As we are in the midst of the sesquicentenial years of the American Civil War, we have had a number of recent guests inquiring about Civil War Sites in Madison WI. Many people are very surprised to learn that there are a number of Civil War Sites in Madison and there are a few that we pass quite frequently.
While reading through my grandparents autobiographies, I’m reminded of how fortunate I am that my family has remained dedicated to preserving our history. One of the many pieces of information that I found was that my great grandfather was a member of Sherman’s Army on their famous “March to the Sea” contributing crucial victories to the northern cause. Not only did it create an interest in the experiences and battles of Sherman’s Army, but also in finding out more about the Civil War, itself. Why? Because regardless of your position regarding the war, it has turned into one of the most defining moments in the history of the United States.
So, you might be asking, “What does this have to do with Madison, Wisconsin?” I am sure you will be shocked to know that Madison has a great deal of Civil War connections and historical sites. For example, Camp Randall, the stadium of the Badger football team, played an integral part for the Union Army. It was named after Alexander Randall, governor of Wisconsin at the beginning of the war and was a training facility for over 70,000 Union soldiers, a Union hospital and eventually a prison for 1300 Confederate soldiers.
The people of Wisconsin didn’t just train and send their soldiers off to war; they also set aside distinct areas for their fallen soldiers. The local cemeteries provide constant reminders of Wisconsin’s dedication to the war efforts. One of the many is Forrest Hill Cemetery where many of those tho passed while at Camp Randall hospital are buried. You will also find the graves of 8 children orphaned during the war and several of the deceased Confederate soldiers that were held in the prison camp.
While you are visiting the Speckled Hen Inn there is another veteran cemetery destined to be on your itinerary. The Token Creek Conservancy and cemetery houses the graves of several Civil War soldiers in addition to soldiers and veterans of other wars. Since it is a short ride down the road, it is a convenience place to visit when working on a tight schedule.
In addition to the abundant Civil War structures Madison has to offer, another favorite place to visit is the Wisconsin Veterans Museum where you can find some of the most eclectic Civil War memorabilia. Although the exhibit is small in scale, it focuses on the fundamental concept that led to a Union victory. Total War, a war tactic that reduces all civil limitations, was the hope that kept the soldiers fighting and has become known as, “The Last Full Measure”. This was Wisconsin’s decision to concentrate all energies (human and industrial) to winning what seemed an unwinnable war. The exhibit includes everything from gifts between soldiers for honorable acts during battle to grave markers, camp utensils, uniforms and medals.