Champ Ferguson--A Tragedy of War
When General Williams left Sparta for the Army of Tennessee, at Atlanta, all of the independents and bushwhackers in that part of the State went out with him. It got so hot thereabout, and the Federals were swarming so in Tennessee (like bees), that they concluded the better part of valor was to get away. Champ Ferguson, of the one side, and Dave Beatty, of the other, both, I believe, from Fentress County, were the respective leaders.
A warfare had been raging in this part of the State and Southern Kentucky since the beginning of the war, and some outrageous murders had been perpetrated upon citizens as well as soldiers. The name of each was a terror to one side or the other. Champ Ferguson and his followers participated actively at Saltville. After the battle was over a Lieutenant Smith, of the Federal army, was left with others wounded. He was taken to Emory and Henry College, which was made a hospital for both armies. When Ferguson heard the fact, he went over there and killed Lieutenant Smith. It was said that Smith had during the war killed a Colonel Hamilton, who was a comrade, neighbor, and personal friend of Ferguson; that Smith had captured Hamilton after a fight between members of the two clans, and had been ordered with a squad of soldiers to take him to headquarters over in Kentucky ; but that, after starting with his prisoner and going a short distance, he ordered his men to take Hamilton to the side of the public road, where he was stood up by a tree and shot to death.
A short time after the Confederates had returned from the surrender, in May, 1865, Ferguson, who had surrendered to the Federals, was undergoing trial by court-martial at Nashville. He had been arrested at Saltville, Va., by order of General Williams for the alleged killing of Smith and sent to Richmond, as we understood it, and we saw him no more afterwards.
The war terminated a short time after this. I presume in the confusion of things he was permitted to return to his home in Tennessee. I was told that frequent attempts had been made to capture him; but finally, after being advised and on being assured by Federal authority that if he would surrender he would be given the same terms that had been extended to other Confederates, he gave up.
After this he was placed on trial by a military court-martial on various charges of murder. Among others was the charge of the murder of Lieutenant Smith at Emory and Henry College, in Virginia. He was convicted and executed by hanging at Nashville. I do not approve of the murder of Lieutenant Smith, nor do I approve of the promises made Ferguson to induce him to surrender; for if half is true that I have heard about Ferguson, he certainly had his grievances.
FROM: The Fourth Tennessee Cavalry Regiment by Adjutant George B. Guildhttp://www.tennessee-scv.org/champ.html