Camp Douglas Restoration Project: Urban Archaeology Builds Community while Unearthing History

Many people are familiar with Andersonville, the notorious Confederate prisoner of war camp that held Union soldiers during the Civil War, but fewer know of Camp Douglas, a Union camp that held Confederate prisoners on Chicago’s South Side. Between October 8th and 14th, we—and others from Loyola, DePaul, and the community—worked as volunteer archaeologists on a dig with the Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation, uncovering elements of Chicago’s Civil War past, and learning some basics about archaeology and the processes that go into a dig.

From 1861 to 1865, Camp Douglas occupied about 80 acres in what is now the Bronzeville community. Initially, Camp Douglas was a training ground for Union soldiers, and would later train enlisted African Americans. The camp was designed to be temporary, since the Union was confident the war wouldn’t last long. But by February 1862, Camp Douglas had become a prison camp for Confederate soldiers captured in battle, since the Union Army had nowhere else to put them. Camp Douglas became one of the largest prisoner of war camps in the nation and had the most Confederate deaths of any camp. Poor sanitation and overcrowding in makeshift wooden shelters spread disease among the prisoners, resulting in approximately 4,500 deaths (the prison housed roughly 30,000 prisoners through the course of the war).  Security was slack and escapes were frequent; an estimated 500 Confederate prisoners escaped during the camp’s operation. After the war Camp Douglas was quickly dissolved, and for the most part, forgotten.

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Plans for Summer 2013, Part Two

LFH

What do public history grad students do with their summers? Learn about the exciting internships and projects that students are undertaking across the country and beyond.  Be sure to check back over the summer and  fall for students’ reflections on their work.  To read what our first batch of students are doing with their summers, click here. And, to see about what our students did last summer, click here and here.

Joshua Arens, First Year Public History Masters Student: This summer I will be in the great state of Wisconsin eating cheese and brats (duh), hanging out by Lake Michigan, and going to Summerfest and Brewers games! Oh, I have an internship too. I’ll be spending my summer working at the Milwaukee Public Museum in the anthropology department cataloguing and researching Bronze Age artifacts from the Hopi Tribe. Check out my blog to read all about my happenings this summer!

Kristin Emery, Second Year Public History Masters Studient: Well, I just graduated from Loyola and let me tell ya, it feels totally awesome. In addition to insisting that my friends and family call me “Master” and signing all of my correspondence “Kristin Emery, M.A.,” I recently started a new position as the Programs Assistant at the Newberry Library’s Hermon D. Smith Center for the History of Cartography. In my role there, one of my primary charges will be researching and selecting images, then obtaining permissions to use them in “Make Big Plans:  Daniel Burnham’s Vision of an American Metropolis,” an NEH-funded online resource that explores Danial Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago and its influence on urban planning in the subsequent century. I will also be promoting and coordinating several public programs including, “Pictures from and Expedition: Aesthetics of Cartographic Exploration in the Americas,” a Newberry Symposium on June 20 and 21, and the Eighteenth Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography which will focus on the War of 1812 and its effects on American Cartography. There may also be a mail merge or two in there…Oh yeah and if anyone has any suggestions for post-grad hobbies, tweet them to me @PublicKristory.

Laura Johns, Second Year Public History Masters Student: Like Kristin, I recently graduated and agree that, “it feels totally awesome!”  I am looking forward to catching up on sleep, reading for pleasure, walking on the beach, and watching all the films I missed while in graduate school (based on recommendations by Lakefront Historian posts, of course).  How, you may ask, will I find time for these activities?  I am invoking the “eight-hour day.”  That’s right!  No more sixteen to eighteen-hour graduate student workdays.  My wonderfully abbreviated workdays will include contract exhibit design and curation for Rush University Medical Center, submission of applications for the ever-elusive permanent public history job, and continued work on personal projects related to history, memory, and the Civil War.

Cambray Sampson, First Year Public History Masters Student: I will be spending my summer on the shores of Lake Huron interning at Tawas Point Lighthouse.  This lighthouse, first lit in 1877, is located at Tawas Point State Park in East Tawas, Michigan and is part of the Michigan Historical Museum System.  While there, I will be giving tours, working with guest lighthouse keepers, working in the museum store, and assembling educational and programming materials.  When I’m not working, I look forward to living at my grandparent’s cabin, reading, and spending time with my family and friends in my home state of Michigan.  If you’re interested in what I’m doing, please feel free to check out my blog.

Joshua Wachuta, First Year Public History PhD Student: This week I will be starting my eighth season with the Wisconsin Historical Society at its longest running historic site, Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien. Located on an island in the Mississippi River, Villa Louis encompasses a War of 1812 battleground, a nineteenth-century fur warehouse, and the country estate of the H.L. Dousman Family, meticulously restored with its original 1890s furnishings. When I’m not leading house tours after our hands-on Victorian breakfasts or exploring the fur trade with fourth-graders on field trips, I expect to keep busy looking after object collections and sorting through the institutional archives that have accumulated since Villa Louis opened as a museum in 1936. I also hope to continue my study of American Indian, French, British, and U.S. cultural interaction in the Mississippi Valley and help keep the Villa’s public interpretation fresh with new research and perspectives.

Digital Exhibit: The Civil War and Chicago

The countdown to the new semester has begun and with it the frantic attempts to get ahead before falling perpetually behind.  As you try desperately to check things off your growing to do list, remember this may be your last week to take some time to relax and rejuvenate before four months of caffeine induced reading and writing.  Although I heartily support getting out of your cramped apartment and getting some fresh air, I understand if the temperatures that are currently hovering around freezing keep you huddled inside.  How about we compromise?  You can stay in, sip your cocoa, pet your dog/cat, and still explore one of the largest green spaces in Chicago.  I’ll even throw in some history to ease your already nagging conscience.

Take a break from your break and check out The Civil War and Chicago: Memorialization, Commemoration, and Remembrance at Rosehill Cemetery!

Civil War Section of Rosehill Cemetery

A digital exhibit created as the capstone for Dr. Elizabeth Fraterrigo’s Material Culture course, The Civil War and Chicago utilizes the Omeka platform to explore how veterans, families of deceased soldiers, and the country as a whole, memorialized, commemorated, and remembered the sacrifices of the over half million soldiers who perished between 1861 and 1865.

Check out the site here and leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Lincoln Review: Devin Hunter

A Lincoln statue, on Lincoln Avenue, in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, in the Land of Lincoln. (Flickr/Brad Heird)

In this five-part series, Lakefront Historian contributors respond to the critically acclaimed blockbuster Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Lincoln as Challenge and Opportunity for Public Historians

Like all texts, Steven  Spielberg’s Lincoln should be critiqued on several levels. Film scholars will analyze the script and cinematography, while popular press movie critics will judge the work as both a creative and commercial product. Being a historical film, Lincoln has also attracted the attention of academic scholars. But what about Lincoln as a piece of public history? And what are its implications for public historians? These are no easy questions–and their answers can easily morph into an unwieldy meta-narrative of aesthetics, commercial production, and speculation on reception. Here, I offer a just an introduction to the public history context of Lincoln and encourage any expansion or complications of these impressions in comments below.

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Lincoln Review: Will Ippen

In this five-part series, Lakefront Historian contributors respond to the critically acclaimed blockbuster Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Lincoln: Public History in Hollywood

Once again a heavyweight filmmaker and a well-selected ensemble cast tackle a defining subject in American history. Once again a blockbuster forces me to reconcile the critical eye of historical training with the evangelical impulses inherent to public history. Hollywood historical fiction is a mixed blessing for public historians in an era when most Americans engage the past through popular entertainment rather than monographs or museums and tend to trust the judgment of respected filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg. Historical blockbusters expose large crowds to important historical subjects, but their biographical and narrative-driven format imposes interpretive choices that all too often minimize the film’s utility as public history. The substantial shortcomings in Lincoln, which my fellow reviewers discuss aptly, result from the genre’s conventions. My main objections include the surprising lack of African American perspectives and agency and the perpetuation of history as emanating from the words and deeds of elites.

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Lincoln Review: Rachel Boyle

In this five-part series, Lakefront Historian contributors respond to the critically acclaimed blockbuster Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Spielberg’s Lincoln

The opening shots were so promising.  A pan of Civil War carnage preceded any mention of Abraham Lincoln.  African American soldiers stood before The Great Emancipator and called him to task on the problem of wage inequality.  Then Lincoln subdued them with a charming anecdote, thus setting the tone of the rest of the film.  In the subsequent two and half hours, a thoroughly endearing Abe ambled through a world of rhetorical and ethical dilemmas, mesmerizing everyone with his storytelling and lawyering skills.  Indeed, Spielberg’s Lincoln succeeded as a comedic drama of white politicians debating slavery while effectively silencing other nineteenth century voices.

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Lincoln Review: Courtney M. Baxter

In this five-part series, Lakefront Historian contributors respond to the critically acclaimed blockbuster Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Memory and Reimagining in Lincoln

As I walked into the movie theater to see Steven Spielberg’s newest movie Lincoln, I was struck by the audience in the packed theater. An audience of silver-haired White people filled nearly every seat. It came as a shock to me considering my location in a Chicagoland suburb where the residents are mostly Black and Latino Americans.  Eventually, along with my family and me, a few Black people trickled in (also of an older crowd).  It was a stark sight to see and I considered the topic of Lincoln and the memory of the man. Who was Abraham Lincoln to this audience?  I cannot presume to fully know.

Continue reading “Lincoln Review: Courtney M. Baxter”

Lincoln Review: Cambray Sampson

In this five-part series, Lakefront Historian contributors respond to the critically acclaimed blockbuster Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Lincoln

I found out about the movie Lincoln surprisingly recently.  I honestly had not heard that this movie was being made until about two months ago, but once I found out about it I wanted to go see it.  I love watching movies based on historical events, though I will admit that I haven’t seen as many of these movies as I would like.  My first attempt to see the movie ended when I arrived at the theatre to find that it was sold out for four straight shows.  That in itself sold me on the popularity of the movie even before seeing any box office figures.  I had resigned myself to waiting several weeks to see Lincoln when I received a text message from theatre friend gushing about the technical aspects of the movie and encouraging me to go and see it – I went the next day.

Continue reading “Lincoln Review: Cambray Sampson”