The Free State of Jones

The Free State of Jones is now available as an “e-book Short”

Would you like to know the true  story of the Free State of Jones, but don’t have time to read the long version? Good news! The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (published 2001) has just been released by the University of North Carolina Press as part of its new “e-Book Shorts” series.  This excerpted digital version contains the original book’s introduction, epilogue, and two Civil War chapters.  Entitled Rebels Against Confederate Mississippi, it’s available from Amazon’s Kindle store for $4.99 (currently on sale for $3.99). For those who prefer the long version, it too is available from Kindle.

For details, or to order, click here.

Between late 1863 and mid-1864, an armed band of Confederate deserters battled Confederate cavalry in the Piney Woods region of Jones County, Mississippi. Calling themselves the Knight Company after their captain, Newton Knight, and aided by women, slaves, and children who spied on the Confederacy and provided food and shelter, they set up headquarters in the swamps of the Leaf River. There, legend has it, they declared the Free State of Jones.

7 replies »

  1. I Have not read the book, but do know some historians in Jones County Say much of it is hogwash, The Fact is Knewt Knight was a deserter, who lead a band of robbers who were also deserters, Knewt Knight shot General Amos Mclemore in the back, This hogwash that he worked for the union and fought against the confederate army as some kind of union agent is wrong. The facts concerning knewt knight are clear, he was a deserter and a back shooting coward. HE Fought to keep from going to prison for the deserter he was. This hollwoood remake of the man is outrageous. He lived out his life as a hermit with a black woman in a shack scared to stick his head outside. very much different than the hollywood remake of the man.


    • Brent,

      Your opinion is shared by many Jones County residents. Newt Knight was indeed a deserter of the Confederate Army who led a band of deserters called the Knight Company. And he did live his life after the war in the company of a former slave, Rachel Knight, and her daughter, George Ann, both of whom he apparently had children with. He also appears certainly to have shot Amos McLemore to death during the war. All of these facts are acknowledged and analyzed in my books and on this blog.
      Beyond those facts, however, there is much to debate. There is plenty of evidence, for example, of Unionism among the core members of the Knight Company, especially those with the surnames of Collins, Walters, Valentine, Bynum, and Welborn.
      There is no evidence that Newt Knight “fought to keep from going to prison.” What he did fight for (unsuccessfully), for some thirty years, is compensation from the U.S. government for his band and himself for having fought against the Confederacy during the Civil War. There is documented evidence of both, and I present that evidence clearly in Free State of Jones and Long Shadow of the Civil War.
      It is obvious that you have not, as you admit, read my works on the subject. I doubt that reading them would change your mind anyway, which seems made up. However, for the record mine is not the “Hollywood” version of the Free State of Jones; for that, you need to read the 2009 book by John Stauffer and Sally Jenkins, The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded From the Confederacy. The Jenkins/Stauffer book is a deeply flawed work that I have provided critical reviews of on this blog and elsewhere. Where many consider Newt Knight nothing more than a murderer, Jenkins and Stauffer have rendered him an abolitionist hero. Both versions of Newt Knight are simplistic and laden with political and emotional bias.
      As a historian, I am not interested in presenting the past in terms of good versus evil or saints and villains; I am interested in understanding the Civil War–and the Knight Company–at deeper levels. Thankfully, many others share that interest.

      Vikki Bynum


      • If found by the Confederate Army he would have went to prison or been shot, so of course he fought against those who came with honor to arrest a deserter, The notion that a man who joined the Confederate Army twice was fighting against them for the Union is Utter, and I mean Utter Hogwash!! You make out in your comment as if he shot Amos Mclemore in battle, War as u put it ,when the fact is him and his band who were nothing more than deserting outlaws, found out there necks may end up in a rope for desertion, went to his house snuck up, bursted through the door and shot the man who was after them… not in WAR!!! We call that gully washing around here. or back shooting whichever u prefer.

        You say quote”There is no evidence that Newt Knight “fought to keep from going to prison.” What he did fight for (unsuccessfully) , for some thirty years, is compensation from the U.S. government for his band and himself for having fought against the Confederacy during the Civil War.” end quote. Yeah folks try to get welfare every day today as well. many lie to do so. This man served in the Confederate Army twice, HE was a man unlike the boys in blue and gray with no Honor, For you to make out that a man who was a deserter, robber, was fighting against the confederate Army out of some sense of Patriotism is Ludicris.

        He Fought against anyone who came in his way out of fear of arrest, including a skirmish with union troops. nothing more or less. No This man was no hero, and its the Men in gray who served there country with Honor, as well as blue, who the books should be written about, To see some write as if this man was any type of soldier after he deserted, is just plain wrong. Me and the SCV will always leave the light on for those who wish to make history instead of report it!!!

        some of the real truth about Knewt Knight can be found on this link, deserter yes, Union patriot no. Man out to save his own skin yes indeed!!


      • In no way did I suggest that Newt Knight shot Amos McLemore in battle; everyone knows that he shot him in the home of Amos Deason, an event I described in my book. Mr. Waller, your remarks are all emotion and bombast; it’s clear that you read only what suits your purpose. Well, you’ve had your say, and this will be the end of any “debate” between you and me.

        Vikki Bynum


  2. Dear Miss Bynum, I have come across a book edited by Mary H. Kitchens and Theresa Blackledge. Titled A MINI-CONFEDERACY – THE FREE STATE OF JONES 1862-186-

    It looks to be owned at one time by Bill Maily, and has many underlines and notes. Do you think this item has any significance, or value? I would be happy to send pics if you would like to know more, or can tell me more. Any info is appreciated.

    Thank you


    • Jeff, I have a copy of the Kitchens/Blackledge book. It was helpful to me when I was researching the Free State of Jones because it alerted me to several important primary sources–such as the interview with Newt Knight by Meigs Frost in the New Orleans Item. It is a sampler of materials on Newt Knight and the Free State of Jones which the authors intended for use in the classroom. It certainly still has value in that regard.



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