Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Am Yet And Will Die A Rebel

Confederate guerrilla Samuel “Champ” Ferguson was hung October 20th 1865 for killing a large number of Union soldiers and sympathizers.

Samuel “Champ” Ferguson was born along the Tennessee border in Clinton County, Kentucky November 29th 1821.  He grew up to be a farmer with a streak of violence.  In 1858 Ferguson was said to have killed James Reed a Tennessee sheriff by tying him a tree and riding around the tree hacking the man to death.  He moved with his family to the Calfkiller River Valley in White County, Tennessee in the 1850’s.
Ferguson’s reasons for fighting anything Union related are many.  Some say his wife and daughters were raped by Union soldiers, others say it was because the Confederates promised to forgive previous murder charges and some say just because he enjoyed it.  The area of East Tennessee was evenly divided between Union and Confederate supporters, which gave rise to many guerrilla bands and irregular military groups on both sides of the fight.  At the start of the Civil War Ferguson put together a unit which attacked Union supporters.  His band worked from time to time with Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan and Major General Joseph Wheeler.  Ferguson was even held once for two months by Confederate officials for the murder in Wytheville, Virginia of a government representative.  It is claimed that he personally killed over 100 men during the course of the war.

When the Civil War came to an end Ferguson returned to his home, where he was quickly arrested by Union troops.  He was taking to Nashville, Tennessee and place on trial for 53 murders.  Ferguson admitted to the killing, but contended they were committed as a part of military duty, this included the killing of wounded men and prisoners following the Battle of Saltville.  He was found guilty of murder October 10th 1865 and sentenced to hang.  Ferguson told the court following his sentencing, "I am yet and will die a Rebel ... I killed a good many men, of course, but I never killed a man who I did not know was seeking my life. ... I had always heard that the Federals would not take me prisoner, but would shoot me down wherever they found me. That is what made me kill more than I otherwise would have done. I repeat that I die a Rebel out and out, and my last request is that my body be removed to White County, Tennessee, and be buried in good Rebel soil."

Ferguson was hanged to death October 20th 1865.  He is buried north of Sparta, Tennessee in the France Cemetery.

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