Secession of Jones County (continued)
The only source which the writer gave and which I have been able to find,
is his own fertile imagination. It would have been no more than just to
his readers, to history, and to himself, for him to have told us where
such rare and interesting documents could be found. This convention must
have been very quiet and uninteresting to the inhabitants of Ellisville
at the time; for Mrs. Devall, wife of the sheriff, never heard of it. According
to the testimony of Henry Parker, postmaster under the Confederate Government,
no rumor of it ever reached the post office, the place in a small village
where the news is usually gathered and disseminated.
Again, he names as president of this new government, one Nathan or Nate
Knight, a man unheard of in Jones county. He, perhaps in his ignorance,
got the name from Newt Knight, captain of the company mentioned in a preceding
paragraph. There is some resemblance between the character he describes
and Newt Knight, but if he intends for his statements to apply to Newt
Knight, it is full of inaccuracies. He calls him a citizen of Jones county.
This is not correct. He is not a citizen of that county, nor has he ever
been unless he could have been called a citizen when he commanded the company
with headquarters in Jones county. He now lives where he has lived about
all his life, in Jasper county, Mississippi. The writer of the magazine
article also states that Knight is never seen outside his home without
his “trusty” rifle and revolver. Here he errs again; for Knight goes wherever
his business calls him, and lives peaceably with his neighbors lust like
any other ordinary farmer.
Mr. Galloway also makes the absurd statement that the population of Jones
county increased at the beginning of the war, in little more than a year,
from about three thousand to over twenty thousand. It is impossible to
conjecture where he got his data for this statement. There was certainly
no census taken at that time, and the people who were then living in the
county say there was no perceptible increase in population during the first
two years of the war. They say, to the contrary, that there was a decided
decrease immediately after the beginning of the conflict, due to the great
number of citizens who enlisted in the Confedrate armies; and that after
the organization of Knight’s only a slight increase was noticeable.
Again, the “Historian of the Sixth Army Corps” gives the number in Knight’s
army as ten thousand. This assertion is in keeping with the preceding exaggerations,
but according to Lieutenants Collins and Sumrall, of this company, it never
numbered over one hundred twenty-five men, and the greater part of the
time there were not over eighty men in service. He was correct in saying
that this band gave the Confederate authorities a great deal of trouble.
But this was not on account of their great numbers; it was rather due to
the character of the country in which they fought and to the accurate knowledge
which Knight’s men had of it. The thickets and the heavy timber throughout
the country where they carried on their operations greatly aided the small
band in opposing the superior forces of General Robert Lowry, who was sent
by the Confederate Government to capture them. When they were in Jones
county, Collins and Sumrall knew every path, and when they crossed into
Jasper county, Knight was on home soil. General Lowry, after considerable
marching and some fighting, succeeded in capturing a few of Knight’s men,
but the main body with their leader escaped. General Lowry never heard
of the establishment of an independent government in Jones county, and
yet he was in all parts of the county and conversed not only with the loyal
Confederates but with those of Knight’s men whom he captured.
Mr. Galloway’s account of Jones county in 1886 is badly warped. Although
there was not the best of feeling between some of Knight’s men and some
of the other citizens, there was nothing like the vendetta system of which
he tells us. He says that he withheld many of the names of members who
were prominent in the Knight Confederacy for prudential reasons. This is
a remarkable statement in the light of the fact that no one of Knight’s
men with whom the writer of this article has talked, was ashamed to be
numbered with that company. If they were not ashamed to be numbered in
a military company which was openly hostile to their own county and State,
they certainly would not object to its being known that they had a government
of their own and served it. Again, the people of Jones county know who
of their number belonged to this company and do not hesitate to tell who
they are. Their names appearing in a magazine pub lished in a distant part
of the United States would hardly have brought forth forth any direful
results. Very few of them know to day that Mr. Galloway’s article was ever
written. It would have enriched our knowledge and enhanced the his- value
of his own production, if Mr. Galloway had stepped little farther over
the bounds of what he terms prudence and
us a few names
of the prominent officers and men in this government. The investigator
is inclined to think that
it was from
a lack of names rather than from a sense of prudence that the gentlman
stopped at this point.
Another inaccuracy shows Mr. Galloway’s recklessness in dealing with facts.
county building in Ellisville is an unpretentious barn-like structure seemingly
perfectly unconscious of ever having played the part of a capitol, in an
affair that now reads like a chapter of the imagination.”
The “barn-like structure” to which he refers had been burned years before
he wrote and the town had been moved to an-
a new brick courthouse had been built.
In the New England Magazine, December, 1891, appeared an essay by Prof.
Albert Bushnell Hart, of Harvard University, in
he makes assertions
similar to those made by Mr. Galloway, and gives Mr. Galloway’s article
as his authority. This
Dr. Hart’s answer to an enquiry, which has been recently addressed to him,
is sufficient to satisfy anyone that he
uld no longer
be quoted as an authority on the subject. In a r of February 8, 1904, addressed
to the writer of this article, makes the following statement:
article on Jones county about which you ask, was printed in the England
Magazine for December, 1891. But I feel doubtful now that the evidence
is sufficiently weighty to be so stated.”
Another publication that has been found taking the affirmative of this
question has more semblance of authority than either of the others. It
was written from Jones county by H. W. Harper and was published January
10th, 1896, in the Raymond (Miss.) Gazette, of which he was editor. The
following letter from Mr. Harper is self-explanatory:
Miss., Jan. 30th, 1904.
Only one article has been written denying the secession of Jones county.
In Volume I. of the Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society,
Professor A. L. Bondurant, of the University of Mississippi, published
a contribution on this subject. He dealt with it from an external standpoint,
and brought out some valuable external evidence, but failed to cover the
whole ground, and thereby to satisfy some people who still insist that
Mr. Galloway and Prof. Hart were right. It is barely possible that such
a convention as that reported by Mr. Galloway could have been held in Jones
county without the knowledge of those men whom Professor Bondurant quotes
Montgomery, Ellisville, Miss.:
I have been very much interested for some time in the matter of the “Alleged
Secession of Jones County” and had hoped to get some information upon the
subject that could be relied upon when your article, read before the State
Historical Society, should appear in print. Now Judge my surprise and disappointment
that I should be applied,to for information on the subject.
to which you allude, that appeared in my paper in 1896, was not by a resident
of Jones county. I wrote it myself after a sojourn of a few weeks in Ellisville.
I would gladly clip my file to send you a copy of it, could it be of any
use to you, but I am sure it cannot for it gives no information at all.
“I will watch
for your article when it shall be published as I have a great desire to
know the facts.
“I wrote a
story some time ago on the subject (that I have never yet printed) which
pretends to tell all about it; but it is entirely fictitious with no more
foundation than the report which is familiar to almost everyone, that Jones
county did secede.
“H. W. Harper.”