TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – You may not know this, but East Texas is home to the site that was the largest Confederate prisoner of war camp west of the Mississippi.
The historical marker for Camp Ford is in Smith County.
Camp Ford is named in honor of Colonel John Ford, who originally established a training camp in 1862. It was converted to a prison camp in the summer of 1863
Following a couple of big Confederate battle victories in Louisiana and Arkansas, the camp was doubled to take on 4,700 federals.
While living in Camp Ford, prisoners constructed their own shelters out of log huts, brush arbors, and tents made of blankets.
Prisoners did try to escape, but they were rarely successful due to the long distance to Union lines and the difficulty in escaping tracking hounds.
In 1997, archaeologists set out to explore Camp Ford and uncovered the faint impressions of trenches, ditches, and berms. What they learned allowed for the creation of an interpretive center and display for visitors.
Camp Ford is on Highway 271 in Tyler just outside the loop. You can visit Camp Ford seven days a week. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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