A SHORT HISTORY OF CAMP FORD

CONSCRIPT TRAINING

The Confederate States Government, realizing that greater manpower would be required to fight the Civil War passed a Conscript Act in April, 1862. This draft act, the first ever passed in the history of America, would require all able bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35 to serve in southern armies. In Texas, Colonel John S. “Rip” Ford was appointed Superintendent of Conscription.

A camp of instruction for newly inducted conscripts from northeast Texas was soon established four miles northeast of Tyler and named Camp Ford. It served as a basic infantry training camp. The camp was well supplied with an abundance of spring water and wood.

PRISON CAMP

Meanwhile, as small numbers of Union prisoners were captured in Texas and Louisiana. they and their escorts would stop over at Camp Ford in transit. However, the arrival of 461 Union prisoners in November 1863 posed a serious security problem at Camp Ford since the prisoners could only be guarded by a ring of Confederate soldiers posted around them. A rumor spread among Tylerites that the prisoners planned to overpower their guards and sack Tyler. Fearing for their lives and property, citizens turned out in large numbers and within ten days constructed a log wall within which to confine the dreaded Yankees. The log compound, roughly rectangular in shape, enclosed an area of from three to five acres. Thus, Camp Ford “prison” evolved.

INMATE LIFE

Life for the inmates, though primitive, was reasonably comfortable. Prisoners were allowed to build shelters ranging from log cabins to brush covered lean-tos. However, this satisfactory arrangement was over-whelmed in the spring of 1864 with the arrival of several thousand prisoners captured in Louisiana and Arkansas. The stockade was doubled in size to accommodate the nearly 5000 prisoners. By this time Camp Ford was the largest prisoner of war compound for captured Federals in the Trans-Mississippi theater. These prisoners came from all but two of the Union states.

PRESENT SITE

In 1993 efforts were begun to develop the site of Camp Ford in order to preserve and restore this historical area for present and future generations. Funds were obtained for archaeological exploration, interpretive trails and an explanatory kiosk. Dr. Alston V. Thoms, Director of the Center for Ecological Archeology at Texas A&M University said “Camp Ford is the most important archeological site in Texas today.” He further describes work at the site: “Archeological field work in 1997 and 1998 on a forested hillside near Tyler revealed the well-preserved remains of Camp Ford, a prisoner-of-war site where approximately 6,000 Federal soldiers and other war-related prisoners were held by the Confederacy between July 1863 and May l865.”



HISTORY BOOKLET AVAILABLE

In 1964 the definitive history of Camp Ford was published, Camp Ford C.S.A. The Story of Union Prisoners in Texas, by Robert Glover and Lee Lawrence. That book is out of print and is now a collector's item. However, Dr. Glover has written a condensation of the original book titled Camp Ford: Tyler, Texas, C.S.A. This 50 page booklet contains numerous illustrations and is crowded with information about the camp. The price is $10 postpaid.

You may order this booklet by sending your check for $10 to:

Camp Ford Historical Association
P.O. Box 1865
Tyler TX 75710




INTRODUCTION TO THE WAR BETWEEN THE STATES

This entertaining introduction to the Civil War is in the form of a comic strip. It takes the reader from the devisive arguments preceding the war through the conflict and into the bitter Reconstruction that followed the South's surrender. Written by Camp Ford Historical Association board member, Charles H. Hayes, it is especially suitable for children but its historical accuracy makes it also an ideal summary of the war for the adult. The price is $16 plus $3 shipping and handling.

You may order this book by sending your check for $19 to:

Camp Ford Historical Association
P.O. Box 1865
Tyler TX 75710



EDUCATIONAL DVDs
Visitor's Center Version
School Version
Civic Version
$20 postpaid
$20 postpaid
$20 postpaid
This DVD presents the story of Camp Ford for individuals or genral audiences. Narrated by Dr. Robert W. Glover, the premier historical authority on the subject. This version of the Camp Ford story is designed especially for school children. Show it to your own young ones and then donate it to your favorite grade/high school. Narrated by Dr. Charles Wetherbee. This DVD, narrated by Dr. Robert w. Glover, is made for presentation to civic and historical groups who may be interewted in promoting or donating to the Camp Ford Historical Association.

Camp Ford Historical Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 1865
Tyler, Texas 75710

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