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Published: March 28th 2020
ALAMANCE BATTLEFIELDALAMANCE AND THE FREE STATE OF JONES
The regulators fought here under the battle cry, "Damn your guns. Fire Away". It was a fierce scrap and the Regulators were defeated. Their position was at the monument on the right, the colonial militia and cannon were at the monument on the left.
There is nothing more American, perhaps, than mixed blood; unless it might be a good stout voice of strongly held anti-authoritarian sentiment. Oddly both intersected in the Piney Woods District in backwoods Jones County Mississippi during the Civil War. It resulted in a situation in which residents of Jones County and two adjacent counties voted to secede from the Confederacy. It did not, however, start there.
Civil disobedience in America began in 1676 with the Bacon Rebellion in Virginia. Nathaniel Bacon opposed Governor Berkeley’s frontier Indian policy, gathered some followers who burned Jamestown to the ground, and sacked Berkeley’s home. The rebellion fell apart after Bacon got dysentery and pooped himself to death. Twenty seven of his followers were subsequently hanged and Berkeley was recalled to London. Berkeley favored peace with the Indians and offered them suffrage to give them a political voice. He also favored good treatment and suffrage for slaves. Bacon saw that the colony needed more land for the expanding European population and wanted to steal it from the Indians. Governor Berkeley operated a prosperous plantation near Jamestown called Green Springs. The first slaves that swaggered ashore in America
CONFEDERATE MONUMENT AT COURTHOUSE, OF COURSE
Every courthouse in the south has a Confederate Monument. They are proud of their legacy in hatred and failure.
arrived at Jamestown aboard a Portuguese vessel and went to work at Green Springs.
Settlement to the backcountry of North Carolina originated mostly from Virginia and Pennsylvania. Good land was available in the piedmont along the Haw River in what became known as the Old Hawfields. Settlement was complicated by overlapping land grants issued by the crown, and adjudicated by corrupt officials. Political corruption gave rise to another rebellion in May of 1771 that became known as the Regulator Movement. The movement clashed head-on with Governor Tryon and the colonial militia at a little place called Alamance. The regulators were defeated and four of their leaders hanged over in Hillsboro. Several of the Regulators who were killed at Alamance were laid to rest in the Old Hawfields Burying Grounds.
Many of them who survived, and all of them were Tories, relocated to District 96 in South Carolina. A few of those Tories survived the Revolutionary War but it deepened their anti-authoritarian stance. Struggling to survive in the backwoods as semi-subsistence farmers deepened it further. The New Light Baptist ministry further alienated them as did not having enough slaves or enough land. The Territory of Mississippi opened in 1802
GOVERNOR BERKELEY'S FARM LAND
The first slaves in America worked this land. Governor Berkeley bought them cheap because the Portuguese Captain could no longer afford to feed them. Slavery was wrong, but without slaves America would never have got up and running.
and a rush of settlement flowed in along the Natchez Trace from the north. After the Fort Mims Massacre and destruction of the Creek nation during the Red Stick War the army built a postal road from Augusta, Georgia to Mobile, Alabama. Mississippi attained statehood in 1817 and Alabama in 1819. More settlement rushed in for the cheap land that the Creeks were dispossessed of. Many of the families that settled in the area of Ellisville, in Jones County were descendants of the disgruntled backwoods Regulators, Tories, and Baptists that came from the Old Hawfields. As they were trying to build their communities in the wilderness they found themselves under-represented in Congress by the earlier settlers to the area of Natchez. They were fewer in number than the settlers east of the Pearl River, but had the territorial capitol and the federal court. The result was that they became more and more self-reliant.
Among the settlers to arrive in Jones County came a young fellow named Newton Knight, and his lovely wife Serena. They came to roost in the area of Soso. When the Civil war fetched loose Newt was conscripted into the Confederate Army, and against his better
This could very well be the exact tree where the Regulator leaders were hanged in Hillsboro.
judgement he went off to serve, although he was better needed attending to his family. When Confederate Militia began raiding his family of its livestock and seed corn Newt deserted and came back home. When the militia next appeared Newt held them off at gunpoint. They left empty handed, but Newt became a fugitive and was forced into hiding in the Piney Woods. It became a haven for other deserters, renegades from justice, and runaway slaves. One of them was a girl named Rachel, who had been a slave belonging to Newt’s grampa. All of them were dependent on one another for their survival. By 1864 they had gained strength in numbers enough to confront the militia and defeat them. Knight’s Company came out of hiding, held an election and voted to secede from the Confederacy. Newt had taken Rachel as a common law wife by then and they would eventually have five children together. After the war ended Newt returned to his marriage with Selena and they eventually had nine children. Both families lived in separate homes on Newt’s farm. Because of the mixed blood both families were ostracized from their neighbors and some of them intermarried. It caused
JONES COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Jones County has twin courthouses. This one is in Ellisville. Newt's grandkids had their mixed blood marriages annulled here. They had to move to less pure state and remarry. The other courthouse is up in Laurel.
them no end of legal problems and some of those marriages were annulled by their pure-thinking neighbors and the court system.
I admire Newt. He was just trying to do what he thought to be right. The Free State of Jones did not last long, but while it was there a body of laws was needed for its governance. The code they adopted was simple: Every man was a man, and every man was free, but every man must support one another. It worked pretty well except for the mixed blood part.
My own family has roots in Colonial Virginia. One branch of them shuffled off to North Carolina and then on down to Georgia, and finally to Mobile, Alabama. One of our cousins was named Stark Hunter Oliver. He commanded a company in Manigault’s Brigade and fought bravely at Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge.
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