Illinois in the Civil War


Though no battles were held in Illinois during the Civil War, Illinois was a major source of troops for the Union army and provided a number of important war leaders. The state supplied food, clothing, iron products, and grain to help to ensure the Union Army's victory.

After the Southern states seceded from the Union, President Abraham Lincoln, who grew to adulthood in Illinois, called for Union states to form regiments to fight the war. In Illinois, a large number of men volunteered to defend the Union. During the Civil War over a quarter of a million men from the area fought for the country, only three other states provided more troops to fight the war.

Troops were made up of a number of different ethnic groups with Irish, Scottish, Jewish, and black troops all serving during the war. Black troops had to work hard to overcome prejudices in Illinois and were often used for manual labor instead of combat. To train the troops several military bases were created in Illinois.

Camp Douglas located in Chicago was the largest, while Camp Butler located outside of Springfield was the second largest training camp. Both training camps were also used to house prisoners of war. Camp Butler now serves as a national cemetery with over 1500 Confederate and Union soldiers buried there.

Women did take part in the war and a few were able to serve as nurses. Albert D.J. Cashier, born as a woman named Jennie Hodgers, was able to serve as a volunteer soldier.

The most well know general of the Civil War was Ulysses S. Grant from Illinois. Grant was located in Cairo, Illinois, an important area due to its close proximity to both the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Grant won the Union Army their first victories of the Civil War by taking Forts Donelson and Henry, and his successful win at Gettysburg, turned the tide of the war.

Songwriter George Frederick Root was located in Illinois during the Civil War and created over thirty wartime songs. The most popular "The Battle Cry of Freedom" was one of the most popular patriotic songs and a Confederate version was also created.

Not all citizens of Illinois were for the war efforts, some war opponents thought the federal government had no authority to prevent secession. Generally, war opponents were located along geographical lines, Southern Illinois was a region where families from the South had settled, many first generation. Though some still showed their support to the Union and fought with Illinois, others joined the Confederate Army.

Violent opposers of the war called 'Copperheads' clashed with Union soldiers, and in 1864, the Charleston Riot occurred where nine men died as a fight broke out. Some individuals opposed the war because of the rough economic conditions that resulted. With the forming of the Confederacy almost a hundred Illinois banks failed and only a handful remained once the war was over.

Civil War Registers and State Archives

War History

People Search

Civil War Photos

Cemetery Listings

Individual Soldiers