Book review reveals Mississippi during the Civil War

Published 11:34 pm Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beverly Creel will be reviewing “The State of Jones,” by Washington Post reporter Sally Jenkins and Harvard historian John Stauffer.

“The State of Jones” is a new look at the true story of Newton Knight, a tough and determined Confederate soldier from Mississippi who had had enough of the Civil War — a war he did not understand and did not want. It paints a vivid picture of the extreme difficulties the men endured — the trudging through the swamps and forests and countryside, the illnesses, the deaths. The authors detail the lives of these soldiers, their marches in the sweltering southern heat and bitter winter nights while also balancing the mindsets behind decisions made by those in power.

Described as “rawboned and muscular” from a life of working hard to survive, it was not so much life on the battleground and in the campsites that bothered Knight, but rather he was unhappy with being forced to fight a war he had nothing to do with starting.

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“The State of Jones” paints a picture of the true South, not the one of Tara and Rhett in Gone With the Wind fame, but a telling of an authentic, hardscrabble place where men were forced by the Conscription Act of 1862 to fight in the war. It is a story of one corner of Mississippi during the Civil War and the time that followed — of determination, fierce loyalty to family and friends, of faith — and what Knight resorted to in order to maintain the only way of life he knew.

It tells of how not wanting to be separated, Knight and 22 family members and friends reluctantly enrolled in the Confederacy in Company F rather than risk being drafted and sent into different Companies.

“The State of Jones” recounts Knight’s time in the Confederate Army and graphically details the dark time the men suffered through and of the Knight and his family and friends’ determination to not be a part of the war. It tells the story of not only how the war affected the men from this rural Mississippi county on the battlefield and in the camps, but of the hardships and struggles of the families they left behind.

The public is invited to the Brown Bag Book Review, Tuesday, November 17, at noon in the Cultural Room of the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library, 900 Goodyear Boulevard, Picayune. Bring a bagged or boxed lunch and enjoy an afternoon with friends as Creel talks about the book, the story, and the life and times of Southern dissenter, Newton Knight.