Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

April 8, 2014

OLD UNCLE GIB: Dr. Ford attacked at home

By Old Uncle Gib
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — Last week, a Confederate pension application introduced the name of Dr. John “Jack” Ford, of a pioneer Virginia family, when David Knox gave affidavit that Dr. Ford had nursed him when he came home with smallpox in January 1863.  It had been a year since Nashville had come under control of Union troops and the state was fluctuating with lawlessness everywhere.

Prior to the war, Chris Ford had married Elizabeth Swan whose family held for the Union. When Tennessee declared for the Confederacy, Chris enlisted in the Confederate Army as did his brothers, Thomas, Elbert, John and Elijah. Elizabeth sued for divorce and won custody of their two girls. Chris counter-filed and was given custody. He returned to the army and left the children in the care of his parents, Dr. John and Mary Nancy Loden Ford.

October 1863, Elizabeth, her father and her brother rode into Grassy Cove and while she held the horses outside the men burst into the home of Dr. John, and pronounced they had come for the children even if they had to kill every Ford of the name. With those words, a huge knife struck Dr. John, cutting his skull open from the crown of his head to his forehead. The children were snatched out of his arms and they raced to the horses where Elizabeth waited, and raced away. Neighbors saw them riding away holding the blood-splattered girls and went to the Ford home to see what had happened.

They found a horrifying situation with Dr. John's head split open, his wife was lying limp from the effects of a stroke, and their daughter was paralyzed from fright and unable to speak. Dr. Ford's wife never recovered from the stroke and was bedridden the remainder of her life. Their daughter, Mary Ford, finally regained the ability to speak and told the community what had happened to her father and mother, and that the girls were taken away by the Swan family. 

Riders were sent to bring Chris home from the army, and he arrived to find his family decimated. Some in the community recommended that they ride after the girls, but Chris said there was too much danger that the children might be hurt in any kind of foray. Having always had a lung condition, Chris then collapsed from what they termed a “lung hemorrhage,” and had to be cared for as well.

After the war ended Elizabeth made arrangements to meet with Chris. There were several armed men in the adjoining room just in case something should happen. They could hear the conservation in which Elizabeth said she saw that their house was still standing and they should reconcile for the sake of the children. Chris told her that if he looked at her all he could see was the face of his father with his brains oozing out, and that if she ever needed to contact him again she could reach him through his attorney, Judge Snodgrass.