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Camp Franklin

Excerpt from Over 49 News & Views, June 1993 as contained in My Old Dubuque, Collected Writings on Dubuque Area History, by Len Kruse (NOTE: The book is available for purchase at the Chamber of Commerce's Welcome Center, 3rd St. & Ice Harbor, Dubuque for $27.50 plus tax. 563-556-4372)

During the Civil War, Iowa's Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood supported the Union, pledging "his own money to equip volunteers for the Union army.

In Dubuque, a training center was established to "house recruits as regiments were filled, and to turn those civilians into soldiers for the war." The first training center was Camp Union "because the area had been used for drills by the Union Brigade, one of Dubuque's earlier volunteer companies." Located near the Mississippi River near current day Rhomberg Street, "it opened in August, 1861, and served initially as a recruiting center for the Ninth and 12th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. Within a month there were 600 volunteers at the camp under the military discipline of Col. William B. Allison."

"There were 10 barracks, outdoor cooking and eating, water and bathing facilities, and ample food. Col. J. K. Graves served as quartermaster at the camp and gave out rations and blankets." Dubuquer lent blankets when it was learned that many soldiers were without "bedding."

"The Governor's Greys of Dubuque was the first company to volunteer, shoulder their muskets and go off to the war under General Francis J. Herron of Dubuque. (Herron was captured and exchanged for a Confederate soldier during the war and later became a lawyer in New Orleans.)"

Sketching scenes of the war for Harper's Weekly was Alexander Simplot, a Dubuque native born in 1837, who accompanied General Ulysses S. Grant. When he became ill, he returned to Dubuque to live. Many of his early sketches can be seen at the Center for Dubuque History, Loras College. These sketches provide insight into early Dubuque society.

The Union Brigade camp was closed in December, partly due to anti-war sentiment and poor organization. The camp reopened in July "under the name of Camp Franklin, housing the 21st, 27th, 32nd, and 38th regiments. All 120 men of the 21st regiment were Dubuquers and Captain Swivel was their leader. Many had enlisted to avoid the draft--" Many businessmen were concerned about the river trade being damaged by the "Union cause".

Because of Dubuque's location, J. K. Graves built a hospital at the camp to treat the numerous wounded and sick soldiers. "During the fall of 1862, outbreaks of typhoid, measles and other diseased occurred, causing 11 deaths and over 200 sick men. Also, because of bitter feelings between two German companies, there was a murder at the camp. Sick soldiers were cared for by the Soldiers Aid Society and the Dubuque Women's Society (founded by Dubuquer Mrs. Julia L. Langworthy, who was an energetic relief worker during the war)." The hospital was initially run by the Sisters of Charity, BVM. The hospital was later torn down with a boys' boarding school, known as the Columbia Academy, being built in its place.

Governor Kirkwood visited the "camp in October 1862" as complaints about patient care surfaced at his office. "A report at Camp Franklin indicated that 193 men had been admitted to the camp hospital, 163 had returned to duty, seven were convalescing, one had been discharged, eight had died and 14 were still in the hospital quite ill." Apparently poor "cooking methods" were the cause of many of the complaints. There were even talks about secession, which eventually caused the governor to close the camp. "The buildings were dismantled and sold at an auction in January, 1863, for $1,564."