The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies

By Victoria E. Bynum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Guerrilla Wars:
Plain Folk Resistance to the Confederacy

From their states of Mississippi, Texas, and North Carolina, Newt Knight, Warren Collins, and Bill Owens led guerrilla bands that waged war on the Confederacy. By early 1864, the most infamous of the bands, headed by “Captain” Newt Knight, had crippled the government of Jones County, Mississippi. Thanks to historians, novelists, moviemakers, and a long-standing family feud, his “Free State of Jones” is the best known of the uprisings. All three of these Unionist uprisings, however, generated regional inner civil wars. Each challenged the Confederacy on its own turf and struggled to restore the power of the U.S. government.

As for the leaders themselves, they possessed forceful, even charismatic, personalities. Newt Knight, a tall, eagle-eyed, and remarkably self-possessed man with extensive family ties in the community, quickly rose to prominence among deserters after escaping his Confederate captors, who, early in 1863, tried to force him back into the Confederate Army. Later that same year, deserters from the Jones County area formally organized themselves, unanimously electing him as “captain” and naming their “company” after him.

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