In Civil War Jones County, Mississippi, deep in the so-called “solid” South, some 100 ordinary white farmers banded together to fight against the Confederate Army (a few of my distant kin were among them). But outlaw means different things to different people.
To pro-Confederate Mississippians, these were cowardly deserters.
Rather, I dug deep into historical records from NC, SC, GA, and MS, to uncover the cultural and class roots of those families who contributed the greatest number of participants in the Jones County uprising.
I emphasized how earlier historical events—for example, the American Revolution and the opening of the Southwestern frontier—shaped attitudes toward authority and government among these plain folks of the Old South.
The core members of the Knight band, however, viewed themselves as principled Unionists.
In my book, I struggled against writing a “Great Man” history; I did not want to portray Newt Knight as the “Rambo” of Jones County dissent.
More fascinating to me, and more truthful, is how the expansion of slavery created class divisions among families who were equally “Southern” in their roots and their culture.