Champ Ferguson, Statement from his Condemned Cell, Nashville, Tennessee, October 12 and 14, 1865

    Source citation
    "Champ Ferguson: Confession of the Culprit," New York Times, October 29, 1865, p. 1. 
    Author (from)
    Champ Ferguson
    Date Certainty
    John Osborne, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
    The testimony in this case, was, with very few exceptions, false. REUBEN WOOD and I were always good friends before the war, but after that he was connected with the company in which my brother JIM was operating. I knew that he intended to kill me if he ever got a chance. They both hunted me down, and drove me fairly to desperation. On the day that he was killed, we met him in the road, and he commenced on me, using the most abusive language. I knew his disposition toward me, and believed he intended to shoot me. The touching story about his piteous appeals to me -- that he had nursed me when a babe, and tossed me on his knee -- are false, and were gotten up expressly to create sympathy; and set me forth as a heartless wretch. If I had not shot REUBEN WOOD I would not likely have been here, for he would have shot me. I never expressed a regret for committing the act, and never will. He was in open war against me.
    The case of FROGG is another in which I am falsely placed. The circumstances are well known to many in that neighborhood. He was with the home guards, and instigated my arrest while I was peaceably pursuing my avocations as a farmer. Not satisfied with this, he laid in wait on the highways to kill me. He even went so far as to make his threats to the neighbors that he intended to kill me. On the day that I passed down the road leading to FROGG's house, Mrs. PLEASANT BEATTY called to me, and warned me that FROGG was watching for an opportunity to kill me. I had been cautioned by a number of persons. There were two men with me at the time Mrs. BLATTY spoke to us, and I told the boys that I would settle the matter by going direct to FROGG's house and killing him. His wife was at the door, peeling apples. I dismounted and went in. He was lying in bed, and, on seeing me, pulled the cover over his face. I then shot him twice. His wife ran away, and as I passed out I met Miss RUSSEL, who lives near there. She asked me what was the matter. I told her that FROGG was killed, and that she had better go in and look after him. No words whatever were passed between FROGG and myself. I consider myself justified in killing him. as it has been termed, was no work of mine. I was not in the fight, and did not kill any negroes as charged. I acknowledge, however, that I killed Lieut. SMITH, in Emory and Henry Hospital. I had a motive in committing the act. He captured a number of my men at different times, and always killed the last one of them. I was instigated to kill him, but I will not say by whom, as I do not wish to criminate my friends. SMITH belonged to the Thirteenth Kentucky, and operated around Burksville. I will say this much -- he never insulted my wife or daughter, as reported. He was a relative of my first wife, and always treated my family with respect. He is the only man I killed at or near Saltsville, and I am not sorry for killing him.
    I suppose that I am responsible for the killing of Esquire ZACHERY, but I was not the man who shot him. I shot at him, but one of my men fired the ball that killed him. He was in command of a company of bushwhackers, and was seeking my life. We went to his house for the purpose of killing him, in order to save my own life. He was a clever man before the war, but got over it soon after the war broke out, and arrayed himself in deadly hostility to his old friends and neighbors.
    I am entirely ignorant of such a man as Dr. MCGLASSON, and never heard of him until the charges were read to me. He was no doubt in a fight way up the river, in which several were killed on both sides, I recollect chasing a man to the verge of a bluff, and he ran down the bank to a fence. As he was getting over it I shot him. He might have been Dr. MCGLASSON, but I hardly think so, for they say that the Doctor was killed several miles from the creek. I know that he was never captured by me or any of my men. The story of my taking him out and telling him to run for his life, and then shooting him, is a lie manufactured of whole cloth. He never fell into my hands, and I am innocent if he was killed in the fight, as he no doubt was. I am charged with killing many persons who fell in battle, and a good many killed by other commands are laid at my door.
    I confess that I shot the lad FOUNT ZACHERY, and stabbed him after he fell to the ground. We were out on a scout, and expected a fight that night. JIM MCHENRY was in command, and had given us orders to shoot down any person who might be seen with guns. As we neared a creek, the lad emerged from a thicket with a gun on his shoulder. I shot him on sight in obedience to orders.
    I am charged with killing twelve soldiers at Saltsville. I am innocent of the charge. I know they were killed by HUGHES' and BLEDSOE's command, and they were fairly killed in battle. There were thirty instead of twelve that fell on that day, and it was in a regular fight.
    I killed JOSEPH STOVER after he had shot at me twice. He was taking a third aim when I shot him in the mouth, and FOUNT FROST shot him in the side at the same time. WILLIAM JOHNSON was run over a cliff and one of the boys shot him. I shot and killed PIERCE, as he was running, with a double-barreled shot-gun. They were all Home Guards, and seeking our lives.
    I am innocent of killing ALEXANDER HOUGH. He was a cousin of ny mother, and I always liked him. I protested against his being, killed, and guarded him myself in the rear, until he broke and run, when one of BLEDSOE's men shot and killed him.
    I killed ELISHA KOGLER, and done a good trick when I did it. He watched my house day and night, and sometimes until he was nearly frozen, to get to kill me. He was a treacherous dog, and richly merited his fate. A number of very affecting stories are told in connection with his death.
    I did not kill ELAM; I was along, however. I think AB. HILDRETH shot him. I know that ELAM shot at me, and the ball grazed my clothes.
    I killed PETER ZACHERY after one of the most desperate struggles that I ever had in my life. We fell to the floor, and he kept shooting while I would knock the pistol aside. I finally got out my knife and stabbed him a few times, killing him. There were several in the house, and we had ordered them to surrender, ALLEN ZACHERY was killed by one of the boys. JOHN WILLIAMS was shot by BEN BARTON, and DAVID DELK was shot by another of our boys, all at the same time.
    I killed JOHN CRABTREE. I went to PILES' house in the night and stabbed him, and did another good job when I killed him. He was a murderous villain, and had went to men's houses and shot them to get their money.
    I killed AFFEY WILLIAMS and a negro man in the mountains. I shot and stabbed them. They were scouting after my command, and they found the head of it.
    I killed BOSWELL TABER as a bushwhacker. He had killed three of my men a few days previous. He was in front of his house when I shot him. He ought to have been killed sooner.
    I shot at DUVAL and HURT, but did not kill either of them. I don't know who did kill them. HURT shot through my coat and into my saddle.
    I say before God, that the statements I have made comprises all the killing in which I have figured, and I have told the whole truth in every case. I give them freely and without reservation.
    I told my lawyers, and you will recollect of my telling you, that that court was bound to convict me. I was not fooled on that. 1 think the Judge-Advocate run things entirely too far. My counsel did well, but it was useless, for every point of law in my favor was overruled, and they intimidated. But I am about as well reconciled to my fate as any man could possibly be.
    I wish to say for Dr. HALE that he is a mean, low flung dog, and he only prosecuted me to speculate on my blood by publishing pamphlets worked up in lies from beginning to end. I never gave him any reason in the world to seek my life. I hope, however, that God will forgive him for the wrongs he has done me. I could well imagine how Dr. MCGLASSON wanted me prosecuted, for he honestly believed that I killed his brother.
    I am in good health and spirits. My sleep is undisturbed by dreams, and I have just concluded to give myself up to these good friends of mine around here, and if they are determined to hang me, it is all right. I would like to live for my family, for they have lost all. I leave them penniless. I am not worth a dollar. I do not fear death, but I love my family, and am grieved to leave them on the world without means. I have a firm belief in God and the future. A minister of the Presbyterian Church was here to-day, I am pleased to meet and talk with him. I was not surprised when the sentence of death wes read to me. I was looking for it daily. If my family had plenty I could die without a murmur.
    (Given in prison October 12th)
    Additional statement. (October 14th)
    I surrendered to Gen. THOMAS, on the letter or order sent to all armed hands, me with the rest. I did not think they would treat me as they have done. I am the same man I was before the war, and my intentions are the same, and will be till the last minute of my life. I don't know what men in high office can think of in sending out such men as Col. BLACKBURN, and others, for the purpose of inducing me to come in for the sake of hanging me. He told me I was no worse than the rest, and that I should be protected, and that he was glad to see me.
    I was a Southern man at the start. I am yet and will die a rebel. I believe I was right in all I did. I don't think I done anything wrong at any time. I committed my deeds in a cool and deliberate manner. I killed a good many men, of course, I don't deny that; but never killed a man whom I did not know was seeking my life. It is false that I never took any prisoners. I have taken a great many, and after keeping them awhile, paroled them. I tried to prove this during my trial, but they would not give me time to do it.
    I don't think I had a fair or just trial. I wish to thank Mrs. BLACKMAN for her kindness to me during my trial. One of the witnesses against me (LOUIS DUVAL) told the truth in every particular. Also Miss DOWDY, except in one or two words. I had heard that the Federals would not take me prisoner, but shoot me down, wherever round. That is what made me kill more than I should have done. They never got a man that belonged to my company or BLEDSOE's company but that they Filled, and of course they might except that I would not miss doing the same thing with their men.
    Except the DOWDYN and LOUIS DUVAL, of the witnesses against me, I have little faith in them or anything they would swear to.
    I will repeat that I did a rebel out and out, and my last respect is that my body he carried to White county, Tennessee, and be buried in good rebel soul. My own witnessed were true to me.
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