Oak Woods Civil War Memorial

In our sanitized, wonder-drug existence, we cannot grasp the death rate of our greatest conflict: the Civil War.

This is the monument to nearly 7,000 dead Confederate soldiers. The nation suffered 630,000 deaths directly related to Civil War battles, mostly from infections that killed those who did not die immediately on the battlefield.

I wondered why so many Confederate soldiers were buried here in Chicago until I read about a prisoner-of-war camp called Camp Douglas after the Senator who defeated Lincoln in the famous election of 1858 and who was a local land owner.

Camp Douglas had a fearsome death rate -- as did nearly all the prison-of-war camps, North and South.

For those Civil War freaks amongst us, the site of former Camp Douglas is 4 miles east of downtown. It includes the Robert Taylor Homes project, Illinois Institute of Tech., and Comiskey Park. The front ran along Cottage Grove, then west four blocks to Martin Luther King Drive, east to 31st street and north to East 33rd Place.

The camp dead were first buried at the prison but then moved to Lincoln Park (it was admitted that some of bones may have been left behind). They were then removed to Oak Woods Cemetary. However, some are in the parking lot of an African-American owned funeral parlor. The owner flew a Confederate flag over his lot until his death in 1996 to honor the men, not the cause, he said.

A further 200 are buried in Rosehill Cemetary. These were primarily from the battles of Ft. Donelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg.

 A Virtual Tour of Chicago's Cemeteries
 © 1997 Joe Kelley


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