The Free State of Jones

An 1870 Letter of Support For Newt Knight’s Compensation Claim

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).

Vikki Bynum

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

11 replies »

  1. I’m interested in the James Hinton who signed the letter for Newt Knight’s Compensation Claim. Any more info on him? My grandmother was a granddaughter of Altimirah Knight Brumfield, Newt’s sister. My grandmother, Esther Caroline Black married J. F. “Jimmie” Hinton. I’m wondering if there’s a connection to the Knight Company on my grandfather’s side, too. I grew up with the stories of Newt Knight. My grandmother spoke of riding the train with him when she was a child and being frightened. I remember visiting the cemetery when I was a child and I believe my grandmother’s mother and father are buried there. But there was never any mention of involvement on my grandfather’s side. I’m going to read your book and revisit “The Echo of the Blackhorn”. (My brother has a signed copy that we had access to as youth.) Meanwhile, I would appreciate any help that you could give me.

    And we also we go for icecream at Bynums when I was a child.

    Thanks, for your research. I stumbled upon this site by accident and have enjoyed it greatly.

    Ramona Dry Davidson


  2. Ramona: since Vikki is probably still unpacking files due to her move to Missouri, I’ll attempt to connect some of the dots regarding the Hinton line, with the understanding this is subject to further verification.

    As best I can determine, the J.F. Hinton to whom you refer (1879-1955)) was a son of Benjamin Franklin (B.F.) Hinton (1857-1943).

    B.F. was one of the younger children of patriarch Joshua H. Hinton. Joshua was also the father of Richard H. (Dickey) Hinton (born 1847), who enlisted in Co. F of the 7th MS Battn but later deserted and became a member of the Knight Band. Richard Hinton had another brother named James A. Hinton (born ca 1848) who may well have been the signatory to the affidavit. If this is correct, the James Hinton who signed the letter and his renegade brother Richard were uncles of your J.F. Hinton.

    These three brothers also had a sister, Elizabeth, who married Thomas N. Coats. He died in a Union prison camp during the Civil War. Elizabeth eventually remarried in 1889 to Carney S. Sumrall. This is described in Part 4 of my series on Jones County Civil War widows.


  3. Thanks for your interesting genealogical breakdown of the Hinton family, Ed, as I am indeed still living in relative chaos in my new Missouri home.

    Ramona, I need to make one quick correction in regard to Altamirah Knight Brumfield. She was Newt Knight’s aunt, not his sister.

    If I find any additional information on James Hinton in my files, I will post it.

    Best of luck with your research,



    • Thank you both for your replies and I apologize for waiting so long to thank you. Life and death got in the way. And thank you, Vikki, for the correction; I do have Altamirah (Altimirah) listed correctly in the family tree. She is listed as my 2x grandmother and Newt is listed as my 1st cousin 3x removed. It just gets confusing sometimes. That would mean Newt and my grandmother were first cousins?

      Ed, thank you very much. I have done very little research on the Hinton side so I am very grateful for your help. I know that B.F Hinton was a family name handed down through the generations. I actually remember my mother’s cousin B.F. (Benjamin Franklin) Hinton, so I think we are on the right track. I will look for your series on Jones County Civil War widows.

      Vikki, congratulations on your book and its well deserved success and thank you for your hard work.


      • So glad to hear from you after so long, Ramona, and to know Ed’s reply was helpful. Thanks for your good wishes in regard to the book, and please stay in touch.



  4. Madison Herrington is my second great grandfather; it is surprising to me that he writes if favor of Newt Knight given his participation in the Confederate States Army til his surrender at Citronelle. Any insight on why these men, who some served in the CSA, wrote in support of Newt?


    • Hello Jim,

      I appreciate your question regarding Madison Herrington’s support for Newt Knight and the pro-Union Knight Company. The letter was written and signed by men who were specifically NOT members of the company. That’s because it was in support of Newt Knight’s petition to the federal government for financial compensation for himself and each man listed on the roster he kept throughout the war.

      That said, a number of Herringtons, who were intermarried with a number of Unionist families (Collins, Welch, Sumrall, Bynum), deserted the Confederate army when the opportunity presented itself. In fact, virtually all the members of the Knight Company had first joined the Confederate Army, either voluntarily or by conscription, even though they or their fathers had opposed secession. The county of Jones elected an anti-secessionist delegate to the Mississippi State Convention of 1861, and were quite angry when that delegate caved in and voted for secession under pressure from pro-Confederate delegates in Jackson.

      Once the war began, and particularly after conscription laws were passed, most anti-secessionists joined the Confederate army to avoid arrest. After the battles of Corinth and Vicksburg, however, Jones County men, particularly those of the 7th Battalion Infantry, deserted in large numbers. Francis M. Herrington, Jesse Herrington, and Madison Herrington’s military records all indicate they were AWOL for various stretches of time between 1862 and 1864. Although none of these three men joined the Knight Band, all indications are that they shared the anti-Confederate sentiments of the band, both by their actions and by Madison Herrngton’s willingness to sign the above letter of support.

      The story of Southern anti-Confederate views and outright Unionism is a fascinating history, and inner civil wars similar to that called the Free State of Jones occurred in many regions of the South, especially those where slaveholders were the minority.



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