What Evil Lurked In the “Devil’s Den of Mississippi”?
The “Devil’s Den of Mississippi” is the name given to a cave on an island in the Leaf River in Jones County, Mississippi which was the base of operations for a band of Union sympathizers and Confederate deserters led by Newton Knight and Jasper Collins. They ambushed Confederate soldiers, assassinated tax collectors, burned bridges, sunk ferryboats and provided food to destitute local families. The area became known as the “Free State of Jones”. In April 1864 the 6th Mississippi Infantry, and the 20th Mississippi Regiment and some cavalry under Col Robert G. H. Lowery was dispatched to hunt the guerrillas down, which he did with marginal success. His brutal tactics included running down the outlaws with blood hounds and hanging those captured. He left the bodies hanging in the trees in an attempt to disuade others from joining. Some of the men returned to their units but when Lowery left the unit reformed. Newton Knight was very much a modern day Robin Hood. In 1865 Knight was appointed US Commissioner in Jones County to distribute food to the poor and starving people of Jones County area. He rescued several black children still being held in slavery. At great personal danger, Newt Knight became a strong supporter of the Republican Party. In 1872, he was appointed as a deputy U.S. Marshal for the Southern District to help maintain the fragile democracy
Brigadier General Lowery was elected to two terms as Governor of Mississippi from 1882 to 1890.