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 analysis, McKnight maintains 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, but 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.
''This vivid portrait of one of the Civil War's legendary renegades is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding scholarship on guerrilla warfare. Brian McKnight adeptly draws on Champ Ferguson's ruthless and reckless exploits to provide fresh insights into the complex forces that propelled southern highlanders into a far more personal and localized conflict than that waged elsewhere in the Confederate South. A masterful study of both the man and the Appalachian society that produced him and his compatriots.'' (John C. Inscoe, author of Race, War, and Remembrance in the Appalachian South)
''This insightful and deeply researched book paints a vivid picture of the infamous Rebel guerrilla Champ Ferguson and the war-torn mountain region where he pursued his homicidal career. An important contribution to our understanding of the Civil War in southern Appalachia.'' (Stephen V. Ash, author of Firebrand of Liberty: The Story of Two Black Regiments That Changed the Course of the Civil War)
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