Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Local Hero"

Wednesday, Dudeboy and I travelled to Cookeville, Tennessee and the campus of Tennessee Tech University to take in Tennessee's Sesquicentennial Signature Event: Civil War in the Borderland. We saw many opening remarks (much to Dudeboy's consternation) by various political type people and Kix Brooks (?), before getting to the nitty-gritty with three lectures pertaining to the Civil War in middle and east Tennessee. We were most interested in hearing Dr. Brian McKnight's talk "Champ Ferguson and the Civil War." Unfortunately, to paraphrase Dudeboy: "We had to sit through five hundred thousand hours of other stuff to see 15 minutes about Champ Ferguson!" So, to make it up to Dudeboy, we took a side excursion to visit Champ Ferguson's grave-site along the Calf-Killer Creek.

Ferguson is buried in France Cemetery, White County, Tennessee. It is a very fitting place for Ferguson, because the graves are so unusual. It looks like something out of Transylvania (well, at least a Hollywood-ized Transylvania). I have seen a few of these "tent graves" in my travels. They are clustered in the Upper Cumberland region of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The grave of the notorious Champ Ferguson. He was one of two people who were tried for war crimes after the Civil War (the other being Captain Henry Wirz of Andersonville). Ferguson was tried for the murders of 53 persons, but he claimed to have personally killed over 100 people during the war. In his own words . . . "I killed a good many men, of course, but I never killed a man who I did not know was seeking my life."

A matter of perspective . . . the marker at the cemetery exclaims that "Cap't Ferguson, and his co-fighters were the only protection the people of the Cumberland and Hickory Valley area had against the Federal guerrillas during the Civil War." As one local we talked with at the cemetery put it, "He was our local hero." Counter that with this historical marker near his birthplace in Albany, Kentucky.

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