Traveling through St. Charles’ Civil War History

As the City of St. Charles celebrates its 185th Anniversary year, this month we are focusing on our City’s connections to the Civil War. 

  • In the mid-1800s, St. Charles was only a community of less than 500 families. However, it was a community of passionate unionists. The 8th and 7th Illinois Cavalry and the 52nd, 127th, and 141st Infantry were filled with 450 boys and men from St. Charles. From start to finish, our residents were ready to participate.
  • ‘Rallying to the flag’ was one of our contributions, but the City also housed a major Illinois Civil War training camp. In 1861 and through 1864, Camp Kane was created. Later this area would become Langum Park.
  • Camp Kane was a training facility first for the 8th Illinois Cavalry, and later for the 17th Illinois Cavalry. More than 2,000 men who would join the war effort were trained here. Of these 2,000, 194 were killed in action or died from disease/accident, 185 were wounded, and 5 died in Confederate prisons.
  • Pictured are line drawings of Camp Kane and the Jones Law Office, and a photo of the Jones Law Office today. While the building has been moved from its original location, it has been preserved to this day by the efforts of the Thornapple Questers.

Pictured is Jones law office which was moved to Langum Park. Originally it was on Main Street. It is thought that Jones’ office was used as a recruiting office or jail for deserters.

  • St. Charles’ John Franklin Farnsworth was a lawyer, congressman, and supporter of the anti-slavery movement. He asked President Lincoln for permission to raise a cavalry troop of 1,200 men in Illinois. In September1861, most of his men had arrived to form the Eighth Cavalry Regiment at Camp Kane.
  • His nephew, Elon Farnsworth, also joined the Regimentas a first lieutenant.
  • The women of St. Charles gave members of the military boxes of bandages and old linens to take with them into battle.
  • According to Lt. Col. Abner Hard, “Of the 200 regiments of brave and loyal troops that Illinois sent out to battle in the war of the great rebellion, none had a more brilliant career or shed a brighter light upon the State of the Nation than the Eighth Illinois Cavalry. No regiment was made up of a better class of men, mentally, morally, or physically than the Eighth.”
  • Local drugstore owner J.S. Van Patten supplied rations to the regiment for 16 cents each. In the entire Union army, the regiment became known as the best fed, best equipped, least expensively maintained, and one of the most quickly prepared.
  • Not only did St. Charles have several brave and courageous soldiers, but it also had a brave and courageous horse. Charley was a cavalry horse in 1861 that was ridden in service for four years.

Photograph of John F. Farnsworth courtesy of Library of Congress. All other photographs courtesy of the St. Charles History Museum. Information provided by the St. Charles History Museum.