In 1862 the Confederacy located a conscript-training camp four miles northeast of Tyler. The installation became known as Camp Ford, in honor of Col. John S. (Rip) Ford. On July 21, 1863, the Trans-Mississippi Department ordered the establishment of a prison camp at Camp Ford and transferred the prisoners of war then located at Shreveport, Louisiana, to Tyler for confinement. These and other POWs sent to Tyler encamped in the open under guard until November 1863, when reports of a plan to escape caused alarm among the local citizenry and the Confederates in charge. Accordingly, a stockade was built enclosing an area of two to four acres. A large spring ran along the south wall of the stockade and served as a water supply for the prison camp. The prisoners were required to improvise their own shelter, which they fashioned out of logs and other primitive building materials. Until the spring of 1864, morale among the prisoners at Camp Ford was passable, and the ranking federal officers maintained a decent sense of order. Enterprising prisoners made goods for use and sale, including crude furniture, clay dishes, woven baskets, brooms, clothing, and other useful articles. Some of these were traded or sold to local citizens for food and clothes.
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