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Volume 25, No. 2 – February 2012


Volume 25, No. 2
Editor: Stephen L. Seftenberg

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 Assembly
President's Message

Please pay your dues at the meeting or mail a check to: Stephen Seftenberg, 2765 White Wing Lane, West Palm Beach, FL 33409. At the January meeting, we welcomed George Nimberg as our Vice President. All other officers were reelected unanimously. By not attending the January meeting you missed an opportunity to win a 25-volume set of The Civil War Times! If you have any Civil War related items such as books or videos, please bring them to the meeting for future monthly raffles. You need not limit your contributions to Civil War memorabilia – other books, pictures, CDs, DVDs, etc. are also welcome.

Gerridine La Rovere

The Program:

Frank O’Reilly: The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson

O'ReillyMr. O’Reilly has written numerous articles on the war in Virginia, and introductions to several books, including Phil Sheridan's memoirs, the History of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, and the 155th Pennsylvania's Under the Maltese Cross. He released a book on the Fredericksburg Campaign titled, Stonewall Jackson at Fredericksburg, in 1993, and contributed several pieces to James M. McPherson's Atlas of the Civil War; Civil War Regiments; Civil War, and America's Civil War publication. He has made appearances in several video documentaries, including Civil War Journal. His book, The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock, was released by LSU Press in December, 2002, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and has won the Capital District (Albany, NY) 2002 Book Award. His talk should be both interesting and entertaining!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Steve Seftenberg pinch hit for Chris Kolakowski. His topic was: "Newton Knight and the Free State of Jones – An Example That History Depends Upon Who Is Telling It!" His talk involved several vexing questions that still reverberate in Jones County, Mississippi. One question is: Was Jones County during the Civil War a "true bastion of the Confederacy" or was it "an independent nation" or was it nothing more than a "no-man’s land terrorized by renegades, outlaws and drunks?" Another question is: Was Newton Knight a patriot, a traitor or a "mere opportunist?" And finally, in his relationships with Blacks, was Knight an emancipator, a bigot, or simply a lover of Black women? We have a ripping story!

Let Professor Victoria E. Bynum, Professor of History, Texas State University, set the stage:

"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, they set up headquarters in the swamps of the Leaf River, where, legend has it, they declared the Free State of Jones. The story of the Jones County rebellion is well known among Mississippians, and debate over whether the county actually seceded from the state during the war has smoldered for more than a century. Adding further controversy to the legend is the story of Newt Knight's interracial romance with his wartime accomplice, Rachel, a slave. From their relationship there developed a mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended, and the ambiguous racial identity of their descendants confounded the rules of segregated Mississippi well into the twentieth."

KnightNewton Knight was born in 1837 near the Leaf River in Jones County, Mississippi. He married Serena Turner in 1858 and they homesteaded a hardscrabble farm in Jasper County. He worked hard and, according to his son, never drank or cursed, was a Primitive Baptist and doted on his children. He certainly never had any slaves and may not even have run across many Blacks -- in 1860, the population of Jones County was 3,323, of which 12% (no more than 398) were Black slaves. This was the lowest proportion of slaves to whites in the whole State of Mississippi.

After Abraham Lincoln was elected President, Mississippi seceded. Mississippi’s Ordinance of Secession overtly reflected the interests of the planters who controlled the state government: "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery." The farmers and herders in Jones County, however, had little use for a war to save slavery. Newton and many of his neighbors opposed secession and the war, but faced with the hard-boiled policy of the state government which offered a choice: conscription or death, he reluctantly enlisted in the fall of 1861. General Braxton Bragg granted him leave to tend to his dying father. On May 13, 1862, Newton and many of his friends and neighbors enlisted as a private in Company F of the Seventh Battalion, Mississippi infantry. They enlisted together to avoid being drafted to serve with strangers. After the war, Newton claimed he only agreed to serve as an orderly to care for the sick and wounded.

Shortly thereafter, the Confederate Congress passed the "Twenty-Negro Law," exempting planters with 20 or more slaves from fighting. Most of the wealthier merchants were also exempted from military service. Jasper Collins, a friend of Newton’s, declared the war to be "a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight" and deserted. Collins later named a son, "Ulysses Sherman Collins," in honor of his two favorite Union generals.

Newton, learning that the Confederate cavalry had seized his family’s horses, also deserted, embarking on a dangerous 200-mile journey dodging Confederate patrols. Think of scenes from the movie, Broke-Back Mountain. He was shocked at conditions in Jones and Jasper Counties – the farms were run-down and the crops had failed for lack of labor. The women and children were near starvation. Even worse, the Confederates foragers had imposed the hated "tax-in-kind" system under which they took what they wanted for use by the Confederate armies (and assuredly partly for their own use). They took meat from the smokehouses, they took horses, hogs, chickens and corn, they even took cloth the women needed to cloth themselves and their children.

KnightA Confederate colonel reported that corrupt tax officials had "done more to demoralize Jones County than the whole Yankee army." A planter warned Governor Pettus that "Men cannot be expected to fight for a government that permits their wives and children to starve." A 2011 comment on Renegade South by Jones County Judge Frank McKenzie is a modern echo of these ideas:

"I can’t help but think that the Confederate tax collectors had a lot to do with the desertion of Jones County men from the Confederate Army. It is my belief that the tax collectors knew the Union sympathizers and took all they had as punishment for their allegiance to the Union. This left women and children destitute. When word of this reached their men in the Confederate Army they did what was necessary to preserve and protect their families from starvation. These men were not renegades. They were fathers and husbands who cared for their families. They were called renegades because they put their family ahead of the lost cause of the Confederacy."

In May 1863 the Seventh Battalion was rushed to Vicksburg. Newton refused to go back and was arrested and tortured. The authorities took every thing he owned, leaving his wife and children totally destitute. One deserter found his wife dead of starvation. After the fall of Vicksburg, Newton and many of his neighbors deserted and returned to Jones County. Those who had surrendered to Grant at Vicksburg were paroled and could not be said to be deserters.

In August 1863, Confederate Major Amos McLemore, a native of Jones County, who had been a school teacher and a Methodist preacher, was dispatched with a fairly large party of cavalry to round up deserters, but was shot and killed instead. Most people believed that Newton pulled the trigger. Rabid believers in the "Lost Cause" even claimed Newton had shot McLemore in the back. Local lore has it that the house in which McLemore died is haunted by the ghosts of McLemore and Knight.

Newton organized a company of some 125 of his neighbors to defend their homes from the Confederates. It was called the "Knight Company" and Newton was elected its captain. Emulating Morgan’s raiders’ guerrilla tactics in the Revolutionary War, they would attack Confederate outposts and then disappear into the piney woods and swamps of the Leaf River to avoid capture. The women living in Jones County, both white and Black, supported the deserters. In particular, a Black woman named Rachel, supplied Newton with both food, information and outright help. They put down pepper to hinder the bloodhounds used by the Confederate trackers. Incidentally, you can purchase a bumper sticker celebrating the Knight Company and the Free State of Jones. It is pictured in Vikki’s Blog. The horn represents the horns used by the wives of the men hiding in the woods and swamps to warn them of the Confederate raiders. The bumper sticker, created by DeBoyd Knight a relative of Newton Knight, demonstrates how much the Free State of Jones remains a living legend among Mississippians today!

Not all the deserters hid in the Piney Woods. Ed Payne, a frequent contributor to Renegade South, states in a 2011 blog,

"Between November 1863 and November 1864, over 200 Mississippi men—nearly all from the state’s southern Piney Woods region—trekked to Louisiana and joined the Union 1st and 2nd New Orleans Infantry regiments. Reviewing the list of names, a question naturally emerges: what caused these men, many of them formerly in Confederate units, to join with the enemy? Descendants who acknowledge their ancestors’ service in the Union Army often cite financial motives, saying it was done purely for U.S. greenbacks. While it is true that Confederate currency had collapsed, subsistence farmers and herders of the Piney Woods did not share our modern dependency on money. Their lives were rooted in a self-sufficiency which we can scarcely comprehend. . . .Yeoman herders only needed the modest acreage which they and their families could till. Given the passions engendered by the war, if money played a role in their decision I think it was a minor one."

Devil's DenIn 1864, a United States flag was erected over the courthouse in Ellisville and General Leonidas Polk informed President Davis that Jones County was in "open rebellion" and the combatants were "proclaiming themselves ‘Southern Yankees.’" The Natchez Courier reported in its July 12, 1864, edition that Jones County had seceded from the Confederacy. U. S. General Sherman reported to Washington, D. C., that he had received a "declaration of independence" from a group of local citizens living in Jones County who opposed the Confederacy. If the "declaration" was in writing it has disappeared from the archives of the Union army.

Embarrassed, the Confederate government sent Confederate Colonel Robert Lowry and his battle-hardened troops to Jones County. Emulating Colonel Tarlton’s tactics in the Revolutionary War, Lowry used bloodhounds to flush Knight’s men out of the swamps and hung them from trees, leaving them as warnings to would-be deserters. According to Professor Bynum, Lowry tortured some women by hanging by their thumbs with their feet dangling inches from the ground until they disclosed the hiding places of their food and their men. He killed at least ten members of the Knight Company and lost almost that many to the guns of the Knight Company. In 2011, Crissa contributed the following story to Renegade South: "I was told that my deserter great-great-grandfather was hung from a tree on his farm, and that his wife and children were made to watch the whole thing. His wife had to cut him down after the soldiers left their home." Lowry never caught Newton and once he left the area, the Knight Company reemerged. Incidentally, Lowry would later serve two terms as Governor of Mississippi.

Ironies continue to abound: In late 1864, in one of its last official acts, the Confederate County Commissioners changed the name of Jones County to Davis County, in honor of Jeff Davis [and the county seat, Ellisville, to Leeville, in honor of Robert E. Lee! The Reconstruction government of the Couonty restored the pre-war names, which persist today.

Did the "Free State of Jones" actually secede? No official document survives but by 1865 the Confederate government of Jones County was AWOL. The Free State of Jones may not have had a Governor, a legislature or a judge, but it was the only game in town. By April 1865, Mississippi was occupied by the US army. Newton was commission as a Captain and put in charge of distributing food to the poor and starving children of Jones County. He also freed several Black children still held as slaves. On July 15, 1865, Newton sent a petition to Gov. William Sharkey, stating, "We Stood firm to the union when secession Swept as an avalanche over the state. For this cause alone we have been treated as savages instead of freeman by the rebel authorities." Newton joined the Republican Party and was appointed a deputy US Marshal for the Southern District to help maintain the fragile democracy installed under Reconstruction. After the war he applied for and apparently was awarded a soldier’s pension!

Reconstruction did not last: In the election of 1875, violence and fraud kept most Blacks and Republicans from voting and Democratic candidates committed to "white rule" were swept into office. White terrorists shot out the windows of the Governor’s Mansion, and Republican Governor Adelbert Ames pleaded for U. S. troops to keep order, but President Grant refused. Ames tried to organize a state militia and appointed Newton as Colonel of the First Regiment Infantry of Jones County, but to no avail. Ames lamented that Blacks "are to be returned to a condition of serfdom – an era of second slavery."

RachelNewton retreated to his farm in Jasper County and brought his wartime ally, Rachel, with him. Apparently, Rachel and Serena and their respective offspring lived in separate houses. Serena left sometime after 1880 and disappears from our tale. Did Newton ever marry Rachel, who bore him several children? Professor Bynum advises me that she does not think he did, even though Newton’s obituary in the Ellisville Progress lamented that he had "ruined his life and future by marrying a negro woman." Professor Bynum speculates that the word "marry" may have been used in a colloquial sense and may have even been used in reference to Rachel’s daughter, George Ann, by her former white master, with whom Newton was living at the time of his death and by whom he had several more children.

TombNewton faced real danger for living openly with a Black woman, but said, "There’s a lot of ways I’d ruther die than be scared to death." Newton died of natural causes in 1922, at the age of 85. Under the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, it was a crime for whites and blacks to be buried in the same cemetery. Even in death, Newton Knight was defiant – he left instructions to be buried on a high ridge overlooking his old homestead next to Rachel, who had died in 1889. The inscription of his tombstone read, "He Lived for Others." He left two lines of descendants, called respectively, the "White Knights" and the "Black Knights."]

GrandsonSince the Civil War, Newton Knight’s reputation has gone through several permutations. During Reconstruction, Northern journalists celebrated him as a pro-Union anti-slavery hero, defending his family and his neighbors against vicious Confederate forces that would kill or conscript him. Newton’s last surviving son, Thomas Jefferson Newton, who died in 1955, in 1942 wrote a book in which he proudly boasted that his father’s "army" fed the war widows and wives and their children, protected their farms from Confederate foragers and saved many residents of Jones County from destitution, calling him the "Robin Hood of the Piney Woods."

In the 1930's, the WPA recorded many stories of the Civil War. One, by Mrs. Ruby Huff, of Jones County, is called A Skirmish – Cavalry versus Deserters – Wherein Newt Knight’s men raid Lowrys Raiders. I quote: "The [Confederate] Cavalry had done much harm while encamped at the old mill in the way of robbing helpless widows of their last bit of "grub", chasing down and slaying innocent men who knew nothing of the Deserters, too, of unmercifully hanging and slaying the Deserters without so much as giving them a chance to return to service or make explanation. This enraged the Deserter Crew, so much that when the signal was given that Lowery’s bunch was approaching a ford, about fifty Deserters, who knew the lay of the land, [left their hiding places in the "Devil’s Den,"] slipped hurriedly through Jackie Knight’s home field, swam to Cohay and rushed into secret hiding places in and around the old Ford and when the tramp, tramp of the weary men in uniform [she says, incredibly, about a thousand strong], neared the banks and ventured into the water one brave Deserter hollered "Newt here they air," at which signal the Deserters shook the bushes . . . and Newt fired a few wild shots. The rookus was, so unexpected and so riotous the Rebel Cavalry did pretty much like ole’ sis’ cow in Uncle Remus’ tales -- "dey hist deir tales and away dey flewd."

After Reconstruction, came the "Lost Cause," defending the old system glorified in movies like The Birth of the Nation and Gone With the Wind, and countless romantic novels. This theme (as we shall see in a minute) lives on today.

In 1942, James Street, a Laurel, Mississippi, newspaperman, wrote a best selling novel, Tap Roots, touching on race-mixing by Newton Knight. He called his hero Hoab Dabney and placed him in a fictitious county, but everybody in and around Jones County knew whom he was writing about. According to Mr. Kelly’s blog, after the book came out, at least one family of Black Knights, who had been passing for white in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, moved to Memphis and a few White Knights changed their names to "McKnight" and moved to Texas. In 1948, "Tap Roots," a movie very loosely based on the novel, starring Susan Hayward, Van Heflin, Ward Bond and Boris Karloff, came out to terrible reviews. The best thing the New York Times reviewer said about the movie was that Miss Hayward was "generously endowed by nature and further enhanced by Technicolor." The movie depicted the male hero as an honorable man nobly fighting the Confederate cause and down-played the novel’s mixed-race theme.

Ethel Knight, a distant in-law of Newton Knight living in Jones County, was outraged by the book and movie and also by the national attention given to a five-year prison sentence handed to Davis Knight (a "Black Knight") for marrying a white woman. My tale abounds in irony: in 1949, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded Davis Knight’s conviction for miscegenation (marrying across the color line) on grounds that the prosecution had failed to prove that Knight had at least one-eighth African ancestry. The Court agreed with Davis’ aggressive lawyer, that the "one drop rule" could not be the determinant of a citizen’s legal status. Davis Knight was deemed legally white and therefore legally married! The result freed Davis but was not exactly a victory for equality of the races!

Ethel wrote and printed a book entitled The Echo of the Black Horn, in which she called Street’s book and the movie and the cause célèbre over Davis Knight’s conviction "wicked propaganda." Her book portrayed Newton as [and I quote] "a bushwhacking cold-blooded no-good deserter, a traitor to both his country and his race." Her book decried "racial mixing," lauded the "ideals" of the Confederacy and was dedicated "to the memory of the Noble Confederates who lived and died for Jones County."

ChainOne story from Ethel’s book starkly displays the mixed loyalties of the women of Jones County: Eliphar Childs Dykes Chain ("Elly Fair"), Ethel wrote, was likely the only Jones County woman to actually fight in the American Civil War. She "fought along beside her husband until he was killed," Ethel claimed. Yet, after fighting for the Confederacy, Ethel tells us that when "her husband was killed, Eliphar returned to live with relatives in Bear Creek, Jones County, and became an ally of the infamous anti-Confederate guerrilla band headed by "Captain" Newt Knight." Describing her as one of the "good women who aided the Deserters," Ethel explained that such women "were only helping themselves." Ethel believed that Newt Knight was guilty of treason and even murder, but that his women supporters were loving wives and mothers simply trying to keep body and soul together. And in early 1864, Ethel conceded, "people were looking upon Newt as a great benefactor of the community."

Wikipedia’s essay on Newton Knight and the Free State of Jones gives maximum space to a 1984 book by Rudy H. Leverett (a great-grandson of Major McLemore who you will remember was killed by the Knight Company while "engaged in the duty of capturing and returning the Jones County deserters to Confederate military duty"). Leverett’s book, The Legend of the Free State of Jones, threw cold water on the idea that there really had been a "civil war in the civil war," asserting instead that the residents of Jones County had repelled a Union raid at Rocky Creek and cordially received and aided Major Lowry’s troops. Leverett concluded that "while few of these people had any real stake in the great economic and political issues that precipitated the war and most of them opposed ... secession, the threat of coercion of the South by the North galvanized the loyalties of the Jones Countians to their region and their way of life. And for most of them, that loyalty never wavered." Leverett also repeats the canard that Newton Knight personally shot Major McLemore in the back. Wikipedia gives one sentence to Professor Bynum’s book.

Inevitably, the pendulum swung the other way: In 2009, Sally Jenkins (a Washington Post reporter) and John Stauffer (chair of African American Studies at Harvard University) published a book, The State of Jones: the Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy, adapted from a screenplay by Hollywood producer Gary Ross. Their book tells a far different story:

"For more than one hundred years, Newton Knight’s army of Southern Unionists have been seen as stains on the fabric of the white South and its reverence for the Lost Cause. This is because the history of Jones County explodes two central beliefs about the Confederacy: that white Southerners were united in the effort to form a new democratic nation; and that they accepted defeat nobly and heroically. Newton Knight and his comrades reveal a different, darker side of the Confederacy – a deeply divided nation, especially along class lines that more closely resembles a totalitarian state than a democracy. [italics added]

"From the perspective of Newton and Rachel Knight (and other Southern Unionists), the South won the war. Rebels did not surrender at Appomattox in any meaningful way. Instead they returned home, continued terrorizing their enemies, and thwarted Unionist efforts to remake society in the image of freedom and equality under law. By 1876, Northerners lost the will to fight and former rebels preserved an old order that kept blacks unfree for another one hundred years." Prof. Bynum reviewed the Jenkins-Stauffer book as more "historical fiction" than real history, citing the authors’ use of suspect sources, unsubstantiated conclusions, selective use of primary source material, not to mention, borrowing freely from her 2001 book. The following abridged excerpt from the Jenkins-Stauffer book, in my opinion, demonstrates that the book is closer to historical fiction than history:

"Newton Knight, a young sergeant in Company F of the 7th Mississippi Battalion, was neither free nor proud to be a Confederate soldier. Company F, made up of 69 men and four officers from Jones County, had been forcibly mustered into the ailing Confederate army . . . in May 1862. Four months later, only 20 men and two officers remained, Knight among them. Men were sick with yellow fever, dysentery, malaria, and influenza. Or they were just plain sick and tired of marching to and fro across the sweltering countryside and had deserted. It was a testament to Knight's sheer vigor that he was still on his feet."

We have only one photograph of Newton as a young adult (see above), but that did not deter Jenkins and Stauffer from painting a vivid word portrait of Newton that could pass for a casting call:

"Newton was a long-limbed, shaggily handsome 24 year-old accustomed to privation. His wavy black hair curled to his shoulders and was greased with sweat over a tall forehead. A rampant, untended mustache and beard fell below his chin into his shirt buttons. His large blue-gray eyes seemed preternaturally sighted and were spaced far apart. He had perpetually sunburned cheekbones and a large jaw clamped hard and slightly off center. He was rawboned and muscular from habitual work and a lifelong diet of sweet potatoes, cornbread, and whatever wild game he brought down with his shotgun. ‘ A big heavyset man, quick as a cat,’ a friend described him. ... Newton ... was an unwilling soldier. In April of 1862, the Confederacy, badly in need of reinforcements, had passed the first Conscription Act, drafting all men between the ages of 18 and 35. ‘They just come around with a squad of soldiers 'n took you,’ Newton remembered. On May 13, 1862, Newton and 22 of his closest relatives and friends, young men who hunted together, worshiped together, drank together (sic.), helped build one another's homes and even married one another's sisters, had reluctantly enrolled in Company F together, "rather than be conscripted and be put into companies where we didn't want to go," one man recalled."

"... the men of Company F debated the cause they had been drafted into. A few even openly expressed an unwillingness to fight: the outfit was unusually full of independent-minded men who resented conscription and felt no loyalty to the Confederacy, though they had to be careful saying so in front of officers. . . Newton's own convictions about the war stemmed from a combination of politics and faith. He was a Unionist in principle, and he had opposed the state's Ordinance of Secession. He also questioned the fundamental religiosity of slavery and the underlying basis of the war. In his worship he was a Baptist, and some evidence suggests he was a Primitive, one who tended to believe in the equality of souls, including those in bondage. As he read in his Bible, Acts 17:26: "And God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth."

It is very difficult to treat what you have just read as factual history, backed up by thorough research. In fact, one blog in Renegade South commented that when asked how long they had been in Jones County, Jenkins and Stauffer answered, "Two weeks."

Is there a "balanced academically sound" position on these conflicting accounts? Yes. Professor Bynum, whose ancestors came from Jones County, and who has spent the last 25 years researching and writing about both the "civil war within the civil war" and the social and racial history of the South following the end of the war, right up to today, is both balanced and sound. The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War was published in 2001 (and in 2007 optioned to Universal Pictures); and in 2010 The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies followed. Professor Bynum also maintains a fascinating web-site and an interactive blog: Renegade Steve said he and Professor Bynum have exchanged a number of e-mails on our subject and that she has been very helpful.


Professor Bynum’s introduction to her web-site starts:

"It’s often hard to imagine that many white southerners opposed secession and served only grudgingly in the Confederate Army, if at all. Yet many did. Throughout the South [including North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi], many put family, neighborhood, or religious and political beliefs ahead of secession. Many, in fact, hated the Confederacy with a passion, so much so that their backyards ran red with blood. Wherever they rose up, Confederates countered with deadly force. This sparked inner civil wars such as the one in Mississippi known as the Free State of Jones."

Professor Bynum’s introduction concludes:

"... many of the Piney Woods men who refused to serve the Confederacy believed themselves to be the South’s true patriots--and their women supported them. When one moves beyond issues of loyalty and motive, however, one sees Southern as well as Northern men caught in a brutal civil war that pitted them against one another, and which brought lasting destruction and poverty to the South."

As for my first question, was Jones County during the Civil War a "true bastion of the Confederacy," or was it "an independent nation," or was it nothing more than a "no-man’s land terrorized by renegades, outlaws and drunks," I think all three statements apply at one time or another: Certainly there were residents of Jones County who voluntarily fought, bled and died for the Confederacy, but there were at least as many who were unwilling to fight for a war they called a "rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight" and who resisted with force the ruthless efforts by the Confederate authorities to quell their "rebellion." Equally certainly, at times, Jones County was often a "no-man’s land." But for a time it also had some of the hallmarks of an independent state, even without a governor, legislature or courts. Certainly, toward the end of the war, the Knight Company was the only law in town.

The answer to my second question, is that Newton Knight was "a patriot of sorts, an opponent of slavery, a traitor from the Confederate point of view, and an opportunist" following the end of the war, going on the Union payroll to feed his neighbors and to try keep the peace, during Reconstruction.

As for the third question, was Newton Knight an emancipator, a bigot, a rapist, or a lover of Black women?--again the conclusion is mixed: he was anti-slavery from the start and did free some slave children just after the end of the war; he may be called a partial "bigot" (Professor Bynum notes that he isolated his family from the Black community in Jones County after the war and raised his children, as well as Rachel’s children by her former white master, as white). He clearly loved at least one Black woman and insisted upon being buried next to her. Professor Bynum, in her review of the Jenkins-Stauffer book, pointed to evidence of Newton’s "philandering" which led him to father four or more children by George Ann, Rachel’s daughter by her former white master! According to his son, Thomas, Newton loved all of his children. There is no evidence whatsoever that Newton ever raped anyone.

As a result of Newton’s fecundity, today in Jones County, Mississippi, and elsewhere, there exists two well-populated branches of his family tree, the "White Knights" and the "Black Knights." Apparently, in 2009, some members of both the White Knights and the Black Knights organized a "family reunion" in SoSo, Alabama. Steve finished his talk by expressing a wish to have attended and asked some pertinent questions!

After applause, a short question and answer session ended the evening.


Petticoat Gunboats

[With appreciation the following is freely adapted from the February 2012 "Courier" of the Civil War Round Table of Central Florida].

In November 1861, Port Royal, South Carolina was captured by the Union Navy, which met little resistance from two poorly equipped forts and three converted tugboats. When the women of New Orleans learned of this easy Union victory, they formed the first of many Gunboat Societies to raise money to build ironclad gunboats. Vessels paid for this way became jokingly referred to as "Petticoat Gunboats." Women formed "Gunboat Societies" in Norfolk, Richmond, Savannah, Mobile, Charleston and other cities along the Mississippi River, with the stated purpose being: "as the weaker sex and unable to actively join in the defense of our country, we will encourage the hearts and strengthen the hands of our husbands, brothers, fathers and friends by all means within our power." On any given day there were raffles, fairs, bazaars, etc. A group of Black musicians in Richmond, calling themselves the "Confederate Ethiopian Serenaders," gave the proceeds of their concerts to help pay for gunboats and munitions.

No sacrifice was too great. Mary Boykin Chestnut wrote in her diary: ". . . Gave the girls . . . a string of pearls to be raffled off at the Gunboat Fair. Mary Witherspoon has sent her silver tea pot. Our silver and gold, what are they? -- when we give up to the war our beloved." Two remarkable "gunboat quilts" were donated by Martha Jane Singleton Hatter (1815-1896) of Greensboro, Alabama, a widow with two sons in the Confederate Army. One quilt was sold and resold four times. This quilt is now on display in the "First White House of the Confederacy" in Montgomery, Alabama.


Last changed: 02/09/12

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