In 1863, in the heart of Mississippi, a group of Confederate deserters declared their allegiance to the United States government. Over the next several months, they established a guerilla-style band of resistance against the Confederacy and managed to outlast the cavalry expeditions that were sent to conquer them. Victoria E. Bynum’s book, The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest War, tells the story of the deserters and their community in Jones County, Mississippi—one that outlasted the Civil War and established a mixed race community in the region. The story of the Free State of Jones is well known in Mississippi. Bynum’s research, which was supported with an NEH grant, brought this history to a national audience. By attending closely to the historical record, Bynum separates fiction from fact and provides a compelling biography of Newton Knight, the man who organized the soldiers. The book, which was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2002, has more recently been made into a film starring Matthew McConaughey, Mahershala Ali, and Keri Russell.
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