Monday, May 26, 2008

Take Some Time...

Wisconsin has a rich history, as we all know, or SHOULD KNOW. (Blasted schools!) One aspect of Wisconsin's history that gets short-shrift is that there are an abundance of what I call "Confederate connections".

For example, did you know that Jefferson Davis spent a lot of his US Army career in Wisconsin? Indeed, while posted at Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien he met his first wife. She was the daughter of future US President Zachery Taylor. Taylor opposed the marriage, not wanting his daughter to marry a career military man. But love is what love is and they married not long after Davis resigned his commission. Sadly, not long after moving into her new home in Mississippi she contracted typhoid fever and died. During his posting in Wisconsin Davis was involved in the Blackhawk War and actually became friends with Chief Blackhawk while repatriating Blackhawk following his capture. Davis also was assigned to clear white squatters off of Indian lands in Iowa. These were the seminal reasons that most of the Indian tribes sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. By the way, have you ever heard of Highway 18? The road that runs from Milwaukee to Prairie du Chien? Davis was responsible for the construction of that road. He layed it out while posted at Fort Crawford. The United Daughters of the Confederacy have quite a nice monument to Jefferson Davis about a block north of the Fort Crawford medical museum in Prairie du Chien.

There are over 140 Confederate soldiers buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison. They are located in a graveyard called "Confederate Rest". These soldiers were captured during the battle of Island Number 10 near what is now New Madrid, Missouri. Since that battle was fought at about the same time as the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburgh Landing, TN) the prison camps around the Midwest were full. So, Camp Randall (yes, the stadium sits on the site), a training camp for Wisconsin boys headed to war, became a prison camp for several months until the prisoners could be moved to places such as Camp Douglass, IL. The Confederate soldiers who arrived at Camp Randall were a sickly lot. Actually, Madison residents were so distraught at the condition of the prisoners that they began food and clothing drives to help them. Such was the concern for the prisoners that the Wisconsin boys training at the camp got jealous. In a few short weeks at least 140 Confederate soldiers died, some of injuries from fights, some shot by the guards, but most from disease or from their battle wounds. Surprisingly, all of the marked graves at Confederate Rest have name and unit on them. Very unusual for a prison camp graveyard. Some research seems to indicate that more Confederate soldiers are buried there than are marked. We might never know. You can check out information on Confederate Rest and on other Confederate soldiers buried in Wisconsin by going to the web site of the Wisconsin Division Sons of Confederate Veterans.

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