The Death of Reuben Wood
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.
Testimony of Elizabeth Wood and Robert W., children of Reuben Wood:
Elizabeth testified first:
"I am the daughter of the late Reuben Wood, of Clinton County, Kentucky. He died on the 4th of December 1861. He was shot at home near Albany, KY., on Monday evening, December 1, 1861, about sunset."
"I heard some persons coming up the road, whooping and hollering as if driving stock. I went to the door to see who it was and saw Champ Ferguson, Rains Philpot, and another man whose name, I think, was Kincaid, coming down the road driving some hogs. I also saw father coming down the road in the opposite direction, and they met just about in front of the house. Ferguson, in a very abrupt manner, ordered father to get out of the road. Father did so, just as soon as he could, and was just coming up to open the front door of the house when Ferguson and Philpot rode up to the fence and ordered him to come back, which he did. Ferguson asked him how he came on, and the usual compliments were passed. Ferguson, then calling father a name, said, "I suppose you have been to Camp Dick Robinson."
"Father answered,"I have".
"He (Ferguson) then asked what father's business had been there, and before answer could be made, Ferguson, using vile and bitter language, told him nobody but a d-d old Lincolnite would be caught at any such place."
"Ferguson continued in this manner for five or ten minutes. The language I cannot express. Ferguson then drew his pistol and said, 'Don't you beg, and don't you budge.'"
"By this time mother was standing in the doorway with me, and she begged Ferguson not to shoot father. I also begged for the sake of God not to shoot him. Father said,'Why Champ, I nursed you when you were a baby. Has there ever been any misunderstanding between us?'"
"'No,' said Ferguson, 'Reuben, you have always treated me like a gentleman, but you have been to Camp Robinson, and I intend to kill you.'"
"Ferguson then shot father, but he didn't fall. He shot again and missed. Father drew his coat around himself as he walked around the house and then in the back door. The first shot took effect in the left side, below the nipple, in the pit of the stomach."
"Ferguson jumped off his horse and went around the other end of the house, Mother and I went to hunt for father, and met Ferguson with his pistol in his hand ready to shoot. He said,'Where is he? Where is he?' We told him we didn't know. We begged him not to shoot any more but he paid no attention to us, and went on into the room where father was. I heard another shot, and heard chairs falling over and a desperate noise. Mother and I screamed as loud as we could, alarming the neighborhood. We then went to the Widow Noland's about six hundred years from our house."
"We returned in a short time, finding father sitting by the fire. We begged him to lie down. He said,'No, I cannot lie down, as your were not present, until I relate the circumstances.'"
"I am not sure, but I think he said,'There will be some hereafter about this. They cannot go on this way. I am bound to die and I want you to know just how it was.' Father then told us what happened after he went around the house."
"He said that he went in the back door, picked up a hatchet, and placed himself in a corner by the front door, supposing Ferguson would come in that way. Instead of doing so, however, Ferguson came in the back door, but did not immediately see father, not until he got near the middle of the floor. Father said he saw Ferguson aiming to shoot again and that he jumped at him and knocked the pistol down with the hatchet, when the pistol went off, the bullet went into the wall. Then Ferguson tried to put his pistol against father's breast to shoot him, and father kept knocking the pistol off with his hatchet."
"They scuffled around over the floor for some time, and Ferguson at length threw father on the bed. Again the attempt was made to put the pistol to father's breast, but he again warded it off with the hatchet, hitting Ferguson on the side of the head and knocking the pistol out of his hand into the bed, where it got lost in the covering. Ferguson then let him loose and started out of the house, with father pursuing him with the hatchet in his hand. At the door, they met Philpot, who poked his pistol in father's face, cursing him, and told him if he touched Ferguson again he would blow his brains out. Father then went upstairs and remained at the top until both of the men left, holding the hatchet in one hand and pitchfork in the other. While there, he heard someone come into the house and go out again, he supposed to get the pistol off the bed."
"I was with father from that time until his death. To every person who talked with him, he said he was bound to die. He never had any other idea. He could hardly sit up to get through with his statement, and went to bed immediately after he had finished. He would speak a few words and then stop to rest. He died about eleven o'clock in the forenoon of Wednesday. I don't know his age exactly but he was nearly sixty years old at the time. He had no arms about him when shot and there were none about the house."
Reuben W. Wood was sworn and testified that he came home the night after his father was shot, that the wound looked very bad, and that his father's first words to him after he came home were:
'Robert, I can't stand it long. Ferguson has shot me.'"
Champ Ferguson's interview on the subject of Reuben Wood after the trial was over:
"The testimony in this case," he said, "was with very few exceptions, false. Reuben Wood and I were always good friends before the War, but after that he was connected with the same company in which my brother, Jim, was operating. I knew that he intended killing me if he ever got the chance. They both hunted me down, and drove me fairly to desperation."
"On the day that he was killed, we met him in the road and he commenced on me, using the most abusive language. I knew his disposition toward me, and I believed he intended to shoot me. The touching story about his piteous appeals to - that he had nursed me when a babe, and tossed me on his knee-- are false, and were gotten up expressly to create sympathy, and set me forth as a heartless wretch. If I had not shot Reuben Wood, I would not likely have been here, for he would have shot me. I never expressed a regret for committing the act, and never will. He was in open war against me."
1. Only mention of his family being Unionists and that he was in a desperate feud with his won family.
2. It wa about this time that he moved his wife and daughter across the mountains into Tennessee, near Sparta, in White County.
3. Mr. Wood, being about 60 and unarmed, put up quite a fight against a younger man proving what a tough bunch these mountaineers were.