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1st Lt. of Knight Company

1st Lt. of Knight Company

In 1864, with the nation at war, soldiers and civilians alike must daily have asked themselves, would life ever return to normal? At the same time, daily routines had to be continued if folks were ever to see better times. Resigned to the fact that hard-working people now must work harder than ever just to keep body and soul together, on a spring day in April, Indiana Welborn went to the family barn to milk the cow.

According to the story I heard some ten years ago, Indiana was milking the cow when she noticed to her horror that blood was dripping down on her from the barn loft above. She soon discovered that a wounded man had secreted himself in the family barn, and that it was his blood that dripped on her.  That man was James Morgan Valentine, Newt Knight’s 1st Lt. in the Knight Company. Morgan had been shot by Confederate Cavalry while swimming in a river, but had managed to make it to Lawrence Welborn’s barn, where he hid in the loft. After discovering him, Lawrence’s daughter Indiana took it upon herself to nurse Morgan back to health, and never told anyone about it until after the war. Or so the story goes.

Sometime in 2005, I had the good fortune to be contacted by Danny and Dwayne Coats, great-grandsons of Morgan Valentine. I eagerly ran this story by them, which they in turn confirmed had been told to them, too, by their own grandmother. According to Dwayne Coats, his grandmother told him “that the lady [Indiana Welborn] that took care of him told her the story herself. My grandmother also said that he had lost so much blood that his earlobes were completely white.”

As 1st Lt. of the Knight Company, Morgan Valentine was one of the band’s most important members, and obviously very close to Captain Newt Knight.  Like most of the Knight Company, Morgan also came from a strongly Unionist family, evidenced by the four Valentines, in addition to Morgan, who appear on Newt Knight’s roster (see Knight Company roster).  In addition, Morgan’s father Allen, like William Wesley Sumrall’s older brother, Harmon Levi, signed a letter of defense of Newt Knight in 1870, when Newt filed his first petition for federal compensation for the men of the Knight Company (see 1870 Letter of Support for Newt Knight’s Compensation Claim).  

Demonstrating once again the seamless personal and political ties that bound the Knight Company men to one another, I should note that Morgan’s second marriage was to Newt Knight’s niece, Mary Mason Knight. And that Morgan’s sister, Tolitha Eboline Valentine, married another stalwart Unionist, Warren Jacob Collins, brother of Jasper, and leader of the Hardin County jayhawkers of East Texas (see Collins Family Unionism, Mississippi to Texas).  

In 1895, James Morgan Valentine testified on behalf of Newt Knight in Newt’s third and final claim for compensation (see  Newt Knight vs. the U.S. Court of Claims). In the next few days, I will abstract that deposition and post it on Robert Moore’s Southern Unionist Chronicles. I’ll cross-list it on Renegade South, so please watch for it!

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The following letter of support was filed with Newt Knight’s 1870 petition for compensation. I particularly value this letter because it describes in the men’s own words the formation of the Knight Company during the Civil War. It makes no reference to the legend that Jones County seceded from the Confederacy, but rather emphasizes the Knight band’s loyalty to the United States government.

Note the names of those who signed it. All were fathers or brothers of members of the band (see the Knight Company roster, posted earlier).

The State of Mississippi
Jones County
Personally appeared before me, T.J. Collins, an acting Justice of the Peace in and for the county and state aforesaid, John Mathews, H. L. Sumrall, Allen Vallentine, James Hinton, and Madison Herrington, and makes the following Statements upon Oath:

We are citizens of the State of Mississippi and county of Jones and was well acquainted with Newton Knight before and during the late Rebelian. We know that he was opposed to the War and refused to take up armes against the United States and the rebels [who] was determined to make him fight or kill him. They destroyed all his effects, Horses, and Mewls and his Household etc., and they left his family destitute, and finally they got holt of him for some length of time. Finally he got away from them and came home in the month of May 1863, and immediately tuck measures to rase a company to oppose the Rebels and fight on behalf of the United States. And Knight and a portion of his men had several fights with the Rebels before they succeeded in organizing a company. On the 13th day of October 1863, Knight and his Men met at the place cald Sals Battery in Jones County, Mississippi, and organized there Company by electing there officers and Making a solemn vow to be true to each other and to the United States, and to fight on behalf of the United States during the War. And we know of our own knowledge that Knight and his men did fight the Rebels and act in good faith to the United States from the 13th day of October until the 10th day of September 1865. They performed the duties of Infantry—gave a grate deal of detached services. They kept there details, pickets, and curiers on the lookout, and we further say that we have examined the list of Knight’s Company herewith presented and we beleave it to be in all things true; and we beleave that each man’s name on the list hearewith presented did perform the services therein alleged to have been rendered; and we further say that we are not interested in this matter either directly or indirectly.

John Mathews
H.L. Sumrall
Allen Vallentine
James Hinton
Madison Herrington

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