Camp Ford Adam Maldonado
August 30, 2016
This study is to recognize and acknowledge that the very setting of the American Civil War is a significant subject that is rarely the subject of modern scholars. There are rarely studies of the affects of the environmental during the war of the northern Unionists states versus the secessionists Confederates. The lack of analysis of the conflict is in odd since the subject of the ecology of other wars is a history is a thriving field. A simple search of the subject of during either of the World Wars or Vietnam yields more results than any curious reader could wish for. The lack of study of the war that cost more American lives than any conflict of national history is odd. Some reasons might be that the others wars are more timely and yield more available empirical data to study. The lack of historical data is a challenge, but it is possible to learn much from available primary resources of letter, diaries, and written memoirs or letters.
Descriptions of living conditions and daily life these resources contain can show the conditions people lived through. Some inexact measures of weather were available, but no detailed temperatures are unavailable. An idea of the conditions during the war is in the descriptions of the weather during the war is available in old almanacs or reports of weather and natural disaster in newspapers and writings of the time. Recent Climatology surveys are able to provide an idea of the general range of temperatures during past centuries by studying ice cores and other archeological evidence. Historians can use this new climatology data with their own study of written history for a better idea of past atmospheric conditions. The environment during the conflict that resulted in the most death of Americans fought over ideological differences of government requires more examination than currently available. A study of available resources can convey an idea of the conditions the men fought under during the American Civil War. Mother Nature proves to be an omniscient foe for both sides during the confrontation. The new
approach to ecological insights is derived from perceptive investigations of traditional knowledge. This information has the great potential and design to strategies for cultivating sustainable development. 1 Historians can use the information to convey theories that reveal themselves in the past to inform people of today about unknown information from the past.
The phenomenon now called the “Little Ice Age” was in the last stages of affecting the Earth’s climate during the ninetieth century. This occurrence affected the planet since the mid- fifteenth century is ways that show a remarkable decrease in atmospheric temperatures. The affect of the cold wrought by the “Little Ice Age” on the American Civil War is apparent in the historical records of the participants of the war and historical studies of the time. This study is to recognize the evidence of the affects of the environment during the war. This effort uses recorded history of the war to synthesize a new narrative that reveals how setting of the conflict played as big a part in the story of it as the people. The methodology of this study consists of an analysis of various books and articles about the Civil War, the environment, and the prisoner of war camp in Tyler, Texas. This study includes reviews of a few books on the ecological atmosphere of America at the time of the war, and a general narrative of the history of Camp Ford in Texas. The idea is to integrate the contextual evidence of the war with the history of the camp used in combination with written scholarship of the environment of the war to net a meaningful contextual history of the camp.
Soldiers of the American Civil War faced many environmental challenges that that shaped how the war was fought. The Americans Civil War is of course, the well-studied war of Unionists and the Confederates secessionist. The traditional historiography of the war devalues the impact of the setting of the conflict of the conflict. They usual instead focus on military,
1 Fikret Berkes, Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management (Taylor and Frances: Philadelphia) 1999, 29, 34.
social, or the government for a narrative of an internal conflict that leaves many scars on the nations people that Americans still felt today. A study of the elements of nature that the men spilled their fellow countrymen’s blood in the deadliest war of American history is long overdue. Recent books and essays are making blazing the trail for more scholarship on the war being published that contain brief glimpses of the affects of the environment had on soldiers of the conflict. However, the recent writings only make the path for future work on the interactions of people and their setting. A focused study of a local site can tell a story that serves the purpose of relating how the elements affected the men at war. A look at the recent publications can establish the need for a study of the places the war was fought. Then, a short detailed history of the prisoner of war site, Camp Ford in Tyler Texas can set the story line for the area of study. Finally, a synthesis of how the weather and elements affected men at the camp can deliver the importance of the study of the environment during the American Civil War.
One ideological approach in recent historiography is that war strategy was a part of the detrition of the American environment during the Civil War. Lisa M. Brady argues that part of the military stagey of the Union was to manipulate the environment of the Confederates. The Union did this in ways that gave the Confederates no chance of a sustainable war effort. Brady proves that south continued to farm their crops to be agriculturally successful economically like they were in the antebellum time during the war. Confederates seemed not to realize having food to survive was not as important as having their cash crops. Brady proves that one way the Union was able to win the war was by destroying the South’s environment. This winning strategy by the North sewed the seeds for future American attempts to controlling nature for their own gain. Brady tells that she finds “that notions improvement, control, and wilderness evolved during the
war even as they maintained semblances of continuity with their antebellum predecessors.” 2 She states that Americans only used the war to rationalize and nationalize their efforts of making nature as they wanted. The federal government’s relationship with the people of the region and the ecology of the whole nation as the Union’s military strategy affected the southern landscape and mental approach. Brady writes that the mentality of the United States before the war was that man could alter nature to fit any need of the people living on it. The federal government’s winning strategy shaped forever and established a belief that people can alter nature as they wished for their own benefit. Brady writes that the canals of the nineteenth-century are a perfect example of America’s command of nature. The Union’s use the system of interconnected boat paths along the Mississippi in their grand strategy to win over the South. The military of both sides fought for the control of the canals as they both saw their value to the strategies to win the war. Brady uses the need to control the canals for transportation, commerce, and travel to show how both side wished to use facets of the already established control of nature in military
strategy tactics. 3 She then shows that the South’s valuable asset of agriculture in livestock, crops, produce, tools, and vehicles was attacked and weakened by Union forces to cutoff supply lines and starve the South’s army and people. Brady shows the strategy of General Ulysses S. Grant to force his soldiers to live off the land was a key way the union won the war. Grant took the improvements of the South and turned them into assets of his own army. The tactic standardized the systematic destroying or using the agriculture of every place they fought. Historical evidence of the South’s turn to the cash crop of cotton proves to be a failure once the war begins. The Union saw they would win the war if they destroyed the Southern transportation of food. Brady
2 Lisa M. Brady, War upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes during the American Civil War (Environmental History and the American South) (Athens: University of Georgia Press), 2012, 5
3 Brady, 31
describes that how this use of the Southern survival and enterprise is proof that the Union used ecological warfare to win the Civil War. 4 The crippling of the Confederacy is really the key to victory for the Union in the war. Her chapter titled “Making a Desert and Calling it Peace,” really shows how far the Union powers went to make the nation whole again. The retribution of “treasonous” acts by the South proves to be lasting affects as they echo for decades. The efforts of reconstruction did little to repair the devastation of farms with fields of destroyed crops and towns and cities that resembles shells of their antebellum past. Brady also focuses on the horrible aftermath of the war on the Carolinas where General Grant’s action of destruction hit the rural based men of Sherman’s forces psyche particularly hard. Brady writes that cotton and crops were burned and livestock was mutilated beyond belief. She writes that one observer George Nichols stated, “one thing is for certain … neither the West nor the East will draw any supplies from the counties in this state traversed by our army for a long time to come. Our work has been the next thing to annihilation.” 5 Brady proves the Civil War changed not only the federal authority established to the powers to tell the states rights’ to dictate civil rights. She proves furthermore that the war made America’s approach to “improving” their landscape into a military strategy instead of just a fascination for proving human domination of Mother Nature. Ted Steinberg adds to the idea of the alteration of nature of the Southern ecosystem to fit the needs of war. The winter of 1863 and 1864 was so harsh that it leads to food shortages for the Confederacy. Steinberg reports that from New Years on the temperature plunged to an amazing fifty degrees in just twenty-fours Clarksville, Tennessee. Furthermore, in Texas the frozen temperatures killed half of as many as ninety-percent of the cattle on many farms. The Artic blast lead to Southern Troops going without food for a full two weeks, and one troop forwarded his meat ration to
4 Brady, 56 5 Brady, 107
General Lee with a note that he said he was driven to steal to survive. Suboptimal temperatures decimation of the food supply was exacerbated by the Southern strategy of planting cotton instead of food like that Brady covered. Steinberg adds that sometimes the planters resorted to threats to get planters to plant food crops instead of commercial cotton. One Georgia newspaper reported many Confederate leaders adopted the slogan of, “Plant Corn be Free, or plant cotton and be whipped.” The paper went on to say that Southern soldiers said that, “will be powerless against grim hunger and gaunt famine such as will overwhelm us if we insanely raise cotton instead of corn.” 6
The idea of Americans refining nature is the subject of another piece of histological analysis from 2006. Jack Temple Kirby argues that the American South faced irreversible changes as the European settlers settled the southern parts of North America, and changed the landscape for their purposes. His work argues that the transformation of the South from fifteenth century to the twenty-first century. Kirby’s narrative of the South’s evolution tells why the South is as it is today. The ecology of the South changed from open pastures and forest, to manmade cities with infrastructure, shaping the current Southern landscape. At times, Kirby seems like he is using history to tell his own story, but delivers more of a personalized narrative that lends more credence to his beliefs. Kirby’s work is not a chorological history of events of nature and human’s intervention in the South. Instead it is a topical analysis of the Southern landscape’s interactions with the people that live on it. Kirby chides recent historiographical books by
6 Ted Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature’s Roll in American History (New York: Oxford University Press), 2002, 96–97.
historians, geographers, and fictional authors on the South. He then argues that past authors fail to account for the impact of humanity on the ecology of the South. 7
Like Lisa Brady’s work, Kirby shows how the war’s commerce and social interactions shape the land’s ecology since they took up residence in the South. The first people that settled the continent before Spanish exploration faced numerous changes in lifestyle, and the book explains how the Europeans that followed changed the environment of the South. The toll on the land by natives was not as bad as the European settlers since the natives were more nomadic or not as successful at holding a certain piece of land. Failed native settlements could be erased after generations, said Kirby. 8 Europeans were more skillful at maintaining settlements as they fenced in land for livestock and set-up private or communal fields to farm. 9 This more established way of life meant that they were not as dependent on following game on trails as their primary sources of food, also Kirby shows that their domestic establishments gave them a larger more permanent foot print on nature. The sheltering and feeding of themselves totally changed the South. The effects of humanity for better or worse created the modern Southern ecology. 10 One of the effects of the new arrivals was the dirt itself as the Europeans planted crops known to leech the soil of nitrogen. The crops planted by the settlers included corn as their source food and tobacco as their cash crop for economic survival. 11 The “near-extermination of the American alligator during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries” was also another effect of the European settlement. 12 The effects of settlement even disturbed the fishermen in Florida during this time. One fisherman, John Small, expressed his disgust by saying that during his later
7 Jack Temple Kirby, Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South (Chapel Hill: The University of Carolina Press), 2006, xv.
8 Kirby, 55.
9 Kirby, 4–5.
10 Kirby, 5. 11 Kirby, 56 12 Kirby, 20
life, “traveling much farther south than Gainesville in my home state leaves me drained, disappointed, frustrated, saddened, distraught — any emotion but happy.” 13 The natives also are told go gain a reputation for being closer to a balance with nature mostly for their habits of respecting land and animals. Kirby tells that the differences of land usage and somewhat kinder treatment of wildlife were the origins of “natives’ legendary status as ‘ecological’ or conservationists.” 14 The age of the growth of plantations of the South further eroded and damaged Southern ecology by joint-stock ventures for profit, governmental use for development, and Christian and Muslim church uses for missions and settlement. Specialized European crops included sugar, tobacco, cacao, coffee, tea, rice, indigo, cotton, mulberry trees, maize, small grains, and opium. Kirby shows that the damage caused during the time of settlement made life that much tougher on southern Americans by sharing the stories of many prominent southern people that followed.
The continuation of the idea that Americans are altering nature to better suit their needs of life as an economic venture is the basis of more historiography this decade. Edward E. Baptist argues that the entire economic basis of the industrialization of America was based on profits from slavery. He contends that the world’s largest economy in Europe benefited greatly from Southern cotton, and that the repercussions of slavery and the Civil War afflicted the South for the following centuries. Baptist also implies that the accretion and globalization of economic resources for international trade was built on the slave-harvested cotton of the America.15 Baptist does not state this last implication explicitly, but he does provide evidence for this issue. He tells the history of slavery as an allegory of two bodies to show the importance of the practice in the
13 Kirby, 32
14 Kirby, 64
15 Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books), 2014, xvii-xxvii.
founding of America. An argument can be made that his book is a work about two theoretical bodies. One of those bodies represents American social and economic values, and the other body represents the slaves in the human trafficking that literally built the foundation of the corporate infrastructure the nation. Baptist uses this allegory of a human body as he breaks down the different eras of slavery from 1783 to 1937. In twelve chapters including a prologue and an epilogue he uses parts of the body from limbs, the brain, and blood. The evolution of the American Industrial Revolution and the nation’s social evolution in a chronological narrative of how the import of slaves forms the foundation of modern times. The continual subjugation and exploitation of Africans and their descendants occurred. Baptist traces how the issue of slavery became so heated because the slave labor that the economic powers gained in the establishment of America.16 A combination of the rise in industrial technology and the use of American land to grow crops for sale after the incremental capture of North America form the natives leads to the future wealth of the Untied States. Baptist tells that his interest in writing that work started with the idea of historian Lorenzo Ivy that the whole history of the United States was made by an entire line of people in chains that were captured and sold at auction. These captured immigrants were forced into being enslaved migrant laborers under a system of national government that forced them to live in a state of perpetual suppression at the hands of their capturers’ progeny. The concept of the “zombi” as it is known today started thanks to European slavery in Haiti. This concept of a zombi was born in the Americas before the Haitian Revolution.17 These people were African slaves that toiled in the sugar fields of the island. These slaves were “living people who had been captured by white wizards.”18 Baptist writes that they lost all personality, but “the
16 Bapsist, 3–28.
17 Bapsit, 145–146. 18 Baptist, 146.
ghost-sprit” and body remained in the land of the dead working at the will of the sorcerer- planters.” 19 He asserts that this is not totally unbelievable since the slave workers often suffered a quick death due to the hellacious treatment of overseers and the harsh conditions of a typical plantation in America. Baptist tells that that conditions did not fare any better as the radical reconstructionist efforts only made for the oppressions of Jim Crow, and further racists measure of social suppression still proliferated for the following decades in the America. The rights of voting, labor, and basic human rights of African-Americans face a continuous fight for equality to that of white Americans that follow the habits of their forefathers. The repercussions of slavery and the Civil War, and globalization of economic resources for international trade of cotton were a great cost. Baptist proves that the repercussions of the institution of slavery are felt to this day. The sociological and economic impact of the practice of human bondage in the establishment of America changed the landscape of humanity forever. Baptist’s allegorical tale of how the institution of slavery shaped the landscape of America’s economic and social strata forever in a way that seemingly forever forces a whole race of Americans to suffer repeated injustices at the hands of the state that their ancestors’ captors gained from slave labor.20 The Baptist subject of a shift in the shape of people in and their relationship with the environment was changed by the actions of the civil war. It idea furthers the thoughts of the way the war altered how Americans used the land and crops that Kirby and Steinberg write about. Whether the change of people’s use of their environment is for war strategy instead or planting crops for commercial gain instead a feasible continual use of the land to plant crops to live and survive. The Civil War and the evolution of the wish to alter their surroundings totally changed how Americans used the land they inhabited.
19 Baptist, 144–145. 20 Baptist, 407- 420.
Brian Allen Drake continues the thoughts of the previous historians show belief that changes brought by the time of the Civil war. He argues that the ecology of the Civil War is a subject long overdue for study by historians. The subject of the war is covered in every way imaginable, but few ever acknowledge the ecology of the land the battles were fought on. Drake proves that the subject of the setting of the war is well worth the attention of historians for academic study. The collection of essays Drake provides is a basis for a push for more consideration of the ecology of America during the Civil War. His argument builds a basis that every chapter follows and further reinforces his argument. The importance of the environment affects the climate in which the war was fought and shaped the war in ways that were greater than academia ever considers. As Paul Sutter’s epilogue for this edited collection makes clear, the approach of military and political study is turning to more sociological aspects of the nation. A much overdue focus is now on how the everyday American dealt with the war. Sutter shares Drake’s expression of how over the past few decades historians are, “marching away from a narrow focus on battlefield events and sectional crisis to explore the lives of individual soldiers, freed slaves, women, on the home front, motivation, memory, and a host of other topics.” 21 Furthermore, Sutter states that environmental historians are making the very necessary push to refocus the view of the war to the effects of the ecology on the war. This historiographical push challenges the formerly myopic view of historians that the economic and political perspective was all that was worth studying. Most of these new studies push to look beyond the well-covered areas of the war follow the new paradigm that environmental study argues — “nature matters.” Recent history makes much of the immoral deeds of guerilla warfare, and its mostly unknown impact on civilians. However, few common nonacademic people or historians give very little
21 The Blue, the Gray, and the Green: Toward an Environmental History of the Civil War, Brian Drake, ed. (London: The University of Georgia Press), 2015, 226.
consideration to the ecological terrors of daily life for soldiers. An essay in the book by Timothy Silver expresses the effect of tiny bugs on Confederate fighters from Yancey North Carolina. Silver shows that mosquito-born parasites were the reason for the epidemic of malaria that killed hundreds of Confederate troops and sympathizers that gave aid to the South’s army in the summer of 1862. The Confederates were forced to stay close to hospitals in Richmond Virginia because of the disease, and Silver writes that this is just one case in which nature played part in the war’s actions. 22 Even more chapters of Drake’s book show how many of the smallest consequences of nature help shape the war’s troop movements and supply chains. The evidence proves that any historian who neglects the impact of nature is in error. The American Civil War should be seen as a battle of two armies of soldiers and their collective struggle to win a war while dealing with nature, as the collection’s title denotes. Any further deliberation of the environment’s impact on the Civil War will do more than just add color and texture to the knowledge of the war. Further research and understating of the Civil War can help scholars totally reconsider the war. As Paul Sutter’s “Waving the muddy shirt” shows, the impact of ecology makes them “[rethink] the very matter of the war, its lived material realities, and their formative relations to that rolling ideological formation that we call nature.” 23 Sutter really makes the case for an argument that most histories of war or any other event in history are incomplete if the writers of those tales do not consider the effects of the setting for those events. Drake’s proof that the subject of the setting the setting of the Civil War does provide evidence that the place and elements of nature at that place are as important as the people involved in historical events.
22 Drake, 58. 23 Drake, 11.
The study of an exact location can give an idea of just how the environment of a place affects the daily realties of soldiers of the Civil War introduces a need for their side of the past. An understanding of the contemporary investigation by scholars on the ecology of the time sheds new light on just what the armies faced in their daily duties of war. The camps dotted the landscape throughout the country for both the Federal and Confederate armies that served as detention centers to hold prisoners of war during the conflict. Most well known Confederate holding centers are the sites in Richmond, Macon, Savannah, Goldsborough, and the most notorious one with the highest death rate in Andersonville. The events of a precise location around a historically significant landmark can reveal an unimaginable reality of the past.
Texas in the early spring of 1861 was a celebratory time as they saw their secession from the Union as freedom from the suppression of Lincoln. The men of Smith County, Texas were eager to form into a fighting force so they formed companies of soldiers and formalized an army with an armory in east Texas near Tyler in 1861. By 1862 the building Confederates in East Texas had a ninety by forty foot two-story brick armory with blacksmiths that made weapons for the men. Ten carpenters made packing crates, building materials, and tools in frame room with a fence. The southern military forces in the area had a lead shop, dry house, coal shack, and a furnace that completed the working area of the arms plant. Two double log cabins provided housing for the workers and hired slaves. A home close by was converted into a segregated hospital. The Armory employed 230 men at all times. The Confederacy turned out 2,223 rifles, repaired twice as many, and made millions of cartridges in nineteen months for the Trans- Mississippi Department. The Tyler armory rushed one-half million rounds of ammunition to their army during the Red Rivers Campaign in March of 1864 as the Union attempted to take
northern Louisianan and most of East Texas. Camp Ford may have been established as a camp of instruction in spring 1862. Some evidence suggests that it might have exited as early as 1861. 24
The site of Camp Ford was selected because its proximity to the Tyler-Marshall road, and the close large natural spring nearby four miles northeast of Tyler. The story of the camp reveals a profound story of death and struggle to survive for captured Federal troops. 25 The east Texas camp for the Trans-Mississippi Theater is historically established as a place that held more than 5,300 men, and some estimates that the number was perhaps as peaked a high of 6,000 men in May 1864. 26 The total nearly of men at the camp reached approximately 9,000 prisoners and guards.27 Camp Ford, named for the Texas Colonel John S. Ford, became one of the largest west of the Mississippi. The site of the camp began four miles of northeast of the site a training site in Tyler was established in April of 1862 for volunteers to the Confederate side. The camp became a permanent installation in 1863 as it transformed into a prisoner-of-war center that experienced the lowest death rate of any large camp during the war.28 Confederates in the Trans-Mississippi took few Union prisoners until Major General John Bankhead Magruder recaptured Galveston on January 1, 1863. The number of prisoners grew more after this action as later that summer a Northern campaign into Louisiana yielded more prisoners.
The Trans-Mississippi Theater needed a new site for prisoners of the war. The Southern command eventually chose Tyler’s Camp Ford for at least five reasons.29 “First, the place was
24 Betts, 35 -41.
25 Betts, 42– 45.
26 Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone, John Q. Anderson ed. (Baton Rouge, Lousiana State Unveristy Press) 2010, 290n.
27 Robert W. Glover, Camp Ford: Tyler, Texas, C.S.A., Ann and Lee Lawerance East Texas History Series (Natchitoches, East Texas Historical Society) 1998, 3.
28 Ibid, note 23.
29 Kennith W. Howell, The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas During the Civil War (Denton: University of North Texas Press) 2009, 208.
already functioning as a training site and could furnish, marginally, enough guards to guarantee security. Second, Smith County had a sound economy, led by a flourishing agricultural sector oriented toward producing food crops and developing livestock herds; the area could thus both afford a site and feed its prisoners. Third, a Confederate supply depot was nearby. Fourth, Ford was near a good freshwater spring and freshwater creek. And, fifth, Smith County was remote enough to discourage escape attempts, yet close enough to Shreveport, Louisiana, to participate in prisoner exchange programs.”30 The first inmates of the camp were captured in Louisiana by Rangers of Harrison County lead Walter P. Lane. The forty-eight Yankees arrived in July of 1863. The camp’s prisoners soon number seventy-five as a group of men that were originally held in Tyler in the Federal courthouse were transferred to Camp Ford. The camp faced issues of being able to house so many inmates as they had no stockade and only thirty-eight guards. More men arrived by the year’s end, which included a bunch from Camp Groce, near Hempstead, when the Confederates abandoned that site. 31 Camp Ford’s first long-term commandant was West Pointier Colonel R. T. P. Allen who took command in November of 1863 as the site continued to fully develop into a true prisoner of war camp. The Louisiana campaign by the commander of Southern forces in Trans-Mississippi, Latinate General Edmund Kirby Smith in October 1862 enlarged the total of detainees to 550. Latinate General Smith issued the order for command of Camp Ford to Colonel Allen on November 3rd and he arrived in Smith County on the 9th. 32
30 Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” 17– 18; Gilbert, “Notes on Camp Ford,” copy in author’s possession; Thomas Ludwell Bryan, “The Old Stockade,” CSC 12 (Summer 1973): 25; Smallwood, Born in Dixie, 1: 184– 85; Howell, 208.
31 Howell, 208.
32 Howell, 209.
One inmate form Camp Ford left a rich description of the scene of Smith Country during this time:
“Besides our officers’ quarters with its street of log huts, each small community, every doorway shaded by a board veranda, thick with evergreens; in some streets these verandas joining midway, so that the whole spaces between the houses is protected from the sun which only strikes out porches in checkered light … besides this area three sides, densely populated as the houses of a New York ward … Here upright sticks sustain a simple thatch of leaves; there poles fixed slantwise, and overlaid are satisfied with blankets stretched across two saplings. Others make a palisaded mansion, eight feet square, with stakes inserted in the earth, like picket fences, and covered with a roof of twigs. Another dwelling is of basket work, wrought out of ash peelings; beyond this is a roof composed of slabs slanting from a mud wall six feet high down to the ground and plastered with a layer of clay. Hard by the brook are caverns, ex-cavated in the clay bank, with steep earthen stairways entering to their subterrene apartments.” 33
The population of the camp and county increased progressively as the captured men of war from the South’s campaigns against the South were successful in the area. Guards to watch the inmates also streamed into the camp as their numbers increased. Allen faced an already troubled situation as soon as he arrived. The prisoners and the people of Smith County virtually ran wild within the county in ways that caused the new commander of the camp myriad headaches. The monitoring and controlling of the prisoners of the camp was a challenge. As the situation before his arrival was a scene where the seventy-five prisoners seemed the seventy-five prisoners had the run of Smith County, and the guards of the camp appeared to let them roam
33 Glover, 11.
around with out punishment. It was appeared that the roving prisoners usually looked for food. “Some of the prisoners surprised “Mittie Marsh, whose husband was at war and whose farm was about five miles from Camp Ford, when they appeared at her door. On August 30, she wrote her soldier husband, Bryan Marsh, that “the Yanks do just as they please.” 34 Then on September 29, 1863 matters became worse as Confederate General Tom Green sent led his forces to victory at the Battle of Morganza in Louisiana that captured a total of 468 new detainees for Camp Ford. At this point the camp held 500 prisoners and only seventy-one untested militiamen and one regular army lieutenant that served as guards. The large number of prisoners to guards simply overwhelmed the guards. This immense situation of security issues was especially bad in the holding area, as it did not even have a stockade. The ranking Federal officer at the camp was Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Leake reported to notice that men escaped almost daily. 35 Smith County’s Mittie Marsh again wrote her soldier husband, Bryan that, “All of the Yankee prisoners were about to make there escape. [Forty-eight] got away in one night. . . . The prisoners were going to unarm the guards and go from camps to Tyler.” Mittie continued, saying that the inmates threatened to burn Tyler to the ground. She concluded that she had “heard that their 600 more prisoners coming her I don’t know what we’ll do with them their will be more Yankees than any thing else.” 36 This attempted mass prison brake proved the guards to lay down a “deadline” of logs from fallen timber. On November 11 November 11 Yankee Private Thomas Moorehead supposedly was waiting for wood and inadvertently strayed past the deadline. Sentry Frank Smith shot him dead on the spot, and the ball after it passed through Moorehead shattered the arm of another prisoner. This incident angered the Federal army as they threatened to kill
34 Howell, 209.
35 Howell, 210.
36 Mittie Marsh to Bryan Marsh, November 12, 1863, Marsh Papers, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas; Howell, 210.
their guards, sack Tyler, and leave the entire area in ashes. Still, the rumors held that there was more to the Moorehead story. It appeared to be part of a larger escape attempt, because three other men already escaped on November 8. Colonel Allen quickly convened a court of inquiry to dull the Federals’ rage. He invited all Federal officers to witness the proceedings, as a panel that included at least one prisoner was to decide the fate of the prisoners that attempted to flee. Allen’s quick actions pacified the Northern objection slightly, even though the results of the four-day inquiry were never made public. Allen began to suspect that some area Unionists were helping the prisoners who were trying to escape for some reason during the inquiry. He then ordered Sargent J. C. Curtis of Lane’s Rangers to get into civilian clothes, and go by the alias “Smith.” Sargent Curtis them posed as a Confederate deserter, and approach known Unionists. Curtis’s mission was to seek out two well-known supporters of the Union in George W. Whitmore and George Rosenbaum. Curtis became suspicious of them, and Allen ordered their arrest after he spoke to Whitmore and Rosenbaum. Initially the pair of men was kept in the Tyler jail. Guards moved them to Camp Ford a week later on November 17. Even thought Whitmore and Rosenbaum were innocent of their charges of harboring Union loyalties.
John H. Whitmore headed the Whitmore family, whose farm was south of Canton, later renamed Omen, in the southeastern part of Smith County. The acreage of the family’s farm also extended all the way into Rusk County, and one of John’s two sons, George became an attorney and set up a practice in Marshall. He represented Harrison County in the legislature as a follower of Sam Houston in the late 1850s. He warned Texans about the folly of following the Southern fire-eaters that were determined to destroy the Union and who instead would only be able to destroy Dixie as the war approached. The other “Unionist,” Rosenbaum, was from Van Zandt County and once served as a district attorney for the Ninth Judicial District. During this time the
district that Rosenbaum severed included Smith County. 37 The alleged Unionist, Rosenbaum, had more his fair share of ties to Texas and the Confederacy. The deserter “Smith,” or Curtis, in the meantime resumed his investigation as he continued to watch the Whitmore family. Curtis hoped to detect any suspicious behavior they might take part in. He learned something astounding after a last trip to the Whitmore farm as he gained the confidence of William H. Whitmore, George’s brother. Curtis learned a few details of the plot for a total prison break. He left the Whitmore home with a gift of $ 150 in Confederate notes and five handguns. Allen sent a squad to arrest William Whitmore after Curtis made his reported the plot for the escape of all the prisoners of Camp Ford. He was first held in the Tyler jail, and then he was escorted to Camp Ford. He learned just as his brother and Rosenbaum learned, that once they arrived that he could not just mingle with the Yankee prisoners. Perhaps because local Confederate authorities feared that the trio might try to spearhead a riot. The guards lodged the three alleged conspirators not in the main camp, but in the guardhouse, or wolf pen, instead. This moniker suggesting that the local “Unionists” may have faced harsher treatment than other prisoners. The people of Smith County could rest easy whether that was the case that the new inmates faced worse treatment or not. The slave labor soon finished the four-acre stockade to house the tenants of Camp Ford.38 Whitmore and Rosenbaum remained in Camp Ford until July 5, 1864. Then the Confederates moved them to Camp Martin, just south of Rusk, where they remained until they were finally being freed in November. After the early escapes and the larger plot that failed, life in Camp Ford settled into something that could be called peaceful as most prisoners accepted their immediate fate. Although, the Whitmores and Rosenbaum didn’t stay entirely isolated, as
37 Howell, 210–211.
38 James Smallwood, The History of Smith County, Volume 1: Born in Dixie (Austin: Earkin Press) 1999, 189.
conscripts that deserted and later captured soon joined the three in the wolf pen. Even the Northern prisoners contacted them each day by arrangement with the guards that allowed at least one man to commit a small offense and to be held in the pen for the day. While there, the prisoner was allowed to console the two men and inform them of any news from the outside world. Meanwhile, various locals still continued to express alarm about mass escapes and the devilry that such escapees could cause. The situation became so tense that Allen temporarily impressed dozens of male slaves, with their owners’ consent, to construct a more daunting stockade to contain the prisoners. The new stockade was completed with an eighteen-foot-high split-log surround, which took in about four acres, to enclose the troublesome Union men by the end of November. The prisoner occupation of Camp Ford filled the camp in four distinct stages. The first the unenclosed camp was filled between August of 1863 and early November. Then the second came the newly made stockade camp from November of 1863 to April of 1864. Third addition to Camp Ford was the great expansion of the stockade after the Louisiana campaigns of 1864. Finally, the fourth phase began in October of 1864 as a new exchange of prisoners took place and as the camp’s population dropped from its high of more than 5,200 men to less than 3,000. 39 The third phase was what caused routine mayhem at Camp Ford during its twenty-one month life. The Red River Campaign of 1864 by Union forces alarmed the Confederates in Louisiana and Texas. Rebel commanders in the Louisiana moved roughly 700 prisoners from Shreveport to Tyler to get them away from the Federal actions when they learning that they were coming. Then, a combination of the results of the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill in April of 1864 greatly increased the number of prisoners in the Trans-Mississippi area. Major General Richard “Dick” Taylor’s men caught around 4,000 Federals, most of them wound up in Camp
39 Howell, 211–212.
Ford. That meant that the stockade needed to be enlarged. Slave gangs had expanded it to the north and east by mid-April that made the stockade covered about eleven acres. It was shaped like an irregular rectangle with six-foot walls built of split post oak trees. Workers also built three large log cabins for quarters to house the guards. 40 The detainees at first built their own cabins after the big influx of new prisoners, but a lack of tools and the receding tree line brought change. The prisoners began banding together and to build “shebangs,” or small structures that resembled earthen caves, wooden shacks, and pup tents. A guest of Camp Ford from December of 1863 to June of 1864 Captain William May witnessed the large influx and, later recalled a “Prison City,” shelter came in all shapes and sizes:
“Here upright sticks sustain a simple thatch of leaves; there poles fixed slantwise and overlaid with bark, compose an Indian lodge. Some householders are satisfied with blankets stretched across two saplings.” Continuing, he said that other men built “palisade mansions, eight feet square, with stakes, inserted in the earth, like picket fences, and covered with a roof of twigs. Another’s dwelling is of basket-work wrought out of ashwood pellings; beyond this is a roof composed of oak slabs slanting from a mud-wall six feet high . . . plastered with a layer of clay.” Down by the brook, May concluded, were “caverns, excavated in the clay . . . with steep earthen staircases entering to their subterrene apartments.” 41
40 Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” 23– 24, 30, 32; Gilbert, “Notes on Camp Ford,” copy in author’s possession; William W. Heartsill, Fourteen Hundred and 91 Days in the Confederate Army, ed. Bell Irvin Wiley (Jackson, Tennessee: McCowat-Mercer Press, 1953), 200; Bryan, “Old Stockade,” 25; Betts, “R. T. P. Allen,” 10. For the dimensions of the expanded camp, see Gilbert, New Look, 9; Howell, 208–212.
41 William May, “Prison Papers,” in “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas. 17 Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” 22– 23, 26; Betts, Civil War, 43– 44; Gilbert, New Look, 9. 18 McKinney, William F., “The Diary of Captain William F. McKinney,” intro. and ed. by Randal B. Gilbert, CSC 25 (Summer 1986): 15– 25; Howell, 212–213.
The men not only provide their own shelters, but they also wisely safeguarded their water supply and consequently their health. Navy Captain Amos Johnson of the USS Sachem was named by the inmates to supervise the protection of their water. Captain Johnson also recruited a number of healthy inmates to build two wooden reservoirs for holding water from the clear spring neighboring Ray’s Creek. One reservoir held drinking water, and the other was used for bathing. Then, Johnson located the reservoirs as far as he could from the latrines. Those reservoirs were located in the northeast corner of the camp. The charm and activities of Commandant Allen and his wife, Julia, often improved morale, even though prisoners usually displayed good morale. For example, Colonel Allen allowed prisoners to have visitors, and both he and Julia frequently took extra food for the men. Capt. William F. McKinney, an inmate of the Nineteenth Kentucky Infantry, recorded in his diary on April 28, 1864, that Mrs. Allen visited camp and contributed “a nice mess of dried peaches” for the men. In his May 7 entry noted another of her visits, by saying simply that she “provisions brought.” This implies that such events were a regular event. The inmates liked Julia so much they began to call her “Mother Allen.” 42
“One prisoner so appreciated Mother Allen that he dedicated a poem to her in the name of God. In his first four lines, Col. A. J. H. Duganne wrote: All kindly acts are for the Dear Lord’s sake And His sweet law and recompense they claim, “I was in prison,” thus our Savior spake, And unto me you came.” 43
42 Howell, 213.
43 The poem is from A. J. H. Duganne’s Camps and Prisons, quoted in James P. Douglas, Douglas’s Texas Battery, ed. Lucia Rutherford (Tyler, Texas: Smith County Historical Society, 1966), 139. Duganne’s remembrance is also republished in The Old Flag: Fiftieth Anniversary, unnumbered pages, copy in “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society; Howell, 213.
Mrs. Allen was not the only woman who befriended the inmates. As the superb poet, Mollie E. Moore, a youthful Tyler belle, and other local young ladies followed Mrs. Allen’s example. Captain May remarked on such socializing with civilians that Mother Allen brought to camp. 44
“Often,” he said, “our fiddler’s skills” were needed, and on many a night men in camp heard the “thrum of stringed instruments [while] divers rebel dames and demoiselles . . . sit [and] chat with Yankee officers.” The Smith County women listened to “Yankee songs, accompanied by Yankee fingers upon banjoes made by Yankee hands.” When the fiddler played “Sounds from Home,” the medley drew “tears from the eyes of the lady rebels.” Usually, on such a night, once all visitors had gone, the men paired off and danced late into the approaching morn to the tunes of the fiddler, about which all May could say was, “Dance on, poor prisoners! Cheat your hearts out of loneliness.” 45
The detainees of the camp represented roughly one hundred regiments from seventeen states, which included two secessionists’ states. The sanitation of the camp did not help matter much. Body lice were such an issue that one claimed that they could “eat some men to the bone, and their captors,” unless clothes were scalded daily. Camp Ford had troops from the Artillery and Signal Corps units, steam and gunboat crews that totaled around two hundred and five total naval prisoners. Also the camp head inmates that were supporters of the Union, alleged spies, and journalists from the New York Herald, which were on board the Queen of the West when it was taken. “There were at Camp Ford Red-carpet Zouaves, wide-breedched; blue bloused
44 Howell, 213–214.
45 May, “Prison Papers,” in The Old Flag: Fiftieth Anniversary, unnumbered pages, copy in “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas; Howell, 214.
cavalry men, yellow trimmed; all hungry looking; sergeants with service stripes; jack tars in poly-patched trousers; wagoners in broad hats; barefooted cannoneers.” 46
The seemingly friend confines that Colonel Allen and some of the guards that appeared to bring joy and a sense of normal town life to the inmates of Camp Ford was not loved by all the facility’s guards. Men like W. W. Heartsill objected to the humanitarian efforts of the couple, and socialization of fellow guards with the inmates. Complaints of men like Heartsill are what may have influenced Allen’s eventual removal from his position of leadership at the camp. He was once a prisoner-of-war himself at the Union’s Camp Butler and lamented the friendly behavior of the commander and guards at Camp Ford. On a day in March of 1864, Heartsill reported to witnessing the colonel go into the stockade and carrying dried peaches, eggs, butter, and more rations he objected to as a present to Yankee officers. He interjected that this was very different from the way the guards treated the prisoners at Camp Chase. He said about the this event that, “I think it would do Colonel Allen good to stay a few months in Fort Delaware.” 47 Colonel Allen resigned his post at Camp Ford less than three months later. He sighted that health reasons for his decision to step down at the camp. The new commander that replaced Allen was no better in the minds of me like Heartsill though. The humane treatment of the inmates continued under the supervision of Lieutenant Colonel T. Scott Anderson. He took the role of the new supervisor of the camp on May 26, 1864. 48 So even a new commander of the guards at Camp Ford did not change the congenial atmosphere of the facility. The idea that the other average camps were so much harsher might not measure up. Other studies of Civil War prison camps show that the men actually decorated their tents at holiday times. Camp Kelsey near
46 Robert W. Glover, Camp Ford: Tyler, Texas, C.S.A., Ann and Lee Lawerance East Texas History Series (Natchitoches, East Texas Historical Society) 1998, 19–20.
47 Smallwood, 193.
48 Smallwood, 193.
Annapolis Junction, Maryland is reported to show evidence that the tents were adored with boxes filled with plants evergreen boughs and in the winter camp. Edward Sachse, a lithographer that produced hundreds of camp images for public viewing during the Civil War depicted these senses of decorated tents at the camp. The regiments’ tents were flank, and the dinner table that was set for a Thanksgiving feast had the décor of a friendlier atmosphere.49 Any objections to a friendlier was camp at Camp Ford seem to fizzle out when other camps are studied. Some camps are described to be more hospitable to inmates than others. There appears to no hard rule of camp conditions for either side of the war.
Further records and remembrances of the men show a continued small town feeling to the prisoner of war camp in East Texas. On one day called the “Old Flag Day,” a camp newspaper put together by William May, distributed the during the whole day while men made speech after speech about their sacred Union. The fife, flute, banjo, and fiddle struck up The Star-Spangled Banner after a band concert and a singsong. At exactly that moment, a thin, ragged man jumped out of a shebang and, quickly winked as raised the flag of the Forty-eighth Ohio on the small tree raised: “Like a flash the flag of our Union sped up to the peak,” said one Yank, “and waved triumphantly over that rebel prison pen! Such cheers as went up from those hungry throats! No rebel could have drowned it!” 50 Then, of course, the guards assembled quickly and rode through the compound with sabers at the ready. That event ended what they considered an insulting incident. The guards also meant to find and to confiscate the flag, however, inside one shebang a thin and ragged man approached another prisoner that was a man in bed ill with fever. He got the ill man up and wrapped the banner they were after around the wasted body of the man. He then helped the sick man get his clothes back on and got him back to bed. A witness later proclaimed
49 Megan Kate Nelson, Run Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Bogart: 2012) 131. 50 Howell, 214.
that the guards search was fruitless, because “They never found that flag” and today that flag is now in possession of the Ohio State Historical Society. John W. Greene’s remembrance of the Flag Day events is reflected in his memoir of his time at the camp that they rallied their “drooping” spirits with songs and “stirring notes of that grand old melody, ‘Red, White, and Blue.” Greene continued by writing that the guards retorted with, “Bonnie Blue Flag,” when the prisoners said blue. So Greene shows that the Union prisoners “enjoyed” that king of relationship with the “rebels.” 51 On occasion, the men found that a political statement was a way to boost their morale and make their voice heard at the same time. Certain prisoners stripped a small tree of all its branches and hung a cord from its top as a celebration few days before their July 4, 1864. Their jailors never wondered what happed there, and an inmate recalled that was because “we were always doing queer things.” Paying simple playing jokes or pranks on the guards of the camp frequently amused the prisoners. One corner of the camp’s main streets was dubbed “Keno Corner,” as so many men regularly gathered there to gamble. 52 One guard, B. W. McEachern was from England, and not a native Southerner, was so fond of money that he made on that street that remained in the compound after roll call and joined in the keno games and a dice game called chuck-a-luck. On a few days he was boastful because he won that day. However, he usually left angry the next day after losing all his winnings from the day before. McEachern kept his side arms, two Colt revolvers, on several occasions, while with the men. One morning Robert Rogers from Ohio planed to steal his gun. The adjutant became more and more absorbed with the play as a keno game went on, and Rogers simply slipped the guns out of their holsters without McEachern realizing it. The guard eventually left the compound unarmed
51 John W. Greene, Camp Ford Prison and How I Escaped an Incident of the Civil War … — Proamry Source Edition (Toledo: Barkdull Printing House) 1893, 31.
52 Howell, 214.
and ignorant of the theft until he went into the commander’s headquarters. There a fellow guard casually told him that he was robbed. The humiliated Confederate stormed back to Keno Corner to demand the return of the Colts with a detachment of armed guards. Amazingly enough, not a single inmate had a clue about the theft. They did not witness anything. Aggravated by the refusal of the prisoners to help him find his guns, the miserable McEachern left in a huff. He then returned later in the day and again demand his Colts from the uncooperative men. He threatened to take away their daily rations this time, which was a move that would be like threatening
to take medicine from a sick man. The guns showed up out of nowhere soon enough, but the victim, McEachern, was never happy afterward. They forever after called him “Keno,” much to his continuing disgust, even though he stopped gambling with the men. 53 Further boost to the morale of the men developed as a Camp Ford “philosophy” that stresses the positive aspects of prison life and their release that follows. The epitome of this philosophy is the poem, “The Jolly Cock Robin”:
A Jolly old Cock Was case on a rock — A rock jutting out on the sea; And said he to himself “I’m cast on this shelf, As merit is used to be! I don’t care a curse, It might have been worse,” Said this jolly old cock, said he; “I’ve still got a bunch To serve for lunch, And a capital view of the sea! So I think I can die, Without piping my eye” — But a ship was just nearing the rock; And he giggled with joy, When the crew cried “Ahoy!” And rescued this jolly old cock.
While excitement occurred on July 4 and a few other times, usually daily life inside the camp was boring and monotonous. Yet the men lived as best they could and made the most out
53 John B. Beach, “Camp Ford Prisoner,” manuscript, copy in “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society; A. J. Swanger to R. E. Francis, February 3, 1895, “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas; Smallwood, Born in Dixie, 1: 202– 3; Howell, 214–215.
of difficult circumstances. William May and several others left accounts that give much detail on daily life inside the stockade of what May called “Prison City.” The camp is sometimes cited as to have the appearance of a frontier town, and it developed many of the same services. The men called their central street Fifth Avenue. In the middle of the camp on this avenue was a blind of pine boughs that sheltered an elevated platform. This area served as a marketplace, and also was the place where guards delivered the prison provisions. When May wrote his work, the daily menu was comprised of beef, slaughtered by the inmates, and cornmeal. However, the local farmers added to this effort of the camp, as they regularly came with their surplus foodstuffs to add to the market’s stocks. May says that the farmers gouged the prisoners by selling their goods at outrageous prices. Such as, sugar at $ 30 a pound, but sometimes the men turned the tables on farmers who overpriced their goods. May tells that of a day when a local producer entered the camp and came to the market to sell his expensive sugar. The inmates that charged the platform and scooped the sugar up by the handfuls from an open barrel, and then the men ate it as they ran away. The raid came so fast and was over so quickly that the farmer could not even identify the villains. Other growers lost goods ranging from white flour to turkeys, or from cornmeal to whiskey. The Union prisoners got the best of another Smith County farmer that often came to Prison City to sell his produce on Fifth Avenue. He usually waited outside until some jailors assembled to lead him into camp and to protect his goods while he was at the market in the fear that he would be robbed otherwise. The farmer foolishly told the gatekeeper to forget the escort one day when the guards were too slow in meeting him at the entry point. He entered Prison City alone since he had made so many trips with no issue with the prisoners before. He announced to all the customers that he had fresh cabbage, sweet potatoes, a pair costing five dollars in Confederate scrip for sale once he was inside. Then inmates quickly swarmed him and
began helping themselves to the produce without paying for it. The panicked farmer attempted to get away by whipping his horse since the animal moved fast, but the grower on board his small wagon did not get away. Some prisoner had pulled the linchpins that held the wheels on the wagon. This crippled the farmer’s attempt to escape and left him where he sat. 54 Not only did the inmates get the rest of the produce, they also took the farmer’s straw hat and red bandanna and left the grower sitting in the dirt near the platform. After the robbery, the thieves showed pity by helping the farmer up and dusting the dust and dirt off him. They then fixed his wagon for his use and politely sent him on his way. One prisoner said that the man was “the worst scared rebel in Texas.” Local folklore says the farmer left fast and never returned to Prison City. 55
The guards saw all the mischief but chose not to intervene, perhaps because they knew that the prisoners desperately needed food. Colonel A. J. H. Duganne added his account of men’s daily life in at the camp. He reported that most men healthy enough to do so rose around daybreak. “Tatterdemalions roll out of burrowing places, creep up from the caves, and emerge from hut-openings,” said the colonel. Colonel Duganne described the men as “Red-capped Zouaves, wide-breeched; blue-bloused cavalry men, yellow trimmed: all hungry looking: sergeants with service stripes; jack-tars in holy-patched trousers . . . barefooted cannoneers — rank and file generally hatless, bootless, and shirtless . . . Motley’s the only wear.” To quote Shakespeare, he added: “Such costumes never were beheld before outside of Rag Fair or the ‘Beggers’ Opera.’ I wish our Uncle Abraham, or Sam, could see this sans culotte procession march up Pennsylvania Avenue.” 56 After it appeared that the whole camp swarmed Fifth Avenue, Duganne mingled with the crowd. He reported that “I pass the ‘bakery’ where an enterprising
54 Howell, 216.
55 Beach, “Camp Ford Prisoner,” manuscript, “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas; Howell, 216.
56 Augustine J. Duganne, Camps and Prisons (New York: n.p., 1865), 38081; Howell, 216.
New Yorker sells his ten-cent leathery doughnuts and caoutchouc [rubberlike] grape-pies for a greenback dollar. I glance a moment at our ‘jeweler’s window, where a corporal tinkers with watches; [and I] elbow through the crowd surrounding a Lieutenant’s turning-lathe, which whorls out chessmen at three dollars a set.” 57 Apparently, this was how the early morning went on a typical day at the Prison City. 58
Even though many prisoners remained as satisfied as any prisoners can be, problems developed in the prison as the population went up over time. The living conditions at the camp declined as the over crowded situation led to more sickness and disease. An epidemic of measles killed several prisoners.
One detainee lamented that the sick had no medicine as the Union’s naval blockade of the South meant a lack of all kinds of supplies to the Confederacy. He said that numerous new arrivals to the camp had to do without shelter, little to eat, and no change of food rations. He also added that the camp became filthy. “Beef bones, rotten leaves, lice, hair, rags, filth of an indescribable kind was,” he grumbled, “all raked up in piles all over the camp. The piles were full of maggots and were making life intolerable.” 59 The officials did the best they could to improve the harsh conditions. They planed for the construction of a small hospital nearby. However, conditions remained bad, and medicines were almost not available. The result was that guards lodged only dying men in the new hospital. New prisoners still lacked quarters when they arrived, and the camp still wretchedly stunk because of insufficient sanitation. Food shortages continued, and adequate clothes turned out to be unavailable. This lead to that half-nude men battled rain and cold weather. All the while maggots continued to feast on garbage, and the
57 Howell, 216–217.
58 Howell, 217.
59 Aaron T. Sutton, Prisoner of the Rebels in Texas: The Civil War Narrative of Aaron T. Sutton, ed. David G. MacLean (Decatur, Indiana: American Books, 1978), 22; Howell, 217.
prisoners built more shebangs, flattened tomato cans for plates to eat, and whittled wood for spoons. 60 Always important to the people the camp, the food shortages became less often as time went on. Standard rations in the beginning included a pound of meat and a pint of cornmeal per day, but eventually, the guards reduced quantities as the supplies dwindled. The meal eventually consisted not just of kernels but also of ground husks and cobs, and the coarse substances resulted in disorders such as dysentery and diarrhea. Some miserable soldiers bartered their clothing for additional food, and others seemed to go crazy according to one inmate. He added, “It was plain to be seen that we were becoming weaker every day.” Some of the guards became scavengers themselves, and their captives acquired such luxury items as rye for coffee. Other prisoners received passes to forage for wild onion to add to their meager rations. Inmates and jailors alike were hungry enough to plant gardens outside the stockade, hoping for a good yield as the war neared its end. Captain J. M. McCulloch oversaw prisoners who tried to grow their own food, but scurvy became more common despite the development prison grown crops. Guards suffered with the prisoners they kept, because the Confederate Congress before hand stipulated that rations for prisoners of war should be the same as those for South’s own enlisted men. Guards agonized along with their charges when hunger reared its ugly head. Early on, the fact that Texas was not successfully invaded, did insure that the Smith County’s rations were sufficient to prevent starvation. But by 1864 shortages became more pronounced, especially after the number of inmates finally made up about 50 percent of the entire population of the county. Rations shortages created more even more hard times. 61 Greene’s memory of his food as a
60 Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” 24– 25; Bryan, “Old Stockade,” 25– 27; newspaper clipping, n.d., “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas; Betts, Civil War, 43– 44; Howell, 217.
61 Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” CSC, 25; Bryan, “Old Stockade,” CSC, 27; Betts, Civil War, 44– 45; Sutton, Prisoner in Texas, 39; War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union
prisoner recorded in his account was that the prisoners had only a ration of a pint of musty old corn meal. Their meal was delivered in the morning in a sack brought to the stockade where it was poured from a tin cup into the inmates’ hat, cap or served on a board if they had no head covers. They also had to pay for salt to “season their mush,” or go without if they had no money to pay.62
Both Army and Naval officers acted as mediators between the prisoners and guards. The inmates made a kind of power structure during their time in imprisonment not much different than the distribution of power in their military ranks. Men of prominent status like Captain J.M. McCulloch of the Seventy-Seventh Illinois were allowed to roam freely within a half-mile radius of Camp Ford. Even the food rations were given out according to rank. An officer usually distributed the allotment of cornmeal and beef to the prisoners. The officers were also in charge of the water supply of the camp. Captain Amos Johnson called himself the “Commissioner of the Aqueducts.” He saw that fresh water was available throughout the spring. The senior officers usually saw that the prisoner respected the guards. Things did resemble later accounts of the “Old West” as depicted in American Western stories at moments of low moral. One account tells that gambling, cheating, stealing and fisticuffs occurred daily. Confederate enlisted men Robert Emmet Burke claimed that occasionally hundreds of men engaged in fights at one time and the Rebel guards had to break it up at the point of the bayonet. The inmates were said to be in a state of, “respecting no authority expect that of their captures” at one moment a thereat to the disciplined of the camp. Organized crime appeared among the prisoners. One gang of inmates from New York units robbed and beat their fellow detainees. However, vigilantly justice came in
and Confederate Armies, comp. Robert N. Scott (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880– 1901), 2, 8: 196; Howell, 217.
62 Greene, 30.
the form of “regulators” often meted out justice in street fights. Moral was good and obedience to superior officers was maintained for most the camp’s existence. Celebrations for George Washington’s Birthday and religious services were even held five days a week for attendees. Social events of square dances, concerts, wresting, ball playing, working out with parallel bars, or simple walks around the pen happened in the camp. Later reports said the first ever game of baseball in Texas occurred at Camp Ford.63 This report predates the generally accepted fist game of baseball in Texas April 21, 1868 when the Houston Stonewalls beat the Galveston Robert E. Lees 34–5 on the San Jacinto Battleground in Houston for a crowd of more than a thousand onlookers. No formal leagues existed at the time, but this game was billed as a “state championship game.” It might be possible that baseball games in Texas might predate this game, and it might merely only be the first one reported in the newspaper.64
The idea that baseball might be played at Camp Ford is plausible, though it does occur concurrently with the accepted start of the game. Most historians believe Massachusetts Regiments were involved in the invention of the game in 1861. Alexander Cartwright is considered the “father of baseball” with his team the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club. The Union Army’s connection is further bolstered by the fact that an early enthusiastic fan and promoter of the sport Union General Abner Doubleday was incorrectly identified as the inventor of baseball for some time. William B. Ruggles, a longtime Galveston sportswriter, contends that Doubleday was indeed who brought baseball to Texas originated with Joe Gardner, a Dallas newspaperman. However, Ruggles doubts the validity of the assertion the Doubleday’s introduction of the game to Texas. There is no doubt that Doubleday was in Galveston at that time since the arrived in
63 Glover, 20–21.
64 John M. Carroll, The Doubleday Myth and Texas Baseball, The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 92, 4 1989, 600–601.
Galveston in December, 1866, and served with the Freedmen’s Bureau until August, 1867. Did he introduce the game of baseball to Texas during his stay, in Texas? There is much conjecture that he did, but it is likely that the British played cricket in Galveston as early as the 1840s. “Jesse A. Ziegler, who grew up in Galveston during the Civil War and has written an entertaining collection of historical sketches on Galveston and Houston, maintains that English cotton buyers played cricket in the island city before the Civil War, but he does not specify the date of its first appearance. “ 65 Jesse Ziegler in the publication “Wave of the Gulf,” recorded the earliest existing eyewitness report of New York rules baseball in Galveston. “Ziegler maintains that he watched a match game of baseball in 1865, played by Union occupation troops just north of the Ursuline Convent on Avenue N between Twenty-fifth and Twenty-seventh streets in a large open prairie.” 66 The reports of Cartwright and Doubleday having ties to baseball and the Union Army give some credence to idea that baseball was played at Camp Ford. As the camp’s existence was roughly the same time period as the officially accepted start of the game in Houston, Texas. Baseball might have downed out the misery of prison life, and the Texan inmates that were officers were trained at West Point. 67 Camp Ford and the various prison camps may prove to be the first home of an early form of baseball in America. The influence of cricket from the soldiers’ participation in the game while training and the men’s time in prison had all the makings for the evolution of ball-and-bat spots.
Other reports of all kinds of recreation activities like, the manufacturing of different tools of the time, wooden products, candles, checkermen, crockery, military caps, cigars, doormats, straw hats, and other consumer goods of the time came out of the prisoners of the camp. Red clay
65 Carroll, 598–599.
66 Carroll, 599.
67 Aubrecht, Michael A., “Battlefield Baseball: The Birht of a National Past Time,” Baseball-Almanac. Pinstripe Press: 2007. http://www.pinstripepress.net/CWHBaseball.pdf.
pottery products and even luxury soap and banjos also were made. All sorts of efforts to save from boredom, and keep form a state of deep depression, and boost moral seemed to fail. The usual mind-set of the prisoners is surmised in a diary entry of a cavalry sergeant whom severed time in the spring of 1865: “It rained all last night and all day today. I have been in bed most all day … I am getting lonesome all the time waiting for an exchange. I cannot get anything to read or do. Every hour is lost.” 68 This despair did of course lead some inmates to attempt an escape even if they die drying.
Not all prisoners humbly accepted their fate of possible starvation, nor did accept prison life in general at Camp Ford. Escape was attempted by many, these attempts boosted camp morale in a way that the keepers of the camp hated. A few successful escapees made it to freedom after corrupting a few guards. Others tried to forge their own passes to get out of the compound. This ploy of forged passes sometimes worked, and other men experimented with tunneling out the camp’s grounds. Digging dirt remained mostly a waste of time even though a few men gained freedom with their tunnels. Some men tried a more direct method, as they simply loosened enough of the camp’s log walls to create a crawl space. After they were on the other side of the wall, and then ran for the nearest woods. Most all of the attempts by the camp’s detainees failed since the Union soldiers were not familiar with East Texas geography and were easily caught. 69 For instance, fifteen men once escaped together near the end of the war. These escapees bribed a guard whom let them out. Though, unfortunately they wandered around lost for days until Confederate searchers recaptured thirteen of them before they even reached the Sabine River. However, two escapees avoided the Confederate patrol and might have eventually
68 Glover, 22–23.
69 Howell, 217–218.
reached New Orleans and shelter in the port city.70 Another event of prisoner escape saw C. D. Gibson of the Eighteenth Iowa Infantry lead a three-man breakout. Hounds led a posse headed by planter John Wiggins to the wayward trio before they crossed the Sabine within a short period of time. Gibson later reported his first taste of Southern hospitality. Wiggins took the three prisoners to his plantation mansion, and then allowed them to feast on pork and sweet potatoes. He them delivered them to the military authorities on the next day. Gibson averred that the food he ate at the Wiggins place was the “best supper” he had ever had during a trip back to Tyler in 1911. 71 In 1864 authorities allowed inmates to shovel the garbage into refuse carts that were dumped in the deep forest well away from Prison City because of the filth in camp. The garbage was originally simply piled up around the interior of the camp. The stink of the refuse pile became a danger as epidemics of illness finally forced the guards to allow prisoners to haul away the offal. The development of hauling waste away led to what the prisoners dubbed the “underground railroad.” These activates of waste detail earned the named form the Northerners because thy led to many escapes. One or two men lied down in a cart and cover themselves with blankets. Then their buddies shoveled rubbish on them. Since the keepers seldom followed the wagons all the way to the dumpsite, the men could rise up, throw off the refuse, and run for freedom.72 The runaways preferred to make their attempts on rainy nights because such weather threw off the tracking hounds whatever the escape method. Then again, once outside the walls, the escapees faced long odds because the Union lines were so far away. Even so, historians are estimating that as many as one attempt in ten may have been successful, since the escapee
70 McKinney, “McKinney Diary,” ed. Gilbert, CSC, 21; Bryan, “Old Stockade,” CSC, 26– 27; Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” CSC, 27– 28; Howell, 218.
71 Tyler Daily Courier-Times, April 14, 1911; McKinney, “McKinney Diary,” ed. Gilbert, CSC, 21; Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” CSC, 27– 28; Howell, 218.
72 Sutton, Prisoner in Texas, 24– 26; newspaper clipping, n.d., “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas; Howell, 218.
making it back to Federal lines were slim. Two men that were successful in escape were John W. Greene and his compatriot John A. Whitsit on Christmas 1863. They were desperate to get away at any feasible opportunity from the camp, because he hated the pace “with the gnawing misery that pervaded Camp Ford.” Greene knew that before the stockade was built, many of the inmates used the dark nights to get passed the guards. However, he also knew, “Some gained their freedom for a few days, and were then tracked with bloodhounds and recaptured.”73 Greene
wrote that his idea of escape came from a Confederate guard who told him, “If you-uns don’t
like it heah, why don’t ye git away?” 74 While other escapees were gone for weeks by travelling “in around about direction”, but most were recaptured and returned to the prison, and some runners were never heard of again. They never knew what fate may have befallen them in the “dreary swamps.” The men informed his fellow inmate officers of his regiment of his intention, but they were fearful of his sure failure. They urged them to abandon the attempt until spring. They agreed to help his all they could, as he was determined to escape. They used the brush and the dark get to out of the camp. 75 The inmates gave the runners nineteen pints of cornmeal subdivided into twenty-one rations for the journey North. Greene and Whitsit used stolen gray jacket and wool hat of the Confederate uniform they obtained. They used the camouflage of the Confederate uniforms to work their way slowly back to the battle lines of the war in the north. Greene and Whitsit slipped out of the camp after roll call at 4:00 p.m. that they watched from the woods where they used wood cutting paroles to cut a path. Then they mixed in with the usual
mix of enlisted men involved in a prisoner exchange with a prisoner camp in Shreveport on Christmas Eve, as the guard never kept track of exactly how many men were on their movements.
73 Greene, 34.
74 Glover, 26.
75 Greene, 35–40.
The next day their old prison mates marched right by them and gave a prearranged signal to show the Confederates were not aware of their absence. They then managed to make a temporary camp near Shreveport, and mixed in with a group of wood –cutters. The escapees stepped out of line before they were noticed in the prisoner exchange. Greene and Whitsit managed to evade any detection and get to Louisiana during winter to join up with Federal forces in near the pickets in Natchez, Mississippi. They heard later it took thirty days for the Confederates to notice their absences at Camp ford. 76,77
One Union detainee who made it back to the Northern Lines was Joseph T. Mills of the Seventy-seventh Illinois Infantry. He was captured at Mansfield during the Red River Campaign. Mills had no intention of meekly accepting his fate as a prisoner. One day, while the attention of the guards was focused on a score of men out gathering wood, Mills and one other inmate just climbed the wall and jumped to freedom. Mills then traveled more than 400 miles inside Confederate territory before reaching safe haven with his fellow escapee. 78 Most runners failed to succeed like Mills. This was true especially after local Confederate authorities hired an old American Indian as a tracker. The native tracker used a pack of dogs of least a dozen. The Indian and his aides could catch a man afoot who had even as much as a three-day head start if the pack caught a scent of their target. One morning the pack picked up a scent of a runner at the very opening of an escape tunnel. Immediately the Native American blew a whistle to alert a bugler to sound the alarm. Quickly a cavalry squad joined the tracker. Two hours later the trackers returned the two escapees to the camp. By noon had herded eleven more back into Camp Ford.
76 Greene, 41–42.
77 Glover, 26.
78 Joseph T. Mills, “Civil War Memoir,” manuscript, in “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas; Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” CSC, 27– 29; Howell, 218- 219.
During a nighttime thunderstorm on another occasion, seven men from a Kansas outfit succeeded in scaling the walls and ran. Although they go to the Sabine River bottoms, but the hounds that usually chased runaway slaves caught them there. Confederate pursuers found all seven in one tree. The fugitives were clinging to the branches of the tree to escape the dogs.79 On March 14, 1864, the prisoners decided to assemble together and seriate the camps with popular songs of the era for the amusement of themselves and their guards. The apparent extemporaneous entertainment only proved to be a diversion to distract the guards. While the entertainment was going on, fifteen men escaped by digging a log out of the stockade and crawling to the other side. The escaping men then ran for the tree line and freedom. The authorities recaptured thirteen of the escapees, but Captain Robert Stott and Lieutenant J. D. Fry proved elusive enough to get to their own lines in Louisiana. Lieutenant E. J. Collins was not as lucky as Scott and Fry. He ran for it on July 3, 1864, but the hounds caught and mauled him before the guards got control of the dogs. By then, Colonel J. P. Border was camp commandant, and was irritated by the repeated escape attempts. So, he ordered guards to shoot any future escapees whether caught while breaking out or were recaptured later. Hanging prisoners by their thumbs or forcing them to
stand in place for hours was a lesser but harsh punishments for runners. Another lesser punishment for escape included guards withholding the rations of returned escapees. 80 Some men still tried to tunnel their way out of Prison City regardless of any consequences of the act. Most of the time they tries to tunnel out, but that proved to be a waste of time. It was something they often tried, but seldom were successful. An exception to the usual failure of tunneling occurred on September of 1864. Thirty-five prisoners broke out after weeks of tunneling and trying to get beyond the east wall of the stockade on September 27. Again, most were soon
79Sutton, Prisoner in Texas, 28– 29 ; Howell, 219.
80 McKinney, “McKinney Diary,” ed. Gilbert, CSC, 18– 20; Gilbert, New Look, 16– 18; Howell, 219.
captured, but at least five managed to return to their own lines. More inmates attempted to tunnel out in the fall of 1864. Though that failed as an inmate informed the guards, and they then found the tunnel and collapsed it. Why this prisoner informant turned is unknown. 81 Guards watched conditions continue to decline through 1864 while they chased runaways and monitored men inside the walls. Food at the camp continued to be a difficult thing to get, but prisoners continued to receive the same rations as their caretakers. Meanwhile, Confederate officers were determined to do what that they could to ease the issues at the camp for both the prisoners and their guards.
The Confederate authorities revived the discontinued exchange program of inmates. In July of 1864, 856 men at Camp Ford joined the first trade of prisoners. The Confederates took another 406 to Camp Groce as it was closed before, but now Groce was reopened. Confederate leaders paroled another 1,000 in September of 1864. The in February of 1865, commanders transferred another 1,000. The movement of men solved some of the problems that both Confederate soldiers and Smith County civilians. The people of the county tried to support Camp Ford. After the exchanges began, a total communal effort followed to construct of better housing for everyone in the camp while as the prisoners built a few larger structures. The new buildings included log houses the measured up to sixteen-feet square. The new edifices became most popular as it could hold up to thirty-five men in each building as a temporary shelter on cold and rainy nights. 82 Even though the exchanges continued the strained race relations marred the entire process. Until near the end of the war, Confederate representatives constantly refused to exchange blacks, nor did they exchange white officers who had commanded African American units. Black inmates could be thankful that they had at least their lives, because many of their
81 Gilbert, New Look, 16– 18; Howell, 219.
82 Newspaper clipping, n.d., “Camp Ford,” Vertical File, Archives, Smith County Historical Society, Tyler, Texas; Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” CSC, 24– 25; Bryan, “Old Stockade,” CSC, 25– 27; Howell, 219–220.
kind were massacred whenever they fell into Southern hands. Smaller massacres occurred in the Trans-Mississippi, although the episode at Fort Pillow, Tennessee continues to be the most famous incident. Such an event took place at Camp Ford where the life of some black sailors hung in the balance.
The senior Union naval officer at the camp now was Lieutenant Frederick Crocker who had commanded the USS Sachem. Southerners captured the vessel during the Battle of Sabine Pass. After Crocker was exchanged, he complained to the superiors that the local Smith County. The Confederates at the camp still detained at least twenty-seven black sailors that were forced into labor. The truth is the black detainees were treated like slaves. Confederates just refused to treat African Americans as prisoners of war. They had finally been agreed to do so on October
of 1864. Such black men just disappeared, because not even one of the twenty-seven captured black men had their names appear on final exchange lists from May of 1865. The evidence
leaves Historians to conclude that the men were probably murdered. 83 After the war ended, some of Camp Ford’s ex-prisoners lodged serious complaints about their stay in Prison City. In general, conditions at Camp Ford were relativity good in comparison with other Confederate prison camps. Two inmates later two inmates said their treatment was part of a “hellish design,” and
part of a brutal system designed to ensure that prisoners to suffer and die. This system of imprisonment was of course carried out and put in force by Jeff Davis and his conspirators. 84 Aside from the fate of the African Americans prisoners mentioned above, such statements made afterward were appear to be hyperbole. Of the 5,200, possibly as many as 6,000, prisoners who once called Camp Ford home, only 286, or 289 according to one source lists, died there. That is a
83 On the muddled confusion regarding black prisoners, see Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” CSC, 30, 32– 33; Howell, 220–221.
84 Betts, 44.
death rate of slightly more than 5 percent. Given that the death rate in all Southern prisons is 15.5 percent, Camp Ford’s rate represented a very low tally. The Union prison’s had a 12 percent death rate, and Ford’s is less than one-half of that. 85,86 Camp Ford’s death rate is a full 9.5 points lower than the Union camp at Elmira, New York’s twenty-five precept death rate. The total number of deaths during the war was 26,436 Confederates died in Union prisons, and 22,576 Union men died in Confederate prisons. The total number of American men died on camps than battles of Shiloh, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Sharpsburg, and Chickamauga combined. The morality rate and total death toll of Camp Ford is small in comparison to the deaths in all the camps elsewhere and elsewhere. Any efforts to depict the experiences of soldiers held at Camp Ford as bad as Andersonville in comparison do not hold up after studying the available records of the camps. The 286 deaths in Tyler, Texas’s camp are simply not as many as the 800 deaths in Andersonville Georgia’s camp.
The end of the Prison City came soon after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Rumors made by local Confederate officials said that the Southern forces in the Trans-Mississippi might carry on the fight. This type of news inflamed Camp Ford’s remaining prisoners as they escalated their escape attempts. One hundred men helped by a corporal of the guards broke out in one massive effort. This type of event foreshadowed the general breakdown of Confederate authority. Southern desertions were a major problem near the end of the war, and
85 Glover, 34.
86 Betts, Civil War, 77, 79; Smallwood, Born in Dixie, 1: 210. Gilbert has a raw figure of 321 deaths but believes that number is an over-count because of the poor recordkeeping by the Quartermaster’s Department. For example, some men were listed twice (some three times) on death rolls and, in other cases, the same deceased Yankee’s name was listed on more than one grave. Gilbert notes these errors and estimates that the true figure would be approximately 289. See, Gilbert, New Look, 15– 16. For a brief comparison of Northern and Southern prisons, but one that does not mention Camp Ford, see James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 796– 97, 800– 2; Howell, 221.
became even more of a crisis. Looting and plundering of government institutions in Smith County became the order of the day. 87
The surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865
made the last days of Camp Ford had a feeling of relief for the Federal prisoners of war. However, the reality was that they were not simply freed from their bonds. The news of the
peace between the Americans was feelings of relief of the end of the war. Though they ten instantly were faced with dealing with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. A confluence of emotions of elation and sorrow the guards and prisoners were dealing with seemed to not be helped by the slow exchange of prisoners between the old American foes. The Trans- Mississippi Confederacy appeared to simply ignore the peace with further actions of war. Many optimistic prisoners escaped after the war’s end as the number attempts increased. More than one hundred inmates escaped during the last week of April 1865 with the help of a Confederate guard, Colonel W.R. Bradfute, whom had Union sympathies. On May 10, he was told to dispose of new Federal clothing for the prisoners, as they were not needed anymore.88 The demoralized Confederates set upon the surrounding areas with a lawless fervor to wreck havoc and steal to consul their disappointment with the outcome of the conflict. Citizens of Tyler reported the men looted area stores, but the records of Camp Ford show that the Union men stayed in the stockade as they sensed the lawless state of the area. Most of the Confederate guards of Camp Ford left between May 13 and May 14 recalled Captain Samuel A. Swiggett. The gates were reported to
be left open on the 15 and less than fifteen cavalrymen were present, thought they were not guarding the last of the inmates. One source stated they freely passed whisky around with the prisoners, as they were all drunk. On May 17 wagons, ox teams, and provisions arrived to take
87 Betts, Civil War, 77, 79; Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” CSC, 33– 34; Howell, 221–222. 88 Glover, 35.
away the last of the 1,200 ragged prisoners. The men journeyed by steamer through Shreveport to New Orleans. Captain Swiggett after his arrival back to friendly territory after recalled his time: “When he asked me of the treatment, the only complaint that I could consistently make against those in charge was that I had not been allowed to be exchanged with my regiment. I claimed that I had been of more service to the Union as a prisoner than I could have been if I had remained in the service, as I had kept, on the average, two men busy watching me ever since I was captured.” 89
On May 13, Confederate authorities ordered that all Camp Ford prisoners be processed and paroled out in light of the general collapse. The next day, more guards deserted. Only a few of the men of the Fifteenth Texas Cavalry remained as guards now. Many of them passed their time in a drunken stupor for several days and did not monitor the prisoners. While some
prisoners joined their captors in a drunken haze too. Then, on May 17 the ruminants of the Fifteenth Texas Cavalry escorted the last 1,800 prisoners to Shreveport for processing and release. Shortly, temporary occupation of Smith County began. Major Thomas D. Vredenburg, a veteran of Camp Ford who was exchanged rode into Tyler. He headed a Union detail that
reached the county by late June. Then the local government had collapsed, and chaos ensued. Some of his men knocked down part of the stockade while the Major Vredenburg helped to reorganize government with an eye toward law and order. The rest of the camp soon deteriorated, and Prison City was no more. 90 The conditions of Camp Ford are described as bad, “doubtless not as bad as they were at some Southern prison camps.” 91
A question of how uncontrollable forces of nature affected the death rates and casualties
89 Glover, 36–37.
90 Glover and Gilbert, “Camp Ford,” CSC, 33– 34; Smallwood, Born in Dixie, 1: 210– 11 ; Howell, 222. 91 Brokenburn, 290n.
of the events has arisen in the aftermath of the American Civil War and its prisoner of war camps. A thread of modern Historians is asking if men, nature, or a confluence of the tow were more devastating to the Americans that fought in the conflict. A study of the available historical proof of the time of the war in an exact location can reveal an astounding outcome. Weather data from the time shows that the climate of a range of nine to fourteen summers were cooler in
comparison to the years before 1484. A lower out European crops show the impact cooler weather during years between 1484 and 1879. This weather phenomenon is commonly called the “Little Ice Age.” Climatologists regard the extreme climatic events and disastrous harvest during the 1690s with average temperatures the averaged 1.5oC lower than recent average temperatures the climax of the “Little Ice Age.” 92 The term “Little Ice Age” coined by F. E. Matthes in April 1939 in his “Report of the Committee on Glaciers” for the Transactions of the American Geophysical Union. The report referenced the phenomenon of “glacierization” as it occurred over about 650 years ago. The term can be defined most precisely in the European Alps between 1300 and 1950 when extended glaciers were larger than before or since. The Matthes study in April 1939 focused on a similar occurrence of glacier regrowth or recrudescence in the Sierra Nevada, California that followed their melted away in the Hypsithermal of the early Holocene. This is a certain geological time period roughly thousands of years ago.
The “Little Ice Age” glacierization was highly dependent on winter precipitation, and was not simply a matter of summer temperatures. “Both the glacier-centered and the climate- centered concepts necessarily encompass considerable spatial and temporal variability, which are investigated using maps of mean summer temperature variations over the Northern Hemisphere at 30-year intervals from AD 1571 to 1900. ‘Little Ice Age’-type events occurred earlier in the
92 Geoffery Parker, Global Crisis: War, Climate Changes, and Catastorphy in the Seventeenth Cnatury (New Havan: Yale University Press), 2013, xxviii.
Holocene as exemplified by at least seven glacier expansion episodes that have been identified in southern Norway.” 93 Climate Scientists knew it might be relatively simple to continue to define the “Little Ice Age” only in terms of glacier variations, but as proposed by J.E. Grove proposed that it was impractical original to continue the as the it was originally used. As was also the case with the term “Ice Age,” the use of “Little Ice Age,” almost from the start, became associated with a climate different from today. Therefore, the idea of the “Little Ice Age” has moved on. Today the use of a ‘Little Ice Age’ climate is often the focus of discussion, rather than “Little Ice Age” glacierization. 94 The term Little Ice Age is now a controversial term in climatic science and in the study of events the phenomenon affected in history. This time of erratic climatic conditions created a dangerous setting for a war of sectional differences in America. Many historical works about the Little Ice Age reflect that the climate played a big role in many chaotic revolutions of state and disturbances in commerce and life. The climatic cyclical events of “El Nino,” and the global cooling caused by reduced sunspot and increased volcanic activity seems to have triggered a dramatic change in the earth’s climate. The loss of crops in various temperate zones caused food shortages everywhere, and many deaths resulted in every corner of the developed world. 95
“Both the glacier-centred and the climate-centred concepts necessarily en- compass considerable spatial and temporal variability, which are investigated using maps of mean summer temperature variations over the Northern Hemisphere at 30-year intervals from AD 1571 to 1900. ‘Little Ice Age’-type events occurred earlier in the Holocene as exemplified by at least
93 John A. Matthews and Keith R. Briffa, “The ‘Little Ice Age’: Re-Evaluation of an Evolving Concept,” Geografiska Annaler. Series A, Physical Geography: Special Issue: Climate Change and Variability, 87, 1 (2005) 17.
94 Matthews and Briffa, 17 -32.
95 Parker, 14.
seven glacier expansion episodes that have been identified in southern Norway. Such events provide a broader context and renewed relevance for the ‘Little Ice Age’, which may be viewed as a ‘modern analogue’ for the earlier events; and the likelihood that similar events will occur in the future has implications for climatic change in the twenty-first century. It is concluded that the concept of a ‘Little Ice Age’ will remain useful only by (1) continuing to incorporate the temporal and spatial complexities of glacier and climatic variations as they become better known, and (2) by reflecting improved understanding of the Earth-atmosphere-ocean system and its forcing factors through the interaction of palaeoclimatic reconstruction with climate modeling … Thus, Holocene glacier and climatic events on century to millennial timescales are currently one of the most important foci of palaeoclimatic research. This vitality arises not only from their fundamental scientific importance, but also from their impact on the recent history and imminent future of humans on Earth.” 96
Myriad studies by climatologists, meteorologists, and, other earth sciences show the importance of the study of the “Little Ice Age” and climate change in general have a great importance to our understanding of human history and the continuing existence of people every where. The idea and study of climate change during the centuries preceding today addresses the idea that the time-line of human-environment interactions is significant. A study of the affects on the “Little Ice Age” by Douglas B. Bamforth published in 1990 puts it quite succinctly. “As is true for all studies of human/environment interactions, analyses of the cultural ecology of the recent occupants of the Plains require accurate, specific information both on what humans did in the past and on the conditions under which they did it, and we must examine the available environmental data as critically as we do the anthropological data on which our research focuses.
96 Matthews and Briffa, 17, 32.
This paper has at tempted to contribute to such an examination.”97 The Bamforth study of the Great Plains finds that the rainfall totals recorded at military installations in the western United States between 1850 and 1870 show that North America’s rainfall increased during the Little Ice Age. “This analysis indicated that precipitation on the Plains from 1850 to 1870 was much greater than during their standard normal period, with increases ranging from five to 20 percent.” 98 Bamforth show that examining “the pattern of variation in climatic conditions is essential to any analysis of the effects of those conditions on human ways of life.”99 The idea of Bamforth adding to his “analyses of the cultural ecology of the recent occupants” during the “Little Ice Age,” provokes more thoughts of analyzing human interaction with their surroundings.
Historians are turning to the affects of the elements in their analysis of the American Civil War to enrich the significance of their beliefs of the war. Kathryn Shively Meier argues that the struggle of the common soldier’s struggle with physical and mental health during the Civil War is an overlooked part of the historiography of the war. She explicitly states that her work is essentially “an ethnographic history of soldier health” 100 The stories of the soldiers though journals and correspondences to show that both volunteer soldiers held themselves together mentally and physically through horrid circumstances that many historians acknowledge or overlook. Meier further enriches her tale of soldiers’ health with the evolution of medical knowledge in the ways that common American doctors and physicians understood human anatomy and physiology in the mid to late nineteenth century. The realities of medical knowledge during the antebellum years resulted from the experience of the Mexican-American
97 Douglas B. Bamforth, “An Empirical Perspective on Little Ice Age Climatic Change on the Great Plains,” Plains Anthropologist, 35, 132, November 1990, 364.
98 Bamforth, 362.
99 Bamforth, 363.
100 Kathryn Shively Meier, Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia (Civil War America) (New York: The University of North Cariolina Press) 2013,13.
War. The era’s view of disease was affected due to their understandings of “fevers” as they were experienced during the Mexican fight and before. The doctors of the time were experienced in dealing with yellow fever, malaria, small pox, and others, but usually only knew the basics of causes and treatment of the illnesses. The transmission of illness ran rampant during the time of the war since they understood little about the spread of various infections and blood-born pathogens. The torment of war made the soldiers more susceptible to diseases as their autoimmune systems suffered from the exposure to the elements during the long war campaigns. Soldiers’ self-care practices for physical and mental health are a primary topic of Meier’s work. She states the historiography of the Civil War’s medical-based histories focus on the process and evolution of medical knowledge, but ignore the realities of individual soldiers and medical support staff. By 1862 the economic divide of the people that could afford healthcare services were less likely to suffer from illness contracted from combat after the war, and this also affected those soldiers that suffered major injury. The more wealthy Americans simply could afford the services of private medical aid to deal with their afflictions. Meier writes that both the Union and Confederate Army’s soldiers were reluctant to seek profession help for injures suffered during combat. This failure to seek help was despite the fact both sides made big advances in treating maladies and new procedures, and making big advances in hospital and medial supplies for their armies’ injuries. Self-care was the standard for Civil War combatants.101
Another of the topics Meier discusses is an examination of the common soldiers during that war dealing with the “blues.” The “blues” was the century’s common view of the mental health issue now known as posttraumatic stress syndrome. Meier writes that the need for self- care for the time was linked to mental health since doctors after the war linked the mental health
101 Meier, 146.
directly to a person’s physical health. The actions of reformers, like New Englander Dorothea Dix, reveals that the middle-class of the nation actively saw the connection of people’s mental health as an issue of concern. These reformers sought state funding of asylums and facilities to house or treat people suffering from mental illness or depression like many of the Civil War veterans. 102 The limits of self-care were largely due to a reliance on civilian practitioners that was defined by social limits of economic standing and a wish to punish absenteeism and the deserters of both sides treated as treasonous traitors of their sectional loyalties. 103 The healthcare of the common soldiers remains a mostly unexplored area of the conflict’s history. Meier’s pithy expiation of the healthcare experienced by the common combatants of the American Civil War fulfills her wish to prove her argument that requires more analysis. The knowledge of the soldiers’ health in the context of the time her argument that the soldiers’ self-care and the conditions of the ecology during the war results in the stated desire for a study of history of the common soldier health during the war.
Donald Worstern argues that the often-overlooked ecology of the “New Western History” in the lower forty-eight states of the United States of America shapes the well-told narrative of the people of that region. He uses a collection of eleven publications to prove that the tales of Americans of the West is actually the story of the environment they inhabit. He uses the previously published articles on subjects that substantiate his argument. The articles are on several facets of the West that prove just how integral Worstern’s view of the importance of natural resources and phenomenon of the West are in the story of the region. Worstern weaves the story of the ecology of the West by proving his belief that the area is defined by the people’s use of the land provides information about the habitants’ modernizing and destruction of their
102 Meier, 33. 103 Meier, 141.
fragile world. The chapters describe his certainty that nature shapes the people’s habits and trades that provide the current definition of the West. The work provides descriptions or the reality of the stereotypical cowboy Western cattle drives and ranching. The iconic ranching cowboys of the West is patently connected to the much longer tradition of pastoral life around the world and to the herdsmen of Törbel, Switzerland, that date back thousand years. 104 The region’s dependence on water is the subject of two chapters’s contribution. Westerners used water to power and modernize the region by channeling and disturbing the water though man- made dams and rivers to generate the power with the natural force of running water. This is a paradox of water and dryness that Worstern shows is used for economic benefit and is the focus of the chapter, “Freedom and Want,” which explains how the dry climate of the area shaped past events and fashions the future. Worstern furthers his argument of the impact of the climate on the people is significant. The West had yet to win their war of trying to live in a dry climate of the area that shaped past events and fashions the future. Worstern argues the way humans have used nature in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century is as fraught with error and the history of human nature itself. In the end of both chapters, he draws the obvious conclusion that failures of Americans will appear in the near realties of nature. The failed attempts in “etching” the people’s image will be shown in the attempts to shape their environment. The chapter “The Black Hills: Scared or Profane” covers how even the influence of people on the traditions of the Lakota Sioux’s scared love for the Black Hills didn’t escape the influences of progress. The invasive white people of America took the Natives people’s scared lands of South Dakota and Wyoming. It is human nature to admire a feat of engineering that conquers nature, but the short-term fantasy will end in an environmental disaster. Witch is thanks largely to the plains of economic
104 Donald Worstern, Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West (New York: Oxford University Press) 1992, 52.
Agricultural Capitalism that the American West is built upon. In the chapter “Alaska: The World Erupts” Worstern furthers his argument that humankind’s adverse impact in nature is polluting the land that deviates and threatens, “our food, water, air, and fellow creatures, we must find some way to limit both.” 105 The value of the argument Worstern makes with the collection of published works proves his thesis that the people are a product of their environment. The theme of “human progress” being a battle with the environment of the American South is evident with the proof Worstern provides. Worstern’s judgment that humanity’s failure to make the human experience a good one is bleak. However, he proves his argument that the past failure will repeat itself in the future as the people fail to shape their environment.
The study of the events and the evidence of Camp Ford from the men that were there can show if the environment could be a major cause of some of the camp’s deaths. The closest data of the climate of Texas from 1888 shows drastic changes in temperature highs and lows. Diary entries by Sargent Arthur E. Gilligan from the Third Rhode Island Volunteer Cavalry that was captured near Bayou Goula, Louisiana show a miserable climatic reality at Camp Ford. 106 Gilligan starts many entries by writing how he the day’s weather was. The entries from his time at the camp say, “it was the coldest day he had as a prisoner,” or he simply says “rainy,” or “cold and windy.” The entries of the diary by Gilligan from his time at Camp ford show signs of just how harsh the camp’s twenty-one month existence was during the war. Exposure to the elements in a prisoner of war camp was not helped by the poor conditions prison life. Gilligan wrote the he suffered from the stomach issues brought on by the deplorable food, His last month of entries in May 1865 show he experienced a combination of diarrhea from a soup the inmates ate, and
105 Worstern, 224
106 Texas, The Dark Corner of the Confederacy: Contemporary Accounts of the Lone Star State in the Civil War, B.P. Gallaway ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press), 1994, 192.
what sounds like symptoms of depression of idleness and exposure to harsh cold and wet weather. 107
These approaches of case of people during the American Civil War can be used in an analysis of Camp Ford. The climate of East Texas is the show a pattern of precipitation is almost the exact opposite of that in Far West Texas. East Texas climatologically shows that the wet- test month of the year is December, and the driest months are July, August, and September. East Texas is north enough to show the affects of frequent traveling wintertime disturbances. Moreover, the region is far enough to the east that generally there is enough moisture available when those troublesome events arrive. Rainfall is less when temperatures are warmest. 108 The site of Camp Ford in East Texas meant that the men housed there were subject to every type of weather the region had to offer during the camp’s life. The evidence from the around three years the prisoners and guards spent near Tyler at the camp shows that both the detainees and detained suffered from exposure to the elements. Men of Camp Ford were subject to all forces of weather since the living conditions were not that good. The stockade and living quarters for the guards were only basically wooden structure with no real means for temperature control. Not to mention the prisoners that had to do with tents made of blankets. All the exposure to natural forces did not make for the best health conditions for all the inhabitants at Camp Ford.
The Old Famer’s Almanacs of the years of the Civil War show some messy and blustery weather events. Natural disasters and unusual low temperatures are found throughout the publications. They also show day-to-day reports of news of events of the war and the world. The 1863 almanac show that the January 4, 1862 Battle of Huntersville, Virginia was during a time of
107 B.P. Gallaway ed., 201–204.
108 The Impact of Global Warming on Texas, Jurgen Schmandt, Gerald R. North, Judith Clarkson eds. (Autisn:University of Texas Press, 2011), 47.
high tides and “perhaps, snow storms,” and the sun was out around nine hours and eleven minutes. Where as the Battle of Mill Spring on the 19th the month was during a high tide with “quite fine” weather during a nine hour and thirty-two minute day of sunlight. 109 This data might seem a little superfluous, but is necessary when the affects of the ecology on the soldiers of the war are in question. The August 10. 1862 was recorded as “sultry” during a day of fourteen hour, eight minute of sun. The Battle of Cross Keys, Va. on June 8, 1862 occurred during rain showers on a day the last fifteen hours and eleven minutes. Putting the battles of the war in a temporal context with the weather shows delivers a contextual image of the battles.
In East Texas, the precipitation pattern is almost the exact opposite of that in Far West Texas. The climatologically of East Texas finds the wettest month of the year is December, and the driest months are July, August, and September. East Texas is far enough to the north to be affected by frequent traveling wintertime disturbances, and far enough east that there is generally ample moisture available when the disturbances arrive. Rainfall is least when temperatures are warmest, and in August, median precipitation in Marshall is actually lower than median precipitation in Plainview, in the Panhandle and Plains region.110
109 Robert B. Thomas, The Old Framer’s Almanac: Calculated on a New and Improved Plan for the Year of our Lord 1863, (Swan, Brewer and Tileston:Boston) 1863, 6–7.
110 The Impact of Global Warming on Texas, Jurgen Schmandt, Gerald R. North, Judith Clarkson eds. (University of Texas Press: Austin) 2011, 47.
John W. Greene, Camp Ford Prison and How I Escaped an Incident of the Civil War … — Proamry Source Edition, (Toledo: Barkdull Printing House) 1893.
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James Smallwood, The History of Smith County, Volume 1: Born in Dixie, (Austin: Earkin Press) 1999, 189.
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