Brian McKnight tells KCWRT about the life of Champ Ferguson

Note: I am now webmaster for the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable, so occasionally JPROF.com and KCWRT.org will share post. This one was just posted on KCWRT.

Historian Brian McKnight, professor at the University of Virginia-Wise, told the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable on Tuesday that partisan fighter and Confederate outlaw Champ Ferguson was a man who saw the world as “black or white.”

“You were either for him or against him,” McKnight said.

And if he thought you were against him, McKnight added, he would probably try to kill you.

Here’s a video (less than three minutes) of some of McKnight’s remarks:

Brian McKnight speaks to the KCWRT about Champ Ferguson from Jim Stovall on Vimeo.

Brian McKnight speaks to the KCWRT about Champ Ferguson from Jim Stovall on Vimeo.

McKnight made these additional points about Ferguson:

  • By his own account, Ferguson killed between one and two people a month during the war — more than 120 between 1861 and 1865.
  • Ferguson was convicted of murdering more than 50 people in a courts-martial after the war. He was executed in October 1865.
  • Ferguson was good at staying alive and avoiding capture during the war.
  • The partisan outlaw had gone to his new home in Sparta, Tennessee (he was originally from Clinton County, Kentucky) and had begun life as a civilian there. Since the war was over, he believed that nothing would happen to him. He was arrested there, unarmed.

McKnight is a specialist in contested and coerced loyalties and is the author of Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia, which won the James I. Robertson Literary Award, and Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia, which won the Tennessee Library Award for best book in Tennessee history.

His most recent book is titled We Fight For Peace: The Story of Twenty-Three American Soldiers, Prisoners of War, and Turncoats in the Korean War. His other writings have been featured in the New York Times and his work on Korean War prisoners of war was profiled in the New Yorker.

About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall teaches journalism at the University of Tennessee.

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