The Civil War in southeast Mississippi, where my Poore ancestors lived, is proving to be a popular topic among Hollywood movie makers.
The latest effort is “The Free State of Jones” starring Matthew McConaughey, who plays anti-Confederate guerrilla Newton Knight. Keri Russell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mahershala Ali also star in the film that has started production in the New Orleans area.
Confederate taxes, regulations and hard times in Mississippi made many unhappy people in the Piney Woods region of Newton, Jasper and Jones counties. Some of its people fought back against the policies and local officials. Knight was one of those.
Before and after the war, Knight lived in the southwest corner of Jasper County, near the Jones County line. Though Knight is closely linked with events in Jones County, he lived in Jasper County.
“The Free State of Jones” will be released March 11, 2016.
This is not the first movie based on the Knight story. The previous one, “Tap Roots,” (1948) starred Van Heflin and Susan Hayward with Boris Karloff, Julie London, Whitfield Connor, Ward Bond and Richard Long.
The film, adapted from the 1942 novel Tap Roots by James H. Street, is very loosely based on the true-life story of Knight.
John Ford’s “Horse Soldiers” (1959), starring John Wayne, is the third movie that depicts events that occurred in my Poore family’s homeland during the Civil War. It is based on the raid of Union Colonel Benjamin Grierson.
On the spring morning of April 17, 1863, Union horse soldiers set out on a daring raid down the length of Mississippi toward Newton County, where my Poore family ancestors lived. Grierson, a music teacher turned soldier, led the long, mounted column of 1,700 officers and men southward out of La Grange, Tennessee.
The primary objective for this stirring raid was to rip up the tracks of the Southern Railroad in and around Newton Station, about 7 miles northwest from the Poore farm.
Grierson’s main column reached Newton County on April 23. At about 6 a.m. the next day, the federals rode into Newton Station.
The bluecoats burned two trains of freight cars loaded with food stores and ammunition, including artillery shells bound for Vicksburg. The federals touched off explosives to destroy the locomotives. The soldiers then burned the depot and a building in the town containing 500 muskets.
No one has yet made a movie about General William Tecumseh Sherman’s raid through the Poore homeland to Meridian in February 1864. But perhaps some film maker will some day.