UVa-Wise professor McKnight pens book about Confederate outlaw Champ Ferguson
Brian D. McKnight, associate professor of history at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, tackles Confederate outlaw Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia in a new book set for release on April 8.
In “Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia,” McKnight reveals a complex side of the legendary figure. In what is being called “an impeccably researched biography,” McKnight offers 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 ore of a personal battle than a political one.
In the fall of 1865, the United States Army executed Confederate guerrilla Ferguson for his role in murdering 53 citizens of Kentucky and Tennessee during the Civil War. Long remembered as the most unforgiving and inglorious warrior of the Confederacy, historians dismiss Ferguson as a cold-blooded killer.
In his book, McKnight maintains that Ferguson, with an Old Testament mentality, fought the war on his own terms. Ferguson believed that friends were friends and enemies were enemies--no middle ground existed. According to McKnight, Ferguson killed prewar comrades and longtime adversaries without regret, even knowing that he might one day face his own Union scout brother in battle.
Ferguson’s popularity led to widespread rumors of his last-minute escape from the gallows. Over time, the borderland terrorist emerged as a folk hero for many southerners. Numerous authors resurrected and romanticized his story, and Hollywood used Ferguson’s life to create the role played by Clint Eastwood in “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” McKnight’s research and subsequent book is credited with “deftly separates the myths from reality, and weaves a thoughtful, captivating, and accurate portrait of the Confederacy’s most celebrated guerrilla.”
“Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia” is published by Louisiana State University Press.
McKnight’s first book, “Contested Borderland: The Civil War in Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia,” won the James I. Robertson Literary Prize in 2007.