Trouble in the State of Jones

State of Jones historian and blogger, Vikki Bynum, is in the middle of a lengthy review [Part 1Part 2] of Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer’s new book, The State of Jones: The Small Southern County that Seceded From the Confederacy.  If I remember correctly, the book is going to be turned into a Hollywood movie at some point soon.  I am about half-way through it and while I’ve enjoyed it thus far it is clear from reading Vikki’s review that there are serious problems that I do not have the background to pick out.  For instance, despite the book’s subtitle there is no evidence that a declaration of secession was ever issued.  More problematic is the claim that Newt Knight served at Vicksburg.  Other problems abound, accoring to Bynum.  Given Vikki’s research into the State of Jones there is no one more qualified to judge the overall quality of this study.  I highly recommend her book.

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9 comments… add one
  • Charlie Bell Jul 9, 2009 @ 12:54

    Thank you for the review and the links to Vicki. I taught school for 20 years and now I work for which is an historical document site. History, and especially the Civil War is becoming my passion. I appreciate you letting me know where there might be some errors in the research. As soon as I finish this I will be going to Footnote to see what documents I can dig up concerning Jones!

    Thanks again!

    • Kevin Levin Jul 9, 2009 @ 13:13


      Glad to hear that you found Vikki’s review to be helpful. Be on the lookout later today for a response from John Stauffer.

  • chris meekins Jul 9, 2009 @ 6:49

    Slightly off topic: there was a small town and section of neNC that for all practical purposes did secede from the secession – Elizabeth City and the old Albemarle region had enough of the war by the end of 1863. In the wake of General Edward Wild’s raid local citizens of Pasquotank, Perquimans, Camden, Currituck, and Chowan petitioned General Butler and Governor Vance to remove all troops from the area. Perhaps seceding from the war might be a better take. Of course, neither of these men could promise any such thing.
    Pasquotank’s petition is in NARA, Perquimans’ petition can be found at the State Archives in NC, Chowan’s petition is in the Hayes Papers at the Southern Historical Collection, Camden’s petitions are documented in period newspaper accounts of the Wild raid, and Currituck’s petition is mentioned in letters maintained at VMI (and available online – search Currituck and VMI).
    Alas, I see no movie deal in the offing…

  • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2009 @ 12:04


    I’m not familiar with De Caro’s book so thanks for the suggestion.

  • The History Enthusiast Jul 8, 2009 @ 11:14

    I really like Louis De Caro’s _Fire From the Midst of You_, but Stephen Oates’classic biography is probably the most thorough.

    I haven’t read Reynolds’ work thoroughly, but it was ok.

  • The History Enthusiast Jul 8, 2009 @ 6:42

    I will have to look through it again and give you a more detailed answer, but basically Stauffer’s interpretation of Brown is off. I’ve read everything Brown ever wrote (including manuscript materials), and there were points (mostly in Chapter 6) where I said to myself, “WTF? Brown never left evidence suggesting X.” I don’t think Stauffer was trying to misrepresent Brown, since that is a serious charge to level at any historian, but I do disagree quite strongly with a few points he made. I’m sure he was diligent and careful about his sources, but there are some issues with his analysis, in my (humble) opinion.

    I am not familiar with Sally Jenkins’ work, so my skepticism about the Jones book is purely leveled at Stauffer. Just to be clear.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2009 @ 7:01


      Thanks. What do you recommend on Brown? I am familiar with Reynolds’s recent biography.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2009 @ 1:08


    I thought _Black Hearts_ was pretty good so I would be interested to know what exactly you take issue with. Sally Jenkins has encouraged a number of bloggers to review the book so I encourage her and Stauffer to take the time to respond to Vikki’s review.

  • The History Enthusiast Jul 7, 2009 @ 19:04

    I think very highly of Bynum, and she is an excellent public speaker and historian. Her review is not something to be ignored.

    Also, not to be mean, but I haven’t been a fan of John Stauffer’s since I read _The Black Hearts of Men_ which, in my opinion, has some misrepresentations. When I saw that he was co-author I wondered if the same would be the case with this new book.

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