Confederate Guerrilla Raider:
• Revised: 04 MAY 17 •
From the Tennessee Civil War Trails signage:
Champ Ferguson (1821-1865) was born in Kentucky, the oldest of ten children. He moved to White County, Tennessee, in the 1850s. During the Civil War, he showed passionate loyalty to the Southern cause and extreme hatred for the Union. The alleged reasons for his zeal range from a desire to settle longstanding grudges with local Unionists to revenge against the Union soldiers who he said raped his wife and daughter1 and killed his son2. Regardless of his motives, Ferguson was one of the most notorious Confederate guerrillas to roam the Upper Cumberland. He was most infamous for the Saltville Massacre, in which he supposedly directed the murders of several wounded and captured US. Colored Troops at Saltville, Virginia, in 1864. Federal officials arrested him after the war. He was convicted of 53 counts of murder, although he claimed to have killed more than 100 Union soldiers, insisting it was his military duty. Ferguson was sentenced to death by hanging. He requested that his body be taken to “White County, Tennessee, and be buried in good Rebel soil.” Ferguson is interred here in the cemetery named for the France family.
“I was a Southern Man at the start. I am yet, and will die a Rebel. I believe I was right in all I did . … I have killed a good many men, of course, I don’t deny that, hut I never killed a man whom I did not know was seeking my life …. I repeat that I die a Rebel out and out, and my last request is that my body he removed to White County, Tennessee, and he buried in good Rebel soil.” – Champ Ferguson, before his execution, 1865
Other Confederate veterans buried in France Cemetery include four brothers, all of whom died during the war: Sgt. Solomon Carmichael and Pvt. Thomas Carmichael (25th Tennessee Infantry), Pvt. Hance Carmichael (28th Tennessee Infantry), and Pvt. William L. Carmichael (8th Tennessee Cavalry).
Champ Ferguson Grave | France Cemetery | Calfkiller Highway (Hwy. 84)
Reports from Stokes Brigade, claimed that Champ was wounded in a skirmish near the Calfkiller River by the 5th Tennessee Cavalry.
Operations against guerrillas about Sparta February to April: Johnson’s Mills February 22, Sparta and Calfkiller River February 22, 1864. During this time frame, Captain Ferguson was accused of Murdering 19 men of the U.S. 5th Tennessee Cavalry.
Likely position of the February 22 engagement on the Calfkiller River near Long Hollow:
March 18, 1864 the 5th U.S. Cavalry attacked Confederate Colonel Hughes camp two miles from Beersheba Springs. This is most likely the location on the Collins River to the northwest of Beersheba Springs, near the base of the Cumberland Mountains:
Champ Ferguson: Confederate Guerilla and Jack Hinson’s One Man War
Emory & Henry College – Confederate Hospital
1 After the war, Champ was put on trial for 53 murders. This included the execution of a Lt. Smith with the U.S. 13th Kentucky Cavalry, and 10 of his men. In testimony regarding his motivation, Champ denied that his wife and daughter had been molested. There is a strong suspicion that this was to protect their reputations.
2 According to Broomfield L. Ridley’s Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee, published in 1906: “Champ was a citizen at his home when the tocsin was sounded, and stayed there until his own precincts were invaded. A rabid fire-eater past his house with a troop of blues. You ask why he was so desperate? It was told in camp that Champ Ferguson’s little three-year-old child came out onto the porch waving a Confederate flag. One of the men in blue leveled his gun at Champ and killed the child. Oh anguish! How the father’s heart bled! His spirit welled up like the indomitable will of a primitive Norsemen. In a moment of frenzy he said that the death of his baby would cost the “bluecoats” one hundred lives. And it did. One hundred twenty is believed to be the number he put to death (Comrade S.H. Mitchell got this from Champ himself.)”
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