SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - 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 big Confederate battle victories in Louisiana and Arkansas, the camp was doubled to take on 4700 federals.
While living on Camp Ford, prisoners constructed their own shelters out of log huts, brush arbors and tents made of blankets.
Prisoners did try to escape but 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.
Over recent years, the site has been used for Civil War reenactments.
The site is now a public park and owned by the county. There’s a kiosk with info graphics, a walking trail, picnic area and reconstruction of a cabin. It’s open daily from dawn until dusk and admission is free.
Camp Ford is located off Highway 271, just outside the Tyler loop.