Civil War sites in Wisconsin
BY GARY KNOWLES For Sun-Times Media
The War to Save the Union. The War Between the States. The War of Yankee Aggression. The Recent Unpleasantness. By any name, America's Civil War (1861-1865) left deep wounds in the nation. By the late 1800s, many who fought had passed away. Others were concerned that those who had sacrificed might be forgotten. States and local communities raised funds to build memorials to their soldiers. In these Sesquicentennial Years (2011-2015), visit these notable monuments, sites and museums in Wisconsin.
Camp Randall and the Memorial Arch in Madison
The Civil War began in 1861. Wisconsin's governor, Alexander Randall, quickly answered the call to organize troops for the US Army. The plot of land where the University of Wisconsin's football stadium stands today and the acres around it comprised the training ground for young farm boys and volunteers who became Union troops. More than 91,000 Wisconsin soldiers served, which is enough to fill the stadium with 10,000 to spare. A Memorial Arch built in 1912. It was re-dedicated this June to commemorate their service. Sitting on mounds in the park are two Civil War cannons (including one captured at the battle of Shilo), a memorial bench presented by the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War and a small wooden shed that was once part of the buildings at Camp Randall. It's the only piece of Camp Randall that's left.
Northernmost Confederate Civil War Cemetery in Forest Hill
In 1862, rebel troops from the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment were sent to Island 10 in the Mississippi River near Cairo, Ill. Their mission was to disrupt supplies headed to Union Troops in the south. After weeks of tenacious fighting, they were forced to surrender. About 1,200 confederate soldiers, many severely wounded, were sent to Camp Randall where they were held as prisoners of war. About 120 died. They were put in a plot called Confederate Rest in Madison's Forest Hill Cemetery. It's the northernmost confederate burial ground in the country. A few hundred yards away is the Union burial grounds.
Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison
See the exhibition of Wisconsin's Iron Brigade called From Paper to Iron. The museum has outstanding artifacts, dioramas and displays. Visitors who have Wisconsin relatives that served in the Civil War can buy a detailed Certificate of Service document. Admission is free. Hours: Tues-Sat: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Sun (April-Sept): noon - 4 p.m. Capitol Square at 30 W. Mifflin St. (608) 267-1799. www.wisvetsmuseum.com/exhibitions/civilwar
Civil War Museum in Kenosha
This museum focuses on the contributions of the upper middle west - Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan - to the Civil War. The exhibits concentrate on personal stories of people from all lifestyles and circumstance. Hours: Sun-Mon: noon - 5 p.m., Tues-Sat: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Closed Mon, Sept-Feb and holidays. Admission to Fiery Trial Gallery: $7. 5400 First Ave., Kenosha. (262) 653-4141. www.thecivilwarmuseum.org
Soldier's Monument in Fountain Park
Sheboygan was erected 1889 in downtown Fountain Park. The monument - one of the tallest in the state - stands 46 feet high and weighing 80 tons.
Confederate Spy Grave in Wisconsin Dells
One of the most notorious, storied and celebrated spies for the Confederacy, Belle Boyd, is buried in the Spring Grove Cemetery in the Wisconsin Dells. After the war ended, she made a living by traveling the country, telling her story and supporting one nation. She died in 1900 in the Dells. A concrete slab that includes rocks from each state in the confederacy caps her grave.
The Road to Civil War & Back in Wausau
Marathon County & Beyond (1861 - 1865) at the Woodson History Center in Wausau is a fascinating first-person-style exhibition that introduces visitors to real Civil War soldiers, follows them as they join the army, experience the terror of war and then return home. Hours: Tues-Thurs: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Sat-Sun: 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. 410 McIndoe St. (715) 842-5750. www.marathoncountyhistory.com
Old Abe, the war eagle, historic marker
Hwy. #138 near Jims Falls, Old Abe was an eagle mascot that traveled with Wisconsin's troops and earned a reputation for flying and screeching ferociously over the battlefield. Chippewa Indians, who sold him to a local farmer, originally captured him in northern Wisconsin. Old Abe served in 42 battles; he lost only a few feathers. After the war, Old Abe lived in Madison in a special room built for him at the Capitol. His last public appearance was with President U.S. Grant at the National Encampment of the G.A.R. in Milwaukee in 1881. Old Abe lives on in the logo of the 101st Airborne Division, on the Case Tractor logo and as a replica statue in the Wisconsin State Assembly Chambers.
Victorious Charge in Milwaukee
American artist John S. Conway's impressive 9-foot, 10-inch bronze sculpture, located on the Court of Honor on W. Wisconsin Ave., is one of Wisconsin's most celebrated Civil War monuments. Conway's work, known for realistic depiction of the intensity and horror of battle, was dedicated in 1898 and restored in 2003.
Gary Knowles is a Madison-based travel writer, photographer and consultant to travel industry. He serves as the travel advisor on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin Show.