The Free State of Jones

Tracing South Mississippi’s Inner Civil War through Documents.

By Vikki Bynum

Newt Knight by VB

Newt Knight by VB

Discussions of the Mississippi insurrection popularly called the “Free State of Jones” often begin with questions like, “Was Newt Knight a traitor or a patriot?” or, “Was Newt Knight a villain or a hero?” Yet, while catchy phrases generate animated conversations, even heated arguments, they rarely lead to a greater understanding of what actually happened in Civil War Jones County and why.

One reason such questions are of limited value is because the Free State of Jones was not simply Newt Knight’s war. Rather, it was a community war.

Having led one of the many anti-Confederate insurrections that erupted throughout the South during the Civil War, Newt Knight is an important historical figure regardless of whether one admires or disdains him. Even more important, the internal rebellions in which he and others fought tell a deeper, broader story of a divided white South than one man’s story can ever provide.

That’s why Renegade South addresses inner civil wars from southeast to southwest. Home front wars were as deadly as the national war that spawned them, and should not be viewed as mere protest movements, or efforts to reform Confederate policy, though those occurred as well. These were bloody armed conflicts in which participants adhered to the maxim, “kill—or be killed.”


Opposing interests of life and death were at stake in local wars. Confederate leaders were determined to fight to the end to prevent the destruction of slavery that was threatened by the rise of the Republican party and the election of Abraham Lincoln (if you doubt this, please read Mississippi’s declaration of support for secession). Anti-Confederate guerrillas increasingly refused to risk lives, farms, and families for a cause they either opposed, or which meant little to them. As the war dragged on, many of these inner wars widened beyond county borders.

Jones County, Mississippi, where slaves constituted only 12.2 percent of the population, was prime for such an inner war. Here, sentiments against fighting a “rich man’s war and poor man’s fight” ran high.

Since creating this blog late in 2008, I’ve been assisted by many individual researchers (most recently, Jeff Giambrone) who have shared their findings with me. The documents they’ve provided have increased our knowledge of the inner civil wars that raged throughout Mississippi’s southern half between 1863-1865. Numerous deserter bands roamed the piney woods and gulf regions of the state, spilling over the borders of neighboring states. Likely, these bands joined forces with one another at crucial junctures, particularly during the crucial months between January and April, 1864.

Several of the documents that follow have appeared in other posts, or in books, mine included. Here, however, we see them together, and in chronological order.

The first is a citizens’ petition, signed and sent in late January 1864 to Governor Charles Clark. Note the petitioners’ estimate of at least 300 deserters in Jones County, and their statement that deserters were procuring ammunition from “the coast of this state”:

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerMississippi, Jany. 28/64

To His Excellency Govr. Charles Clark –

The undersigned citizens of the S.E. part of Smith Co. & of the S.W. part of Jasper Co., respectfully represent to your excellency that they have good reason for believing that there are at least 300 deserters in Jones County & some few in Smith & Jasper; that there is reason to believe that they get ammunition on the coast of this state; that they are compelling good & true men to leave Jones County; that they have recently taken by force much valuable property from H. Horsey, B. Rogers & others living in Jasper Co., near the Jones Co. line; & that unless a strong force is soon sent for our protection many, or all of us will be plundered of our moveable property.

Arick Coleman, E.P. Noble, (?) Gowen, (?) O’Neil, John Young, Jesse Vanzyke, Isaac Anderson, L.H. Smith, Mary A.L. Noble, J. Agee

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 3, Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Courtesy of Jeff Giambrone]

Barely ten days later, Governor Clark received the following letter of concern from Perry County sheriff, G. W. Bradley. Bolded sections below denote Sheriff Bradley’s descriptions of depredations committed by Confederate cavalry sent to the region to arrest deserters. In providing specific details of a deserter take-over of local government, he emphasized that the deserters robbing and pillaging was mainly aimed at citizens loyal to the Confederacy:

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerAugusta, Perry Co., Miss., February 8, 1864

To his Excellency Governor Charles Clark of the State of Mississippi


I think the condition of things in this county require me as the highest civil officer of the county to report to you hoping there may be some relief offered. The State & County taxes are now due & it will be at the risk of my life to collect. The deserters have already threatened my life because I have done what I conceived to be my duty as an officer & loyal citizen of the county. There has been soldiers sent here for the purpose of arresting deserters & forwarding them to their commands, but they are doing but little or no good – they prowl through the county frolicking & stealing too much – there is no discipline or order among them every one doth very near as he pleases. Some officers have done their duty so far as was in their power, but the commander of the post is wholy incompetent for the impossible position. He is a fine man and no doubt he does his best, but I am satisfied things could have been managed much better than they have in this county. The cavalry have been suffered to break their horses down a riding through the county a frolicking & stealing & in addition to all the civil laws of this state have been trampled under foot by military power which has had a very demoralizing effect upon the minds of the citizens. The citizens know not where to apply to have their rights protected, not long since the commander of the post here furnished a commissary with a file of men to force property out of my possession that I had _____ on by virtue of an attachment. The soldiers have eat out the county & the wives & children of some volunteer soldiers are likely to suffer for the want of the necessarys of life. This country is very poor when all the men were at home they hardly made support. I will venture to say that there are more deserters in this county today than was here when the cavalry came here & they are in formidable gangs a doing mischief. They are burning & destroying the property of all loyal citizens. Such as will not sympathize with them, if there is not a change soon the deserters will kill & burn out every loyal citizen in the country. They have already killed & scared citizens for piloting the cavalry. My private opinion is that the commander wants to prolong his time here causes him to remain so inactive. The above fact can be established by every respectable citizen of the county.

Very Respectfully,

Your obst.,

G.W. Bradley, Sheriff

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 4, MDAH. Courtesy of Jeff Giambrone.]

On the same day, from Raleigh in Smith County, former Confederate soldier W. H. Hardy likewise described to Governor Clark the growing power of deserters. Like Sheriff Bradley of Perry County, Hardy acknowledged the inefficiency of Confederate cavalry assigned to the region, but unlike Bradley, did not accuse them of abusing or plundering the local citizenry. Note also that Hardy, like the January 28 petitioners, implored Gov. Clark to send troops, specifically, “one or two hundred well mounted [cavalry] under some efficient officer to five of Mississippi’s southern counties, including Jones.

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerRaleigh, Smith County, Miss., Feby. 8th 1864

To His Excellency, Gov. Charles Clark –

Dear General,

I address you in this familiar style as my old commander who gave me my first instruction as a soldier at Corinth Miss., in 1861.

The object of this communication is to inform you of the formidable character which the bands of deserters in this section of the state are beginning to assume. They are in strong force supposed to be about 200 or 300 in Jones County and the smaller bandits through the country have conferred with these and confederating for mutual protection and depredation they have become quite bold and in some sections of the country have so intimidated the people that to save themselves and their property from depredation and pillage they are beginning to give them aid and comfort, and I perceive now a spirit of this find beginning to pervade the people to such an extent that almost every man now is afraid to say anything against the deserters for fear of some private injury and unless it is checked all law and order will soon be suspended and every loyal man driven out of the country.

There is now in this town a respectable citizen who was driven from Jones County all his property destroyed & because he was a true and loyal citizen last week the Rev. Mr. Carlile a Baptist minister in the south western part of Jasper County was brutally murdered in his house by them. The Rev. Wilson West was yesterday with his family given notice to quit the country or that he shall suffer the fate of Mr. Carlile – all last week. A bunch of them sacked several houses in Trenton of all their arms and ammunition, and subsequently whipped a small band of cavalry belonging to Capt. McLean’s Co., who had been sent in pursuit.

Here I will remark that the cavalry stationed in this country to apprehend deserters are very inefficient they never interfered with anyone except a sick or discharged soldier or some man who doesn’t try to evade them.

Having given you the facts General I know you will be able to ascertain how to remedy the evil, but allow me to suggest a plan – send one or two hundred well mounted under some efficient officer with instructions to impress every man liable to militia duty into the ranks of his command in the counties of Smith, Scott, Newton, and Jasper & Jones Counties; and with this command to scour the country until every rascal is caught and hung – I think the people will readily join a command of this character for their own protection having it as an organized nucleus around which to rally if not then they deserve to be pillaged by these outlaws.

Your obedient servant,

W.H. Hardy, Formerly Capt. In 16th/Miss.

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 4, MDAH. Courtesy of Jeff Giambrone.]

On February 13, 1864, just five days after Sheriff Bradley and W. H. Hardy wrote their letters to Governor Clark, Maj. Gen. John M. Palmer of the Chattanooga headquarters of the Union army received the following intelligence from Union scout, James Lamon:

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerA Rebel Soldier who recently deserted and came into our lines tells me that in the Tulahoma [Tallahoma] Swamps in Jones Co., Mississippi, there are some six hundred Deserters who are waiting for our forces to get near, so they can join them. They have deserted the Confederate cause and are determined to fight them to the last. All efforts from the Confederates to force them out have been unsuccessful and they are now offering a bounty to Deserters to join them.


[Letter of James Lamon, Box No. 1, Reports of Operations and Casualties Received, 1864, Intelligence Reports Received By General Thomas, 1863-65, Department of the Cumberland and Division and Department of Tennessee, 1862-70, Record Group 393 (U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920), Pt. 1. Courtesy of Adam Domby.]

Taken at face value, the scout’s estimate of 600 deserters suggests that the number of deserters in the Jones County region had doubled in the space of two weeks! Perhaps the scout exaggerated. Or perhaps separate deserter bands were joining forces across county lines in hopes that a Union victory was near.

There’s plenty of evidence to support a theory of collaboration—not only among deserter bands, but between deserters and slaves. For example, on March 8, 1864, Captain A. F. Ramsey of Co A, 3rd Mississippi Volunteers, reported that about fifty deserters in Jones and Perry counties bragged that:

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerthey were in regular communication with the Yankees, were fighting for the Union, and would have peace or hell by August. They told the negroes they were free. [Quoted in Rudy Leverett, Legend of the Free State of Jones, p. 74]

Just two days earlier, Lieut. W. C. Parsons of the 12th Louisiana Regiment reported that deserters in Jones County had been reported as high as “five or six hundred;” Parsons himself estimated the number to be closer to 150-250. Still, he wrote,

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerThey have killed several citizens, and eight men belonging to our forces sent there to arrest them. From their being well-armed and having plenty of ammunition, it is supposed they are in communication with enemy at Honey Island, near the mouth of the Pearl River. [Quoted in Leverett, Legend of the Free State of Jones, p. 75]

It’s important to note that Newt Knight is not mentioned by name in the above reports and letters. In fact, the Perry County deserters mentioned by Capt. Ramsey and Lieut. Parsons are referred to as the Edwards/Landrum band, further suggesting that various bands interacted with one another during critical periods of the war to bring down the Confederacy.

Between March 2 and March 11, 1864, Jones County deserters were under attack by Colonel Henry Maury’s forces, who hanged three deserters and captured some twelve more. Maury estimated the county’s deserter numbers at about 150, but commented that other deserters had come over “from Perry and Covington [counties] to help whip the cavalry.”  Col. Maury claimed he had defeated the men, although “a few will have to be hunted out with dogs.” Interestingly, Newt Knight’s name does not appear in correspondence between Col. Maury and Confederate authorities, although a local leader named “Woolfork” was mentioned. [Bynum, Free State of Jones, pp. 116-117; Leverett, Legend of the free State of Jones, pp. 89-92]

Collaboration between neighboring bands is again strongly suggested by the evidence. We know that the Knight Company was not quashed by Col. Maury’s March raid; indeed, Newt’s men may have escaped it altogether judging from the roster he submitted to Congress in 1870, which lists no men executed or arrested by Col. Maury’s men.

Whatever the case, the following article from the Massachusetts Springfield Republican,  published March 23, 1864, just twelve days after the Maury raid on Jones County, describes a flourishing guerrilla war throughout Southern Mississippi:

civil-war-deserter-1861-granger“Devastation in Mississippi”

Internal reports are given by a Union scout, lately arrived at New Orleans from a trip through Hancock, Marion, Person, Jones, and Jasper Counties, Mississippi. He had been absent a month, and as the fruit of his visit to these counties he had recruited 115 men for a Union regiment. He also brought away several women and children. He states that the Union sentiment now predominates and that the Union men have things their own way, completely turning the tables upon their enemies. Instead of being driven to the swamps and other hiding places for shelter, they have driven the secessch [sic] to those places to preserve their lives. They had declared a war of extermination and hunted down the rebels and shot them wherever found. This man is a native of Mississippi and well acquainted throughout the region through which he passed. He states that so relentless has been this civil strife that most if not all of the old men of his acquaintances are in their graves, shot in their very home.

And then, five days later, Governor Clark received this report from Macon, Smith County, Mississippi:

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerMacon, Miss., 28th March 1864


I desire to inform you of the bad state of affairs in our (Smith) County. The cty. Is infested with deserters of the worst class. Peacible citizens are driven from their homes. Our shff. A refugee. A few days ago I was ambushed near my plantation and shot. Union or peace meetings are boldly held and Union speeches made – No men’s life is safe who dares to speak out against them. In the name of our citizens and myself I appeal to you for assistance to drive them out of our county.

I am sir with great respect,

Your obedient Servant

Wm. H. Quarles

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 5, Miss. Dept. of Archives and History. Courtesy of Jeff Giambrone]

The Confederacy quickly realized that Col. Henry Maury had not defeated the deserters of Jones County. On its next expedition into the region, the Knight Company would indeed be the target. As I wrote in The Free State of Jones:

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerThe infamous Lowry raids of April 1864 delivered the strongest blow yet against the Knight Company.  . . . Despite the havoc wreaked by Colonel Lowry and his men, including their decimation of the Knight Company, core members Newt Knight, Jasper Collins, William Wesley Sumrall, and James Morgan Valentine were among twenty deserters who remained uncaptured, unrepentant, and a potent force in Jones County. [Bynum Free State of Jones, 115, 125]

In the aftermath of Lowry’s raid on Jones County, Confederate enrolling officer B. C. Duckworth reported on conditions in the county seat of Ellisville. Even though the new normalcy included not having held a justice court “since the war commenced,” and even though “if a man is found dead, the civil authorities pays no attention to it any more than if it was a dog,” Duckworth was breathing easier by June 1864—yet not entirely easy, as the final line of his letter revealed.

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerWe have been overrun by the Deserters but at present they are thinned out so that Citizens & civil Officers could keep them under if they would—-I am over the conscript age. Not withstanding I have joined a company in Smith County for the purpose of home protection & I hope I never will be fixed as I was some three months ago under the dictates of the deserters——There is at the present some twenty Deserters in the settlement. The main leaders of the Deserters in my settlement is in the woods——-.

. . . . Retain the contents [of this letter] as I am in a settlement that I am afraid to speak my sentiments on the account of the Deserters. [B. C. Duckworth to Gov. Clark about conditions in Jones County. Ellisville, Jones County, MS, June 14, 1864, Governors Papers, RG 27, v. 56, MDAH]

By August, 1864, many members of the Knight Band had fled to New Orleans and joined the Union Army; those captured but not killed by Col. Lowry had been forced back into the Confederate army.  But plenty of Jones County men continued to battle Confederate forces (and contribute to disruptions of slavery) on the Mississippi home front, as the letter below makes clear.

On August 14, 1864, Brigadier General L. Brandon reported to Maj. General. Dabney H. Maury the troubling news that:

civil-war-deserter-1861-grangerA number of Yankees in concert with deserters, both from Honey Island and that vicinity, have been committing serious depredations in the region of country bordering upon Jones and Jasper Counties, driving off large numbers of negroes and a great deal of stock. [Commanding Regiment, Headquarters, Defense of New Orleans; War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, vol. xxxix, pp. 776-777]

Some final thoughts about Mississippi’s inner civil war. Documentation is the lifeblood of any historian’s endeavor to tell a true story. The documents presented here leave no doubt that anti-Confederate sentiment, Unionism, and outright insurrection against the Confederate army raged throughout the state’s southern half (there was plenty in its northern half, too) during the final two years of the Civil War.

The documents confirm Jones County as a central location of dissent and rebellion against the Confederate state. Confederate officers, prone to describe deserters as belonging to the “worst class” of lawless Southerners, generally presented their own behavior as lawful and necessary to winning the war. 

But not always. Echoing the words of Perry County Sheriff G. W. Bradley, above, Colonel William Brown, who accompanied Col. Lowry to Jones County, cited “several small commands of cavalry” who had earlier engaged in “improper shooting, robbing, stealing about the houses, cutting cloth from the looms, taking horses, etc.,” in the process turning the county’s women against the Confederacy [Bynum, Free State of Jones, p. 123].  

In part because the Jones County courthouse burned to the ground around 1887, the above contemporary descriptions of home front depredations, plus stories passed down through families, are mainly what survive of women’s voices from that county. In addition, documented evidence of women’s Civil War experiences, which abound in collections held by the North Carolina State Archives, are only thinly represented in the collections of the Mississippi State Archives. I suspect that early Mississippi archivists did not save such letters with due diligence.

In recognition of the Mississippi women whose voices are missing here, I invite readers to contribute whatever evidence they may have in their own collections. The next Renegade South blog will shift to the state of North Carolina and feature selected examples of the abundant documents left by women of that state.





16 replies »

  1. A recollection from my Granny who got it from her mother. The family lived during the Civil War in Hancock County, MS. They were yeoman farmer people, not at all wealthy but like all their relatives & friends at the beginning of the war the men willingly joined the Confederate army. As things went along & time passed things in Hancock County got worse & worse for the families left behind. My Granny tells of their farm being raided by Jayhawkers & losing livestock to men from both sides. Great Granny’s only brother who had come home was hidden by the women of the family from Confederate soldiers searching for deserters by hiding him between the mattresses in a bed in which one of his sisters was placed. Their mother told the men sister had yellow fever so they didn’t want to come close to her & left. Her brother almost suffocated before they got him out. After that he & one of his uncles joined many other men from the area by going into Honey Island swamp to avoid being caught & sent back to the fighting. He was one of the men who surrendered at Ft. Pike to Union troops & went to New Orleans where he joined Union troops. While all that was going on, his family’s farm was raided again by Jayhawkers who while the women of my Great Granny’s family watched from hiding in the nearby woods stole every thing that wasn’t nailed down & burned the place down. Luckily for the women the local men had a plan in place to help local families who became destitute so they survived the war until their men came home. The family’s son’s short time in the Union army wasn’t spoken about although everyone knew that many local men had been with Union troops. I guess it didn’t leave any hard feelings because Granny never said anything more about it.


    • Thank you so much for this, Marcie Lee! Your Granny’s mother’s stories give such a vivid sense of the chaos that dominated home fronts while men were off to battle—or in the woods and swamps. The description of how women and their families were caught in the middle, raided from both sides, rings true, especially in Hancock County, where many of the deserters were down from Jones and Perry County, and wouldn’t have likely cared which “side” a family supported in the war–they, like the Confederate troops, were out to sustain themselves and make war on each other.

      I think of all those young men like your great-grandmother’s brother, caught in a disastrous war not of their making, trying to survive by whatever means necessary. For many, that mean joining the Union army at New Orleans. For others, it meant joining the home guard and chasing deserters. Truly a “neighbor-against-neighbor” tragedy.

      Again, my thanks.


  2. Thank you Vikki. Many folks may not know that in 1861 men in Hancock & Harrison Counties on the coast of MS voted for the Union Party, they were mostly for staying with the Union down there. The counties of southwest MS had fewer slaves than the rest of the state & the people were mostly small farm owners like my ancestors. A book on what life was like in the area at that time contains stories with the letters of the local Koch family of Hancock County, Christian & Annette Koch. They were caught on opposite sides of the Union/Confederate lines in southwest MS during much of the war. Annette was at home with the children & Christian was in the New Orleans Union zone of control, the captain of a small schooner which as a non combatant & foreign born he was able to rent to the Union & so able to sometimes get supplies & people & letters back & forth through the lines. The book is called Mississippi’s no-man’s land an echo of the Koch family letters by Marco Giardino & Russell Guerin. The family wrote hundreds of letters during the war & some how kept most of them with part of them in the small book. It tells the desperate conditions civilians were living under during the war. Neither Annette nor Christian were careful in their letters as to where their loyalties lay with their family & unlike one of their more prominent neighbors they were not out & out spying for the Union. Although Newt Knight isn’t mentioned by name in the letters, the goings on in Jones & other nearby counties are. I think anyone interested in the state of the southern home front in the war would find the book interesting. Also Russell Guerin has a blog called a Creole in South Mississippi which has so much information on the history & people of south MS & southeast Louisiana, it just covers everything. Check it out, you will not be disappointed. Marcie


    • Hi Marcie,

      Thanks to historian Dwayne Bremer, and now you, I have begun learning about Civil War Hancock County, and have also visited the blog of Russell Guerin–and need to visit it even more!

      Dwayne and I have each been on the look out for direct mentions of Newt Knight and/or his men visiting Hancock County during the height of the inner civil wars. So far,we have seen references to “Jones County men”–but not to Newt as their leader. This is what leads me to theorize that several bands roamed during the Civil War within and outside the immediate boundaries of Jones County. If you do ever find a Hancock County mention of Newt himself–or any of the men listed on his 1870 roster, I hope you’ll report it here!



  3. Hello,
    I wish I could contribute some information about these times in our country but I am trying to find information about my grgr grandparents in Jasper County, MS. My grgr grandfather was killed during the battle of Vicksburg. He left at home, his wife and 5 or 6 children. My grgr grandmother died when only in her mid 30’s and left behind her orphaned children. I always wondered how she died. Did she starve to death? Did she contract an illness? I guess I will never know. Her name was Sarah Lewis. Her husband was Stephan H. Lewis. I think her maiden name was Stinnett. There was also a relationship to the name, Terrell I believe.
    The children were all put on an orphan train and shipped to Texas where each one was adopted out to different families. My great grandmother, Harriet Lewis Lindsey was adopted by a Mr. Matheny. I was told that she did most of the work. She was about 11 years old at the time. She married Charles W. Lindsey who later became the San Saba County Tax Assessor, and was a school teacher. He had a ranch in the area. They were married in Thorp Springs, Texas. They had about 12 children. She died in 1899 and is buried in San Saba, Texas.
    I know this isn’t the place for searching. However it is another sad story of those counties involved in this conflict, Jones and Jasper counties and others.
    They lived in a little town called Clairborne, which no longer exists. I think of her often and know the life of her mother had to be hard in those times in our country’s history. Thank you for putting more pieces of this puzzle together for me.
    Paula Gregoire


    • Thank you for sharing your story, Paula. The history of the orphan trains is one of the saddest of our history. So many of the Jones County people also headed to Texas in the aftermath of the Civil War. A few would go, then more would follow.

      I wish I could find a connection between your family’s names and those discussed on this site. Terrell is pretty common; I even have one somewhere in my genealogical background. And “Stinnett”–that might be a version of “Stennett.” Newt Knight’s son married a Dorcas Stennett sometime before 1920. I believe she was Thomas Jefferson Knight’s third wife.

      Best of luck in your search!



    • Hello Sarah,

      There are the usual lists: the 1850 through 1940 federal manuscript censuses have all been released and are available on line and in many research libraries.



  4. Vikki,
    The entry from January 28, 1864, drew my attention because a member of my family is mentioned as one of the victims of the deserters in Jasper County: “H. Horsey”

    Hezekiah Hosey (his surname is often spelled Hozey, Hossey, Horsey, and Horser) was the first-born child of William and Jane COLLINS HOSEY. William and Jane were from North Carolina. The place of their marriage ca 1814 is still being researched because of conflicting family stories, but Hezekiah was born in the Wayne District of Mississippi Territory in 1815.

    William and Jane COLLINS HOSEY had 14 children: seven boys and seven girls. Two of the boys died young, but the remaining five sons carried the HOSEY surname forward into Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

    Hezekiah had three wives. His first was Betty CROSBY; second, Martha TERRELL; and third, Nancy Jane GRANTHAM.

    Hezekiah and Martha had several children together, but namely, William Terrell Hosey, who served in the Civil War. What is interesting is that a page from a typed list of people in Company E of the 8th Inf. lists William T. Hosey serving with Newton Knight. I cannot find this source online anymore to link to it directly (Jasper County Civil War Records Box 11054, originally obtained from Family Search a while back), but I’d love to send you the downloaded image to see what you make of it.

    Hezekiah’s neighbor directly to the north of his property in T1 R11E in Jasper County was Burwell Rogers, who is also named as a victim in the letter.

    We’re still trying to figure if Jane COLLINS is related to Stacy COLLINS, Jasper’s father. There is a Joshua COLLINS enumerated near William HOSEY in 1816 and 1820, and according to the research documented in this thread on the Rootsweb forum dedicated to Jane, he is believed to be a close relative.

    My HOSEY ancestor is Thomas HOSEY, Hezekiah’s youngest surviving brother (about 21 years separated their births). Thomas was close to his mother Jane and lived with her for quite a while, even after he married Nancy Jane WADE (they were merely teenagers when they got married). Thomas did not enlist in the CSA when his nephew William T. did. I think he wanted to stay home and protect his aged mother, their family, and property. I believe that Thomas was drafted in 1862 (Co. A, 40th), served for a while, but never saw combat, hired a substitute and came home, and then was drafted again in 1864. Both William T. and Thomas served with the State Militia to the end of the war. The Militia’s primary duty was to protect the home front, including tracking down deserters. I’ve wondered if William T. or Thomas had the unfortunate task of tracking down men that they knew and grew up with.

    In the 1870 census, Thomas and Nancy were enumerated separate of Jane, but Jane was not alone. An African-American woman named Jane COLLINS and her two children (assumed) were living with her. I thought it interesting that Jane COLLINS took on Jane HOSEY’s maiden name. Perhaps she admired the COLLINS family in that area (according to the Family Search Wiki, “Keep in mind that only about 15 percent of former slaves took their last slave owner’s surname. Some took the surname of people they admired, such as Lincoln or Washington, and some took a surname they had been using for many years without the knowledge of the slave owner.” – emphasis mine).

    Unfortunately, William HOSEY Sr., Jane’s husband, owned slaves (he had up to 16 at one time with approximate 1160 acres in 1850, but he died intestate in 1852 and Jane got 1/3 of his land as a widow’s dower in 1853).

    I haven’t completed my research of the HOSEY-COLLINS connections, but it’s hard to ignore that Jane lived near the COLLINS of “Free State of Jones” fame. The names of her sons, as far as I know, do not give away any clues as to her COLLINS ancestry: Hezekiah, Isaac, William, Richmond, Abner, Thomas, and Napoleon B. The daughters were Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Harriett, Emiline, Martha, Suzannah, and Jane J. The fortunate thing about having William Sr.’s probate records is that all of the names of his living children and the names of the married daughters’ husbands can be found on top of page 240.

    Thomas and Nancy WADE HOSEY went on to help charter a Primitive Baptist church and are buried near an old tree in the front lawn of the Palestine Primitive Baptist Church cemetery in Laurel, Jones County. They apparently lived a simple life and after Thomas’s death in 1903, Nancy applied for and eventually received a CSA widow’s pension for a few years prior to and until her death in 1931.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this family and the impact that the Civil War had on them, and especially on how Thomas’s Civil War career differed greatly from the rest of his family, taking under consideration that he was very close to his COLLINS mother.


    Surnames of interest Jones and Jasper counties: HOSEY, COLLINS, TEMPLE, COOPER, MOSS/MORSE (including Captain Benjamin F. MOSS), CROSBY, TERRELL, GRANTHAM, LANGSTON, WADE, EVANS, COX, MOORE, WINDHAM, SIMS, DUPRIEST, ANDERSON, among many others.


    • Hi Debi,

      Thank you for such an interesting, informative history of the William Hosey–Jane Collins family line! A couple of researcher correspondents of mine have tried to establish Jane’s connection, if there is one, to the Stacy Collins line of Jones County, Mississippi. I have also sent links of your Renegade South posts to a Hosey descendant of Laurel, MS, who is quite interested in the answer to that question.

      Palestine Primitive Baptist church is also the burial place of Newt Knight’s son, Thomas Jefferson Knight, and Newt’s wife, Serena Turner Knight.

      It’s been a while since I worked on this line, and I’m still trying to locate some of my notes and correspondence on Jane from a few years ago. Will keep looking. Meantime, I hope you’ll keep this site informed of any new materials or connections that you may discover!



      • Vikki,

        You mentioned the Knight connection for burials in the Palestine Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Laurel. Have you found a source for the dates and names of burials for this cemetery and/or records/minutes of the church meetings?

        The reason I’m asking:

        An interesting read is the book OF PRIMITIVE FAITH AND ORDER: A HISTORY OF THE MISSISSIPPI PRIMITIVE BAPTIST CHURCH, 1780-1974 by Gordon A. Cotton (Keith Press, Raymond, MS, 1974). He mentioned a rift in the church ca 1912 that involved Absolutism and that “Palestine had excluded a large number of the HOSEY family for refusing to accept the doctrine.” He continued, “Meanwhile, the excluded Hoseys had formed themselves into church order, claiming to be the legal Palestine Church.” I was interested in this history (which Cotton begins to tell on page 83), so I wrote to the author himself, but he couldn’t offer any more information (it had been over 20 years since he wrote the book).

        The HOSEY family appears to have continued to be tied closely with the Primitive Baptist community in the Jones and Jasper area. Several of Thomas and Nancy Jane WADE HOSEY’s children are also buried in the Palestine church cemetery, but in some cases, with only surname markers instead of individual headstones.

        Do you know if records exist for both the church and its cemetery?



      • Debi,

        I’m a descendant of a the SIMS from Jones County. I know at least one of them was a friend of Newton Knight.


    • Thank you, Debi, for the great information! I am a Hosey descendant living in Oklahoma. After watching the moving “Free State of Jones”, I happened across an article in Smithsonian about the movie and there was Hosey descendant interviewed and also was a part of the movie. I found this so intriguing! Now I am periodically looking up more Hosey information and the route from MS to AR and OK . Again, thanks for your post and the great information you provided.


      • Stan,

        Apologies for not getting back to your reply post sooner. You’re more than welcome to any HOSEY family history that I’ve gathered over the last few decades, but I have to admit that I’m just now getting into citing my sources and “officially” verifying the information that I’ve been fortunate enough to receive from other researchers over the last few decades. I did take some time off from genealogical research, but have gotten back into it, albeit part-time.

        Are you descended from Isaac “Ike” and Harriet DePRIEST [DUPRIEST] HOSEY, whose family moved to Oklahoma (Creek Indian Nation) in 1888? Ike was the son of Hezekiah Hosey, mentioned in the above article.

        Regards to my distant cuz,



  5. My paternal grandmother was a Sumrall. She was the daughter of Bonnie W. and Mildred Herrington. Bonnie (called Barney) is the son of John B. Sumrall and Dolly Prime. What’s their connection to the Sumralls that rode with Newt Knight?
    Also, I’m sure you are very busy, but I’be been trying to trace my paternal line but hit a snag. My g-grandpa was Jackson Smith (b. 1912-d. 1968). I think his father was Hamp Smith, but that is as far as I can get. It’s like the Smith family appeared from thin air. Almost no information is available. If this intrigues you. Please help.
    BTW, Jackson married a Smith named Mellie May. She is the granddaughter of John Smith who was a commissioner for the Choctaw people in an 1861 article of confederation between the CSA and the Five civilized tribes.


  6. Joseph: 1920 and 1930 census records for Wayne County, MS show “Jackson Smith” was a son of Hamp Smith. Going back to the 1900 census, Hamp A. Smith was enumerated in Jones County with wife “Molsa.” Next door was Daniel Y. Smith, listed as born 1857 (although age is given as 40) with his wife Miranda. Daniel and his wife reported being married for 26 years (= ca 1874) which suggested to me that Hamp could have been their son. There is also a Buford Smith living by Hamp. I did some checking and found a Social Security application for William George Smith that listed his parents as Daniel Y. Smith and Maranda E. Dement. From there, “Veloyce’s Family Tree” on Ancestry lists Daniel Y. Smith (1857-1923) as a son of George Perigan Smith (1827-1880) — with another son being “Nathan BUFORD Forrest Smith” (1865-1918). The same tree shows Hamp A. Smith and William George Smith as sons of Daniel. The tree does not show a spouse or children for Hamp.

    Ancestry family trees must always be approached with caution, but perhaps this is better than “thin air.” The creator of “Veloyce’s Family Tree” can be contacted via the tree on Ancestry.

    Ed Payne


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