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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Tyler in Smith County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Camp Ford

 
 
Camp Ford Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Gustafson, March 30, 2008
1. Camp Ford Marker
Inscription. On this site during the Civil War was located Camp Ford the largest prisoner of war compound for Union troops west of Mississippi river named in honor of Col. John S. "Rip" Ford who originally established a training camp here in 1862. It was converted in the summer of 1863 to a prison camp.

It first consisted of four to five acres enclosed by a stockade sixteen feet high. In the spring of 1864 following the Confederate victories at Mansfield, Louisiana and Mark's Mills, Arkansas the enclosure was doubled to accommodate the large influx of prisoners. Approximately 4700 Federals were confined here during this period. This overcrowded condition was somewhat relieved through a series of prisoner of war exchanges between the North and the South.

Union soldiers representing nearly one hundred different regiments plus sailors from gunboats and transports were confined here. In addition there were imprisoned Union sympathizers, spies and even Confederate deserters.

The prisoners constructed their own shelters ranging from log huts and burrows called "shebangs" to brush arbors and tents made of blankets.

A spring, located about 100 yards southwest of this marker, furnished an ample supply of good water. Their meager rations, essentially the same as that of their guards, usually consisted of beef and corn
Camp Ford Marker image. Click for full size.
By Amanda Hartley, July 7, 2010
2. Camp Ford Marker
meal and were sometimes supplemented by vegetables purchased from nearby farms.

Although escape attempts were frequent, very few were successful due to the long distance to Union lines and the difficulty in eluding the tracking hounds used by the Confederate guards.

Even though conditions were primitive it compared favorably with the other Civil War prison camps. Camp Ford continued to serve as a prison until the surrender of the Trans-Mississippi department in May, 1865. It was later destroyed by Federal occupation troops.
 
Erected 1962 by Texas State Historical Survey Committee. (Marker Number 7709.)
 
Location. 32° 23.819′ N, 95° 16.067′ W. Marker is in Tyler, Texas, in Smith County. Marker is at the intersection of U.S. 271 and Loop State Highway 323, on the right when traveling north on U.S. 271. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 6288 Highway 271, Tyler TX 75702, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Camp Ford (here, next to this marker); Camp Ford Stockade (within shouting distance of this marker); Cabin of Lt. Col. J.B. Leake (within shouting distance of this marker);
Camp Ford Marker and additional 1936 Camp Ford Marker image. Click for full size.
By Amanda Hartley, July 7, 2010
3. Camp Ford Marker and additional 1936 Camp Ford Marker
The smaller marker reads: Camp Ford, Stockade prison of Federal soldiers during the Civil War, Erected by the State of Texas, 1936
Camp Ford - Establishment of the Camp (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Camp Ford Confederate Guards (about 300 feet away); Camp Ford - Early Days as a Prison Camp (about 300 feet away); African Americans at Camp Ford (about 300 feet away); Camp Ford - Prisoners from Louisiana (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tyler.
 
Regarding Camp Ford. At the marker site, there is a short loop trail describing various camp remains.
Camp Ford was the largest Confederate Prisoner of War Camp west of the Mississippi River during the American Civil War. Established in August of 1863, the camp was not closed until May 19, 1865. At its peak in July 1864, over 5,300 prisoners were detained there. (Smith County Historical Society)
 
Additional comments.
1. Texas Historical Markers
The State of Texas erected virtually no historical markers after the 1936 Centennial. With the advent of the Civil War Centennial in 1961 and the creation of the Texas Historical Survey Committee (the predecessor of the Texas
Camp Ford Lt. Col. Leake Cabin image. Click for full size.
By Steve Gustafson, March 30, 2008
4. Camp Ford Lt. Col. Leake Cabin
Historical Commission) a new series of aluminum plaque markers was planned. If you note on the bottom left of this marker, you see the number "1" denoting that the Camp Ford marker was the first of the new style markers.
    — Submitted December 12, 2015, by Randal B. Gilbert of Tyler, Texas.

 
Categories. Forts, CastlesWar, US Civil
 
Camp Ford Lt. Col. Leake Cabin, from picture above, with rotted away chimney image. Click for full size.
By Mike Stroud, September 17, 2012
5. Camp Ford Lt. Col. Leake Cabin, from picture above, with rotted away chimney
Camp Ford - Battles where prisoners were captured image. Click for full size.
Smith County Historical Society, `
6. Camp Ford - Battles where prisoners were captured
The Camp drew from vast area in hundreds of engagements. This map shows the largest and most distant battles that resulted in prisoners
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 21, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 26, 2010, by Steve Gustafson of Lufkin, Texas. This page has been viewed 1,051 times since then and 90 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on January 26, 2010, by Steve Gustafson of Lufkin, Texas.   2, 3. submitted on July 22, 2010, by Amanda Hartley of Tyler, Texas.   4. submitted on January 26, 2010, by Steve Gustafson of Lufkin, Texas.   5. submitted on September 24, 2012, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.   6. submitted on October 28, 2012, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.
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