Friday, February 17, 2012

Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson

I recently received an e-book copy of Confederate Outlaw by Brian D. McKnight.  This was sent to me by LSU press to review.

If you know me you know I am a fan of History.  As well, I am a huge fan of the Civil War time frame.  Well this book feeds my enthusiasm for both of these items.

The book Confederate Outlaw follows the story of Camp Ferguson primarily.  Camp Ferguson was a quite native of the Appalachian area of Kentucky and Tennessee who was a farmer until later in life.  Yet this story chronicles the events that took a simple, although some what rough and brutish farmer, and turned him into a mass murderer for the confederate cause.

This book not only delves into his story but also into the story of the Appalachian areas during this time frame.  This is a history of family against family, in fact Champ’s own brothers fought for the union, as well as one who spent time trying to hunt him.  The history is that of murder just for the ‘cause’ of the confederate or union.  It is the history of distrust, anxiety, and even paranoia.

Here is what the Publisher had to say on the book:
In the fall of 1865, the United States Army executed Confederate guerrilla Champ Ferguson for his role in murdering fifty-three loyal citizens of Kentucky and Tennessee during the Civil War. Long remembered as the most unforgiving and inglorious warrior of the Confederacy, Ferguson has often been dismissed by historians as a cold-blooded killer. In Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia biographer Brian D. McKnight demonstrates how such a simple judgment ignores the complexity of this legendary character. In his fascinating analysis, McKnight insists that Ferguson fought the war on personal terms and with an Old Testament mentality regarding the righteousness of his cause. He believed that friends were friends and enemies were enemies–no middle ground existed. As a result, he killed prewar comrades as well as longtime adversaries without regret, all the while knowing that he might one day face his own brother, who served as a Union scout.
Ferguson’s continued popularity demonstrates that his bloody legend did not die on the gallows. Widespread rumors endured of his last-minute escape from justice, and over time, the borderland terrorist emerged as a folk hero for many southerners. Numerous authors resurrected and romanticized his story for popular audiences, and even Hollywood used Ferguson’s life to create the composite role played by Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales. McKnight’s study deftly separates the myths from reality and weaves a thoughtful, captivating, and accurate portrait of the Confederacy’s most celebrated guerrilla.
An impeccably researched biography, Confederate Outlaw offers an abundance of insight into Ferguson’s wartime motivations, actions, and tactics, and also describes borderland loyalties, guerrilla operations, and military retribution. McKnight concludes that Ferguson, and other irregular warriors operating during the Civil War, saw the conflict as far more of a personal battle than a political one.
Brian D. McKnight is associate professor of history at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. His book Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia won the James I. Robertson Literary Prize in 2007.

So for all of you who are interested in history, or the Civil War, Appalachians or even just the sociology involved with those living in the secluded regions during this time frame… This book is for you.
So what moves a simple farmer into a brutish murderer?  Read and find out!  It will definitely capture your attention and paint, in specific details, the story for you.

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