Illinois Ancestors: Camp Douglas was Andersonville of the North

Illinois Ancestors: Camp Douglas was Andersonville of the North

During the Civil War the Confederate Prison at Andersonville, Ga., was the most notorious, for its terrible conditions and high death rate. There were at least 150 prisons, in both the South and North during the war, and the prison at Camp Douglas, in Chicago near the shores of Lake Michigan, was known as the Northern prison camp with the highest mortality rate. Beginning in February 1862 when the first prisoners arrived, 1 in 5 prisoners died.

Andersonville is the National Prisoner of War Historical Site and the cemetery there has white headstones for each of the 12,912 Union prisoners who died and are buried there — in a 476-acre park.

There is only one monument to the Confederate prisoners who died at Camp Douglas, and it is located in Chicago's Oak Woods Cemetery, at 1035 E. 67th St., in the "Confederate Mound" — where at least 6,000 Confederate soldiers (4,200 known and 1,800 unknown) are buried in a mass grave on one acre of land. The monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1895, and reads, "TO THE MEMORY OF THE SIX THOUSAND SOUTHERN SOLDIERS HERE BURIED ... WHO DIED IN CAMP DOUGLAS PRISON ... 1862-65." This is the largest mass burial in the entire Western Hemisphere. (The dead had previously been buried in paupers' graves in Chicago's City Cemetery, but were moved in 1867 to make way for the creation of Lincoln Park.)

In 1911, bronze panels were added to the base of the monument with the soldiers' names, ranks, units and home states. Photographs of this monument can be seen at This website also has a link to photos of the 16 bronze tablets, showing the 4,243 names.

The terrible conditions at the Camp Douglas Prison are well-documented.

For example, visit for Pritchett Ford's article, "Camp Douglas," as well as the article that had been in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, "Chicago's Camp Douglas, 1861-1865" by Joseph L. Eisendrath Jr., which can be found at

Gary Flavion's article, "Civil War Prison Camps," at, states, "Prison camps during the Civil War were potentially more dangerous and more terrifying than the battles themselves ... 56,000 men died in prison camps over the course of the war ... exceeding American combat losses in WWI, Korea and Vietnam."

Brent Harty has an interesting website at where he comments on a memorial service that was held on April 29, 2007, at the Camp Douglas Monument; he had been asked by the local Sons of Confederate Veterans post to serve as the honor guard.

His website also provides several Civil War links as well as information on his five ancestors and 24 other relatives who served in the 8th Missouri Cavalry Regiment, Company B, Confederate States of America. (Perhaps this website can inspire others to document one's family veterans in a similar fashion "to share stories, pictures, and ask questions that will aid them and others in the research of their family and history in general.")

His website includes a great quote by General John B. Gordon, GSA that really sums up a general view on those who fought in the War Between the States: "For the future glory of the Republic, it is absolutely immaterial whether on this battlefield or that, the Blue or the Gray won a great victory, for, thanks be to God, every victory won in that War by either side was a monument to American valor."

Confederates buried in Illinois

Gale F. Red has compiled a Roll of Honor of Confederate Veterans Buried in Illinois. At (Lt. George E. Dixon-SCV Camp No. 1962) click link on left, Vets Buried in Illinois. Be sure to read the introductory paragraph.

For example, 10 cemeteries are listed for Champaign County and the names (with rank, unit, dates of birth and death) of 13 Confederate soldiers are identified. The Vermilion County list identifies six Confederate veterans that are buried in six cemeteries. No Confederate veterans are known to be buried in these counties: DeKalb, Henderson, Mason, Monroe, Putnam and Wabash.

Red has compiled separate rosters for Confederates buried at the Alton Confederate Cemetery (Alton Prison), Camp Butler National Cemetery (Camp Butler Prison), Rock Island National Cemetery (Rock Island Prison), Oak Woods Cemetery (Camp Douglas Prison) and the Mounds City National Cemetery and will gladly check a list for a specific individual. He also welcomes additions/corrections to the website (which should be checked periodically). Contact Gale F. Red, 5 Hunters Pointe, O'Fallon, IL 62269-3133; phone 618-622-8949; email

Queries, genealogical questions from researchers and genealogical materials readers would like to share will be printed in this column free. Joan Griffis may be reached via email at or by sending a letter to Illinois Ancestors, c/o The News-Gazette, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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