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Uncovering Chicago’s Lost POW Camp

Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood was home to one of the largest POW camps for the Union Army. More than 40,000 troops passed through the camp during its nearly four years in operation.

The camp was located on the cities south side, around 31st Street between Cottage Grove Ave and MLK Drive.

Camp Douglas opened in 1861 as a training center for Union soldiers preparing for the battlefield. It was also one of the largest training camps for African American soldiers fighting for the Union.

Camp Douglas was converted into a POW camp in 1862 when Ulysses S Grant captured roughly 5,000 Confederate soldiers and had no where to house them. The camp remained a POW center until the end of the war. An estimate of 30,000 soldiers were housed at the camp and more then 6,000 were killed due to illness, starvation, & the brutally cold winters, but due to the lack of record keeping at the time the numbers could not be verified correctly. Illness was the leading cause of death in the camp, because of the lack of sanitation and proper sewage system. Others died from the brutal winder conditions. Many Confederate soldiers were taken from the south and never experienced the harsh winters nor had any clothing to withstand the freezing temperatures.

Today, there stands a monument at the Oakwood Cemetary in Chicago for the 6,000 Confederate soldiers who died. The Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation with the help of students and staff from DePaul University, UIC, and many other local archaeologist are leading the push to help uncover the lost history of Camp Douglas. They started digging in early 2015 and have found many great pieces of history. To learn more or to get involved please visit facebook page.

 

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