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Camp Ford 

Civil War Prison


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Prison Photo          Map

List of Soldiers Imprisoned at Camp Ford          Kansas POW's at Camp Ford 1863-1865

List of Soldiers who Died at Camp Ford

Soldier Burials in Alexandria National Cemetery (Pineville, Louisiana)
Camp Ford Prison, located 4 miles northwest of Tyler, Texas was constructed of logs by black slaves.  Basically nothing short of a stockade fence that stood 16 feet high, without any type of barracks or shelter for the men who were imprisoned there.  Left to their own devices, the men built make-shift log houses, soddies and even holes in the ground with tarps over them to keep out the rain.
 
Compared to other Civil War prisoners, these soldiers fared better than most. Plenty of fresh water was provided by the stream that ran right through the camp and rations consisted of corn meal, beans, bacon and occasionally fresh beef.  Records indicate that over 4700 soldiers were imprisoned at Camp Ford and approximately 280 of them died, this being one of the lowest death rates reported from any Civil War Prison.
 
Camp Ford prisoners made novelties, music instruments and other crafts which they carved from wood.  These could be sold to folks living in Tyler, providing the soldiers with some money with which to buy food from local farmers.
 
William Ryan, a soldier in the New York 160th Regiment said: "Eighteen men would eat out of one pot with one wooden spoon. Your clothes were what you came in with daily boiling would kill the lice. As men died other prisoners would take their clothes and shoes.  There wasn’t any prison hospital, so the Yankee’s made their own. It was staffed by one Yankee doctor. Many felt once you became sick, you died! The prisoners were from 17 states. New York had 18 regiments to lead the numbers captured. The 205 prisoners from the navy had their own quarters. The total number of officers were 7 col., 4 majors, 48 captains 90 lieutenants, 1 doctor and one naval captain. Even with the number of leadership here, there was out and out gambling and stealing among the men. Fighting was a daily occurrence among the regiments from New York City and the other fellows from elsewhere it was New York city against the world!"
 
John Scouller McCulloch said about his capture: "We were hurried to the rear beyond Mansfield, and turned into a corn-field to camp for the night. I was without an overcoat or blanket, and the temperature was not far from freezing point. Not one quarter of the men had any covering for the night".  See the rest of J. S. McCulloch's story.
 
The Prison was destroyed after the close of the Civil War on Independence Day - July 4, 1865.  A granite memorial marker has been placed there.  Inscribed on the marker are the following words: 
 

Camp Ford

On this site during the Civil War was located Camp Ford, the largest prisoner of war compound for Union troops west of the 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 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.
 
Prisoners who died and were buried at Camp Ford have been removed and re-interred at Alexandria National Cemetery in Pineville, Louisiana.
 
 LINKS: 
 The 48th Ohio at Camp Ford
 In Search of the Graves of Our War Dead
 Camp Ford at Texas Beyond History
 Camp Ford Photos
 Kansas POW's at Camp Ford
 A NY Soldier's Bitter Experience at Camp Ford
 Experience of Dana W. King - Camp Ford POW
 Confederate Prison Camp Rules
 Civil War Soldiers Database Ancestry
 Civil War Databases and FAQ
 
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The Military Prisons of the Civil War

A well written and well organized study of Civil War prisons, North and South. The layman will enjoy the ease of prose and scholars will appreciate the authors meticulous documentation. A major strength of the book comes from the many firsthand accounts from prisoners and keepers. It is a good read from cover to cover plus the organization allows easy reference to specific prisons and time periods. It contains 32 pages of excellent pictures of the camps and men.  ORDER 

 
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Experienced historian Bertram Groene shows you step by step how easy it can be to trace your ancestors' role in the Civil War.   Learn about the battles they fought.  Learn about your ancestor's experiences in the war that affected every aspect of your forbears' lives. ORDER
 

Civil War Prison Index

 




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