A Confederate burial ground in Chicago? Yes. And it's getting a makeover

September 23, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey)

The largest Confederate burial ground in the North is quietly undergoing a makeover within the placid grounds of an historic Chicago cemetery.

The Confederate Mound at Oak Woods Cemetery is where approximately 6,000 soldiers and seamen of the Confederacy lay buried is getting what is likely its first major facelift in its 115-year history, according to officials at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, which has stewardship over the federally-owned mound located within the private 180-acre cemetery at 67th and Cottage Grove.‚  Work began this month and is scheduled to wrap-up in January.

The fix-up would rejuvenate one of the most spectacular, if little-known, monuments in Chicago. The two-acre mound at Oak Woods features a 46-foot Georgia granite monument topped by a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier with this arms folded and looking downward.‚  The names of the dead are written on bronze plaques near the base.‚  Cannons and stacked cannonballs mark the perimeters of the mound. Here's what the monument looked like before the scaffolding went up:


(photo by Lee Bey)

The dead were prisoners at the notorious Camp Douglas, a Union training base turned prisoner-of-war camp near 35th and the Lake. As a prison camp, Douglas was called "eighty acres of hell" because of the disease and cruelty manifest there. After the war, the federal government bought land within Oak Woods and buried the dead prisoners there without much fanfare.‚  But by the 1890s, ex-Confederates within Chicago and in Georgia raised the funds to design and build the monument, which was dedicated in 1895.


(photo by Lee Bey)


(photo by Lee Bey)


Lincoln National Cemetery Assistant Director Sean Baumgartner said the entire monument will be cleaned and re-mortared.‚  Signage and plaques will be cleaned of corrosion and restored as well. A monument in a Danville cemetery underwent a similar effort.‚  "And the difference is like night and day," Baumgartner said.