Camp Ford (CSA) 1862-1865 was the largest Confederate run prisoner of war camp west of the Mississippi River. The area began as a training camp for conscripts during the spring of 1862 and is named in honor of Col. John Ford, a Texas Ranger and Superintendent of Conscripts. The site selected is located northeast of the City of Tyler, at that period of time the area consisted of rural cotton farms agricultural open land and plenty of fresh water.
The first prisoners began arriving around August 1863; they were placed in a designated open area and were trusted to not wander off. In November of that year an influx of additional prisoners caused panic within the City. To quell citizens fears a short stockade (8’ high) was constructed around about 10 acres. A “deadline” was established along the interior of the stockade, any prisoner entering the area could be shot. As more prisoners arrived throughout the war, the stockade was rebuilt to a height of 16 feet encompassing 16 acres.
A few interesting notes:
1. At its peak Camp Ford contained over 5,000 prisoners.
2. The last prisoners were discharged May 22, 1865.
3. A newspaper titled “The Old Flag” was printed inside Camp Ford.
4. Camp Ford had the lowest mortality rate of any CSA prison, due to a natural spring located inside the stockade.
5. The first historical marker placed in Texas is located here, it was dedicated in 1962.
6. Northern inmates may have introduced the first baseball game to Texas.
7. Founder of the merchandising company, Spiegals, Joseph Spiegal was imprisoned at the Camp.
Mark has been involved with restoration and preservation of this State Archaeological Landmark (SAL) for over 20 years. Mark has prepared a site master plan, helped design the interpretative trail layout, pedestrian bridge, assisted with archaeology, parking and a large information kiosk.