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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 listeners say about The State of Jones

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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Great read

This was a part of Civil War history I had never even heard of before the movie. I bought the book immediately after and loved it. It read like an interview and was fascinating from start to finish. It explains the true nature of why the South fought - slavery, plain and simple. The "lost cause" was created afterwards by southerners who wanted to perpetuate slavery and those ideals. This is a must read for all and should be used in all high schools.

1 person found this 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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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.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

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Exceptional

It's the most engaging audio book I've had so far. Don Leslie's performance is spectacular and the John and Sally's descriptions are so beautifully thick and viscous that mollasses reads on with envy. This needs to be a miniseries.