Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 46COMMUNICATION CONCERNING CONFEDERATE DEAD
December 17, 1866
With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, the federal government established Camp Douglas on sixty acres of land south of the city. Its initial purpose was to train and recruit Union troops. However, during the following year it was transformed into a prison for captured Confederate soldiers. The camp received its most notoriety in 1864 when an unsuccessful attempt was made by Confederate soldiers and local sympathizers to liberate the camp and then burn and plunder the city.
As prisoners died in the camp they were buried in the Chicago Cemetery. In 1865, the state Supreme Court ruled that the city did not have proper title to the cemetery and it was forced to re-inter 3,136 bodies in either Graceland, Rosehill, or Oakwoods cemeteries. On March 9, 1867, the state legislature authorized the city council to purchase and extinguish the titles of cemetery lot owners in order that it could obey the court's orders.
Points to Consider
Why did the city report that it wanted to remove the Confederate dead from the City Cemetery? Why did it really?
What was Camp Douglas? How many died there and due to which causes?
What was a brevet brigadier general?
Where was Camp Douglas?