The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1864 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

This hand-made corn knife belonged to the Knight family. Accession number: 1981.60.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

This hand-made corn knife belonged to the Knight family. Accession number: 1981.60.1 (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Consisting mainly of yeoman farmers and cattle herders, Jones County had the lowest percentage of slave population of any county in Mississippi when the state seceded in 1861. After the passage of the Twenty-Slave Exemption law in 1862 by the Confederate Congress, which exempted anyone owning twenty or more slaves from the draft, many soldiers from Jones County left the army and returned home. Shocked by the harsh conditions on the home front, citizens led by Newton Knight turned Jones County into a haven for Confederate deserters in the spring of 1864.

This Confederate officer’s frock coat belonged to Robert Lowry. Accession number: 1960.157.1a (MDAH Museum Division collection)

This Confederate officer’s frock coat belonged to Robert Lowry. Accession number: 1960.157.1a (MDAH Museum Division collection)

Confederate officials sent Colonel Robert Lowry to squash the Jones County rebellion in April. Using blood hounds to drive Knight’s men out of the swamps, Lowry caught and hanged many of the rebels and ended the insurrection; although Knight himself escaped. After the war, the United States Army made Knight a commissioner in charge of distributing food to the poor and starving of Jones County. He made the unpopular choice of supporting the Republican Party during Reconstruction and in 1872, was made deputy United States marshal for the Southern District. Robert Lowry rose through the ranks during the war to become a brigadier general. After the war, he was elected to two terms as governor of Mississippi.

Source:

http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/309/newton-knight-and-the-legend-of-the-free-state-of-jones