used Juneteenth gatherings as a pragmatic way not only to remember with pride black state office holders but also to launch important goals for African Americans. The creation of Reconstruction government demonstrated that democracy could be carried out by a black and white voting populace, a memory that would later be suppressed by whites seeking to disfranchise black voters. As Reconstruction faded and Redeemers returned to state office, African Americans, through Juneteenth celebrations, kept alive the meaning of freedom, the history of their political participation, and the quest for full citizenship under the law.

3:00–3:15 PM — BREAK

3:15–3:45 PM — KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Edmund J. Davis: The Radicalization of a Texas Unionist 
— Carl Moneyhon
Edmund J. Davis was a prominent Texas politician in the antebellum era who supported the Union in the secession crisis of 1860-1861, fled the state and became a general in the Union Army, then returned after the war to become an important figure in the state’s Republican Party and ultimately the state’s governor. In the latter position he urged a new course for Texas, even supporting full rights for the state’s newly freed slaves. Moneyhon examines Davis’s course during these years, assessing the causes for the decisions he made. This examination shows, ultimately, the plight of an individual whose constitutional and legal views precluded his endorsement of the actions of the state’s Democratic majority. It illustrates how the uncompromising stance of the latter and their refusal to tolerate any wavering on the issue of secession and their justification of it following Confederate defeat forced unwanted decisions on a fundamentally conservative man. The fanatical position held by the Democratic leadership, in the end, radicalized Davis and accounts for the emergence of an individual willing to challenge their leadership and even the socio-economic status quo in Texas.

3:45 PM — GENERAL Q&A

Read Full Post »

The following post was submitted to Renegade South by Tim Sumrall. Particularly noteworthy is that Rev. Anthony Bewley was lynched for his pro-Union views in 1860, well before secession from the Union had been achieved by the Texas legislature. This was the time of “Texas Trouble,” during which vigilantes targeted citizens who sympathized with the plight of slaves or opposed the mounting cries for disunion that would soon bring the American Civil War. 

Abolitionist Minister Lynched in Fort Worth

On this day in 1860 (September 13 1860 ), abolitionist Methodist minister Anthony Bewley was lynched in Fort Worth. Bewley, born in Tennessee in 1804, had established a mission sixteen miles south of Fort Worth by 1858. When vigilance committees alleged in the summer of 1860 that there was a widespread abolitionist plot to burn Texas towns and murder their citizens, suspicion immediately fell upon Bewley and other outspoken critics of slavery.

Special attention was focused on Bewley because of an incendiary letter, dated July 3, 1860, addressed to a Rev. Bewley and supposedly written by a fellow abolitionist. Many argued that the letter, which urged Bewley to continue with his work in helping to free Texas from slavery, was a forgery. The letter was widely published, however, and taken by others as evidence of Bewley’s involvement with the John Brownites in Texas.

Recognizing the danger, Bewley left for Kansas in mid-July with part of his family. A Texas posse caught up with him near Cassville, Missouri, and returned him to Fort Worth on September 13. Late that night vigilantes seized Bewley and delivered him into the hands of a waiting lynch mob. His body was allowed to hang until the next day, when he was buried in a shallow grave. Three weeks later his bones were unearthed, stripped of their remaining flesh, and placed on top of Ephraim Daggett’s storehouse, where children made a habit of playing with them.

http://www.tshaonline.org/day-by-day/30999

Letter From Anthony Bewley
http://www.nytimes.com/1861/01/23/news/a-methodist-minister-lynched-letter-from-rev-anthony-bewley.html

http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbe71

Read Full Post »

Littlefield Lecture poster

The Littlefield Lectures, UT Austin

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be delivering this year’s Littlefield Lectures for the History Department of the University of Texas, Austin.  The lectures are based on research from my last two books, The Free State of Jones, and The Long Shadow of the Civil War:
“The Free State of Jones: Community, Race, and Kinship in Civil War Mississippi,” March 6, 4-6 p.m., Avaya Auditorium, ACE 2.302

“Communities at War”: Men, Women, and the Legacies of Anti-Confederate Dissent,” March 7, 4-6 p.m., Avaya Auditorium, ACE 2.302

If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there!

Vikki Bynum

Read Full Post »

The following is the latest online review of my recent book, The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies. I especially appreciate the careful and thorough analysis provided by Laura Hepp Bradshaw, a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

http://www.civilwarmonitor.com/book-shelf/bynum-the-long-shadow-of-the-civil-war-2010

Vikki Bynum

Read Full Post »

On April 24, 2009, Renegade South published “Henry Flaugher, Civil War Unionist of Burnet County, Texas.” In 1863, Henry Flaugher was murdered by Confederate vigilantes in the Hill Country of Texas because he remained loyal to the Union. His body, thrown in a cave called Dead Man’s Hole, joined those of numerous other Southern Unionists murdered in similar fashion. In this follow-up post, I expand on this history of Civil War persecution with the story of the murder of Adolph Hoppe, Flaugher’s companion on that fateful day. New materials and transcriptions provided by John Dorff, Suzanne Wall, and Betty Zimmerman have enabled this new post, and I thank the three of them for their hard work and generous sharing of information about this tragic episode of Civil War history.

Vikki Bynum

In her classic memoir of Texas pioneer life, Memoirs of a Texas Pioneer Grandmother, Ottilie Fuchs Goeth remembered the harrowing experiences of the Civil War from the perspective of German Texan Americans: “We lived in the shadow of death and worse, for our whole family, as indeed all Germans, remained loyal to the Union. Furthermore, we were looked upon with suspicion because we had never held any slaves. The Fuchs women were ridiculed and looked down upon for doing housework themselves which was all done by slaves on the large plantations.”(1)

Although there were German Americans in Texas and elsewhere who did own slaves and did support the Confederacy, in the Hill Country of Texas where Ottilie’s parents, Pastor Adolph Fuchs and his wife Louise (Ruemker), settled, support for the Union was indeed the norm among tight knit communities of German Texan farmers and ranchers who mostly relied on free labor to work their lands.

Joining the Fuchs (pronounced “Fox”) family and the many other Germans who pulled up stakes and moved to Texas were Johann Eduard Rudolf Richter and Hans Adolph Hoppe, who, like Ottilie’s family, settled in Burnet County. Through intermarriage, the Richter, Hoppe, and Fuchs families became intertwined. Living across the Colorado River from them was Henry Flaugher (pronounced “Flour”), a transplanted Northerner who shared their pro-Union views during the Civil War. (2)

The passage of time did not dim Ottilie Fuchs Goeth’s memories of the Civil War. In 1915, the widow of Texas legislator Carl Goeth recalled the devastating effects of the Civil War on her community. “By 1862,” she wrote, “the terrible war had advanced to the stage that Carl and many of his friends were conscripted for military service.” Because of volatile relations between Texas citizens and Indians, some married men were exempted from Confederate service in order to protect the home front against Indian attacks. Carl, “with considerable effort,” obtained such an assignment.

Others who opposed the new Confederate government were not so lucky. “The so-called Fire Eaters [avid secessionists] of the South were almost worse than the Indians” wrote Ottilie. “Secretly they murdered anyone who was not for the South and who expressed this view too openly. Fanatically they looked upon their actions as heroic deeds.  A few miles from Marble Falls, on the road to Johnson City, one can see a place where men favoring the North were killed and thrown into a cavern after a trial of sorts was held there.  Many of the best men of this area lost their lives at this spot.” Included among these men was John R. Scott, a pro-Union judge from Burnet County. (3)

The “spot” that Ottilie referred to was the infamous Dead Man’s Hole (also called Devil’s Well),  the gruesome site of multiple murders during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Often referred to as a cave, Dead Man’s Hole is actually a deep natural sinkhole, probably caused by gas pressures. It was discovered in 1821 by Ferdinand Leuders, an entomologist and naturalist. (4)

"Dead Man's Hole," Photo courtesy of John Dorff

There are conflicting reports of the number of men whose bones were found in Dead Man’s Hole after the war. Some say 36; others 17. There is also disagreement over what happened to the bones after they were removed. Some say the bones mysteriously disappeared from the courthouse where they had put on display; others say that at least some of the victims were given decent burials by their families.

During the war, to avoid being murdered and tossed into the “Hole” was serious business for Burnet County Unionists. Even friendships of long standing might be destroyed by differences over the war. “One of the fanatic Southern Fire Eaters was John Townsend,” wrote Ottilie, “a former friend and hunting companion of my brother Conrad.  He was now a member of the gang of assassins who were supposed to report anyone who remained loyal to the Union.  He came to my brother Conrad with tears in his eyes and said:  ‘Conrad, I can’t save you any longer, you must go away.’  My brothers then left their wives with my parents for safety and themselves joined in Government service.  They served with it until the end of the war.” Although no one in her immediate family lost their lives, Ottilie recalled that Adolph Hoppe, the father of her brother’s son-in-law, was one of those murdered

Like Ottilie’s husband and brothers, the Hoppes and Richters remained loyal to the U.S. government during the sectional crisis of the 1850s, and opposed the increasingly shrill calls for disunion by radical secessionists. In a 1973 interview conducted by his son-in-law, Earnest Langley, Hugo Ernst Richter recalled that his grandfather Johann (who went by his middle name of Rudolf) had many pro-Confederate neighbors, but managed to get along with them by keeping his mouth shut. (5)

Rudolf’’s close friend, Adolph Hoppe, was not so careful, and openly proclaimed his loyalty to the Union. Although Hoppe was murdered long before Hugo Richter was born, in 1973 Richter still remembered having seen a limb that once hung over Dead Man’s Hole. He had heard that the men who killed Adolph hung him from that limb and then cut the rope loose to lower his body into the hole.

Adolph Hoppe, photo courtesy of Becky McNamara and Ken Fuchs

Adolph Hoppe’s great-grandson, Dwayne Hoppe, understood from family tradition that Adolph was a pacifist who took seriously his oath of allegiance to the United States. His great-great-granddaughter, Becky McNamara, put Adolph’s pro-Union views in historical perspective. In the year that Hoppe migrated to Texas, Germany, like all of Europe, was in the midst of a deep economic depression that resulted in revolutions throughout the continent in 1848. “One of the unfulfilled dreams of these [Texas] pioneers,” wrote McNamara, “had been a unified Germany, and this dream had been part of what had led them to America.”(6)

Such people were not likely to support the tearing apart of their new nation. In 1861, Adolph Hoppe voted against secession, as did the majority of voters in Burnet County, by 248 to 159. He was marked for death by neighboring fire-eaters after he allegedly helped a field hand to evade Confederate conscription. (8)

Adolph’s family and friends knew something was wrong when his horses came home without him. They went looking for him, and saw a piece of harness on a ledge about 45 feet down in the sinkhole. Years later, after the poison gases of the sinkhole were removed, searchers brought up one of his shoes, the only evidence of him they recognized.

At this point, the different accounts of the murders at Dead Man’s Hole diverge. According to Henry Flaugher’s sister, Catherine Flaugher Wilson, it was Henry, not Adolph Hoppe, who went with a hired hand to cut a load of wood. Since neither Hoppe nor Flaugher (both middle-aged, prosperous landowners) would likely have served as hired hands for the other, it’s curious that the families of both men remember the “other” man as such. In an article in Frontier Times, Walter Richter simply describes Hoppe and “Mr. Flour” (Flaugher) as loading cedar posts together when they were halted by a group of men who separately murdered both of them. (8)

Despite such discrepancies, those who tell the story of Flaugher’s and Hoppe’s deaths agree that the two men were confronted while loading wood in a wagon by a ranger and a hostile band of men. Dwayne Hoppe was told that a Texas Ranger and “several men” took the “field hand” into custody for evading Confederate conscription. “Several days later the men returned without the Texas Ranger and seized Mr. Hoppe.”

Walter Richter’s account, though similar to Dwayne Hoppe’s, describes Hoppe and Flaugher as being confronted by a ranger and vigilantes who “tried” the two men on the spot for attending secret Union meetings. Flaugher, but not Hoppe, was found guilty. The ranger left him in the hands of the vigilantes, but let Hoppe go. As soon as the ranger went on his way, however, (not several days later) the vigilantes pursued Hoppe, and murdered him as well as Flaugher.

We will likely never know whether a hired hand or field hand was part of this story; nor exactly the sequence of events that  led to the brutal murders of two upstanding citizens of Burnet County, Texas; nor exactly how many men (and women?) met their deaths in Dead Man’s Hole.  We do know, however, that Adolph Hoppe and Henry Flaugher were among them.

The story of Dead Man’s Hole is painful to tell. It reminds us that war, despite highminded rhetoric about love of country and individual rights and responsibilities, simultaneously ushers in death, destruction, and suppression of civil liberties. In the Hill Country of Texas, Southern dissent was complicated by the United States’ history as a nation of immigrants. Here we encounter German Texans, many of whom entered the United States little more than a decade before the Civil War erupted, struggling to remain loyal to the national government they had pledged to uphold. From their perspective, the Confederacy was asking them to break their oath of allegiance, while demanding that they fight to uphold slavery, an institution that belied the nation’s democratic ideals.

Vikki Bynum

NOTE: My thanks to John Dorff for contacting Renegade South and putting the telling of this story in motion, and to Ken Fuchs for generously supplying a photo of Adolph Hoppe after the fact.

Endnotes:

1. Ottilie Fuchs Goeth, Memoirs of a Texas Pioneer Grandmother, (1915: translated by Irma Goeth Guenther, 1969, 1982). Ottilie migrated to Texas from Germany with her family, who settled at the German community of Cat Spring in Austin County before moving in 1853 to the south side of the Colorado River in Burnet County.

2. For a history of the Fuchs-Hoppe family that includes a photograph of Adolph Hoppe, see Ken Fuchs’ Web World.

3. Bob Glass, “Dead Man’s Hole: Civil War and Reconstruction Violence in the Texas Hill Country

4. Voices of the Texas Hills

5. Interview of Hugo Ernst Richter by his son-in-law, Earnest Langley, 1973, contained in the Earnest and Helen Langley papers, Southwest Collection, Texas Tech. Johann Eduard Rudolf Richter and Hans Adolph Hoppe emigrated from Germany to Burnet County, Texas in the 1800’s before the Civil War. The Hoppe and Richter families lived across the Colorado River from Henry Flaugher. Richter’s son, Walter Herman Richter, married Bertha Leonore Hoppe, a granddaughter of Hans Adolph Hoppe.  On March 23, 1973, Earnest Langley interviewed his wife’s parents, Hugo Ernst Richter and Helene V. Klappenbach Richter, in Herford, Deaf Smith County, Texas. Genealogical information on the Richters and Hoppes may be found at : http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=REG&db=bbivona&id=I1776 

6. Becky McNamara, “The Life and Times of Adolph Hoppe” (my thanks to Ken Fuchs for supplying me with a copy of this essay)

7. Flickr: A Daily Blog of Stories and Images (Adolph Hoppe)

8. Walter Richter, “Disaster at Dead Man’s Hole,” Frontier Times Magazine, vol. 18, No. 6, March 1941.

Read Full Post »

Dr. G and MudcatsRecently, Matt Hulbert and Robby Poister, creators of the great new blog, “Bowtied and Fried,” of southernroundtable, posted a guest blog by Gregg Andrews, aka Doctor G (and the husband of your moderator). In his essay, Gregg discusses the Texas Outlaw tradition in music as epitomized by Cheatham Street Warehouse, located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. My thanks to Matt and Robby for graciously allowing me to repost that blog on Renegade South.

Vikki Bynum

Introduction: Guest Blogger — Dr. Gregg Andrews

When I first met Dr. Gregg Andrews, I instinctively liked him, but then I have met few people who wear white snakeskin boots so easily that I did not get along with.  Having listened to some of his music, I mentioned that he sounded like a blend of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Billy Joe Shaver.  I think the smile that appeared on his face was much less from receiving a compliment than from finding someone else in the room who wanted to talk about Billy Joe Shaver.  I immediately felt this blog would be that rarest of pairings: the perfect meeting of author and subject.

Dr. Andrews is an accomplished labor historian and the author of Nationally Awarded books like City of Dust: A Cement Company Town in the Land of Tom Sawyer and Insane Sisters: Or, the Price Paid for Challenging a Company Town, but I can’t say he would claim himself an academic first and a musician second.  Historians and musicians both are nothing if not storytellers, and these two parts have become one for Gregg Andrews.  The working-man stories that fill his books, and the rebellious characters his wife, Dr. Victoria Bynum, shares with readers, are the same stories folk and country music have been telling for years.  Gregg Andrews sees both sides of that coin.

Blending these stories with those of his own life, set to the ethereal sounds of wind through moss-laden branches on the darkest of Texas nights, Andrews developed his own unique brand of “Swampytonk Blues,” which he writes and performs as Dr. G and the Mudcats.  Songs such as “Jones County Jubilee” and “Night Train From Pecos” inspire comparisons to Kris Kristofferson, Robert Earl Keen, and others of the Texas Singer/Songwriter tradition.  Who but Gregg Andrews could tell us the story of this tradition’s rise with such a perspective?  Bowtied and Fried is proud to feature this guest-blog by dedicated historian, talented musician, and helluva good storyteller, Dr. G.

- RCP [Robby Poister]

Cheatham Street Warehouse and the Outlaw Songwriting Tradition in Texas

by Gregg Andrews

At the end of December, I headed back to Texas to promote my new CD, “My Daddy’s Blues,” lay down some new rhythm tracks in the recording studio, and play a few gigs with the Mudcats in the greater Austin area. Shortly after my wife, Vikki Bynum, and I drove away from our house in the Missouri countryside along the Mississippi River, we tuned into Sirius XM Satellite’s “Outlaw Country” to get the right vibe for the trip. I mean, after all, it was time for Dallas Wayne’s weekday show, and he, too, is a Missouri boy who has found the outlaw singer-songwriter atmosphere and hardcore honkytonks of central Texas to his liking.

No sooner had we tuned in than we heard back-to-back songs by the Band of Heathens, Todd Snider, and the Randy Rogers Band. Alright, the trip was off to a cool start! After Vikki quickly interjected, “Hey, we know all of these guys,” I thought back on the role of Cheatham Street Warehouse , a creaky old honkytonk in San Marcos, Texas, in giving us a place to meet, get inspired as songwriters, and share the small stage that had launched George Strait in the mid-1970s. As Vikki and I sped south through the beautiful Ozarks, my thoughts turned to the important part that Cheatham Street, known for nurturing songwriters, had played in encouraging me ten years ago to integrate the honky-tonk night life of a singer-songwriter into my day job as a history professor at Texas State University-San Marcos.

Kent Finlay, a singer-songwriter, opened Cheatham Street in June, 1974, amid the explosion of Progressive Country, or “Redneck Rock,” music in Texas. At that time, rock and roll artists enjoyed considerable creative control over their music, but country music was tightly controlled by Nashville record labels and producers. For artists who loved the Outlaw spirit that infused the music of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and encouraged their break from Nashville in the early 1970s, Texas, especially Austin, was the place to be. Texas was where you could do music your own way with the musicians you wanted to use, where you could enjoy artistic freedom and produce records how and where you, not the record companies, wanted them produced. Waylon and Willie, Nashville veterans, certainly didn’t create the Outlaw movement, but they celebrated it and became superstars in the process. With long hair and beards, a rawer, more rocking sound, plenty of drugs, and hard-edged lyrics that captured their honky-tonk lifestyles, they became the national symbols of rebellion against the slick-produced sounds of pop country music coming out of Nashville’s Music Row under the influence of record producers like Chet Atkins.

To see the entire post and blog with accompanying comments, click here:

Read Full Post »

Chalmette National Cemetery

I received these photos from Deena Collins Aucoin this Memorial Day morning. The first is of Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans. The second is the grave of Riley J. Collins from Jones County, MS. An avowed Unionist, Riley resisted service in the Confederate Army, and joined Co. E, 1st New Orleans infantry (although his gravestone says LA Infantry) on April 30, 1864. He died of disease the following August.

Deena is a descendant of Simeon Collins, brother of Riley. Both men, along with brother Jasper Collins and many nephews and cousins, were members of the Knight Band in the Free State of Jones. Three other Collins brothers–Warren, Stacy and Newton–deserted the Confederate Army and fought against it in the Big Thicket of East Texas.

Vikki Bynum, moderator

Riley J. Collins Grave, Chalmette National Cemetery

Read Full Post »

A conversation with Victoria E. Bynum  

Author of The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies  

Published April 15, 2010  

$35.00 hardcover, ISBN 978-0-8078-3381-0  

The Long Shadow of the Civil War

  

Q. There seems no end to books about the American Civil War. What does The Long Shadow of the Civil War offer that is new?
A.
Although Civil War books about the home front are not new, this is a new sort of home front study that focuses on three communities from three different states. Rather than close with the war and Reconstruction, The Long Shadow of the Civil War follows individual Unionists and multiracial families into the New South era and, in some cases, into the twentieth century. This historical sweep allows the reader to understand the ongoing effects of the war at its most personal levels.
   

Q. What led you to combine three Civil War home fronts, all noted as areas of violent disorder, in one study? Why these three?
A.
Most basically, I combined them in order to provide in-depth comparisons of the communities within the same volume. But there’s more to it than that; the communities have important links to one another. The North Carolina Piedmont was the ancestral seedbed of migration into what became Jones County, Mississippi. Later, East Texas attracted many non-slaveholding Mississippi families seeking a less-developed piney woods region.  

All three regions exhibited fierce Unionist activity during the Civil War, with brothers fighting in separate deserter bands across state lines in two of the communities. So, combining them in one study provided a wonderful opportunity to identify common characteristics of Southern Unionism, while also showing how different geographic settings influenced the nature of the inner civil wars.
   

Q. What were the most important similarities among the three communities of dissent? The most important differences?  

A. All three communities were located outside the South’s plantation belt and all had large non-slaveholding majorities. Important differences were religious practices and length of settlement. The North Carolina Quaker Belt had a history of religious dissent that included Moravian, Mennonite and Dunker sects as well as Quakers.   

Beginning around 1848, Wesleyan Methodism, with its anti-slavery ideals, gained popularity in this region. The Quaker Belt was also a long-settled region of expansive, deeply entwined family networks that lent force and stability to anti-Confederate sentiments.

By contrast, neither Jones County, Mississippi, nor Hardin County, Texas, exhibited significant or organized religious dissent against slavery. As in North Carolina, family networks were important to anti-Confederate activity; however, in East Texas, more recent migration from states like Mississippi meant that family networks were less extensive there. Less cohesive and deeply rooted communities, coupled with politicians’ successful linking of Texas’s 1836 revolution to the Southern cause of secession, undermined organized anti-Confederate activity among non-slaveholders in East Texas.  

Q. Why did you return to the Free State of Jones County, Mississippi, and to the North Carolina Quaker Belt, two regions that you wrote about in previous books, for this study?
A.
Ever since I discovered that a splinter band of Unionist deserters, led by several brothers of members of the Jones County band, kept Confederate forces at bay in the Texas Big Thicket, and after discovering ancestral links between the North Carolina Piedmont and Jones County, Mississippi, I have wanted to combine the inner civil wars of these three regions in the same volume. Doing so also gave me the opportunity to analyze research materials that were not included in my earlier works: two examples are documents concerning the lives of freedpeople and poor whites in Orange County, North Carolina, and Newt Knight’s 1887-1900 Mississippi claim files.  

Q. You cite abolitionism as a motive for anti-Confederate sentiments in only one of your three communities: that of the Randolph County area of the North Carolina Quaker Belt. How and why did religion play such an important role in this region, but not in Jones County, Mississippi, or the Big Thicket of East Texas?
A.
The Randolph County area of North Carolina (including Montgomery and Moore Counties) was the “heart” of the state’s Quaker Belt. Quaker opposition to slavery had faded over time because of the state’s changing demographics, but it never entirely disappeared, making this region fertile ground for Wesleyan Methodists who gained a foothold in the 1850s. In Montgomery County, the Rev. Adam Crooks condemned slavery from the pulpit of the Lovejoy Methodist Church. In contrast, Jones County, Mississippi and Hardin County, Texas, were Baptist strongholds during the secession crisis. I have found no evidence that any Baptist church in either county publically opposed slavery or secession; indeed, the Leaf River Baptist Church of Jones County publically supported the Confederacy.
   

Q. Newt Knight, the controversial “captain” of the Knight Company, is a polarizing figure who even today evokes heated arguments among readers. Why is this so, and how did it affect your historical treatment of him?
A.
As long as we continue to debate the causes, meanings, and effects of the Civil War, Newt Knight’s motives and character will also be debated. We know that he defied Confederate authority during the war, supported Republican Reconstruction afterward, and openly crossed the color line to found a mixed-race community. To neo-Confederates, such facts make Newt a scoundrel and a traitor to his country and his race. To neo-abolitionists, he is a backwoods Mississippi hero who defended his nation and struggled to uplift the black race. My response to such powerful and emotional narratives is to examine critically not only the documentary evidence, but also the mountain of published opinions about Newt Knight that have too often functioned as “evidence” for both sides of the debate.  

Q. Newt Knight, his white wife Serena, and former family slave, Rachel, were the founding parents of a multiracial community. What sort of a community was it in terms of racial identity? How did members of the community identify themselves racially, as opposed to how the larger white society defined them?
A. As segregation took hold in New South Mississippi (1880-1900), the descendants of Newt, Serena, and Rachel were increasingly defined by white society as black, i.e. as “Negroes,” despite being of European, African, and Native American ancestry. Before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s, however, few of these descendants identified themselves as “black.” Depending on their physical appearance, including skin shade and hair texture, descendants of Newt and Rachel variously defined themselves as white, Indian, or colored. Whereas white society applied a “one drop rule” that grouped together all people of African ancestry, these descendants self-identified in ways that reflected their multiracial heritage.  

There is no direct evidence of how Newt, Serena, or Rachel racially identified their multiracial descendants. Descendant Yvonne Bivins, the most thorough Knight researcher, was told by her elders that Newt Knight actively encouraged his descendants to identify as white. All that is certain—but nonetheless remarkable—is that they economically supported, nurtured, and lived openly among both white and multiracial kinfolk all their lives.  

Q. By crossing the color line, Newt Knight deviated from the norm by acknowledging and supporting his multiracial descendants. What may we deduce from those facts about his political views on race relations in the era of segregation?
A.
Since we don’t know that Newt Knight identified his multiracial descendants as “black,” we can’t deduce from his intimate relationships with them, or by his efforts to enroll them in a local school (one that he helped create) alongside his white descendants, that he supported equality for all people of African ancestry—that is, for people classed as “Negroes.” Only if we adhere to the “one drop rule”—and assume that Newt Knight did, too—can we conclude that Newt’s protection of his own kinfolk extended to all Americans of African ancestry.  

Newt’s efforts on behalf of freedpeople as a Republican appointee during Reconstruction do not necessarily make him an advocate of black equality, as some historians have argued. There were many Reconstruction Republicans who supported the same basic rights of marriage and military service that Newt upheld for freedpeople, while supporting segregation and opposing black voting rights. We simply don’t know Newt’s political position on these issues.  

Q. For thirty years, Newt Knight petitioned the federal government to compensate his ad hoc military band, the Knight Company, for its support of the Union during the Civil War. What do those petitions reveal about the claims process itself, as well as the Knight Band?
A.
The transcripts from Newt Knight’s extensive claims files suggest the federal government’s hostility toward claims of Southern Unionism, especially after 1887, as the nation sank into a deep economic depression. That year, Newt renewed efforts begun in 1870 to win compensation.  

Several depositions of Jones County men made a strong case for Unionism among the Knight Company. The passage of time, however, doomed Newt’s claim to failure. His Washington, DC lawyers were unfamiliar with the Jones County uprising, while witnesses’ memories of the war faded over time. Most damaging, crucial evidence presented in Knight’s 1870 petition was misplaced by the government and never presented after 1887. At the same time, an expanding literature that portrayed the white South as having been unified around secession made Northerners all the more suspicious of Southern claims of Unionism.  

Q. The Long Shadow of the Civil War is as much about the legacies of Civil War dissent as about the war itself. Why did you include both topics in a single volume?
A.
To truly understand the Civil War, we need to understand its long-term impact on the lives of those who endured it. Southerners who took a Unionist stance lived with that decision all their lives, as did their children and grandchildren. Some struggled to put the war behind them and never spoke of it again; others, like Newt Knight and Warren Collins, defended their actions all their lives, and went on to fight new political battles.  

Multiracial communities that grew out of war and emancipation grew larger and more complex in the late nineteenth century. Faced with racial violence and segregation, many of their members exited the South during these years. But among those who remained, we witness the birth of a multiracial Southern middle class.
   

Q. You locate a long tradition of political dissent among certain Jones County families that found expression in third party political movements after the Civil War. How does this New South agrarian radicalism shed light on Civil War Unionism and vice versa?
A.
In all three regions, I found examples of emerging class consciousness among non-slaveholding farmers as a result of the Civil War. Late in life, Newt Knight, for example, offered a class-based critique of Southern society. Two prominent Unionist brothers, Jasper J. Collins of Jones County, Mississippi, and Warren J. Collins of Hardin County, Texas, went even further, carving out political careers as populists and socialists in two separate states.  

A close study of individual lives reveals how the Civil War reshaped their perspectives. Of course, the majority of Southern Unionists did not join third-party political movements in the aftermath of war. It appears, however, that some ideologically committed Unionists, such as the Collinses of Mississippi and Texas, grew ever more militant in their political views as the years passed.  

Q. Your epilogue, “Fathers and Sons,” compares and contrasts three twentieth-century histories of individual guerrilla leaders written by their sons. What do these biographical sketches reveal about the impact of kinship and politics on the Civil War memories of Southern Unionist families?
A.
All three biographies were written after the deaths of their subjects, and reflect the need for sons to defend notorious fathers against charges of treason, lawlessness, or ignorance—especially in the wake of New South glorification of the Confederate cause. Further complicating Tom Knight’s biography of Newt Knight was his effort to present his father as a hero to the segregated, virulently white supremacist society of the 1930s. At the time of Newt’s death, Tom was estranged from him and the family’s interracial community. He knew little about his father’s early years (his narrative is studded with factual errors) and his “memories” of Newt Knight during the Civil War and Reconstruction were profoundly influenced by his need to valorize Newt and thereby restore respect for his family. Though very different in tone and accuracy, Vinson A. Collins’s and Loren Collins’s biographies of their fathers, Warren J. Collins of Texas and Jasper J. Collins of Mississippi, are presented not only with a sense of each son’s relationship with his father, but also in the context of the nation’s politicized memories of the Civil War.  

###
This interview may be reprinted in its entirety with the following credit: A conversation with Victoria E. Bynum, author of The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies (University of North Carolina Press, Spring 2010). The text of this interview is available at http://www.ibiblio.org/uncp/media/bynum/.
                                                                                                                              PUBLISHING DETAILS
ISBN 978-0-8078-3381-0, $35.00 hardcover
Publication date: April 15, 2010
240 pp., 9 illus., 1 map, bibl., notes, bibl., index
For more information: http://uncpress.unc.edu/books/T-7790.html
The University of North Carolina Press, http://www.uncpress.unc.edu
116 South Boundary Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-3808
919-966-3561 (office) 1-800-848-6224 (orders) 919-966-3829 (fax)  

CONTACTS
Publicity: Gina Mahalek, 919-962-0581; gina_mahalek@unc.edu
Sales: Michael Donatelli, 919-962-0475; michael_donatelli@unc.edu
Rights: Vicky Wells, 919-962-0369; vicky_wells@unc.edu

Read Full Post »

I’m excited to announce that my new book, The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies, has been released!  Click here to see its table of contents.

The Long Shadow of the Civil War

To purchase a copy directly from the University of North Carolina Press, click on the title, above. You may also order it from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

To learn more about The Long Shadow of the Civil War, watch for my next post on Renegade South, which will feature my recent Question & Answer interview with the University of North Carolina Press.

Vikki Bynum

Read Full Post »

Researching Civil War Home Fronts and Beyond

by Vikki Bynum

Back in fall, 2001, just months after the release of my book, Free State of Jones, David Woodbury (moderator of Battlefields and Bibliophiles) interviewed me for the Civil War Forum Conference Series. As I read today the questions that he and others posed, and my answers to them, it becomes clear why I wrote The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies. There was so much more I wanted to know, or knew and wanted to tell. For example, although I identified the Collins and allied families as representing the heart of Jones County Unionism, I had only touched on the parallel renegade band led by another branch of the same family in the Big Thicket of East Texas.  Likewise, I had barely tapped into records detailing the postwar political activism of Collinses in both Mississippi and Texas.  And then there was Newt Knight himself. I obtained copies of Newt’s voluminous claim files of 1887-1900 from independent researcher Ken Welch shortly before Free State of Jones went to press. Although the claim files did not change my essential understanding of Newt Knight, they provided such rich detail about the claims process, and the men who either joined or opposed the Knight Band, that I decided to devote a chapter to them in the new book. In yet another chapter, I expanded on the history of the multiracial Knight community that resulted from collaboration between Newt Knight and Rachel, the former slave of his grandfather. For the new book, I also returned to my research on the Unionists of the North Carolina Piedmont who figured so prominently in my first book, Unruly Women. The inner civil war that raged in North Carolina’s “Quaker Belt” (Montgomery, Moore, and Randolph Counties) had stimulated me to research the similar “war” of Jones County.  Yet, despite their similarities, I soon discovered important differences between these Civil War home front wars. That’s when I decided to compare all three communities of dissent–those of Jones Co., MS, the NC Quaker Belt, and the Big Thicket of East Texas–in the same volume. And so the idea for Long Shadow of the Civil War was born. As you read the 2001 question and answer session that follows, I think you’ll understand why I felt compelled to continue my research on southern dissenters, and to expand the story even further beyond the Civil War. My thanks to David Woodbury for permission to repost his Q & A session with me.

 

Transcript of the 35th session of the Civil War Forum Conference Series. GUEST: Dr. Victoria Bynum TOPIC: The subject of her book, “The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War” Date: October 25, 2001 ——————————– Greetings, and welcome to the  35th session of the Civil War Forum conference series. We are very pleased tonight to have with us Dr. Victoria Bynum, professor of history at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, discussing the subject of her new book: “The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War” (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001). Let’s get started.

Q. (David Woodbury): Welcome Dr. Bynum.  Since this is probably a fairly obscure topic even among Civil War buffs, can you begin with an overview of Jones County, and what set it apart from the rest of Mississippi (e.g., the paucity of slaves there), and the events that gave rise to stories of the so-called “Free State,” or Kingdom of Jones?

A. (Victoria Bynum): Jones County was founded in 1826, and it’s part of one of the earlier-settled sections of Mississippi (because of Native Americans already being pushed out of that part of the state, but not out of the more fertile portions of Mississippi). Many of the earliest settlers were veterans of the War of 1812, especially. I won’t go too much into it, but because it was the Piney Woods region, you didn’t have a great many slaveholders there. Slavery was important — there were slaveholders — but not many *big* slaveholders. It had the lowest number of slaveholders of any county in the state, and almost 80 percent of those slaveholders owned fewer than four slaves. So, just to leap forward to the Civil War itself, this was a region that was pretty ripe — by around 1862 — for seeing the war as a “rich man’s war” and “poor man’s fight,” because they were the poorest men in the state. I don’t want to imply that they were landless, because they were small landowners, but in terms of slaveholders, they were the poorest in the state. [The county] voted almost 2-1 against secession. Moving ahead to the 20th century about how all these stories got started — what made this story so legendary and why it has persisted so long is that the leader of this band of deserters crossed the color line. Now, it’s not that crossing the color line was so unusual, it’s the way that Newton Knight did it. He not only crossed the line, but two of his children intermarried with the children of the slave woman who was his chief collaborator (it was after the war that they intermarried — she was his collaborator during the war). And that resulted in a mixed-race community that’s still very vibrant today — a very large mixed-race community that claims descent from Rachel the slave, and Newton, the leader of the deserter band. …So you’ve had this ongoing battle — this is why I make the second part of the title, “Mississippi’s Longest Civil War,” because factions of this family have been debating the meaning of this uprising since the Civil War. And with the racial aspect, it has made the debate particularly volatile. Those who wanted to defend the Unionism of the Knight band generally just erased the story of the race-mixing, and those who were pro-Confederate . . . used the racial mixing as just further examples that these were deviant men who committed treason against the country, against the Confederacy, and against their race. That’s why the story has lasted, [and] because there have been several books written, and a novel, and even a movie made from the novel.

Q. (David Woodbury): One of the fun things about reading your book is the spirit of investigation, or discovery, in unmasking the past. Can you recall any major breakthroughs during the course of your research, or any particular surprises you encountered upon digging deeper?

A. (Victoria Bynum): I believe some of the most delightful surprises were the ongoing discoveries I made about the Collins family — I believe that their story is one that was buried because of the notoriety of Newt Knight. The discovery that their ancestors were both Regulators back in the 1760s and Populists in the 1890s kind of gave me a whole view of Southern dissent as represented by this family, in a way that just stood right out — and made them the core of the Unionist group there, rather than Newt Knight. And I want to add that probably the biggest surprise was that the Collinses had brothers in Texas who were leaders of their own deserter band, so there were actually two deserter bands which existed simultaneously. It just showed the uncompromising nature of their Unionism; not nearly all the deserters were as Unionist as the Collins’s. There was a core group of about five different families that I would call truly Unionist. Putting that together was very exciting, because I kept finding connections between the very distant past, and the Civil War era, and connections between the  various families as well.

Q. (Margaret  D. Blough): What was the reaction of the Confederate authorities? Was it as  brutal as the suppression of the earlier East Tennessee Unionist uprising?

A. (Victoria Bynum): I’m not sure just how brutal that was, in terms of making an exact comparison, but the Confederacy did send two expeditions into Jones County to put down the uprisings there, and in the Official Records [of the Confederate and Union Armies] there is quite a bit of discussion of Jones County. The most important example is Colonel Lowry’s raid on Jones County. In the space of a few days, they executed ten members of the Knight Company –the Knight Band. That was the worst experience that the  Jones County group experienced. I imagine that it was probably worse in East Tennessee due to the geographic location. Jones County was still pretty remote, and there weren’t as many raids.

Q. (Teresa N. Blaurock): So nice to have you here to tell us more about your book! My co-workers, not Civil War buffs, were intrigued by the subject, and seemed ready to read more on the topic. One question I had is about “jeans” cloth. Can you tell us anything about it?

A. (Victoria Bynum): [You're] referring to when Newton Knight — in 1865, he was relief commissioner — had an order from the military government in place at that time to seize a certain amount of goods from the former CSA representative of the county, who was a merchant, and they refer to Jeans cloth in there…

Q. (Stevan F. Meserve): Jeans cloth is not denim, but a particular weave of wool. It was  commonly used in uniform trousers. I just had to stick that in. My question is about Unionist sentiment in Jones County. How many precincts of the county voted to remain in the Union? Here in Loudoun County, Virginia, for example, three of 16 precincts voted to remain in the Union.  Overall, the county voted 2:1 to secede.

A. (Victoria Bynum): All I know — that I’ve been able to find — is that 166 people voted against secession, and I believe it was about 89 who voted for it… Let’s see… Yes, 166 for the Cooperationist Candidate, and 89 for the Secessionist Candidate. In fact, neighboring Perry County (I don’t have those numbers with me) was even more Unionist. So Jones County was not isolated in that respect. The Perry County delegate held out longer.

Q. (Margaret  D. Blough): Did any of the Jones County Unionists articulate why they supported the Union? The pressure must have been intense in the Deep South for secession?

A. (Victoria Bynum): Yes, of course in their county they didn’t feel that so directly — more so when the war began — but (after the war) they cited the 20 Negro Law [when] citing reasons for their desertion from the Confederacy. The only articulated Unionist statements are by the Collins family, who did not believe that the election of Abraham Lincoln was grounds for secession. And there’s a quote of a certain Collins brother counseling men to try to get duty in the hospitals as nurses if they did join the service — that they should not fight against the Union. And one more statement attributed to the Collinses is that while they didn’t believe in slavery, they also did not believe that the federal government had the right to end it.

Q. (Teresa N. Blaurock): Early in the book, you describe rivers that were dammed to provide power for mills, but preventing fishing for those needing to do that. It seems such a conflict! I know the Jones County deserters were really against the 20 Negro Law, which was the objection to “government” in their era.

A. (Victoria Bynum): One of the things that I found, as you no doubt noticed, were that these were people who were very touchy about the government’s role in their lives. And again to use the Collinses as an example, since they were always in the thick of it — as they moved across the frontier they continued petitioning the government to respect their rights as citizens and to provide them protection, not only against Indians, but against corrupt local officials. So this is a theme that runs throughout their history, and I think that’s the point that you’re making with your comment.

Q. (David Woodbury): It sounds like your research benefited nearly as much from elderly locals and descendants as it did from archival work. That is, they were able to show you things, like the grave sites of Newt and Rachel Knight. Could you have written this book 20 or 30 years from now, after many of these people are gone?

separate photos of tombstones of Rachel (left) and Newt Knight. Photos by Victoria Bynum

A. (Victoria Bynum): I agree that my personal contacts with descendants was really crucial to the book, and no I couldn’t have written the same book. I could have written *a* book — a study — but in fact when I started writing this book I had no idea that I would achieve the kind of contact with local people that I did. It brought perspectives that I just don’t think I could have pieced together from archival documents. In particular, I don’t think I could have described the mixed race community if I hadn’t spent a lot of time among the descendants of Rachel and Newton Knight… And I don’t believe I could have written *nearly* the kind of study of their community without that personal contact. That was crucial.

Q. (Margaret  D. Blough): To tie into what Terry asked, I’ve seen some opinions that many of the Unionists areas in North Carolina, etc., in the mountains had had no experience with the US government, except for the postal system and the first experience they had with an intrusive government was Confederate authorities enforcing the conscription and impressment laws?  Is that what you saw?

A. (Victoria Bynum): I would say that in general that was true, once they settled in Jones County, that they had a lot of local autonomy. Some writers suggest there was no real government in Jones County before the war, but that just isn’t true. But it is fair to say that they had very limited contact with state government at the top, or federal government. However, I would still point out that their frontier petitions do show quite an interest in the Federal government and  its power. They have a long history of protest of corrupt local government, and I suspect that during the Civil War they developed a similar relationship with the Federal government, because they saw the Confederacy as another example of corrupt local government. That tradition goes all the way back to the Regulators.

Q. (David Woodbury): You include a photograph of the Leaf River in your book, “site of Deserter’s Den — the Knight Company’s Civil War hideout.” Were you able to pinpoint the actual location, and what is there today  (presumably private property)?

The Leaf River, intersection of Covington and Jones Co., MS, site of Deserters’ Den. Photo by Victoria Bynum

A. (Victoria Bynum): It is private property today. I took the photo myself and I was taken there by one of those local old-timers. Not very far from that river — the site of that river in the photograph — is the cemetery of Newton Knight’s grandfather. That land is now in the hands of a private company, and we had to be escorted into the cemetery by someone who had a key… But all of those lands used to be owned by the core members of the deserter band.

Q. (Stevan F. Meserve): On the subject of “intrusive” government, how much intrusion did Jones County see during the war from officials on either side? The territory between Hattiesburg and Meridian was pretty much no man’s land, wasn’t it?

A. (Victoria Bynum): I think it was pretty much considered no-man’s land between those areas. The Confederacy managed to have a Home Guard unit down in Jones County, headed by a local Confederate officer, and that was Amos McLemore, reputed to have been murdered by Newt Knight and his men. By April of 1864, when more and more reports were reaching Confederate officials elsewhere that Jones County was under the control of deserters, and they had murdered some of the tax agents, then they sent the two expeditions I mentioned earlier… Col. Maury, in March (1864), subdued the deserters a bit but they came back just as strong, so then they sent Col. Robert Lowry in April. Now that really did splinter the band. He executed ten of them, and that’s when a number of them fled to New Orleans and joined the Union army. About 40 — they weren’t all members of the band — about 40 Jones County men joined the Union Army in New Orleans… And then about 15 men were captured and forced back into the Confederate army. That left about 20 more whom they never caught, including Newt Knight, still out in the swamps.

Q. (Teresa N. Blaurock): You describe the prominent role of women in the book. Using “polecat musk and red pepper” to throw off the scent of the men from the dogs was rather emphatic. How did that come to be known as the thing to use?

A. (Victoria Bynum): Well, according to Ethel Knight, who wrote the best known book (The Echo of the Black Horn, 1951), the white women learned it from Rachel, the slave. I don’t know where she got her information from.

Q. (Azby): In your opinion, at what point did the Civil War become “inevitable”?  question?

A. (Victoria Bynum): I would suppose that once Lincoln called for troops from the South, and even many who opposed secession turned the other way — when the image of invasion became a vivid one, the firing on Fort Sumter and the call for troops, one could say that’s when it began to appear inevitable. Or you could look at it more broadly, and simply say that when the Northern states put in their constitutions gradual emancipation while the South simultaneously began designs for expanding slavery into the Southwest, some would say that’s when war became inevitable. But I’m not real big on “inevitability.”

Q. (David Woodbury): When did you first hear of the legend about Jones County in the Civil War? And what first drew you to this as a subject of scholarly research?

A. (Victoria Bynum): I first learned about Jones County around 1976 when I was an undergraduate in college. I saw it in a footnote in the Randall and Donald — the old Civil War text [Randall, James G., and David H. Donald. The Civil War and Reconstruction]. I did not hear about it from within my own family, even though my father was born in Jones County. What drew me to it as a subject of scholarship was writing my first book, Unruly Women. I have two chapters on the Civil War there, and one of those chapters centers on a county very similar to Jones County in many ways, and that’s Montgomery County, North Carolina. …But I just became fascinated with the topic of Southern Unionism, and the way that entire families were involved in resisting the Confederacy. It was both the class element in it, and the participation of women and free blacks in North Carolina that made me then want to look at Jones County. So, it was only as I developed as a historian myself that I decided I would like to do a study of Jones County.

Q. (David Woodbury): Would you talk a little bit about the so-called “white Negro” community in Jones County after the war, the trial of Davis Knight in the 1940s, and why this is such an important part of the story of “The Free State of Jones.”

A. (Victoria Bynum): I think it’s incredibly important because it reveals how 20th century race relations and segregation buried the story of the Free State of Jones beneath all these stereotypes about race-mixing, and then combined with the Myth of the Lost Cause, which presented Unionists as treasonous. The story had just become so distorted. And so I began and ended the book with the trial to basically look at why race was such a volatile part of the story, and then to move from there to look at the story of a class-based uprising of white men that is an important story in its own right, and would not have been buried so deeply if it had not been for the obsession with Newton Knight’s interracial relationship with Rachel. And so I was determined to tell both stories, and particularly to try to bring back the stories of all these other members of Knight’s band who had just sort of been lost from the picture. Thanks everyone. The questions were good ones, I enjoyed them.

The Long Shadow of the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2010)

UNC Press

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers