Buy This Book: The State of Jones: The Small Southern County That Seceded from the Confederacy by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer

In the small phantom world of ghostwriting, you don't find anyone better than Sally Jenkins, who co-authored Lance Armstrong's mega-bestseller It's Not About the Bike. A huge part of my education as a co-author has been reading everything she writes. I was delighted to see her name up front on the release of her latest book (pubbed by Doubleday last summer, now fresh out in paperback), The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded from the Confederacy.

A starred review in PW says "Sally Jenkins and Harvard historian John Stauffer combine to tell this story with grace and passion. Using court transcripts, family memories, and other sources--and filling the remaining gaps with stylish evocations of crucial moments in the wider war..."

From the press kit:
Newton Knight is the most famous Civil War hero you’ve never heard of, because according to Mississippi legend he betrayed not only the Confederacy but his race as well. In 1863 Knight, a poor farmer from Jones County Mississippi, deserted the Confederate Army—and began fighting for the Union—after the battle of Vicksburg. It was rumored he even started a separate Unionist government, The Free State of Jones, and for two years he battled the Confederacy with a vengeance that solidified his legend. During his life Knight was hardly regarded as a proper soldier by either side, and after his death his Mississippi backwoods grave went unstrewn with flowers. Many southerners would have preferred to spit on it, and most northerners never recognized that such loyalty to the United States could exist in Dixie. But in truth, this lost patriot was a vital actor in helping to preserve the Union.

The recovery of the life of a Mississippi farmer who fought for his country is an important story. The fact that southern Unionists existed, and in very large numbers, is largely unknown to many Americans, who grew up with textbooks that perpetuated the myth of the Confederacy as a heroic Lost Cause, with its romanticized vision of the antebellum South. Some historians have even palpably sympathized with Confederate cavaliers while minimizing—and robbing of credit—the actions of southerners who remained loyal to the Union at desperate cost.
It never even occurred to me that the majority of Southerners would have voted against slavery and secession if they'd been given a chance. Sally Jenkins creates a compelling, readable history lesson about how the mouthy, moneyed few can subvert the will of the moderate many. A history we've never heard and are apparently doomed to repeat.

Check out this clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and click here to buy the book from IndieBound.


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