The Free State of Jones

Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer respond to my reviews of their book

The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy (Doubleday, 2009)

Those of you who have read my three-part review of State of Jones, by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer, might want to visit Kevin Levin’s blog, Civil War Memory, where he allowed the authors to respond to my reviews. Ms. Jenkins and Professor Stauffer open by accusing me of attacking their work in order to promote my own, and end by accusing me of launching a “turf war.” In between, in a long, long, dissertation on sources, they seriously misrepresent my work, suggesting that I have willfully distorted the history of the Free State of Jones in my own book and thus failed to produce “good scholarship.” Be sure and read the many comments that follow their post, which include remarks by readers, moderator Kevin Levin, the authors, and myself.

I stand by my three-part review of their book, and hope to get back to blogging here about the Civil War histories of North Carolina, Mississippi, and Texas very soon. I’m excited that my new book continues to move toward production, and I will be announcing its new title very soon.

Vikki Bynum, Moderator, Renegade South


1. John Stauffer responds (again) to my review of Jenkins and Stauffer’s State of Jones on Kevin Levin’s blog, Civil War Memory, August 24, 2009:

2. Prof. David S. Reynolds Reviews Jenkins and Stauffer’s State of Jones  for The New York Times, August 16, 2009:

3. Kevin Levin, Civil War Memory:  “A Statement about the State of Jones Dispute ”

4. “Civil War Fires Up Literary Shoot-out,” by Michael Cieply, New York Times, July 30, 2009, on The State of Jones vs The Free State of Jones controversy:

5. Vikki Bynum,  “Confessions of a Small-Town Texas Gadfly.” Renegade South

10 replies »

  1. I cannot say I even remotely understand how you could respond with such grace and cordiality to Jenkins and Stauffer. I’m afraid, with my current level of experience at defending my own historical interpretation, I would not have, which might be sad in itself. I do hope, however, that I can remember the lessons learned here when the time comes to defend a formal presentation of my historical research. 🙂
    Greg Rowe


  2. Vikki,

    I agree with Greg completely, and cannot state my sentiments concerning the referenced conversation any better than Greg has already done. I am looking forward to your future blog posts, to any further thoughts you may have on Newt Knight and Jones County, Mississippi, and to the publication of your new book. Have a wonderful evening. Sherree


    • Robert,

      The problem is that only a few states (and Georgia was not one of them) put secession to a popular vote among the people. Instead, people voted in their own districts over whether or not to elect a pro- of anti-secessionist to the convention where secession would be decided. There is a longstanding dispute over whether voters in GA voted in greater numbers for anti- or pro-secession candidates. Regardless of that number, however, the majority of the elected delegates voted for secession. Often times–and this happened to Jones county’s anti-secession delegate–delegates were cornered by procedure, or intimidated, into voting for secession once they got to their state conventions.

      A good college history text will point this out.



  3. Do you have any mention of Thomas Davis or Jimmie H. Davis who was an early settler of Laurel, Mississippi. Born in South Carolina and moved here in 1875. Working on a history for my children and would love to have any information you may have.
    Delle Avary Davis


    • Ok-Delle-Everyone is looking for you! We’re having a friends getogether at Barbara’s-how about answering your e-mails. Good to know you are still there.



  4. Delle Avary,

    I have no independent knowledge of Thomas Davis or Jimmie H. Davis, but there is a biographical entry on James (Jimmie) H. Davis in Echoes From Our Past: Jones County, Mississippi. It was submitted by Diane Bates, granddaughter of Henry Hamilton Davis and great-granddaughter of Jimmie H. Davis and Harriet Amanda Davis. According to Ms. Bates, the family traveled from Westminster, SC, and lived in Alabama before arriving in Jones County around 1900. There is more family info in the entry.

    Echoes From Our Past was published by the Jones County Genealogical & Historical Organization, which can be reached ar P.O. Box 2644, Laurel, MS, 39440-2644, or, or
    email them at

    Thanks for your comment, and please let me know if I can be of more assistance.



  5. I forgot one point concerning the book “the state of jones”

    When I noticed it at my local book store, I read the title, with nothing else to go on, the title told me that in a point of fact that Jones county had seceded from the confederacy.

    I understand the point the authors were making in defending that title but they should have realised that most people who will come across this book have no idea if it is factual and will accept it as such. In my opinion the title at best is misleading.

    curtis payne


  6. I agree, Curtis; the subtitle is very misleading since the authors actually argue AGAINST the myth of Jones County’s secession from the Confederacy. It’s my guess that Doubleday chose a provocative rather than accurate title as a marketing tool.



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