Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Review: Jack Hinson's One-Man War


Book Review by Robert A. Waters

Jack Hinson’s One-Man War: A Civil War Sniper
Tom C. McKenney
Pelican Publishing Company, 2009

Here are a few questions relating to the Civil War. Answers are at the bottom of this review. (1) Which state executed the most slaves--New Jersey, Mississippi, or New York? (2) Which states were exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation? (3) Did any freed blacks own slaves?


In 1861, Jack Hinson lived near Dover, Tennessee, in the Land Between the Rivers. He had a farm, slaves, a growing family, and was relatively prosperous. Like many Southerners (Robert E. Lee comes to mind), Hinson opposed secession. After the Civil War broke out, he attempted to remain neutral. One of his sons joined the Confederacy, but Hinson was able to keep the rest of his family on the farm.

Hinson had hunted and fished the land for most of his fifty-seven years. He knew the forests, the game-trails, the out-crops of rocks above the bluffs of the Tennessee River, and he was a crack marksman. However, he had never raised a gun in anger and was known as a peaceable man. In 1862, while the war was raging, Hinson freed his slaves and hired those who wanted to continue working for him (which was all of them).

In the fall of 1862, two of Hinson’s sons were hunting in the woods near their property. A passing Union patrol arrested them. Mistaking the two for bushwhackers, they summarily executed George, 22, and John, 17. Dragging the victims’ bodies behind their horses, the hated Union soldiers circled the Dover courthouse. Then they cut off the heads of both young men and galloped to Jack Hinson’s house. There, in front of Hinson, his wife, children, friends, and former slaves, a soldier stuck the heads on two gate-posts.

After Jack Hinson buried his sons, he paid a local gunsmith to make a super-gun: a .50-caliber rifle that was accurate up to 500 yards. Hinson then became a one-man disaster for the Union army in west Tennessee. His two first “kills” were the Lieutenant who ordered the execution of his sons and the soldier who hung their heads on his fence-posts. Lying in wait among the dense forests in the area or high on the bluffs overlooking the river, Hinson exacted his private revenge. All in all, he killed one hundred Union soldiers, mostly officers.

Jack Hinson’s One-Man War describes the events that led up to the old man becoming a guerilla warrior. Even though his one-man war cost him nearly everything he loved, it was in Hinson’s mind a necessary reckoning.

The book is at once a local history, and a universal story of primal vengeance. It should open the eyes of anyone who wants to know what the Civil War was really all about. McKenney’s research and crisp writing style has brought to life one of those strange yet ultimately sympathetic American characters who will now be long-remembered.

Buy this book and read it.


Answers: (1) According to the website “Before the Needles,” Mississippi executed 13 slaves; New Jersey executed 36 slaves; and New York executed 73 slaves. (2) The following states were exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation: Kentucky; Missouri; Maryland; and Delaware. Washington, D. C. slave-owners were also allowed to keep their slaves. In fact, it is said that the week after the Proclamation, blacks were still being auctioned off behind the White House. (3) In 1830 alone, 3,775 freed blacks owned black slaves. From the mid-1700s to 1860, tens of thousands of blacks owned slaves.

6 comments:

Mickey said...

You go Jack, wish he had not stopped.

john said...

Says it all just about I guess. When you look at what really went on with the Yankee and his conduct in this war, people can see that the wrong side won. Vile race of people. God Bless Jack and his family.

john said...

Although this is an old thread and I just stumbled on it, I just wish to say that here in my country there is a fairly universal dislike of the Yankee or anyone North of the Mason Dixon just abouts. Most people here associate there ancestors with the South. God forgive this Government for not committing half of million troops into Canada and washing down over them all and burning their capital for the second time. Now we have a world on the verge of all out war and who is in the middle of it all? Yankeedom.

Charles said...

What is the difference in a yankee and a nazi?

Charles said...

What is the difference in a yankee and a nazi?

Derek Griggs said...

don't assume that someone from the north is a Yankee. The person who turned me onto this book about jack hinson was a northerner I am a Southerner. I think it is more of an attitude of less govt