View of soldiers graves near City Point General Hospital, circa 1865; historic cemetery ID shield; Lithograph of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Hampton National Cemetery
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Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served

Confederate Mound at Oak Woods Cemetery

Chicago, Illinois

Canon and Monument
Confederate Mound at Oak Woods Cemetery
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs,
National Cemetery Administration, History Program

Near the southwest corner of Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood stands a 30-foot granite monument dedicated to the thousands of Confederate soldiers who died as prisoners of war at Camp Douglas.  The monument marks a mass grave containing the remains of more than 4,000 Confederate prisoners, reinterred here from the grounds of the prison camp and the old Chicago City Cemetery. 

Camp Douglas, located on land owned by politician Stephen A. Douglas—Abraham Lincoln’s opponent in the 1860 presidential election—originally served as a Union recruitment and training center. However, after the Union victory at Fort Donelson, Tennessee in December 1862, the camp became a major detention facility for Confederate prisoners of war.  It had a maximum capacity of 10,000 prisoners, and over the course of the war, more than 26,000 Confederate prisoners passed through its gates.  Disease, particularly smallpox, and exposure to the elements claimed the lives of more than 4,000 prisoners.  The camp established two small cemeteries on its grounds, but most of the casualties were buried in Chicago’s old City Cemetery along the shores of Lake Michigan, in what is now Lincoln Park. 

The lease for Camp Douglas required the removal of the entire camp, including the cemeteries, at the end of the Civil War.  In 1866, Chicago closed the old City Cemetery due to its constant flooding, forcing the Federal Government to find a permanent burial ground for the remains of the Confederate prisoners.  A lot within the Oak Woods Cemetery was selected, and approximately 4,200 remains were reinterred here between 1865 to 1867.  Landscape architect Adolph Strauch designed the cemetery, envisioning it as a park-like setting, rather than a naturalistic garden, using curving pathways and slightly elevated burial plots.  Many notable local residents, including several mayors, governors, and congressmen are buried throughout Oak Woods Cemetery.

Cannonball Monument
Cannonball Monument
Courtesy of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, History Program
Confederate Mound is an elliptical plot, approximately 475 feet by 275 feet, located between Divisions 1 and 2 of Section K.  The most prominent feature of the plot is the Confederate Monument, a 30-foot granite column topped with a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier, a figure based on the painting “Appomattox” by John A. Elder.  At the base of the tapered square shaft are three bas-relief images: “The Call to Arms” showing a group rallying for the cause, “A Soldier’s Death Dream” depicting a fallen soldier and his horse on the battlefield, and “A Veteran’s Return Home” showing a soldier arriving at a ruined cabin.  General John C. Underwood, a regional head of the United Confederate Veterans, designed the monument and was at its dedication on May 30, 1895, along with President Grover Cleveland and an estimated 100,000 on-lookers. In 1911, the Commission for Marking the Graves of Confederate Dead paid to have the monument lifted up and set upon a base of red granite; affixed to the four sides of the base were bronze plaques inscribed with the names of Confederate soldiers known to be buried in the mass grave.

Four cannons surround the monument, forming a square 100 feet on each side.  Between the monument and the northern cannon, 12 marble headstones laid in an arc mark the graves of unknown Union guards at the Camp Douglas prison camp.  Also near the monument are the plot’s flagpole and a large cannonball pyramid. 

Plan your visit

Confederate Mound is located within Oak Woods Cemetery at 1035 East 67th St., in Chicago, IL.  The burial plot is open for visitation daily from sunrise to sunset.  No cemetery staff is present onsite.  The administrative office is located at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, and the office is open Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm, and is closed on all Federal holidays except for Memorial Day.  For more information, please contact the cemetery office at 815-423-9958, or see the Department of Veterans Affairs website.  While visiting, please be mindful that our national cemeteries are hallowed ground.  Be respectful to all of our nation’s fallen soldiers and their families.  Additional cemetery policies may be posted on site.

Visitors to Confederate Mound may also be interested in the surrounding historic Oak Woods Cemetery. 

Confederate Mound was photographed to the standards established by the National Park Service’s Historic American Landscapes Survey.

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