Military Wiki
Camp Ford
Camp Ford is located in Texas
Location within Texas
Established 1996
Location Smith County, Texas
(near Tyler, Texas)
Coordinates 32°23′45″N 95°16′00″W / 32.39583°N 95.2666667°W / 32.39583; -95.2666667Coordinates: 32°23′45″N 95°16′00″W / 32.39583°N 95.2666667°W / 32.39583; -95.2666667
Type Public Historic Park
Curator Smith County Historical Society

Camp Ford was a prisoner of war camp near Tyler, Texas, during the American Civil War.[1] It was the largest Confederate-run prison west of the Mississippi River.[2][3]


Established in the spring of 1862 as a training camp for new Confederate recruits, the camp was named for Col. John Salmon Ford, a Texas Ranger and the Superintendent of Conscripts for the State of Texas.[4] The first Union prisoners to arrive at camp Ford in August 1863 included officers captured in Brashear City Louisiana in June, and included naval personnel captured when the 'Queen Of The West' and the 'Diana' were seized by the Union Navy. The captives were initially held in the open, but a panic ensued in November 1863 when 800 new prisoners threatened a mass breakout. A military stockade enclosing 4 acres (16,000 m2) was soon erected.[3]

19th Iowa Infantry, exchanged prisoners.

With over 2,000 new prisoners taken in Louisiana on April 8 and 9 1864, at the battles of Mansfield, and Pleasant Hill, the stockade was quadrupled in size. With more prisoners captured in Arkansas, the prison's population peaked at about 5,000 in July 1864. The population was reduced by exchanges in July and October 1864,[3] and again in February 1865. The last 1,761 prisoners were exchanged on May 22, 1865.[2]

During the course of the war, the total number of prisoners who passed through the camp was slightly more than 5,500. About 327 prisoners died in captivity, giving the camp a mortality rate of 5.9%, one of the lowest of any Civil War prison. The deceased prisoners were reinterred to the Alexandria National Cemetery (Alexandria, Louisiana) at Pineville, Louisiana, in 1867.[2]

KATE STONE'S ACCOUNTS OF CAMP FORD Other contemporary references to Camp Ford may be found in the diary of Kate Stone, a young Louisiana refugee who lived near Tyler during the Civil War. On Nov. 13, 1863, Kate refers to Camp Ford as the "Yankee Camp." She relates that "[a] number of the prisoners escaped the other day, and the townspeople are very apprehensive of their burning the town. They put out guards every night, and they take turns in guarding the prisoners. One of the prisoners was shot yesterday for disobedience of orders. He died in a few hours." [5]

Kate makes a passing reference to the Fort on May 7, 1864, noting that more prisoners are on the way. On June 14, 1864 she includes the following remarks in her entry: "Anna and Dr. Meagher returned a few days ago. He is stationed here now in charge of the Yankee prisoners. The prisoners are in a most pitiable condition, perfectly destitute. Some have only a blanket to wear and others only one garment. There is much sickness and death among them and the authorities are powerless to get clothes for them. No clothes or blankets to be bought." [6]

In her other entries, Kate describes the struggles that she and her family faced in procuring food and clothing for themselves; certainly the Camp was no different. Yet it is possible that Col.Duganne, whose description of Camp Ford is cited above, sent a young lady in the Tyler community some popular novels, which Kate borrowed.[7]

On May 18, 1864 Kate mentions the incident cited above, where the County sheriff and two relatives were hanged as "Jayhawkers".[8] She does not mention the harrowing details, torture, or burnings recounted in the previous source, but does go on in the same entry to note the deaths of some Yankee prisoners "which is not strange as they are so dreadfully crowded and have the roughest fare. But we cannot help them. They should have stayed in their own bountiful country instead of coming down here to kill and destroy."

Historic Park

The original site of the Camp stockade is now a public historic park, owned by Smith County, Texas, and managed by the Smith County Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1959 by individuals and business firms dedicated to discovering, collecting and preserving data, records and other items relating to the history of Smith County. The park contains a kiosk, paved trail, interpretive signage, a cabin reconstruction, and a picnic area.[9]

The park is located on US Highway 271.7 miles north of Loop 323 in Tyler, Texas. The geographical coordinates are: 32°23'44.13"N - 95°16'7.28"W

See also


  1. House of Representatives: Report on the Treatment of Prisoners of War by the Rebel Authorities during the War of the Rebellion, page 199. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1869.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "A Short History of Camp Ford". Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas. Retrieved 21 Mar 2011. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Texas State Historical Society: Camp Ford. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  4. Texas Beyond History, Camp Ford
  5. Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone 1861-1868. Edited by John Q. Anderson. Baton Rouge: LSU Press. 1995 p.257
  6. Brokenburn, p. 290
  7. Brokenburn, pg. 323 note 9
  8. Brokenburn, pp.283-284
  9. Smith County Historical Society, Camp Ford Historic Park

External links

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