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Editorial Reviews

The State of Jones is a work of rigorous historical scholarship melded into compelling popular nonfiction. The subject — the de-facto secession of Jones County, Mississippi from the Confederacy, under the leadership of Newton Knight — is heroic on a monumental scale. Knight is a tall, white, rough-hewn Mississippian of the yeoman class, as stoically imposing and resolute as you're likely to see in any history book and, indeed, in any work of fiction. Running in tandem with the story of secession from the Confederacy is Knight's alliance and ongoing relationship with Rachel, a slave woman. The couple produced many children, and, breaking an accepted Southern practice of the period, Knight acknowledges paternity.

Don Leslie has created a masterpiece of narration that lifts The State of Jones to an audio experience of the very highest caliber. Leslie has a deep voice and an exceptional range of expression; most notably, he narrates this book with emphatic passion. And he has a very interesting technique of constantly marking emphases: he puts strong stress on selected words, creating a powerful narrative flow. —David Chasey

Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author Sally Jenkins and distinguished Harvard professor John Stauffer mine a nearly forgotten piece of Civil War history and strike gold in this surprising account of the only Southern county to secede from the Confederacy.

The State of Jones is a true story about the South during the Civil War, the real South. Not the South that has been mythologized in novels and movies, but an authentic, hardscrabble place where poor men were forced to fight a rich man's war for slavery and cotton. In Jones County, Mississippi, a farmer named Newton Knight led his neighbors, white and black alike, in an insurrection against the Confederacy at the height of the Civil War. Knight's life story mirrors the little-known story of class struggle in the South and it shatters the image of the Confederacy as a unified front against the Union.

This riveting investigative account takes us inside the battle of Corinth, where thousands lost their lives over less than a quarter mile of land, and to the dreadful siege of Vicksburg, presenting a gritty picture of a war in which generals sacrificed thousands through their arrogance and ignorance. Off the battlefield, the Newton Knight story is rich in drama as well. He was a man with two loves: his wife, who was forced to flee her home simply to survive, and an ex-slave named Rachel, who, in effect, became his second wife. It was Rachel who cared for Knight during the war when he was hunted by the Confederates, and, later, when members of the Knight clan sought revenge for the disgrace he had brought upon the family name.

Working hand in hand with John Stauffer, distinguished chair and professor of the History of American Civilization at Harvard University, Sally Jenkins has made the leap from preeminent sportswriter to a historical writer endowed with the accuracy, drive, and passion of Doris Kearns Goodwin. The result is Civil War history at its finest.

©2009 John Stauffer and Sally Jenkins; (P)2009 Random House

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Jonnie
  • Panama City, FL, United States
  • 09-16-09

A must read for Civil War and history buffs

This was a very interesting story about Southern rebellion, Mississippi natives fighting against the Confederacy that is. The story is well written and interesting.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Confederate Insurrection-Rebellion against Rebels

This book recounts the fascinating story of the insurrection against the Confederate States of America led by Newton Knight and his band of Civil War guerillas residing in Jones County, Mississippi. The history leading up to the insurrection, like most such rebellions, is complex, but it relates in large part to a class conflict; Jones County was not a heavily agricultural county and many of its citizens said they didn't want to fight the plantation/slave owners' war for them. Knight was injured during the war and decided to go AWOL, came back to Jones County and caused hell for the Confederate forces.

This was quite a drama, including an illicit love affair between Newt Knight (married at the time it started) and Rachel Knight, a slave of his father, worthy of retelling through historical fiction, be it movie or novel. The two had children together and became common law husband and wife. The drama continued well into the 20th century with a 1948 miscegenation trial for Davis Knight, one of their male descendants who had married a white lady.

I recommend this account as well as "The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War" by Victoria E. Bynum.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Phillip
  • GRANT, AL, United States
  • 11-02-09

Great Story

This was a great story and not only did it tell a very interesting story about Jones County, MS, but also the nasty truth about the racism not only during the war, but also before and after.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very good

This is the first history book I have listened to. A very interesting look at reconstruction. I was more interested in the stories of the people than of the war. I had to skip the stories about the war. I am kind of amazed that I had never heard of a county that secedefrom the Confederation.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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peeling back a layer of history

The Civil War is often portrayed as rich white plantation owners versus slaves and the North, but not everyone in the South was rich. In one moment, this book is a way of looking at the Civil War through the story of a poor white Southerner. In another, it is a crushing story of racism.

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Great historical review

I enjoyed all aspects of the story. It is a very graphic history of Civil War activities.

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Must read!

Delves into the history, politics and psyche of the America's original sin that led to the Civil War and whose effects resound today. Excellent read.

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One of greatest book ever heard

The State of Jones I highly recommend Newton Knight change the Civil War History forever.

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Became Tiresome

Interesting story about Newton Knight, his family, the Confederacy, race and Democrats. It sheds light on reasons why the desertion rate was so high due to the disenfranchisement of soldiers and those they left behind. The continuation of atrocities after the war and how Democrats rested control shows the extent of the failure of reconstruction. The story could have ended with the death of NK, but labored on...my only complaint.

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Disappointed

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I really wanted to like this book as I love Civil War history. I found the story line to be moving from one insignificant area to another. After an hour or two I had yet to hear much about Jones. This book seems to be less about Jones and more about a large family who lived there.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I did like the narrator's voice. It was pleasant to listen to.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful