Newt Knight and the "Republic of Jones".

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This is an area of the war that has occupied quite a bit of my research. I had two different 3rd Great Grandfathers who partook in the last raid against Newt Knight and his band of disgruntled Confederate deserters, known other wise as the "Knight Company" of the "Republic of Jones". One of my 3rd Great Grandfathers served and fought with the 6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Company "E" (Lake Rebels) and the other with the 20th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Company "H" (Morton Pine Knots), both of Scott County, Mississippi. In addition to those two, I had two 3rd Great Granduncles with the 29th Alabama Infantry Regiment partake in the first raid into Jones County, Mississippi sent in to chase, apprehend and or kill Newt Knight and the "Knight Company".

Basically after Newt Knight was given furlough, while serving with the 7th Mississippi Infantry just after the second battle of Corinth, Ms. in Oct 1862, he went back home to North Jones County, Mississippi and deserted from the Confederate States Army, never intending to go back after his furlough was over. Some time after that he was gathered up and conscripted back into the Confederate States Army, sent to fight at Vicksburg, from which he deserted again and made his way back to Jones County. There he found quite a few former Confederate Soldiers who had also deserted their commands as well and were on the run to avoid being tracked down and conscripted back into the Army.

By early 1864 Newt Knight had claimed to have seceded from the Confederate States of America, calling he and his men "Southern Yankees" and had formed the "Republic of Jones" which according to his description was comprised of the territory located south of Enterprise, Ms. to include all of the territory southward to the Pascagoula swamp (Biloxi), and east of the Pearl River all the way to the Alabama State Line, which consisted of numerous southern Mississippi counties, to include; Jones, Perry, Jasper, Smith, Covington and Wayne counties among others.

By this time the "Republic of Jones" had its own President, Vice-President, Cabinet and an Army of several hundred men, banded together for mutual protection, general plunder, and to keep out the Confederate Army. They petitioned several times to General Sherman and the Federal Government to allow them to join their ranks, but were denied again and again. They stated to General Sherman that they were waging War on the Confederate States Army. Although claims had been made that they were as strong as 600 men, Newt Knight himself after the war stated that at no time did they have more than 125 men in the "Knight Company".

If a small force of Confederates were sent in to conscript them they would come together and wipe them out and if a large force was sent they would take to the Leaf River Swamp near Cedar Bend and could not be found. They would join their forces and commit raids into neighboring counties such as Jasper, Perry, Covington, Smith and Scott stealing corn from Confederate storage facilities and supply wagons and then taking the corn and other food taken back to Jones County to feed themselves as well as distribute what remained to the poorer people in and around Jones county. It was really when Newt Knight threatened the Confederate Forces at Enterprise that he caught the attention of Lt. General Leonidas Polk, who then had his headquarters at nearby Meridian. Knight had threatened to tear up the M&O Railroad which was a major supply route from Selma to Meridian and then south to Mobile. Knight and his company burned a few bridges in Wayne County along the M&O Railroad at Red Bluff, Winchester and Buccatuna which brought immediate action from General Polk.

Just as Sherman`s "Meridian Expedition" was being initiated as he was crossing the Big Black river just east of Vicksburg, Ms. on 3 Feb 1864, General Polk had already made his mind up that he was going to kill or capture Newt Knight and his Company of Confederate deserters and had already drawn up plans to accomplish this task. He issued orders on 7 Feb 1864 for Col. Henry Maury to take a raiding party of about 500 men up from Mobile and to go into Jones County, Mississippi and chase down Newt Knight and his men. But at this time Sherman had already made his way from Bolton Depot, through Clinton, to Jackson, then crossed the Pearl River and had begun to march for Brandon, Ms. moving much faster than Polk was comfortable with. So Polk sent orders back to Col. Henry Maury, and his 15th Confederate Cavalry in Brig. General James Cantey`s Brigade, to stop his raid and return to Mobile, because at this point Polk was not sure of where Sherman was actually going. He could have been going to Meridian and then from there on to Selma or he could have turned south at any moment and head for Mobile. If he were going to march on Mobile then Polk knew that Maury would be of better use there than in Jones County.

Below is a wire sent from General Polk on 7 Feb 1864 from his Headquarters at Meridian regarding Newt Knight and his concern then:

"Meridian, February 7, 1864.

General H. D. Maury (Mobile): In reflecting on the state of affairs I have deemed it advisable to place a body of cavalry, amounting to 200 men, at the disposal of Colonel Dillon for the purpose of scouting along the east of the line occupied by the enemy in East Louisiana, for the purpose of watching the enemy in case he should think of making a raid across Mississippi State to strike the Mobile and Ohio Rail road. He will put himself in communication with other companies lying in the intervening country for the same purpose. These are instructed in case of such a movement to follow it and apprise Colonel Henry Maury of its approach. It may be a work of supererogation, but it is well to use all proper precaution."

"I direct also that stockades shall be built at the important bridges where guards are stationed. I have also to suggest the expediency of your having an eye upon the steamers that ply in the river above Mobile as means of transporting troops down the Tombigbee from Demopolis, in case, against all calculation, the railroad should be broken up. These boats are numerous enough to do the work in ample time if availed of. I find the officer in charge of the guards at Red Bluff bridge, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, has been made uneasy by the messages he has received from those deserters, etc..., in Jones County, that they propose to burn the bridges on that road."

"I advise that Colonel Henry Maury proceed without delay on his expedition against them. He will find 500 men ample for his work; but he cannot do it on horseback; he must dismount his men, and artillery will be of no service. His best place to proceed to is Winchester, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad (6 miles north of Buckatunna), where I have ordered a half a dozen guides to be sent to meet him and report to him. These are men whose houses have been burned by them (Knight Company), and whose families have been insulted. They are soldiers from Enterprise and are anxious to join the expedition and make thorough work of it. If the Colonel cannot get forage in that country (as he cannot) for his horses he had better order it down to Winchester and press wagons to haul it out to where he will leave his horses. My orders are that as these men have become a lawless banditti, having murdered a conscripting officer and several of the peaceable citizens and plundered them, as well as burned their houses, they be dealt with in the most summary manner, and I entrust this duty to the Colonel because I believe he will accomplish it satisfactorily. No time should be lost.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. Polk,
Lieutenant- General."


So Polk ordered his infantry, artillery and cavalry to Morton, in Scott County, Mississippi to make a stand against Sherman`s Army. But once there on the night of 8 Feb 1864, Maj. General William W. Loring and Maj. General Samuel G. French under the command of Lt. General Polk decided that their defenses were too weak and that they would be too exposed to face Sherman there and decided to order their general retreat. With only the 3,500 man Cavalry of Maj. General Stephen D. Lee (Brig. General William Hicks Jackson, Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson, Brig. General William Wirt Adams and Col. Peter B. Starke) to oppose Sherman`s 23,500 man Army along the roads and through the small communities and towns, on 14 Feb 1864 Sherman arrived with his Army to Meridian and began his 6 days of destruction with-in 20 miles in every direction, tearing up the railroad and burning bridges and trestles.

At this time General Polk with his infantry and artillery, under Loring and French, had already retreated from Meridian to Demopolis, Alabama. Sherman left Meridian in total ruins on 20 Feb 1864 and with Polk believing that Sherman had inflicted his damage he could then set in motion his plans to go after Newt Knight and his company of Confederate deserters in Jones County again. Just as Maj. General William T. Sherman was concluding his "Meridian Expedition" and returning back to Vicksburg, Lt. General Leonidas B. Polk ordered Col. Henry Maury from Mobile, Alabama on another expedition into Mississippi to Jones and Perry Counties to finally deal with "Captain" Newton Knight and his band of disgruntled Confederate deserters known as the "Knight Company" of the "Republic of Jones". Newt Knight`s Company of Deserters were dealt with rather harshly with several of his band being hung and hundreds being captured and handed over to Lt. General Polk at Demopolis to be pressed back into Confederate service. The Confederate War Records verify that Col. Henry Maury did lead this Expedition from March 2-11, 1864. He mounted some of the men of the 29th Alabama Infantry Regiment who also served under Brig. General James Canty`s Brigade, and were sent from Mobile to Buckatunna, and Winchester, Ms. along the M&O Railroad in mid February to check a possible advance of Sherman`s Army from Meridian to Mobile. Maury was to use these mounted infantry to chase Knight down through the swamps if necessary on foot, knowing that it was likely that they would take to the bottom lands with such a large force coming after them, as they were known to have done in the past. It was roughly 112 miles from Mobile, Alabama to Ellisville, Jones, Mississippi which Col. Henry Maury and his Expedition had to ride one way.

On 21 Mar 1864, Lt. General Leonidas B. Polk sent a wire from his Headquarters at Demopolis, Alabama to President Jefferson Davis in Richmond letting him know that "Captain" Newton Knight and his band of disgruntled Confederate deserters were dealt with accordingly about a week prior. The following is what Lt. General Polk wrote to President Jefferson Davis regarding this matter:

"Headquarters, Demopolis, March 21, 1864.

His Excellency President Davis, Richmond: I have to report that Col. Henry Maury, under my orders, through the commander of the District of the Gulf (Mobile), made a Campaign against the deserters and traitors in Jones and Perry counties. He found them, as reported, in open rebellion, defiant at the outset, proclaiming themselves "Southern Yankees" and resolved to resist by force of arms all efforts to capture them. My orders were very stringent, and very summary measures were taken with such as were captured, and with marked benefit to many of the rest. Some escaped to the bottoms on the Pearl River, swearing they would return with Yankee re-enforcements; others were brought to reason and loyalty and have come in and surrenderd themselves. I have today dispatched another Expedition from this place to the counties of Smith and others lying on the Pearl River, to break up an organization which has been formed there and which has held three public meetings. I shall not stop until these outbreaks are suppressed and their authors punished, but it would be far better for the Government to dispose of its Military resources in such a way as to prevent them.

I remain respectfully your obediant servant,
L. Polk
Lt. General."


The other raid, of which he was informing the President about in his wire above, was the third and final raid to Jones County to stop Newt Knight and the remainder of his men once and for all. That being two days after the wire above was sent, on 23 Mar 1864 when that expedition was ordered by Lt. General Polk, again from Demopolis, Alabama. They entered into Scott and Smith Counties, Mississippi on 27 Mar 1864 and on the 28th hung two noted deserters and leaders of squads, viz: McNeil and Rain. This last raid was lead by Col. Robert Lowry (6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Mounted) and Col. William N. Brown (20th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Mounted), both of Loring`s Division. This expedition lasted from 27 Mar 1864 - 5 May 1864. 4 day`s later on 9 May 1864 these forces were ordered from Enterprise, Mississippi to Demopolis, Alabama and the following day of 10 May 1864, they left by Train for Resaca Georgia where they soon arrived and began fighting the Atlanta Campaign. During this last raid from 23 Mar 1864 - 5 May 1864 they had been over the country including Smith, Scott, Jasper, Jones and a part of Wayne, Perry, and Covington counties. They arrested and sent to Department Headquarters (Demopolis) about 500 men from the "Republic of Jones". Several hundred more eluded them or reported to their old commands (CSA) rather than be charged and sent under arrest. Newt Knight and his band of deserters were chased deep into the Leaf River Swamp at Cedar Bend where they remained hidden until a year later when the war was brought to a close.

"Captain" Newton Knight (1829 - 1922), in an interview he gave after the war was over stated that: "there was about 125 of us, never any more." This after rumors swelled that their ranks were close to 600 deserters which formed his "Knight Company" in Jones County, Mississippi soon after the fall of Vicksburg in 1863. Lt. General Polk initially responded to the actions of the Knight Company by sending a contingent under Colonel Henry Maury into the area in February and then in March 1864 (spoken of above). Col. Henry Maury reported that he had cleared the area, but noted the deserters had threatened to obtain "Yankee aid" and return. Shortly afterward, Polk dispatched a veteran contingent of soldiers led by Colonel Robert Lowry, a future governor who would later describe Knight as an "ignorant and uneducated man." Using hundreds of bloodhounds to track down guerillas in the swamps, Lowry rounded up and executed ten members of the Knight Company, including Newton's cousins, Benjamin Franklin Knight and Sil Coleman. Newton Knight, however, evaded capture. He later stated his company had unsuccessfully attempted to break through Confederate lines to join the Union Army.

Relevant dates of the 3 separate expeditions ordered and sent to apprehend or kill Newt Knight and his band of disgruntled deserters known as the "Republic of Jones" by Lt. General Polk: 7 Feb 1864, 2 - 11 Mar 1864 (Col. Henry Maury) and 23 Mar - 5 May 1864 (Col. Robert Lowry and Lt. Col. William N. Brown).

Photo below: "Captain" Newton Knight (1829 - 1922).

Capt. Newton Knight (1829 - 1922) Free State of Jones.jpg


Photo below: Col. Henry Maury, 15th Confederate Cavalry, Brig. General James Cantey`s Brigade.

Col. Henry Maury (Newton Knight, Jones County) CDV Mobile.jpg


Photo below: Col. Robert Lowry, 6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.

Col. Robert Lowry (1829 - 1910) 6th Mississippi Infantry Commander (1).jpg
 
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Substantiating accounts:

Letter to Gov. Charles Clark from a Confederate Officer in Jones County Comp. 20th Miss. Regt Knights Mills Jones Co Miss.
May 5, 1864:

Governor,

Presuming upon personal acquaintance and a high personal regard for you which has been often times manifested I have under taken to give you a short sketch of our operations in this part of the State, thinking it would be of some interest to you and perhaps may result in some benefit to this country.

As you are perhaps aware my Regt. composes part of a detachment of Lorings Division now engaged in arresting and returning deserters to their commands from South Miss. and East La. under the command of Col. Robt Lowry of the 6th Miss. We have been at this duty since the 23rd March and in that time have been over the country including Smith Co, Scott, Jasper, Jones and a part of Wayne, Perry, and Covington counties. We have arrested and sent to Department Hd about 500 men. Several hundred more have eluded us or reported to their commands rather than be charged and sent under arrest. Lt. Genl Polk estimates that 500 had reported to one Brigade alone and that this one success would no doubt do much towards determining and achieving the great object of the War (This information is a digression as my object is more particularly to refer to what is yet to do rather than boast of what has been done.)

From representations made to us we had expected to find [irregular] organizations among the disloyal for the purpose of resisting our authority. During the first five days operations we obtained a Flag from the family of one Hawkins who lives on the line of Smith and Scott Co, this led us to believe they had “Hung out the banners on the outer wall” and bitter stubborn resistance [scratch through] might be expected. In one or two cases this proved to be true. A small party under Lt. Evans of the 6th Miss was fired into and one man (Srgt Tillman) was killed, two others were wounded including Lt. Evans who we since have learned is dead. This was done by a single man, Daniel Reddoch who was afterwards caught and executed. Another party under Maj. Borden of the 6th Miss was ambushed and one man of my Regt. wounded, this was done by Capt. Newton Knight with 5 men two of which were captured and executed on the spot and Capt. Knight narrowly made his escape.

At Knights Mill Jones Co on the 16th four men two brothers named Ates and two others named Whitehead were found guilty of desertion and of armed resistance to the civil and military law and were sentenced to death by hanging before our military court.
Accordingly the four men were executed. This made ten who have forfeited their lives for treason. All of them were clearly guilty and some of them had been wounded in skirmishes with the cavalry which had been sent to this country at different times.
This for there has not been an example made from the citizens of the county, all have been soldiers and yet these men have often been mislead by some old and influential citizens perhaps their fathers or relatives who have encouraged and harbored them. We find great ignorance among them generally and many union ideas that seem to be [prompted] by by demogauges of the agrarian class.
Among the women there is great relunctancy to give up their husbands and brothers and the reason alleged is the fear of starvation and disinclination to labor in the fields. More than half, I might say nearly all the soldiers wives are reduced to this strait.


Provisions are now scarce particularly corn. We estimated the supply inadequate for the maintenance of the poorer classes and particularly the females of such as are in the army. If something could be done to ameliorate their condition by State authorities it would be productive of a much proved moral and political sentiment. It would [convince] them that we have a government, a fact which they are inclined to doubt. A few wagon loads of corn distributed through this country from the most convenient depot on the Mobile & O Rail Road would not only improve the political [tone] of the people here but would greatly encourage the men in the army from this quarter and in my opinion would greatly lessen desertion and the excuses to desert. Could not a train of wagons be organized for this purpose? I make the suggestion which [from me] I hope you will not take as [offensive] and will not pretend to argue the case to one of your [noble] administrative ability. Some complaint has been made of the commissioners whose duty it is to provide for the destitute families of soldiers. Of this I am not able to say except that very little seems to have been done by any one, and what was done is said to be for the families of particular favorites.

Another important item to which I would call the attention of your Excellancy to the importance of [supplying] women of this country with cotton and woolen cards. The females are decidely of the working part of the population and are greatly in want of these necessary articles. There seem to be considerable wool and enough cotton to keep them engaged, as they are now provided they manage to clothe the soldiers from this country and if encouraged would add greatly to the comfort of many more a good article of jeans sometimes sells for $6 per yard. I found today a widow of a soldier who was killed by the cavalry and having no cards she had taken to working [horn] combs. A specimen I send to you which for workmanship and ingenuity compares favorably with the “yankee.” The husband of this woman having been killed by our cavalry perhaps by mistake call to mind the many outrages that have been committed by several small commands of cavalry sent into this country on the duty now assigned to our command. Such at least are the many complaints we hear every day.

In several circumstances improper [shirking], robbing, stealing [which] the houses, cutting the cloth from looms, taking horses [Et C]. These acts have done more to demoralize Jones County than the whole Yankee army. We have been particular to try and have our [_______te] conduct themselves properly and all have endeavored to be civil and kind to citizens Col. Lowry has done himself great credit in the management of the expedition – By alluding to the acts of the cavalry which has been on duty here. I do not mean to hold all the cavalry responsible for the [letter ends]."

Another account,

"Mr. Editor:

I see by your evening issue of the 24 inst., that, under “Mississippi Items,” you say that Capt. Newton Knight, of Jones, had sent in a flag of truce, &c., to Col. Lewis. This is not so. I am just from Jones county.

The expedition consisted of the 6th and 20th Mississippi Regiments and my cavalry company, the whole under command of Col. R. Lowry, of the 6th Mississippi Regiment. We entered Smith county on the 27th of March, and on the 28th hung two noted deserters and leaders of squads, viz: McNeil and Rain. These were all the men who were hung in Smith. There was a Union flag, or rather a ludicrous representation of the United States flag, captured at the home of one Hawkins (of Smith county on the border of Scott County); it was concealed on the person of Mrs. Hawkins, who would not deliver it until after much persuasion and a few threats.

The history of the flag is as follows: After Gen. Polk’s army had retired from the State and the enemy were at Meridian (14 Feb 1864), it was thought that the State had gone up, and that our forces would not again occupy it, at least not soon. So old Hawkins called a meeting of the citizens of his part of the county (Smith and Scott) and of the deserters who had straggled during the retreat of our forces. He then made a speech to the assembly and urged them to stay at their homes and go to work, that they would not be molested, and told them that as the mill where he lived was all the property he had, that he had made a Union flag to fly on it as the rumor was they were burning all mills. The worse feature was, that several good citizens were compelled by the deserters to attend the meeting. Old Hawkins is in custody, and will remain so until his case can be property disposed of. While in Smith several hundred deserters were arrested and sent forward.

On the night of the 12th of April a party of infantry, under a Lieutenant, out on a scout, were being rested on the piazza of Mr. D. McLeod’s house, in Covington county; after dark a shot gun was discharged in their midst, killing a sergeant and wounding the Lieutenant and a corporal. The perpetrator of the act was soon discovered.

On the 15th we moved into Jones. That day the man who fired into the party on the piazza was arrested, after being wounded and run down by dogs, and promptly executed. His name was D. Reddock. A young man by the name of Gregg was with him, was shot while running, and soon died from the wound. The same day another party of our boys was ambushed near Newton Knight’s home by deserters (Knight Mills), only wounding one man, not seriously, however. Our boys promptly charged the ambush and captured two, Ben Knight and a lad, Silman Coleman, and shooting one other. Knight and Coleman were promptly executed. The same day four others were caught and brought in, they were put before a court martial, and on their own confession of resisting with arms military arrests, were on (sic) the morning of the 16th nit. (sic), executed by hanging.

Many men said to belong to Knight’s company have reported. We pursued a vigorous policy, but the condition of the community required it. Terror was struck among them, and they came flocking in asking for mercy. Just about this time General Polk’s proclamation of pardon reached us. We relaxed not, however, the vigor of our campaign, and with the proclamation and our activity we have succeeded in getting all but five of the deserters of Jones county.

Newton Knight, it is thought, will report if he can be found and see the proclamation by his friends and relatives, who are hunting him. Sim Collins and boys have reported. There never has existed any organizations of men in Jones. The deserters who were prominent in their neighborhoods led their squads, not consisting generally of more than six or seven men. Jones is no worse than her surroundings.
The people are very poor and very ignorant, and the enemy traversing the State without opposition induced to believe the county had gone up. So by the advice of some older citizens they were induced to believe they were the strong party, so they would defy the Government and stay at home. We have changed the status of things in Jones, Perry and Smith, and expect to re-establish in all South Mississippi a healthy loyalty to the Powers that be. If you see proper to extract from the above you can do so.


Respectfully,"
 
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It was both interesting and disappointing to watch the movie, the "Free State of Jones", when it came out a few years back, which I felt was a very bad representation of the military actions which actually occurred according to the "OR". They took many liberties with the script to make the movie much more appealing than it actually was, which is typical with Hollywood. However they did present his personal story fairly well and what his personal beliefs were.

At this time during the ACW Jones County and numerous counties adjacent to it was a haven for southern deserters and Union loyalists who were running away from the war and hiding in the numerous swamps and bottom lands found throughout southern Mississippi in an effort to keep from being conscripted and pressed into confederate service. Many men simply joined Knight for looting, adventure and killing. Others joined in protest of the constant plundering and foraging of their family homes by the Confederate cavalry, unfair conscription practices, loyalty to the union, those who were fighting being made angry because of the Confederate "Twenty Negro Law", because of numerous taxes being levied on the local population by the confederacy, unfair food confiscation and the seizing of corn, and individualism.

The band of men were often assisting each other and it was common for bands of 40 or 50 of them to come together and go to one of the local farms and assist the owner as they would stack their arms, set picket guards and proceed to mend fences, barns, corn cribs, smoke houses and other things that needed to be done in conducting the business of running a farm. "Knights Company" was both feared and respected in Jones county, Mississippi and Polk and other Confederates saw them as a threat to the Confederacy, going all the way up the rank structure to President Jefferson Davis himself, as he understood the power of rebellion and dissent very well.

Even though Knight`s band of disgruntled Confederate deserters seemed to be nice towards their neighbors they were anything but regarding Confederate forces found in the vicinity. Major Ward of Enterprise and his Garrison was a constant target for Knight and his men. They burned bridges, sank ferry`s, and ambushed Confederates as they moved along some of the local roads as they would raid supply trains. Confederate tax-collectors William Fairchild and Nat Kilgore were killed by Newt Knight and his Company when they came to Ellisville to collect taxes from the local population. Another Tax collector was ran out of the county never to be heard of again. Any of their neighbors whom were recognized to be loyal Confederate Citizens in Jones County or in the area which Newt Knight considered to be with-in the boundaries of the "Republic of Jones" would be harassed for it, and if they refused to give supplies to Knight and his band of deserters they were often shot at their homes and killed. A Confederate Officer was shot in the head while sitting at the dining table at his headquarters at Enterprise, Ms. When things got hot and large numbers of Confederate forces would be sent to chase down Knight and his men, they would often take to the Leaf River Swamp near Cedar Bend and would flee all the way through the swamps to neighboring Covington County where they were usually welcome and well received. Other times while using guerilla, hit and run tactics to raid Confederate supply trains they would run to their cave which they named "the Devils Den", located deep in the Leaf River Swamp. Confederates who pursued them in the swamps would not be able to follow mounted and to reach the hideout they would be required to dismount and take pursuit on foot which left them extremely vulnerable to Knight and his deserters. The place was so well hidden that Knight and his men was only attacked there once, and that was during the last raid from 27 March to 5 May 1864 led by Col. Robert Lowry (6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment) and Lt. Col. William N. Brown (20th Mississippi Infantry Regiment).
 
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It was both interesting and disappointing to watch the movie, the "Free State of Jones", when it came out a few years back, which I felt was a very bad representation of the military actions which actually occurred according to the "OR". They took many liberties with the script to make the movie much more appealing than it actually was, which is typical with Hollywood. However they did present his personal story fairly well and what his personal beliefs were.

At this time during the ACW Jones County and numerous counties adjacent to it was a haven for southern deserters and Union loyalists who were running away from the war and hiding in the numerous swamps and bottom lands found throughout southern Mississippi in an effort to keep from being conscripted and pressed into confederate service. Many men simply joined Knight for looting, adventure and killing. Others joined in protest of the constant plundering and foraging of their family homes by the Confederate cavalry, unfair conscription practices, loyalty to the union, those who were fighting being made angry because of the Confederate "Twenty Negro Law", because of numerous taxes being levied on the local population by the confederacy, unfair food confiscation and the seizing of corn, and individualism.

The band of men were often assisting each other and it was common for bands of 40 or 50 of them to come together and go to one of the local farms and assist the owner as they would stack their arms, set picket guards and proceed to mend fences, barns, corn cribs, smoke houses and other things that needed to be done in conducting the business of running a farm. "Knights Company" was both feared and respected in Jones county, Mississippi and Polk and other Confederates saw them as a threat to the Confederacy, going all the way up the rank structure to President Jefferson Davis himself, as he understood the power of rebellion and dissent very well.

Even though Knight`s band of disgruntled Confederate deserters seemed to be nice towards their neighbors they were anything but regarding Confederate forces found in the vicinity. Major Ward of Enterprise and his Garrison was a constant target for Knight and his men. They burned bridges, sank ferry`s, and ambushed Confederates as they moved along some of the local roads as they would raid supply trains. Confederate tax-collectors William Fairchild and Nat Kilgore were killed by Newt Knight and his Company when they came to Ellisville to collect taxes from the local population. Another Tax collector was ran out of the county never to be heard of again. Any of their neighbors whom were recognized to be loyal Confederate Citizens in Jones County or in the area which Newt Knight considered to be with-in the boundaries of the "Republic of Jones" would be harassed for it, and if they refused to give supplies to Knight and his band of deserters they were often shot at their homes and killed. A Confederate Officer was shot in the head while sitting at the dining table at his headquarters at Enterprise, Ms. When things got hot and large numbers of Confederate forces would be sent to chase down Knight and his men, they would often take to the Leaf River Swamp near Cedar Bend and would flee all the way through the swamps to neighboring Covington County where they were usually welcome and well received. Other times while using guerilla, hit and run tactics to raid Confederate supply trains they would run to their cave which they named "the Devils Den", located deep in the Leaf River Swamp. Confederates who pursued them in the swamps would not be able to follow mounted and to reach the hideout they would be required to dismount and take pursuit on foot which left them extremely vulnerable to Knight and his deserters. The place was so well hidden that Knight and his men was only attacked there once, and that was during the last raid from 27 March to 5 May 1864 led by Col. Robert Lowry (6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment) and Lt. Col. William N. Brown (20th Mississippi Infantry Regiment).

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-free-state-of-jones.123979/page-11#post-1350416
 
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Below is another account, this one given by Captain William C. Thompson of the 6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Company "H", who took part in the raid into Jones County against Newt Knight and his band of Confederate deserters from 27 Mar 1864 - 5 May 1864. His account gives a different view of the raid, one much more sympathetic with Knight and his men:

"Our Regimental commander, Col. Lowry received orders to take the 6th and 20th Mississippi Regiments into Smith, Covington and Jones Counties to gather stragglers, deserters, and men who were objecting to military service and send them to the battle front. This was`nt going to be easy, and we were troubled over the prospect.

We reached the outskirts of Raleigh in Smith County, Mississippi on a Sunday (27 Mar 1864). Our 6th Regiment was deployed around a church where Harvey F. Johnson, a noted lawyer and preacher, was holding a religious service. We formed a net and captured quite a few stragglers when the church services were over.

Afterwards we moved on into the town, set up camp and stayed several weeks (until 14 Apr 1864). Patrols were regularly sent out through Smith County and Covington County. During this period I was able to visit my home several times.

The situation was quite serious in Jones County, as a large number of men had banded together in open rebellion against the Confederacy, proclaiming themselves "Southern Yankees." They were resolved to resist by force of arms any attempts to capture them. Near Ellisville, Jones County, they had formed a government and called their country "The Free State of Jones." with Ellisville as their capital. Newt Knight had organized a large band of followers and declared war against the Confederate States of America. They had many hideouts in the swamps of Leaf River.

We moved near Knight`s Mill, where we were joined by a portion of our command which had captured four young men, two named Whitehead and two named Yates. They had shot into our troops, killing some of our boys and wounding others. A drumhead court-martial was ordered by Colonel Lowry . This court convicted the four men and sentenced them to be hanged immediately.

In front of a military formation and the townspeople the four young men, with their hands tied behind them, were placed in a wagon bed. Ropes were tied around their necks and fastened to the limb of a large oak tree. After they had been given time for last prayers the wagon was driven from under them. This was one of the most revolting sights I had ever witnessed. And I am glad that I had no active part in it. I had no part in the later hanging of nine others, for which I was also thankful.

Colonel Maury (after the first raid) claimed he had dispersed the deserters. Only 20 still survived in the swamps, he wrote, and they would be hunted down with 44 bloodhounds he had brought with him, However the deserters made short work of 42 of the dogs. Red pepper and polecat musk destroyed the trail. While meat liberally sprinkled with poison and ground glass killed many of the dogs.

Colonel Maury had left affairs in the hands of Colonel Robert Lowry, who used severe measures to learn the whereabouts of the remaining deserters. Young boys and old men were taken to "bull pens" for interrogation and threatened with hanging if they refused to tell where the deserters were hiding. Twelve year-old W. B. Temples was strung up 3 times before being released as bullets whizzed over his head. Tapley Bynum, a deserter who was caught visiting his wife and new-born baby, was shot in front of his family. Lowry caught Ben Knight, Capt. Newt Knight`s cousin and an officer in the Confederate Army on furlough. Thinking that he had captured the leader of the deserters, Lowry hanged Ben Knight and threw his body on Newt`s front step. Newt`s wife told the Confederates of their error and they found furlough papers in the dead man`s pocket. The deserters` neighbors suffered from (Confederate) Cavalry raids which caused many to flee to the swamps and join the deserters in fighting against the hated Lowry. "Lieutenant" Jasper Collins (one of the Confederate deserters of Newt Knights Company) said he would get out of bed on the coldest night there ever was just to kill Lowry if he were passing through the country.

He almost got his chance. In revenge for the slaying of his cousin (Ben Knight), Capt. (Newt) Knight ordered one of Lowry`s 50-man cavalry patrols ambushed. During that fight 15 Confederates were killed at Rocky Creek on April 26, 1864."

After the above mentioned battle of Rocky Creek was fought, other battles soon ensued between Col Robert Lowry (6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment) and Lt. Col. William N. Brown (20th Mississippi Infantry Regiment) against the "Knight Company", those being the battles of Big Creek Church, Reddock`s Ferry, Cohay Creek, Hebron Lodge and Knight`s Mill at the Piney Woods.

Photo below: Captain William C. Thompson, 6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Company "H".

Capt. William C. Thompson (6th Mississippi Infantry Regiment (Knight Raid - Mar - May 1864).jpg
 
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You are spot on Mark Roth, the Newt Knight affair was a Confederate attempt to suppress the rebellion with-in a rebellion if you will. The more interesting story was Newt Knight`s cousin, Nathaniel Knight who was conscripted into the 15th Battalion Alabama Partisan Rangers in Jones County on 1 Sep 1862, just a month or so before Newt Knight returned home on furlough from the 2nd battle of Corinth and deserted. If Newt Knight was the traitor to the Confederate cause from Jones County then his cousin Nathaniel Knight was the compatriot to the Confederate cause from Jones County. Nathaniel Knight went on to serve with the 56th Alabama Partisan Rangers and along with my 3rd Great Grandfather`s Regiment, the 2nd Alabama Cavalry, both in Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, were part of President Jefferson Davis` Personal Escort from North Carolina to Washington, Georgia from 12 Apr 1865 - 5 May 1865 when they were disbanded just outside of Washington, Georgia as President Davis left with a much smaller 75 man escort to try and make it safely to General Kirby Smith in the trans-Mississippi Department and from there move on to Texas. But as fate would have it, 5 days later on 10 May 1865 President Jefferson Davis was captured by Lt. Col. Benjamin D. Pritchard (4th Michigan Cavalry) at Irwinville, Georgia and the war was brought to a close.
 
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leftyhunter

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Substantiating accounts:

Letter to Gov. Charles Clark from a Confederate Officer in Jones County Comp. 20th Miss. Regt Knights Mills Jones Co Miss.
May 5, 1864:

Governor,

Presuming upon personal acquaintance and a high personal regard for you which has been often times manifested I have under taken to give you a short sketch of our operations in this part of the State, thinking it would be of some interest to you and perhaps may result in some benefit to this country.

As you are perhaps aware my Regt. composes part of a detachment of Lorings Division now engaged in arresting and returning deserters to their commands from South Miss. and East La. under the command of Col. Robt Lowry of the 6th Miss. We have been at this duty since the 23rd March and in that time have been over the country including Smith Co, Scott, Jasper, Jones and a part of Wayne, Perry, and Covington counties. We have arrested and sent to Department Hd about 500 men. Several hundred more have eluded us or reported to their commands rather than be charged and sent under arrest. Lt. Genl Polk estimates that 500 had reported to one Brigade alone and that this one success would no doubt do much towards determining and achieving the great object of the War (This information is a digression as my object is more particularly to refer to what is yet to do rather than boast of what has been done.)

From representations made to us we had expected to find [irregular] organizations among the disloyal for the purpose of resisting our authority. During the first five days operations we obtained a Flag from the family of one Hawkins who lives on the line of Smith and Scott Co, this led us to believe they had “Hung out the banners on the outer wall” and bitter stubborn resistance [scratch through] might be expected. In one or two cases this proved to be true. A small party under Lt. Evans of the 6th Miss was fired into and one man (Srgt Tillman) was killed, two others were wounded including Lt. Evans who we since have learned is dead. This was done by a single man, Daniel Reddoch who was afterwards caught and executed. Another party under Maj. Borden of the 6th Miss was ambushed and one man of my Regt. wounded, this was done by Capt. Newton Knight with 5 men two of which were captured and executed on the spot and Capt. Knight narrowly made his escape.

At Knights Mill Jones Co on the 16th four men two brothers named Ates and two others named Whitehead were found guilty of desertion and of armed resistance to the civil and military law and were sentenced to death by hanging before our military court.
Accordingly the four men were executed. This made ten who have forfeited their lives for treason. All of them were clearly guilty and some of them had been wounded in skirmishes with the cavalry which had been sent to this country at different times.
This for there has not been an example made from the citizens of the county, all have been soldiers and yet these men have often been mislead by some old and influential citizens perhaps their fathers or relatives who have encouraged and harbored them. We find great ignorance among them generally and many union ideas that seem to be [prompted] by by demogauges of the agrarian class.
Among the women there is great relunctancy to give up their husbands and brothers and the reason alleged is the fear of starvation and disinclination to labor in the fields. More than half, I might say nearly all the soldiers wives are reduced to this strait.


Provisions are now scarce particularly corn. We estimated the supply inadequate for the maintenance of the poorer classes and particularly the females of such as are in the army. If something could be done to ameliorate their condition by State authorities it would be productive of a much proved moral and political sentiment. It would [convince] them that we have a government, a fact which they are inclined to doubt. A few wagon loads of corn distributed through this country from the most convenient depot on the Mobile & O Rail Road would not only improve the political [tone] of the people here but would greatly encourage the men in the army from this quarter and in my opinion would greatly lessen desertion and the excuses to desert. Could not a train of wagons be organized for this purpose? I make the suggestion which [from me] I hope you will not take as [offensive] and will not pretend to argue the case to one of your [noble] administrative ability. Some complaint has been made of the commissioners whose duty it is to provide for the destitute families of soldiers. Of this I am not able to say except that very little seems to have been done by any one, and what was done is said to be for the families of particular favorites.

Another important item to which I would call the attention of your Excellancy to the importance of [supplying] women of this country with cotton and woolen cards. The females are decidely of the working part of the population and are greatly in want of these necessary articles. There seem to be considerable wool and enough cotton to keep them engaged, as they are now provided they manage to clothe the soldiers from this country and if encouraged would add greatly to the comfort of many more a good article of jeans sometimes sells for $6 per yard. I found today a widow of a soldier who was killed by the cavalry and having no cards she had taken to working [horn] combs. A specimen I send to you which for workmanship and ingenuity compares favorably with the “yankee.” The husband of this woman having been killed by our cavalry perhaps by mistake call to mind the many outrages that have been committed by several small commands of cavalry sent into this country on the duty now assigned to our command. Such at least are the many complaints we hear every day.

In several circumstances improper [shirking], robbing, stealing [which] the houses, cutting the cloth from looms, taking horses [Et C]. These acts have done more to demoralize Jones County than the whole Yankee army. We have been particular to try and have our [_______te] conduct themselves properly and all have endeavored to be civil and kind to citizens Col. Lowry has done himself great credit in the management of the expedition – By alluding to the acts of the cavalry which has been on duty here. I do not mean to hold all the cavalry responsible for the [letter ends]."

Another account,

"Mr. Editor:

I see by your evening issue of the 24 inst., that, under “Mississippi Items,” you say that Capt. Newton Knight, of Jones, had sent in a flag of truce, &c., to Col. Lewis. This is not so. I am just from Jones county.

The expedition consisted of the 6th and 20th Mississippi Regiments and my cavalry company, the whole under command of Col. R. Lowry, of the 6th Mississippi Regiment. We entered Smith county on the 27th of March, and on the 28th hung two noted deserters and leaders of squads, viz: McNeil and Rain. These were all the men who were hung in Smith. There was a Union flag, or rather a ludicrous representation of the United States flag, captured at the home of one Hawkins (of Smith county on the border of Scott County); it was concealed on the person of Mrs. Hawkins, who would not deliver it until after much persuasion and a few threats.

The history of the flag is as follows: After Gen. Polk’s army had retired from the State and the enemy were at Meridian (14 Feb 1864), it was thought that the State had gone up, and that our forces would not again occupy it, at least not soon. So old Hawkins called a meeting of the citizens of his part of the county (Smith and Scott) and of the deserters who had straggled during the retreat of our forces. He then made a speech to the assembly and urged them to stay at their homes and go to work, that they would not be molested, and told them that as the mill where he lived was all the property he had, that he had made a Union flag to fly on it as the rumor was they were burning all mills. The worse feature was, that several good citizens were compelled by the deserters to attend the meeting. Old Hawkins is in custody, and will remain so until his case can be property disposed of. While in Smith several hundred deserters were arrested and sent forward.

On the night of the 12th of April a party of infantry, under a Lieutenant, out on a scout, were being rested on the piazza of Mr. D. McLeod’s house, in Covington county; after dark a shot gun was discharged in their midst, killing a sergeant and wounding the Lieutenant and a corporal. The perpetrator of the act was soon discovered.

On the 15th we moved into Jones. That day the man who fired into the party on the piazza was arrested, after being wounded and run down by dogs, and promptly executed. His name was D. Reddock. A young man by the name of Gregg was with him, was shot while running, and soon died from the wound. The same day another party of our boys was ambushed near Newton Knight’s home by deserters (Knight Mills), only wounding one man, not seriously, however. Our boys promptly charged the ambush and captured two, Ben Knight and a lad, Silman Coleman, and shooting one other. Knight and Coleman were promptly executed. The same day four others were caught and brought in, they were put before a court martial, and on their own confession of resisting with arms military arrests, were on (sic) the morning of the 16th nit. (sic), executed by hanging.

Many men said to belong to Knight’s company have reported. We pursued a vigorous policy, but the condition of the community required it. Terror was struck among them, and they came flocking in asking for mercy. Just about this time General Polk’s proclamation of pardon reached us. We relaxed not, however, the vigor of our campaign, and with the proclamation and our activity we have succeeded in getting all but five of the deserters of Jones county.

Newton Knight, it is thought, will report if he can be found and see the proclamation by his friends and relatives, who are hunting him. Sim Collins and boys have reported. There never has existed any organizations of men in Jones. The deserters who were prominent in their neighborhoods led their squads, not consisting generally of more than six or seven men. Jones is no worse than her surroundings.
The people are very poor and very ignorant, and the enemy traversing the State without opposition induced to believe the county had gone up. So by the advice of some older citizens they were induced to believe they were the strong party, so they would defy the Government and stay at home. We have changed the status of things in Jones, Perry and Smith, and expect to re-establish in all South Mississippi a healthy loyalty to the Powers that be. If you see proper to extract from the above you can do so.


Respectfully,"
The above letter actually outlines a policy that would be enacted in the immediate post WW2 era that goes by such names as " carrot and stick" civic action" hearts and minds " " soft counterinsurgency". The author discussed giving food and work to the disgruntled local population. Such basic ideas were enacted by US Airforce Colonel Lawnsdale who was an advisor to Ramon Maggassay Secretary of Defense of the Philippines.
Leftyhunter
 
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Great observation Leftyhunter. Nothing grows quicker and more violently than the spirit of rebellion and nothing fans the flames of rebellion more-so than strong dissent against those whom are thought to be the oppressors, especially when those oppressors are the ones who govern us.

I found both the letter to Governor Charles Clark and Captain William C. Thompson`s account above very telling in what they had to say about this very topic regarding the people of Jones County.
 

leftyhunter

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Great observation Leftyhunter. Nothing grows quicker and more violently than the spirit of rebellion and nothing fans the flames of rebellion more-so than strong dissent against those whom are thought to be the oppressors, especially when those oppressors are the ones who govern us.

I found both the letter to Governor Charles Clark and Captain William C. Thompson`s account above very telling in what they had to say about this very topic regarding the people of Jones County.
Good job collecting the above letters. Counterinsurgency warfare as always been an interest of mine. I have some threads on that subject such has "Union vs CSA guerrillas" and " Compare and Contrast Union and Confederate counter guerrilla operations".
The techniques used by the Confederate Army in Southern Mississippi would today be called " Hammer and Anvil". The Confederate Army did use K-9s but not specifically trained for counterinsurgency. In my thread "Compare and Contrast Union vs Confederate counter guerrilla operations" I discus the evolution of using K- 9 s in counterinsurgency. I can bump up the above threads if you like.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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Great observation Leftyhunter. Nothing grows quicker and more violently than the spirit of rebellion and nothing fans the flames of rebellion more-so than strong dissent against those whom are thought to be the oppressors, especially when those oppressors are the ones who govern us.

I found both the letter to Governor Charles Clark and Captain William C. Thompson`s account above very telling in what they had to say about this very topic regarding the people of Jones County.
Does soft counterinsurgency work! The answer is yes ,no and maybe so. It's not a magic bullet. That would involve modern politics. It would make an interesting PM thread if interested.
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archieclement

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Does soft counterinsurgency work! The answer is yes ,no and maybe so. It's not a magic bullet. That would involve modern politics. It would make an interesting PM thread if interested.
Leftyhunter
The answer would be since the beginning of counter-insurgency theory with Santa Cruz de Marcenado its been recognized the best policy, and is the policy we have adopted today. "Hard insurgency" is far too often less a policy then simply frustration by conventional troops with no counter insurgency training.

And realisticly the only effective possibility for most western nations, as our ideals run counter to what a effective hard insurgency would require anyway.
 
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CC6thVACav

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Thanks for the great read. me and my three brothers saw the movie last year and you could tell it was hyped up for movie goers. killed have the Confederate army in the movie.
 

byron ed

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...during the ACW Jones County and numerous counties adjacent to it was a haven for southern deserters and Union loyalists...
There were no "southern deserters" in that group, Jones and co. clearly indicated they intended to stay in the south.

If you meant Confederate deserters, say that.
 

leftyhunter

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The answer would be since the beginning of counter-insurgency theory with Santa Cruz de Marcenado its been recognized the best policy, and is the policy we have adopted today. "Hard insurgency" is far too often less a policy then simply frustration by conventional troops with no counter insurgency training.

And realisticly the only effective possibility for most western nations, as our ideals run counter to what a effective hard insurgency would require anyway.
Theoretically speaking yes but if one studies the actual history of counterinsurgency by Western Christian nations they always use a mixture of hard and soft counterinsurgency. Not that nations of other religious denominations don't practice hard and counterinsurgency simultaneously as well.
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While Lt. General Leonidas Polk, during Sherman`s "Meridian Expedition", was planning and organizing his three raids against "Capt." Newt Knight and his band of disgruntled deserters in Jones, Perry, Covington and the surrounding counties in Southern Mississippi, Newt Knight`s cousin Nathaniel Knight, with the 56th Alabama Partisan Rangers (Col. Boyles), as part of Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, along with the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment, Inge`s Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (12th Mississippi Cavalry), Perrin`s Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (11th Mississippi Cavalry), Millers Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (9th Mississippi Cavalry) and Col. John G. Ballentine`s Cavalry Regiment (Formerly of Nathan Bedford Forrest`s 7th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, Company "C"), were all opposing Sherman`s raid from Vicksburg to Meridian, Mississippi.

Nathaniel Knight helped to oppose Sherman`s 23,500 man Army on 4 Feb 1864 as soon as he crossed the Big Black River where he was immediately engaged by Maj. General Stephen D. Lee`s 3,500 man cavalry on that day fighting and skirmishing heavily from Bolton along the roads all the way back to Clinton. Lee`s Cavalry was comprised of Brig. General William Hicks "Red Fox" Jackson`s Cavalry Division, Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade (to include Nathaniel Knight as well as my 3rd Great Grandfather), Brig. General William Wirt Adams Cavalry Brigade and Col. Peter B. Starke`s Cavalry Brigade.

On 5 Feb 1864, more heavy fighting ensued between Maj. General S. D. Lee`s 3,500 man cavalry (to include Nathaniel Knight) and Sherman`s 23,500 man Army, this time from Clinton all the way to Jackson where Sherman reached the Pearl River by that afternoon. He had fought his way from the Big Black River, had taken Jackson and made it to the Pearl River, a total distance of 30 miles, in a startling 18 hours. This had all of the Confederate forces in central and southern Mississippi on high alert, as well as Mobile for no one knew exactly where Sherman was going and what his motive and objective was. So for Lt. General Leonidas Polk to still be planning his first raid against the "Knight Company" in the "Republic of Jones" in the midst of this uncertainty, chaos and destruction say`s a lot regarding just how badly he wanted to put down this threat, that being Newt Knight.

On 6-7 Feb 1864 Sherman controlled Jackson, Ms. and was crossing his Army over the Pearl River and by the night of the 7th he marched through Brandon, Ms. Polk responded by mobilizing his infantry and artillery. That force was led by Maj. General William Wing Loring and Maj. General Samuel G. French along with General`s Cockrell, Baldwin, McNair and Quarles, who with their Brigades had come up from Mobile to assist with the fighting. This along with Maj. General S. D. Lee`s 3,500 man cavalry gave Polk about 16,000 men to make a stand against Sherman`s 23,500 man Army at Morton, Ms. in Scott County. On this day, while all of this was going on Polk issued orders to Col. Henry Maury, with 500 of his men at Mobile, to lead the first raid on Newt Knight at Ellisville the Capital of the "Republic of Jones" 112 miles away.

On 8 Feb 1864, all day long Maj. General S. D. Lee`s Cavalry (to include Nathaniel Knight) were harassing, skirmishing and fighting against Sherman`s Army along the roads as he was making his way through Pelahatchie, Ms. to Morton where he was expecting a fight, as he had heard that Polk`s infantry and artillery, with reinforcements from Mobile, were finally going get involved with the fighting to try and make a stand. However, by 8:30 pm that night, Loring and French after spending a day and a half digging entrenchment`s and putting up earth works up on Tank and Nathan`s Hill, second guessed themselves and after being very concerned that they may be made too vulnerable defending that ground with the smaller Army decided to call for and continue their retreat to Meridian and from that point on the only forces to oppose Sherman`s 23,500 man army all the way back to Meridian was Maj. General Stephen D. Lee`s 3,500 man cavalry, through numerous small town`s and communities with much of the fighting and skirmishing being dutifully performed along the roads which stretched for miles between those town`s and communities throughout central Mississippi.

With this great apprehension and uncertainty, and the fact that Polk was not sure if Sherman would continue to Meridian or turn south at any moment and march on Mobile, Polk ordered his forces on loan to be returned to Mobile and issued orders to Col. Henry Maury to turn back from his raid on Newt Knight, so that they could mount a defense of the port city of Mobile, just in case that was Sherman`s objective.

As a precaution, Lt. General Polk ordered Maj General Stephen D. Lee to position Brig. General William Hicks "Red Fox" Jackson`s Cavalry Division, Brig. General William Wirt Adams Cavalry Brigade and Col. Peter B. Starke`s Cavalry Brigade below the Southern Railroad (Vicksburg and Alabama Railroad) so just in case Sherman turned south for Mobile they would be in a position to intercept him. This left only Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade, which again was comprised of the 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment, 56th Alabama Partisan Rangers (to include Nathaniel Knight), Inge`s Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (12th Mississippi Cavalry), Perrin`s Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (11th Mississippi Cavalry), Millers Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (9th Mississippi Cavalry) and temporarily under his command, Col. John G. Ballentine`s Cavalry Regiment, with a total of about 1,000 men to oppose Sherman`s 23,500 man Army above the "Southern Railroad" as they made their march towards Meridian. Leaving Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade alone to fight, skirmish, burn bridges, fell trees and brush across the roads, streams, creeks and rivers, to tear up the roads with spades and pick axes all in an effort to slow Sherman`s March to Meridian any way possible. Even disgruntled citizens from the town`s and communities whom were victims of Sherman having their homes destroyed and burned by his army, got involved in the fighting, firing on the Federals from the tree lines along the roads with squirrel rifles and shot-guns as Sherman`s pioneer and engineer corps were rebuilding bridges and removing trees and brush from the roads. Nathaniel Knight and the others of Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade were being as much of a pest towards Sherman as Newt Knight was being towards Polk and the Confederate States Army at this time and place.

This fighting and skirmishing continued on 10 Feb 1864 when Sherman`s Army burned Hillsboro, Ms., on 11 Feb 1864 Lake, Ms. was burned, on 12 Feb 1864 Decatur, Ms. was burned and a bad fight broke out at Chunky Creek just west of Decatur, which included an ambush which was set by Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade that ensnared quite a few of Col. Edward F. Winslow`s men of the 4th Iowa Cavalry, during this fight a lot of hand to hand fighting was recorded as well as sabers being drawn and used both mounted and dismounted. Men also "buffaloed" one another with the buts of their emptied pistols. Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson was wounded during this fight (flesh wound), below is his account of that action:

"I was wounded (on Chunky River during Sherman`s March from Vicksburg to Meridian) in the arm when in a hand to hand encounter. I killed three of the enemy, one an officer, using both my pistol and sword and (when) my Horse was shot under me."

Brig. General Samuel Wragg Ferguson wrote the following just days after the "Meridian Expedition" in his activity report for the Campaign:

"On February 12, I met the enemy at Chunky River (Big Chunky). From this time until I left the vicinity of Old Marion (Meridian), on the afternoon of February 18, my command was almost continually engaged with the enemy, the skirmishing at times being kept up until after dark".

On 13 Feb 1864, the fighting extended from Tallahatta Creek (Wagon Corral) to Suqualena, Ms. Then on 14 Feb 1864 (as I write this to the very moment and hour being the 155th Anniversary of that fight), the fighting continued to be hard and bloody between Ferguson`s Cavalry Brigade (to include Nathaniel Knight as well as my 3rd Great Grandfather) which ensued from the early hours of the morning once Col. Edward F. Winslow crossed to Okatibbee River and fought his way into Meridian where the town fell into Federal hands around 3:30 pm.

On 20 Feb 1864, After 6 days of major destruction with-in 20 miles in every direction of Meridian, Sherman had made the decision to return to Vicksburg. Two days before on 18 Feb 1864, Maj. General S. D. Lee`s Cavalry (to include Nathaniel Knight) moved towards Okolona to reinforce Maj. General Nathan Bedford Forrest in his fight against Brig. General William Sooy Smith, in what became known as the "Battle of Okolona" (Prairie Mount). Now that it was clear to Polk that Sherman was not moving on Mobile he planned and began to organize the 2nd and then 3rd raids against "Capt." Newt Knight and the "Republic of Jones". Those spoken of in my initial post starting this thread.

I write this to kind of demonstrate just how occupied and apprehensive Polk was regarding Sherman and the uncertainty that the "Meridian Expedition" created at the time. The fact that all of this was going on and Newt Knight was still on Polk`s mind is very revealing just how much the "Knight Company" was perceived to be a threat to the Polk and the Confederacy, should it really ignite a huge chain reaction of dissent regarding the rebellion with-in the rebellion. While during the "Meridian Expedition" one Knight from Jones county (Newt Knight) was waging war against the Confederacy, another Knight from Jones County (Nathaniel Knight) was fighting as hard as he could to make the young Confederacy realize its dream of sovereignty.

Ferguson`s Last 80 Faithful Troopers with the 56th Alabama Cavalry Regiment (12a).jpg


Ferguson`s Last 80 Faithful Troopers with the 56th Alabama Cavalry Regiment (12b).jpg
 
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