Some intersting sites for Camp Ford can be reached from
Camp Ford Album
and at Camp Ford Organization
Ranked as the largest Confederate military prison in Texas, Camp Ford was established in August
1863, four miles northwest of the town of Tyler. Black slaves constructed the open stockade,
leaving the inmates, as in many other Southern prison camps, to build their own shelters.
Captured Union officers and enlisted men used materials at hand to assemble a ragtag mix of
log houses, sod huts, and even rough holes in the ground with canvas roofs. Yet by late 1864,
when the prison population peaked at 4,900 during the Red River campaign, new arrivals
reported that adequate housing was available.
Camp Ford inmates were fortunate to have a plentiful water supply, with a stream running right
through the camp into wooden reservoirs. Although prisoners were supplied with a diet of fresh
beef, cornmeal, bacon, and baked beans, some food shortages were reported. Authorities alleviated
the problem in 1864 by allowing local farmers to sell produce to the prisoners, as well as
sanctioning a few sutlers' stores, supposedly managed by officers of the 42nd Massachusetts.
Those with money could buy flour for $1 per pound. Most inmates earned money by selling homemade
items, mostly crafts carved from bits of wood or bone, to the townspeople. A camp newspaper, The
Old Flag, was published by Captain William H. May, who offered subscriptions at $5 per year,
payable in advance; he also gratefully accepted "seegars" in lieu of cash.
Camp Ford's 21 months of existence were relatively uneventful. Given the miles of desolate terrain,
not to mention the hostile Indians, that separated the camp from friendly Union forces, most of
the 50 participants in the three escape attempts were recaptured. Despite a few reports of guard
brutality, health conditions were considered so good that no hospital was ever constructed. "Only"
250 to 300 men had died of disease by the time the last prisoners were released on May 17, 1865.
The 43rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry was captured at the Battle of Mark's Mill, Arkansas. This unit
was started by a school teacher in Greene County, Captain Elijah EDINGTON. It appears a large
majority of the men enlisted on the same exact day in September and many were from Greene County.
Book on the 43rd - THE FORTY-THIRD REGIMENT OF INDIANA VOLUNTEERS. AN HISTORIC SKETCH OF ITS CAREER
AND SERVICES. By William E. McLean. Terre Haute, Indiana, 1903. 152 Pages. Portraits
The Confederacy captured 2,000 other federal troops in April 1864. They were taken to Camp Ford Prison
in Smith County, near Tyler, Texas; which was transformed from a traing camp to a prison about July
DISASTER AT MARK'S MILLS
Union forces of nearly 1600 were engaged against about 2500 Confederates. At least 1300 of these were
casualties, most captured and marched to the notorious Confederate prison camp, Camp Ford at Tyler,
Texas. Many died enroute or while in prison. The entire train of nearly 300 wagons was captured by the
Confederates. Thus tragically ended the disaster at Marks’ Mills, Arkansas. From the history of the
A 200-wagon supply train arrived at Camden from the federal base at Pine Bluff on 20 April, but it only
carried half-rations for ten days. With supplies short, Steele ordered Lt. Colonel Francis Drake,
Commanding Officer of the 36th Iowa, to take temporary command of the 2nd brigade to escort these wagons
back to Pine Bluff. At Pine Bluff, Drake was to refill the wagons and escort the train back to Camden.
The train would be heavily escorted by the 36th Iowa, Major A.H. Hamilton in temporary command, the 1st
Indiana Cavalry and elements of the 5th Missouri Cavalry, the 43rd Indiana and 77th Ohio Infantry Regiments
and a four-gun light battery from Captain Peetz's 2nd Missouri Light Artillery...
Sunday night passed without incident and, having received no reports of the enemy from his scouts on Monday
morning, Drake ordered the march resumed. The 43rd Indiana Infantry Regiment was deployed to lead the way,
while the 36th Iowa marched on the flank of the wagons. Drake ordered the 77th Ohio to form the rear-guard
and that regiment lagged almost 3 miles to the rear. As the column crossed the Moro Bottom with difficulty and
headed to higher ground, federal scouts informed Colonel Norris in command of the 43rd Indiana that they had
discovered signs of large, hastily abandoned cavalry encampments to their immediate front. Norris sent that
report back to Drake, who dismissed it rather curtly and sent forward orders for the 43rd to pick up the pace.
A short distance further, in a clearing at a fork in the road occupied by a few log cabins, the 43rd Indiana
was fired on by dismounted rebel cavalry from General Fagan's command. Fagan had evaded Union scouts the
previous night by crossing the Ouachita River below Camden and making a forced march of 52 miles to get into
position ahead of Drake’s train between the Moro and Pine Bluff. That morning they were lying in ambush near
the crossroad clearing, known locally as Mark's Mills, just east of present-day Fordyce in Cleveland County.
Forming line of battle, the 43rd's Norris ordered his command to charge Fagan's dismounted cavalry. As the
charge commenced, Confederate General William Cabell's mounted cavalry revealed itself from concealed positions
in the trees on the south, or right flank. What began as a skirmish at around 8:30 am quickly developed into a
very hot firefight with the federals firing in two directions to beat off the assault. The well-aimed fire from
the veteran federal infantry was devastatingly effective and temporarily slowed Fagan’s advance. Drake ordered
the train to pull off the road into an empty field and then ordered Major Hamilton to deploy the first battalion
of the 36th Iowa Infantry up and onto the firing line on the 43rd Indiana’s left flank. Just as Companies A, B
and C came on line, the Confederates charged the center and took another devastating musket volley from the federals.
Drake then ordered up Peetz's 2nd Missouri Battery at the double-quick. As Peetz’s gun crews swung their cannon into
position, the federal infantry was ordered to move to both flanks to open a hole in the center. This was done with
alacrity and Peetz's gun crews opened fire on the rebels with grapeshot at less than 200 yards. This stunned the
Confederates, resulting in a momentary lull in the battle, but musket fire quickly resumed. As the Iowa and Indiana
infantrymen were concentrating on the rebels to their front and right flank. General Joe Shelby's cavalry brigade
swooped down on them from the left flank. Three companies of the 36th Iowa, the entire 43rd Indiana and Peetz’s
battery were now pressed on three sides and were in danger of being encircled. Drake ordered the remainder of the
36th Iowa Infantry, still positioned near the wagons, to charge into Cabell's troopers on the right to push them back,
prevent encirclement and attempt a link-up with the 77th Ohio, which was now moving forward to join the battle.
Before this charge could be accomplished however, the rebels closed the trap. As the federal troops were surrounded,
it quickly became a confused entanglement of small units fighting small units and then it became, according to Captain
Seth Swiggett, "Every man for himself."
The federals fought bravely but were now surrounded and receiving fire from all sides. The fight was hotly contested
and veterans reported that it lasted fully 5 hours. Some men of the 36th Iowa’s first battalion took cover in the log
cabins and kept up a withering and deadly fire, holding out from those protected positions until long after the others
had surrendered, and until they exhausted their ammunition. When the insurgents threatened to burn the cabins down, the
Iowans surrendered. In his after-action report, Cabell stated that 17 prisoners were taken from the larger of the two
cabins. According to Captain Swiggett, when capture became certain, most of the Iowa men smashed their rifles against
trees rather than hand them over to their captors.
As the men of the 36th and 43rd Indiana were being rounded up and disarmed, a last ditch effort to break into the
Confederate ring by some brave federal cavalrymen created enough confusion and a diversion for some of the Iowa soldiers
to bolt. Several disappeared into the nearby woods and a few headed to the rear to warn the 77th Ohio of the overwhelming
size of the enemy force to the front. Reaching the 77th a mile to the rear, the 36th Iowa men were accused of being
deserters and their report was not believed. The Commanding Officer of the 77th ordered his regiment forward at the double
quick into the melee and soon that regiment was also overwhelmed by the three rebel cavalry divisions and surrendered.
Some of the men who escaped evaded re-capture by moving across country, carefully avoiding rebel patrols. Half starved,
exhausted and unarmed, some reached the safety of Union lines at Pine Bluff, while others managed to reach Little Rock.
There they reported the news of what had befallen their comrades at Mark's Mills. Colonel Powell Clayton, the federal
commander at Pine Bluff, reported to General Sherman a few days after the battle that 186 Union cavalry and about 90 federal
infantrymen had managed to escape and report in at Pine Bluff and at Little Rock. The 36th Iowa Infantry had ceased to exist
by 3 pm on April 25, 1864...
While the majority of 36th Iowa Infantry troops were captured at the Battle of Mark's Mills, some men of the 2nd Brigade--
including 36th Iowa men who had been left behind sick in quarters at Camden-- were not present with the regiment at Mark's
Mills. When Steele abandoned Camden therefore, these 36th Iowa remnants were assigned to a Casual Detachment under the
command of Captain Marmaduke Darnall of the 43rd Indiana, and these men fought bravely with the Casual Detachment in the
Battle of Jenkins' Ferry....
43rd Indiana Prisoners of Camp Ford
The following abstract was compiled from a reconstructed list of prisoners at Camp Ford. The list was built from several
sources. All of the exchange or parole lists were identified and obtained from the National Archives. Additionally an abstract
of Prisoners of War who escaped from Captivity and Returned to Union Lines was located in the Archives, and searched for Camp
Ford escapees. The Quartermaster Department prepared a number of "Rolls of Honor" of deceased Union Soldiers, and two large
listings of deceased Camp Ford Prisoners were found there. All of the dead were reinterred in 1867 to the National Cemetery
in Pineville, Louisiana. The accounting from this for the 43rd Indiana was:
|Total|| Dead|| Escaped |
|185|| 19|| 8 |
O'BRIEN, Enoch, 43rd IN Infantry, Co D., died Camp Ford (Texas) prison, Jan. 16, 1865. Fronm Clay county Indiana
HAMILTON, Otha Neal, 43rd IN Infantry, Co G. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Mark's Mill, Arkansas on April 25,
1864 and incarcerated at Camp Ford, Tyler, Texas. On August 10, 1864, he and two comrades succeeded in escaping from
the prison, and traveling nights, they had got away about 123 miles when he was recaptured. The Lieutenant who captured
him, took him to a Texas State militia, where he was hung by the neck to a tree to make him disclose the whereabouts of
his companions. They repeated this until he became unconscious, when they sent him back to prison, where he remained
until 2/26/1865. He contracted scurvy while a prisoner of war at Tyler in the summer of 1864. He was discharged with
the rank of Sergeant on June 15, 1865 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Information submitted by Lora Devereaux. Pvt.
LIVINGSTON, Samuel Ray, Co C, 43rd IN Infantry Volunteers. Captured at the battle of Marks Mill. Being born in 1846 he
joined in as a pup. His father Hiram E. Livingston abandoned him early on in life due to a marital dispute in which someone
was shot and had to flee by stealing a horse and moved to the Missouri bad lands. Hiram E. later enlisted with the 8th
Missouri Cavalry, Co E in 1862 and was transferred to the 1st Missouri Infantry. He deserted in 1863 as a chief bugler
according to internet sources. Hiram E. Livingston is buried in Comanche, Oklahoma also known as Indian Territory at the
time. His son Samuel is buried the Worthington, Indiana cemetery. Pictured are father and son. Pvt
LOGAN, Garrett, Company D, 43rd Indiana Infantry Regiment. Captured in April 1864 in Arkansas and sent to Camp Ford.
He was released in March 1865.
OAK, Samuel C., 43rd IN Infantry, Co F. A Wagoneer, captured in April 1864 while escorting a wagon train to Little Rock,
Arkansas. Captured near Marks Mills and marched to Camp Ford in Smith County, Texas. Benjamin F. Sparks, a brother was
there also but escaped capture. Samuel C. Oaks was born in 1839 in Indiana and married to Martha. They had one daughter:
Melissa A. Oaks born ca December 1859. Samuel C. Oaks died in Camp Ford on July 2, 1864 and is buried in Alexandria
National Cemetery in Louisiana. Grave is in Section A, Site 790. Martha Oaks moved to Illinois with her brother-in-law,
Doctor Bailey Oaks.
RATCLIFF, James Robert, 43rd Indiana Infantry, Co B, Captured April 25, 1864 at Marks Mills, Arkansas and imprisoned
at Camp Ford for 10 months. Rank Out - Sergeant.
TIMMONS, William H., Co C, 43rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Captured at Marks Mills and sent to Camp Ford. Released
in 1865 at Red River Landing. He was from Greene County, Indiana.