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

By Victoria E. Bynum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Fighting a Losing Battle:
Newt Knight versus the U.S. Court of Claims, 1870–1900

In 1873, on the eve of Southern “Redemption,” former Mississippi congressman John F. H. Claiborne described defeated Confederates to U.S. attorney general George Henry Williams as “bitter and unforgiving” of Southern Unionists. Specifically, he objected to the government’s plan to publish a full digest of the names of Southern Unionists seeking compensation for support of the Union during the Civil War. Claiborne, who years earlier had written an essay extolling the simple virtues of life in rural Jones County, an infamous Unionist stronghold during the Civil War, now warned the attorney general that it was a mistake “to suppose that Southern men who were true to the national government during the war, now repose on a bed of roses, and that that period may now be safely disclosed.”1

The same year that Claiborne made his appeal, Newt Knight’s petition for compensation as a Unionist was buried in committee by the U.S. Congress. Like the vast majority of Southern Unionists, he would never receive a dime from the federal government.2 Still, Newt refused to give up. On the morning of 29 January 1895, twenty-five years after filing that first petition, he appeared at a hearing held in Ellisville, the Jones County seat, for

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