|Champ Ferguson, a legendary Confederate
partisan ranger and guerilla fighter, was easily the most notorious among
the many such men who fought to control the Upper Cumberland Plateau region
along the Tennessee and Kentucky borders. Before the war he was arrested
for the murder of the constable in Jamestown, TN and was confined in jail.
At the outbreak of the rebellion he was released on his pledge to join the
rebels. He claims that he had been previously a Union man. He then commenced
his career of murder and robbery which made his name a terror in Kentucky.
Ferguson led his own company of independent cavalry and he held the rank
of Captain in the Confederate Army. When not making the most of every opportunity
to harass and intimidate Unionists in the area, Ferguson acted as a scout
for General John Hunt Morgan, and was for a time attached to the command
of General Joseph Wheeler. His company was under Wheeler's command when
they took part in the Battle of Saltville (Virginia).
At war's end, Ferguson and his men returned to their homes and, on 23 May, 1865, they were induced by promise of the same parole given to the officers and men of Lee's and Johnston's Confederate Armies to surrender themselves to federal military authorities. All except Ferguson were indeed released on Oath. Champ Ferguson himself was summarily arrested, and charged with over 50 counts of murder. Some of his purported victims remained nameless, and many of the other charges were wholly unsupported by either witnesses or documentation. In a trial at Nashville, lasting from 11 July through 26 September, 1865, a military tribunal called witness after unreliable witness against Ferguson, all the while denying his counsel every opportunity to present a competent case in his defense. On 10 October, General Orders affirming his conviction and sentencing him to death by hanging were issued. On Friday, 20 October, 1865, the Order of Execution was carried out while Ferguson's wife Martha and sixteen year old daughter Ann watched. Thus it came to be that Champ Ferguson joined Henry Wirz, Commandant of the Confederate prison at Camp Sumter (Andersonville) as the only two former Confederate's of any rank or position to be executed for supposed "war crimes."
Legend has it that a conspiracy existed between Champ and the military. The theory is that the military felt that Champ should not be hanged because many others as guilty as he had been paroled. The story is that the military enclosed the under section of the scaffold and that a ring of soldiers completely encircled it. When the hangman cut the rope and Champ dropped through the trap door, they quickly untied the loose knot and placed Champ in the casket alive. The casket was then placed on a waiting wagon which Champ's wife and daughter drove out of town. When they were out of Nashville, Champ climbed out of the casket and the three rode all the way to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, where they took new names and took up farming and ranching for a living."