Heritage, Volume 14, Number 3, Summer 1996 Page: 15
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Marks Mills, Arkansas, in anticipation of
the great influx of prisoners expected, expansion
was considered a necessity. This
was expeditiously effected by sawing off the
top halves of the stockade logs and using
these to double the size of the enclosure.
Consequently, what in the beginning was
intended to be nothing more than a temporary
place of detention developed into the
largest prison camp west of the Mississippi
During the early period of Camp Ford
prison, when a large percentage of prisoners
were officers, the esprit de corps was
high and they approached their problems
with imagination and industry. Their attempts
to municipalize their prison confine
is reflected in their designation of their
camp as "Ford City" or "Ford Burgh". Streets
were laid out and given names.
No shelters of any kind were supplied by
the Confederates for the inmates. Upon
arrival the men were told that they would
have to provide their own shelters out of
whatever materials were available. The result
was an astounding variety of makeshift
shelters. Timber was the more ready available
material to the early prisoners than to
the latecomers. In fact, the first prisoners
used trees still standing within the enclosure
to construct crudely finished log huts
housing 10 or 12 men. These huts were
quite small, most of which measured 10 by
No shelters of any kind
were supplied by the
Confederates for the
inmates. Upon arrival
the men were told that
they would have to
provide their own
shelters out of whatever
12 feet. Most of the cabins had fireplaces
with clay chimneys. The Camp Groce transferees
arriving in Camp Ford in December
of 1863 found the entire group of prisoners
thus quartered and "quite comfortable under
This situation did not prevail for very
long, and as more captured troops were
brought in the quality of the shelters began
to deteriorate. During the winter of 1864
the prisoners were constructing shelters
that they called "shebangs". Such a shelter
was A-shaped, made with forked poles,
sticks, and brush that was then covered
with clay. They were usually quite small
and accommodated only two or three men.
A popular type of shebang was a half-cave,
half-cabin affair that was constructed by
burrowing into a hillside. Then, a crudely
erected A-frame front would be added providing
more room and some protection to
the entrance from the elements.
The overcrowding at Camp Ford occurring
in the spring of 1864 affected the
quality of the shelters therein. The building
of the log huts was too time consuming
for the thousands who had to share a limited
number of tools. Many had to resort to
quicker means to obtain minimal shelter,
these ranging from brush arbors to tents
made from blankets.
Food and its preparation was a principal
concern of the inmates. Standard rations
were beef and corn meal, although there
was nothing standard about the quantity
issued. Confederate army regulations stipulated
that captives were to receive one
ration per day regardless of rank, this being
the same amount and kind of ration proscribed
for Confederate soldiers. Though
the prisoners at Camp Ford accused their
captors of trying to starve them, the Confederates
did a conscientious job of trying
to supply their charges with adequate rations.
The commandant of the military
post at Tyler repeatedly expressed his dismay
over the scarcity of the rations for the
Camp Ford inmates, and in February 1865,
-;' ~:; ';- ) d=
= ~ . '3_
. ---- __.___
' - 1 '* ^
.,. ~ ~7,.,5~.,~_~.l
rrurmu ~~~~~~~~~a m~~~~~i~~~il /
.\'(. 1. Fortv-Second & Capt.
2. " iUndaunted }Mess."
.3. Fifth Aveune.
4. Col. Duganne.
5. Manor Anthony.
6. "Big Mess."
7. Captain Fowler',.
8. Major Gray',.
9. Kansas Men's.
11. Liet. Col. Leake's.
1-2. Kentucky Mess.
Camp Ford as drawn by Colonel A.J.H. Duganne, 176th New York. This sketch shows the officers' area of the camp and partially represents post-Mansfield dwellings,
as Major Gray and the Kentucky officers were captured at that battle. From the publication "Camp Ford" by Dr. Robert W. Glover and Randal B. Gilbert. Published
by the Smith County Historical Society and reprinted with permission.
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1996 15
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 14, Number 3, Summer 1996, periodical, Summer 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45405/m1/15/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.