The Killing of John Hurt
From Trial Transcripts, July - September 1865
The trial opened 11 July 1865 in Nashville, TN when Champ Ferguson was indicted on two counts: first, beign a guerilla; second, murder. The indictment included murder of fifty-three persons not including the murders of Van Duvall and John Hurt near Champ's old home in Clinton County, KY on or about the 1st of May, 1865.
The first witness presented by the prosecution was L.W. Duvall:
"I was raised with Champ Ferguson and have known him ever since I knew anybody. I also knew Van Duvall and John Hurt. Both are dead. The former was a brother of mine."
Defense counsed objected on the grounds that the names of Duvall and Hurt were not mentioned in the indictments. The Judge Advocate allowed the testimony to go forward, saying "the commission cannot tell whether it will apply or not until they hear it."
Witness resumed testimony:
"Hurt and Duvall came to their deaths about the last of April or first of May, 1865, in Clinton County, KY. I saw Ferguson at my father's residence, six miles east of Albany. About fourteen men were along, all mounted and armed, but I didn't know any of them except the accused. It was early in the morning, from half an hour to an hour by sun, when Van, Hurt, and myself were down by the spring, when we saw some men coming down the road that we didn't know."
"Two men came together first and went in to the horse lot; two more came up to the yard fence, and one of them got down and went up on the porch while the other one rode down to where we were standing, and ordered a surrender. The demand was made three times, and the third time the man took his pistol and shot at us. After ordering us to surrender a second time, Van Duvall had said to him, "We don't know whose men you are." The man stood there a little longer, and again demanded our surrender, asking for our arms. When we did not comply, it was then he took his pistol and fired at us as we stood there. Then Van Duvall and Hurt drew their pistols and fired at him. He pulled up his horse then and charged up the road a piece, and cried out "Hurry up with the command," or something like that."
"After they passed me, I saw neither them nor the two boys until after the killing was done. I heard several guns fire about five minutes after they passed me. One man was left to guard me. He asked me what command those two men belonged to. I told him they didn't belong to any. He said, "Don't come here telling me you G--d d--d lies. I'll blow your brains out in a minute," and he drew his pistol. Then a second man came up and told the man with me to go on, as he would guard me. I think the firing was still going on."
"The man with me then said,"Let's go back to the house," which we did, and while we were standing there, Ferguson came back. THe first thing he said was to tell the guard to go on, and then I spoke and shook hands with him. The usual compliments were passed between us. Then Ferguson asked, "Bug, what boys were those?" I told him Van Duvall and John Hurt. He said "They were killed up yonder." Some conversation then took place between him and my sister, but I can't recollect the words. I think Ferguson turned to me and said, "Bug, they commenced it," or "commenced with me," I am not certain which. Then he turned and went off down the road toward Livingston, in the direction the others had gone."
"A mare belgonging to me and a horse belonging to John Hurt were taken from my father's stable. I don't think any other property was taken."
"I helped bring in the bodies of my brother and Hurt just as soon as possible after Ferguson left. Both were dead when we found them. Hurt was shot in the back, the ball entering to the left of the back bone and coming out just below the nipple on the right side. He also had one shot in the head that didn't come out. My brother was shot in the back of the jaw on the right side and it came out about the center of the forehead."
"I am certain all this took place during the last days of April or first of May. I had heard of the fall of Richmond and the surrender of Lee before this took place. I took the papers and had read of it."
The witness was cross-examined by the defense:
"John Hurt was seven miles from where he lived, and Van Duvall was sixty miles from home, as he lived in Taylor County, KY. The cause of his being away so far from home at that time was that my father was lying at the point of death and did die shortly afterwards. Van was there to see him."
“Van was armed with a navy, and Hurt had two. They always were armed when I saw them. We had gone to the spring to wash. They went there armed, -I suppose to be ready if anything occurred. I didn’t follow the boys in their retreat up the hill, because I had no arms and saw no chance of defending myself. My brother and I had once belonged to the 12th Kentucky (Federal) Infantry. Hurt had belonged to the 13th Kentucky (Federal) Infantry, and had belonged to his brother’s independent company before that, but none of us belonged to my command at that time.”
“While talking to Ferguson, I told him my mare had been taken, and he said if I would go with him to the command I should have my mare back. My little boy spoke up and said some old horses had been there, and I said I would try and get along with them.”
Martin Hurt, brother of John Hurt, was the next witness to testify. He said that he was in bed right by the window when he heard Ferguson and his men come up to the house; that he looked out the window and saw ten or fifteen men, some in the horse lot and some running in the direction of where some firing was going on. He said that very soon he saw Ferguson come down the road about 35 yards from the house and heard him ask Bug Duvall who the two men were that ran away, and after Duvall had told him, heard Ferguson say that they had been killed up on the hill; and that Ferguson added, “I am going to kil all that would kill me, and you know they would kill me.”
On cross-examination, Martin Hurt admitted that as soon as he heard the shooting begin, he hid himself under the house and saw what happened from his hiding place by looking through an opening where the underpinning had been pulled away. He said that he did not know whether anybody saw him before he hid under the house or not, but that as soon as the men left he also went off through the fields, not even taking time to help bring in the bodies of his brother or Van Duvall. Counsel for the defense asked him if he was not in fat chased from the house and across the fields, but the witness replied that he was not and that if anyone followed him he did not know it. Neither would the witness admit that he belonged to an independent company which his brother commanded nor that this company had killed some of Ferguson’s men.
One fact stands out in stark detail; Martin Hurt was so afraid for his life, that he did not stay to help bring in the body of his brother.
On October 10, 1865, Champ Ferguson was judged guilty of all counts and was condemned to be hung on October 20, 1865.
List of Victims Named in the Indictment:
1. Lieut. Smith, 13th KY Calvary; shot in head while a prisoner, and lying sick in the hospital at Emory, VA.
2. Twelve soldiers, whose names are unknown, at Saltville, VA
3. Two Negro soldiers, names unknown, while lying wounded in prison, at Saltville, in Oct. 1864.
4. Ninteen soldiers of the 5th Tenn. Calvary, names unknown, on 22 Feb 1865.
5. Reuben Wood, near Albany, KY in 1861
6. Wm. Frogg, while sick in bed, in 1861.
7. Jos. Stover, private 1st KY Calvary in Clinton County, KY in April 1862.
8. Wm. Johnson, in Clinton County, KY in 1862.
9. Louis Pierce, in Clinton County, KY in 1862.
10. Fount Zachery, age about 16, near Spring Creek, 1862.
11. Elijah Kogier, in Clinton County, in 1862. His little daughter was clingong to her father after Champ shot him, pleading for his live, but he fired several shots, killing him.
12. James Zachery, in Fentress County, TN in 1962.
13. Alex Huff, in Fentress County, TN in 1862.
14. Joseph Beck, near Popular Mountain, Clinton County, in the summer of 1862.
15. Wm. McGlasson, in Cumberland County, Nov. 1862. Told him to run then shot him.
16. Elam Huddleston, shooting him through the head, in the back, in Jan. 1863.
17. Peter Zachery, while lying sick in bed, at Rufus Dowdy’s house, near Russell County, in Jan. 1863.
18. Allan Zachery, same time and place.
19. John Wlliams, by torturing him with knives and sharp stick, afterwards cutting him to pieces.
20. David Delk, by chipping and cutting him to pieces, at the house of Mrs. Alex Huff, in Fentress Coutny, TN in 1863.
21. John Crabtree, a prisoner, near the house of Mrs. Piles, in Fentress County.
22. A Negro man, name unknown.
23. Mr. Tabor, in Albany, KY in 1962.