As found in the Adjutant General's Report

©Illinois Trails History and Genealogy


Some institutions exist, and pass away to be forgotten; others never die, but live eternally in the memory. They possess associations clinging around them, and entwined in every fibre of their existence, so closely allied to the interests of the community that time only serves to mellow the interest, and clothe them with ever-growing importance. Of these, not least in the minds of the citizens of Chicago is Camp Douglas. Called into birth by the outbreak of a wicked and causeless rebellion, it rapidly increased in importance, until it became one of the great institutions which have marked the American government as the most warlike on the face of the globe; and the nation, as a people who would pass even through "the valley of the shadow of death" to preserve their government from foes without or "fightings within."

The camp is now rapidly passing way from the things that are (1883). The government order for its sale has been partially executed, and by the 20th of this month the last building within the barricades will have been sold. Already many of the officers' quarters have been removed by enterprising individuals to various localities in the city, to serve for residential and other purposes, and ere long the last erection will have been taken away, the last foot of fence torn down, and the ground turned over to its original owners.

At this point then, with the occurrences of its history fresh in the memories of all, when the camp is physically going the way of all flesh, it will not be amiss to give a detailed account of the history, uses and government of our city camp.

From the commencement of the war, an urgent necessity was felt by the local authorities for a stated camp, in which regiments could be organized and stationed until under "marching orders." To meet this want was Camp Douglas called into existence. Previous to its location the various regiments being raised in this city were quartered at several impromptu camps distributed around the suburbs. Among these were "Camp Douglas," (south of the present camp) "Camp Song," "Camp Mulligan," "Camp Sigel," "Camp Dunne," "Camp Fremont," "Camp Ellsworth," "Camp Mather," "Camp Webb," and others, named for the time, according to the fancy of the soldiers, in honor of officers or prominent citizens interested in raising the regiment. These, however, possessed but "local habitations" in the thoughts of the people, and soon passed away to give place to Camp Douglas.

Camp Douglas was located on the ground upon which was held the Seventh Annual Fair of the United States Agricultural Society, in September, 1859, south of the then, but a little north of the present, southern limits, and just opposite the residence and last resting place of the great statesman whose name it bears. The selection of the site was made by Adjutant General Fuller, under orders from the Governor, and in its selection most careful reference was made to the many advantages it possessed for a military camp and military prison.

The camp consisted of about sixty acres enclosed, divided by inside partitions into the Prison square, consisting of twenty acres, the Hospital square of ten acres, the Garrison square of twenty acres, and the Whiteoak square, formerly used as a prison, of ten acres. Whiteoak square soon gained a popularity as being the location of the prisons for the prisoners and unruly members of the garrison, but was afterwards merged into one of the other divisions. The Garrison square was surrounded by the quarters of the officers and men,, and contained a parade ground, level as a plane, and about half a mile around. This square fronted Cottage Grove avenue, and was flanked on the west and south by the Prison square. From the time of the location, the attention of the authorities was called to the necessity of erecting suitable dwellings, as quarters and hospitals, and during the subsequent years the attention of Captain Eugene Roddin, A. Q. M., U. S. V., was occupied in effecting the necessary improvements and conveniences in the camp. The following table exhibits the number of buildings in the camp:


Officers' quarters


Company barracks, with kitchens

General hospital, with four wings, each

Post hospital

Prison hospital, with two wings, each

Small pox hospital, with two wings, each

Quartermaster's warehouse

Commissary warehouse

Ordinance warehouse

Prison barracks

Garrison guard house

Wash house

Guard house and court martial hall

Post church

The whole of the work was performed by the prisoners, under the direction and surveillance of a competent detail of the garrison.

The hospitals, especially, were large and commodious, containing accommodations for over three hundred inmates each, and provided with all comforts for the sick.

The kitchens, also, were models of neatness and cleanliness worthy of the best regulated hotel or residence.


In September, 1861, Hon. Richard Yates, then Governor of the State, in pursuance of a law passed at the preceding extra session of the legislature, ordered the camp to be located at Chicago, and designated the counties of Cook, Lake, McHenry, Boone, Winnebago, Stephenson, Jo Daviess, Carroll, Ogle, De Kalb, Kane, Du Page, Will, Kendall, La Salle, lee, Bureau, Whiteside, Rock Island, Henry, Grundy, Kankakee, Putnam, Iroquois and Livingston, to constitute a separate military district, to be known as the northern district. Col. Joseph H. Tucker, of this city, was appointed commandant, and Milton O. Higgins, Adjutant. Soon after the location of the camp, the Mechanics' Fusileers, commanded by Col. Wilson, were set to work building barracks and laying out the grounds suitable for camp purposes. In October of 1861, Governor Yates appointed Lieut. J. C. Long and S. S. Boon camp instructors, and they for several months rendered efficient service.

The first troops that occupied the camp were Brackett's 9th Illinois cavalry, then numbering about seven hundred men; three companies of the Chicago Legion (51st Illinois regiment); one company of the 57th, and two companies of Hartman's dragoons. They were soon joined by the second regiment of the Douglas brigade.

In November, 1861, there were 4,222 men in camp, consisting of the following regiments and sections of regiments:

Brackett's 9th cavalry, Col. Brackett commanding - 1,021 men

Chicago Legion, Col. Cumming commanding - 512 men

National Guards, 53rd regiment, Col. Baldwin commanding - 202 men

Second regiment Douglas brigade, 55th regiment, Col. Stewart commanding - 974 men

Princeton regiment, 56th Major Page commanding - 482 men

McClellan brigade, 57th regiment, Col. Lynch commanding - 184 men

Mechanic Fusileers, Col. Wilson commanding - 653 men

German Guides, Hartman's battalion of dragoons, Col. Hartman commanding - 175 men

Lyon Color Guard, a detached company, Capt. Friedrick Kurth commanding - 69 men

Shortly afterwards, the above were joined by the Lead Mine regiment, Col. John E. Smith commanding, numbering 667 men.

In the early part of October, 1861, Col. Mulligan having surrendered to the rebel Price at Lexington, and been released with his men on parole, was ordered to Chicago to take charge of the camp, his regiment, the 23rd Illinois, or Mulligan's brigade, performing garrison duty. Col. Mulligan remained in charge until early in the year 1862, when he was succeeded by Col. Tucker, who again took command, with two regiments of three months' men, and on the expiration of their term, he in turn yielded to Gen. Dan. Tyler. Toward the latter end of September of the same year, Col. Cameron, of the 65th Illinois, a Scottish regiment, having been captured at Harper's Ferry, and subsequently paroled, returned to Chicago, where his regiment was first organized, and assumed the direction of Camp Douglas. Several other regiments, or portions of regiments, which had shared the same fate, were also ordered to camp, to remain until exchanged and again fitted for active service.With these additions the garrison consisted of the 93rd, 111th, 115th, 125th, 126th and 39th New York regiments, the 2nd New York heavy artillery, the 39th and 60th Ohio, the 65th Illinois, part of the 12th Illinois cavalry, the 2nd Vermont, Rugby's Indiana battery, an Illinois battery, and smaller portions of one or two other regiments. During the habitation of the camp by these detachments, the soldiers' quarters were burnt three or four times, though whether from carelessness or incendiarism, was unknown to the authorities. The camp was then commanded, for brief periods, by Gen. Ammen, Capt. Phillips, and Turner, until the winter of 1862-3, when Col. DeLand, of the 1st Michigan, or Indiana sharpshooters, took command, with his regiment as garrison, the other portions of the regiments being ordered to again repair to the front. During the year this garrison was reinforced by twelve companies of the old Invalid Corps, four companies of which came on the 17th of September, 1863, from Jeffersonville, with Capt. E. R. P. Shurley, who, upon his arrival, occupied the position of Assistant Adjutant General.

On the 23rd of December, 1863, upon the removal of Colonel De Land, Brigadier General Orme, Post Commandant, assumed personal supervision of the camp. The garrison then numbered about one thousand eight hundred men. Early in the spring of 1864, the sharpshooters were, at the request of their Colonel, ordered to the front, by which means the garrison was reduced to one thousand members of the Invalid Corps. About this time the corps was generally reorganized into the Veteran Reserve Corps. Into this organization the twelve companies at Camp Douglas were transferred, and other men added, making the 8th, 15th and 11th Regiments of the V. R. C. The latter named regiment speedily left the city or was merged into others, causing the garrison here to consist of the 8th Regiment V. R. C., commanded by Colonel (now Brigadier General) Benjamin J. Sweet, and the 15th, commanded by Colonel Joseph C. Strong.

In August the garrison was reinforced by the arrival of the 106th Pennsylvania (hundred days) Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Captain Neff, and on the inauguration of the Copperhead Convention, the guard was still further strengthened by the 24th Ohio Battery, of one hundred and fifty-six men, armed with the best Parrott guns, and commanded by Captain James Hill. The camp continued with this garrison until the 28th of October, when the Pennsylvania Regiment left the city, its term of service having expired. The battery remained some months later, when it also left for other parts.

Upon the resignation of General Orme, May 22, 1864, the command of the camp devolved upon Colonel Strong, though this officer was subordinate to Colonel Sweet, who superseded General Orme as commandant of the post. About the middle of July Colonel Sweet removed his headquarters from No. 90 Washington street, in the city, to camp, and assumed personal direction of the garrison and prisoners. The camp continued under the active care and skillful vigilance of Colonel Sweet until his resignation, in the summer of 1865. He was succeeded by Captain E. R. P. Shurley, who was in charge of the institution until October, when he was ordered to Detroit as Acting Inspector General of the Department of the Ohio. He remained there until his resignation a few weeks afterward, having served with honor in the service of the United States from his enlistment in the 26th New York Regiment, April 14, 1861. The camp was taken in charge by Captain Phettyplace upon the resignation of Captain Shurley, and he continued in charge till the famed relic of the rebellion, like the cause which called in into notoriety, "departed this life."


At first Camp Douglas was not a military prison. It was laid out as a rendezvous for the various regiments organizing in the city, in which they could remain until the reception of marching orders for Dixie caused them to leave for the front. As such it was exclusively used until the latter part of February, 1862, when the glorious victories at Fort Donelson brought into northern arms a number of prisoners too great to keep at the front, but highly necessary to be kept somewhere. The authorities then saw in Camp Douglas an excellent retreat for the sorrowing sons of chivalry, and accordingly, on the 21st of February, sent within its precincts three thousand two hundred prisoners of war. These were speedily followed by a second detachment of twelve hundred and fifty-nine, so that in the course of a few days Chicago had the strongest evidences of the great rebellion brought into her midst, and her population increased by nearly five thousand unwilling residents.

As these were the first rebel prisoners of war brought into Chicago, the following exhibit of their character and derivation will not prove uninteresting:

3rd Tennessee - 432
10th Tennessee - 430
26th Tennessee - 69
42nd Tennessee - 266
49th Tennessee - 454
50th Tennessee - 502
51st Tennessee - 17
Murray's Tennessee Battery - 17
Cumberland Tennessee Battery - 129
Ross' Tennessee Battery - 96
3rd Mississippi - 464
14th Mississippi - 303
20th Mississippi - 449
7th Texas - 367
2nd Kentucky - 123
Guy's Virginia Battery - 54
Jackson's Artillery - 34
Battalion 4th Alabama - 35
27th Alabama - 138

TOTAL: 4, 459

Privates - 4,022
Non-commissioned Officers - 350
Commissioned Officers - 77
Regimental Officers - 10

TOTAL: 4,459

Some few weeks after the arrival of the above, a third detachment of over two thousand men were received and likewise accommodated with quarters within the city limits, free of all charge and expense to themselves. Matters then remained in status quo, only enlivened by the attempts ever and anon made by some discontented and adventurous spirits to break the bonds that held them, until early in May, when the victories at Pittsburg Landing and Island No. 10 again caused an influx of secessionists to our city. In the fall of 1862, the prisoners in camp could have been classified as follows:

Captured at Fort Donelson - 5,717
Captured at Pittsburg Landing - 736
Captured at Island No. 10 - 1,709
Received from various hospitals - 700

TOTAL: 8,962

Add to these the prisoners of war captured at Arkansas Post, and the record for the year will be nearly complete. During the ensuing winter and spring, exchanges were made so freely that the prison camp became depopulated almost as rapidly as it had hitherto increased in the number of its compulsory residents, and in the course of a few months the rebels within its precincts, formerly numbered by thousands, could be readily told in less than half the number of hundreds.

Many of the prisoners were also released upon taking the oath of allegiance to the Government they had wronged, though this number, during the early years of the war, when delusive dreams of victory and speedy release from imprisonment occupied the minds of many of the rebels in arms, was comparatively small. During the earlier months of 1863, some few hundreds of prisoners, originally captured at Arkansas Post, were brought to the camp. These were the only additions of any importance until the fall of 1863, when the capture of General John H. Morgan and his rebel horde, near Salem, Ohio, added nearly five thousand sons of chivalry to the fostering guardianship and care of the authorities at Camp Douglas. These men arrived in batches or detachments of five or six hundred each, and speedily accommodated themselves to the exigencies of the situation, after first fully and satisfactorily convincing themselves that escape was impracticable, and when possible, only a certain forerunner of capture and greater restraint.

On the first of January, 1864, the number of prisoners confined within the camp precincts was 5,649. During the year, that number was largely increased by substantial evidences of the retrograde of the rebel Hood. Toward the latter portion of the summer and early part of the fall of 1864, these souvenirs of Sherman's glorious victories reached our city in frequent and large bodies, numbering in the whole nearly 6,000 men. In November, and the younger days of December, 1864, the number of chivalric residents was increased by some hundreds of men not captured by our victorious armies in the south, but discovered in the bosom of our own State, organizing bands to harass and attack the government under which they lived as citizens. Some were arrested in this city, whither they had come to release from confinement their equally traitorous though more manly friends in Camp Douglas. Others were subsequently captured in Coles, Fayette and Christian counties, which section seemed to be a stronghold of treason, and a rendezvous of discontented traitors. Among the most important captures of this kind was the arrest of the notorious Klingman's gang, the members of which were found armed and en route for Camp Douglas. They succeeded admirably in gaining their intended destination, but occupied a much longer time in investigating its internal arrangements than they had originally contemplated.

On the first day of January, 1865, the total number of prisoners confined in camp was eleven thousand seven hundred and eighty (11, 780), consisting chiefly of Hood's men and Morgan's raiders. The remainder included representatives of regiments from every State of the Confederacy, Tennessee being especially well represented.

During 1865, the receipts have been insignificant, and were confined wholly to the opening months, when a few stragglers were picked up and forwarded to the bourne reached by so many of their comrades before them.

In the spring, final exchanges and discharges became much more frequent. Upon the collapse of one after another of the rebel armies, and the equally rapid and regular fall of rebel strongholds, the prisoners confined in northern military prisons gave up every hope of southern victory, and almost unanimously expressed a hearty desire to "make their peace with the gods," take the oath, and return to their neglected homes. So it was with the rebels at Camp Douglas. With the exception of a few discontented ones, more stubborn or more ignorant than the overwhelming majority, they signified their more than willingness to again enroll themselves upon the side of right, and petitions to be allowed to take the allegiance vows poured in upon the camp authorities with the greatest rapidity.

During 1864, the number of discharges exhibited a marked increase, "Barkis" evincing a "willingness" that almost baffled the efforts of the authorities to gratify it. In the month of May alone, eight thousand four hundred (8,400) prisoners were released and provided with transportation to their homes. This rapidity of depopulative action hardly decreased, and by the month of August, only about two hundred prisoners remained in camp, determined never to take the oath. These, also, in the course of a few days, seeing the prospect of a more uncomfortable incarceration visible, and unpleasantly near, thought better of their opinion, and gladly accepted the terms upon which their less stubborn comrades had left the scene of their imprisonment.

As the prisoners were always arriving and departing, it is somewhat difficult to tell the exact number of prisoners confined in Camp Douglas during its existence as a military prison. Many were released and again arrested, having violated their oaths, and returned to their wallowing in the mire of treason and rebellion. Some even went through the ordeal of release and recapture as many as three times, whilst very many had about time to regain their homes, when they received a call to accept the hospitality of Chicago a second time. On the whole, there have been more than thirty thousand (30,000) upon the prison roll, and of these nearly half the number were together at one time.

Of the treatment of the rebels in camp, much has been said and written, and very many falsehoods and misrepresentations published. If one should believe the rebel scribblers of the south, and the equally traitorous copperheads of the north, Camp Douglas would be conceived to have been the scene of more hellish barbarity than ever was perpetrated in Libby Prison or on Belle Isle. On the other hand, truth testifies that the chivalrie visitants from Secessia were treated to more comforts than they received in their own section, many of them partaking within its limits of the first square meal they had ever seen. Of the whole number, over thirty thousand, only about three thousand five hundred died, and these did not fall victims to starvation, exposure or brutality, but died of contagious diseases brought with them, or from the results of long standing affections, which a change of climate aggravated and strengthened. Compare the above statistics with the mortality statistics of Belle Isle, where over half the number of loyal, gallant prisoners were murdered by their barbarous keepers, and then judge who, in the treatment of their prisoners, violated the laws of war and of humanity, and brought themselves under the retribution of Him who thundered, "Those shalt commit no murder."

The rebels, when they arrived in camp from the scene of their capture, were lean, haggard and starving; when they left their comfortable and warm quarters, to return to their homes, their appearance, in every case, was changed into one of strength and health. The two or three hundred men who, in 1864, took the oath and entered the United States naval service, though originally more wretched than Lazarus, and thinner than Pharaoh's lean kine, appeared in uniform as fine a body of men as ever wore uniforms, giving rise and support to the conjecture that if the rebel authorities had fed their soldiers instead of talking to them; issuing fewer proclamations and more rations; the rebel armies would have fought better, and appeared to greater advantage when on parade, or as the compulsory visitants of their conquerors.

Still notwithstanding their general comfort and good treatment, the rebs would not be satisfied, and especially in the early part of the camp's history, were continually making efforts to break the bonds that held them. Man is an eccentric and peculiar animal. However well he is treated, if he has not been consulted in the premises, but is compelled to received the benefits heaped upon him whether he will or no, he becomes dissatisfied and unwilling to stay. So it was with the prisoners at camp, and as long as they could, they escaped whenever opportunities offered. At first, sympathizing friends abusing the liberality of the authorities, passed into the rebel's quarters knives, pistols or money, carefully concealed within loaves of bread, articles of food or clothing. Fat looking turkeys were discovered, on dissection to contain revolvers, knives, or other articles not generally supposed to be constituent of the vertebral organization. Homespun pantaloons and coats were carefully lined with greenbacks, and other devices adopted to furnish the imprisoned recipient with means to break guard, or to bribe the guard. These efforts on the part of rebel sympathizers caused a restriction to be placed upon the privileges hitherto accorded to prisoners and their outside friends; articles of food were not accepted as gifts to rebels, except under peculiar circumstances, and then they passed a close examination; while, when clothing was accepted, the rebel did not receive it until a rigid scrutiny proved the absence of all that would tend to demoralize any guard, or assist the man to depart homewards if he once succeeded in breaking from the camp. After the destruction of this innocent little game, the rebs turned their attention eastward, and assiduously worked in burrowing ingeniously contrived tunnels from their quarters to the outside of the fence. These efforts were sometimes crowned with success, and once or twice in Col. DeLand's time, as many as seventy or eighty escaped at a time, though a few days generally saw most of the runaways back again. Many of these adventurous spirits struck a bee line from the camp to the nearest saloon, from which, after expending the funds necessary to convey them to Dixie, they would be expelled to the sidewalk, where they would indulge in a quiet siesta in the gutter to sleep off the effects of their libations. The commandant at camp exerted every effort to stop this burrowing propensity, such as taking up the floors of the quarters, so that the excavators could not conceal their earth, digging trenches around the camp, and other devices, which it was considered would tend to balk the burrowers. All efforts, however, failed to attain perfect success, until the arrival of Gen. Sweet, who conceived and executed the brilliant idea of raising the prisoners' quarters on piles, elevating them six or eight feet from the ground. This at once and forever, stayed all efforts on the part of prisoners to pursue their investigations earthward. Then to check any climbing aspirations that might exist in the minds of the rebs, Gen. Sweet replaced the fence which formerly encircled the camp, by a strong oaken barricade, twelve feet in height, and surmounted by a railed platform, from which the guard could take a good and clear view of the camp and prisoners beneath. The prisoners, at the completion of these precautions, commenced to feel that escape was one of the things which "could not be," and in consequence, with two exceptions, quietly and comfortably settled down to their prison life, and contentedly remained until the reception of the final order for their discharge.

The two exceptions occurred in the fall of 1864, when the prisoners, having acquired some inkling of he diabolical plot outside to turn them loose upon the city, made two attempts to overpower the guard by sticks and stones, and then escape. Neither effort was participated in by more than forty or fifty prisoners, and both failed completely. The Johnnies then again subsided and pursued, as before, the even tenor of their ways.

During their prison life, the rebels in camp occupied their time in a variety of ways, to break the monotony of the days. Some ingeniously converted bones into dice or prettily devised rings. Others revived the games of childhood, and could be seen busily engaged in playing leap frog or marbles, with an earnestness worthy of the happiest ten-year-old.

One day, when in the prison square, our reporter stumbled across a mock trial. Two rebels had been charged with "conspiring, in violation of the laws of war, to feloniously steal and carry away" the dinner of a comrade. The offenders were arrested by mock officers, and incarcerated in an impromptu jail. Efforts on their part to obtain their release were overruled, on the ground that the habeas corpus was suspended, and as a "military necessity" they must be tried by a military commission. And so they were. The trial was conducted with the greatest accuracy and ability, the "counsel for the defense" and the "judge advocate" being all men of known legal acumen and celebrity. Upon the conclusion of the case, the court returned a verdict of guilty, and sentenced the offending men to the severe punishment of having their heads closely shaven, which sentence, despite all expostulations and entreaties, was carried out in due form, "according to the finding of the court."

In another portion of the square was seen a faro bank in full operation, on which the "banker" had amassed the fortune of some $150,000 in Confederate currency.

Numbers of the prisoners were daily detailed for police and other work, such as building quarters, or making general improvements to the camp, in consideration of which duties they received the, to them, inestimable reward of tobacco.

The number of deaths in camp, as before mentioned, was very small, considering the abject, destitute and sickly condition of the prisoners on their arrival. No prisoner was ever executed for any offense, and only one shot by the guard. He had scaled the fence, and refused to stop, though ordered by the sentry. In conclusion, one fact may be cited in support of the above assertions, which proves, beyond all doubt, the humanity of the authorities. In the fall of 1864, among a small lot of prisoners, released upon taking the oath, was a Cherokee Indian and a private in a Tennessee regiment. Both left the camp in high spirits, but speedily returned to their old quarters. The former because he could "speakee no English," and the Chicagoans could "speakee no Ingun." The latter because he always made it a point to stay where he felt most at home, and considering that he would receive a sorry welcome "down South," concluded to "watch the bustin'of the Confederacy" from afar.

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