Established in 1861, Camp Randall was a Union training camp and Confederate POW camp. At the outbreak of war it was the largest of several camps for the organizing, training and mustering into Federal Service the Wisconsin Militia and other volunteer organizations. More than 70,000 recruits were trained at Camp Randall.
In Spring 1862, the camp was surprised when it was notified that it would receive roughly 1300 Confederate POWs captured around Island #10. Not having provisions, the camp quickly stockaded off an area and built wooden frame huts. On 20 Apr 1862, 881 Confederate prisoners primarily in good health arrived at Camp Randally by train. They were greeted by members of the 19th Wisconsin, the unit chosen for guard duty, as it was the only unit located in Wisconsin at the time. The band of the 19th played "Dixie" and improved the morale of the prisoners as they marched to Camp Randall. On 24 April 1862, another 275 Confederate POWs were also received at Camp Randall, but most of these were very ill and wounded. These men had not fared well during the trip and Madison citizens were outraged at their condition. City residents generously brought food, blankets and medicine for the men. The Surgeon of the 19th was assisted by a Confederate Surgeon named Moore and a contract surgeon. These three worked tirelessly, but several men died dailyfor the next four weeks until a total of 145 men had died. There are 140 marked graves with names and regiment in the Confederate Rest Cemetery, about a mile away. This cemetery is still maintained today.
On 6 May 1862, two prisoners escaped by bribing a guard but were promptly caught and returned to the prison. The commandant of Camp Randall was forced to lock down the camp from outside visits. This air of secrecy with the death toll mounting gave way to rumors of neglect. One man did manage to escape, a man from the Washington Artillery of Memphis.
On 26 May 1862, a prisoner named Spears, with dysentery, attempted to empty his bowels in an unapproved location. The guard, Clarence Wicks, threw a rock at him knocking the man down. The prisoners brother, Corporal G W Spears approached the guard, and the 17-year-old Wicks shot him dead on the spot. Wicks was cleared of all wrongdoing by a court of inquiry. Wicks later died of a wound received at St Petersburg, Virginia.
The Confederate POWs were from the 1st Alabama and the consolidated 1st Tenn, Ala and Miss. Quite a few men from the 40th Tennessee and the 55th Tennesse were also sent to Camp Randall. Other units represented were the 12th Louisiana and 4th Battalion Arkansas Infantry. There were also 38 men from the Washington Artillery of Memphis.
Early in Jun 1862, those well enough to travel were sent south to Vicksburg to exchange. Those who were ill, were also sent south when they were well enough to travel, for exchange. This was the end of Camp Randall POW Camp.
After 1865, it was returned to the State Fairgrounds.
In 1893, it was acquired by the University of Wisconsin.
The Camp Randall Memorial Park was established in 1911. Of the original 53 1/2 acres only a small section of it became part of the park. What remains of the original Camp Randall is two cannons and a stockade building. The Memorial Arch was built in 1912.
In 1917, it was temporarily used as a National Guard training camp.
Today, it is the Camp Randall Sports Complex of the University of Wisconsin.
For information about Confederate Rest Cemetery, please Click Here
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