• Sage Webb

Swinging Between Poles: From a POW Camp to a Pageant

Tyler, Texas, hosts the site of Camp Ford, which constituted the largest Confederate POW camp west of the Mississippi. Thousands of Union troops taken prisoner ended up at the camp, with its four to five acres expanding to about twice that size to hold some 4,700 prisoners in the spring of 1864. In contrast to places like Andersonville, the mortality rate seems to have been relatively low and prisoners had some supplies to live on. Visiting today, the Bosun and I considered the marked difference between hot, muggy East Texas and the homes the Union prisoners would have left. The shade trees that now make the place an appealing park did not exist back then, and having just come from up north, I could acutely imagine the homesickness, longing, and woe the men must have felt far from home, far from the familiar ... not knowing when they might get back to the places where they belonged.

In the shade, looking at reconstructed tiny tent-cabins, I just felt sadness for all that. But according to the interpretive signs, the prisoners created a camp newspaper, drew, made crafts and art items, gambled, and even tunneled with plans to escape (one tunnel seems to have grown quite large, but within days of it reaching past the stockade, the Confederates expanded the fence, thwarting escape efforts).

After leaving the camp, which butts up to a Whataburger—a fact that just feels odd somehow—we headed to the Tyler Rose Museum, which boasts lovely rose gardens and grounds and celebrates a local pageant for teenage girls. Honestly, the Bosun and I both felt a bit awkward about the spectacle of the vaunted event. The museum displays sparkly dresses worn by participants, features videos about the show, and presents posters and memorabilia dating back to the start of the thing in the ‘30s. It also offers a movie and exhibits on the region’s rose-cultivation industry. We learned that the rose is America’s national flower. Something like 16% to 20% of American rose production happens in the Tyler area.

So the flower part was interesting. It’s just that the pageant part involved, perhaps, at least for us, an excess of excess. (And yes, I know I once went in for the glitter of competitive ballroom dance. I hear ya on that, but a dress that expands to have crystal-studded airplane wings maybe just feels like a bit much.)

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Read Local, L.L.C., is a small (we hope to grow!) community of book lovers. We review books published by independent/university/small presses and post our reviews and thoughts in an effort to raise awareness of independent-press books. The Read Local, L.L.C., entity is owned by the parent company of Stoneman House Press, L.L.C., and that publisher's work appears on this website (we make money when Stoneman House sells books), but not everyone who writes content for us or participates in our community works for Stoneman House. Aside from Stoneman House, we also have relationships (personal and/or professional) with some of the authors whose books appear here. Some (like Sage Webb) write reviews for us and help lead us (and they make money when their books sell). We note when we have a relationship with a book, publisher, or author. Otherwise, we do not have relationships with the authors and publishers listed here. They appear here only because we liked their books and we like reviewing books. (We will be as transparent as possible when we post here about things in which we have a financial stake. Not just because of regulations like those in Part 255 of Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations, but because we really are here just to have some literary fun.) If you are an author or publisher of a book that appears here, feel free to reach out to us! We'd love to hear from you. We are at readlocalbooks@hotmail.com. And if you are an author or publisher and you would like us to remove your book from our site, just let us know. We are here to serve the literary community. If you have questions, reach out.

(We also love innovative art and photography. Just sayin'.)

© 2018, 2019 , 2020 Read Local, L.L.C.

(All content on this site belongs exclusively to Read Local, L.L.C. No one may copy any portion of this site or its content without express written permission.)

Read Local is a registered service mark with the USPTO.

Read Local, L.L.C., reserves all rights in and to its marks.