Your Chicago: Camp Douglas, A Civil War Historic Site

(CBS) – On the South Side, in Bronzeville, there is a place with lots of history that few people know about.

Now, a group is working to preserve that history so that the masses will understand just how important it was in U.S. history.

CBS 2’s Rob Johnson reports on Camp Douglas.

On the grounds of Pershing East Magnet School, archaeologist Mike Gregory and his staff are hoping to unearth 150-year-old artifacts.

They are working for the Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation.

Camp Douglas was named after 19th Century Illinois politician Stephen A. Douglas and was one of the most important Union camps during the Civil War. It housed and trained more than 40,000 Union troops, was one of eight camps that prepared African-American Union soldiers for battle, and held 30,000 Confederate prisoners of war, including 6,000 who died here.

David Keller wants to make sure those important facts are never forgotten.

“It was a major, major installation to get Union inductees down to the fighting,” he says.

And yet after the war, some 200 buildings on 60 acres of land, especially along King Drive around 33rd Street, were quickly torn down. The only nod to Camp Douglas is a sign outside the old Griffin Funeral Home. Yards away, a marker was erected last October.

The foundation has big plans for this area. They include continued excavation of the areas around here, getting Camp Douglas on the National Register of Historic Places, and perhaps some day building a museum.

“The more knowledge we have the better we can understand the conditions that took place here,” Keller says. “Yes, it was a deplorable place, but the Civil War was a deplorable war.”

Keller says there  is land east of King Drive that was also part of the camp, an apartment building now owned by developers that he’d like to explore for more history. So far, no dice.

Some excavations may also end up in the backyards of willing area home owners.

 

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