Monday, April 11, 2016

Friends, Neighbors and Enemies

In Champ Ferguson's world, many of his once long time friends and neighbors had become his enemies. He despised what the Union army's Camp Dick Robinson stood for. Regardless of who or what they were, he was compelled to target and eliminate those who had been there. That was how he justified murdering William Frogge and Elijah Koger. William was the brother of my great-great-great-grandmother, Nancy Koger. Elijah was her husband.

William had gone to Camp Dick Robinson as a member of the 12th Regiment, Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, Co. D, but contracted the measles during training and was sent home. On November 1, 1861, Ferguson showed up at the Frogge home, eight miles north of Albany. Not suspecting anything, William's wife, Ester, welcomed their friend inside. Because of his illness, William was confined to his bed. ‘I reckon you caught the measles at Camp Dick Robinson,’ Ferguson said just before he shot him dead. He would later claim that he had heard rumors that Frogg was planning to kill him. ‘I told the boys that I would settle the matter by going direct to Frogg’s house and killing him.'

William's brother-in-law, Elijah Koger, had not only also been at Camp Dick Robinson, he had also taken part in a peace conference at Monroe, Tennessee, where both sides from Clinton, Fentress and Overton counties had met to try and end the senseless murder, theft and arson by guerilla gangs that had become commonplace while the regular soldiers were away at war. The peacemakers agreed not to raid in adjoining counties, but the conference was deemed a failure after Ferguson and his men killed four Overton County men on their way back to Albany.

On Sunday morning, June 1, 1862, at Oak Grove, Elijah arose from his bed and headed out to the spring with his wife beside him. Shots rang out as a band of men appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Nancy screamed fo Elijah to run. As he started to flee, Champ Ferguson overtook him and shot him. Elijah continued to run as more shots rang out. By the time he reached a fence fifty yards away, Elijah had been shot more than thirty times. When Nancy reached the fence, the couple's 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, was holding her daddy in her arms. She was covered in blood. He gasped once, but never spoke.

President Abraham Lincoln summarized Ferguson's way of thinking when he wrote, “Each man feels an impulse to kill his neighbor lest he be first killed by him.”

On October 20, 1865, Champ Ferguson was hanged for the murders of William Frogge, Elijah Koger and 51 others. Esther Frogge and Nancy Koger testified at his trial.

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