Wisconsin December 15, 2018
Few People Know A Huge Civil War Camp Could Once Be Found Right Here In Wisconsin
Wisconsin definitely isn’t the first state people think about when it comes to the Civil War, but the Dairy State had plenty of involvement in the conflict. We’d only been a state for about 15 years, but men from Wisconsin took up the call and served their country. In Madison, there’s an area that played a fairly important role. You’ve probably been there numerous times and never realized how important it truly is. Camp Randall is where the University of Wisconsin football team plays their home games. But 150 years ago, it was a training facility, army hospital, and prisoner-of-war camp.
Camp Randall is now famous for being one of the loudest, most raucous and difficult places to play in all of college football.
It's not likely that the tens of thousands of people who pour into the stadium on Fall Saturdays think about why the imposing structure carries that name.
This area used to be the state fairgrounds and was host to Barnum and Bailey circus tents. But when the Civil War broke out, it was named for Alexander Randall, who was instrumental in raising and organizing the first Wisconsin volunteer troops for the Union Army during the American Civil War.
He went above and beyond in support of the Union way effort by raising 18 regiments, 10 artillery batteries, and three cavalry units, exceeding Wisconsin's quota by 3,232 men. Randall was the sixth Governor of Wisconsin from 1858 until 1861.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Governor Randall directed Major Horace A Tenney to put the fairground near the University into condition for reception of Wisconsin troops.
During the war, the following troops were stationed at Camp Randall while being organized for service: 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 20th, 23rd, 29th, 30th, 36th, 37th, 38th, 40th, 49th, 50th. Also Company G. of Berdan's Sharpshooters. Initially President Lincoln called for just one regiment of 10 companies, but Randall felt that the war would require more than that, so he kept training and more than 70,000 troops spent time here.
The Civil War Camp Randall was 53 acres that extended from University Avenue to Monroe Street.
This area became a spot where war veterans returned and in 1912, a portion of the grounds was turned into Memorial Park, which houses a few of the remaining artifacts from that time. Many will head into Camp Randall Stadium under the Memorial Arch without ever knowing what it stands for.
Following the Battle of Island No. 10 in April 1862, the victorious Union forces had captured a large number of Confederate prisoners. Roughly 1,000 of these prisoners were transferred to Camp Randall, which received little notice the prisoners were coming and was woefully underprepared to receive them.
They weren't there long, as the group who watched over them, the 19th Wisconsin Regiment, were called back to battle and at the end of May, and the prisoners were moved to Chicago. Unfortunately, 140 prisoners died while at Camp Randall. Those men are buried at Confederate Rest, in Forest Hill Cemetery. It is the northernmost Confederate graveyard in the nation.
This plaque honors those buried there.
The arch was dedicated to remembering those who served and gave their lives in the Civil War. It ensures the history of this ground that was once the largest staging spot in the state is not forgotten.
Stories of the Civil War don't often talk about Wisconsin, but many regiments from our state volunteered to fight for the Union and this area in Madison became an important spot for training and readying those soldiers.
The next time you're in Madison, check out this small green space near the football stadium. This Memorial Park is listed on the National Historic Register. Take a few minutes to remember those who walked here before, from the prisoners of war far, far from home to the young soldiers who were heading into the unknown.
There is a stockade here, the only remaining building from that time. It was purchased by a local resident after the war and had many uses, but today is back at its original home as a reminder of what happened here.
The Camp Randall Memorial Arch and entrance to the park are located where Dayton Street meets with Randall Street, east of the football stadium and south of Engineering Hall. Camp Randall’s address is 1440 Monroe St., Madison, WI 53711.