Named in honor of the late Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Camp Douglas, established in 1861, was the earliest and largest Union military camp in the Chicago area. The camp stretched from 31st Street to 33rd Place and from Cottage Grove Avenue to the east to South Giles Avenue to the west. Planned as one of the largest Union training camps, it was one of the few camps in the North to train African-American soldiers. More than 40,000 Union soldiers and approximately 30,000 Confederate prisoners were housed here during the Civil War.
Ill-designed and inadequate as a containment site for Confederate Army prisoners of war, Camp Douglas was remembered by survivors for its poor living conditions, overcrowding, inadequate medical treatment, bitter weather conditions, and a shortage of food. These factors gave rise to the high mortality rate among the Confederates imprisoned here.
While the precise number of prisoners who died at Camp Douglas is unknown, there are up to 6,000 Confederates buried in historic Oak Woods Cemetery at 1035 E. 67th Street. Historians debate reports of a prisoner breakout plot and plan to seize Chicago for the Confederacy. Camp Douglas was closed by November 1865.