Rockford’s Camp Fuller

Rockford has always done its part to serve the military in times of war.  During WWI and WWII, Camp Grant was a notable training base for area soldiers, but did you know that a similar camp was set up during the Civil War?

Camp Fuller was established in 1862 when President Lincoln called for 300,000 men to fight for the Union.  It was built on Churchill’s Grove, land owned by M.C. Churchill.  It was bounded by what today is the Rock River, Auburn Street, Post Avenue, North Main Street, and Guard Street.  It was well-known in Rockford as a pleasant picnicking spot.  Camp Fuller’s first commander was Colonel Jason Marsh, who helped to set up Rockford’s first school system.  The first volunteers arrived on August 16, 1862.  At first, the men all slept in tents, but within two weeks they had built simple frame barracks.  Camp Fuller trained four regiments, and each left Camp Fuller Markerfor battle during the fall.  Rockford citizens always turned out in great numbers to see them parade out of town.  After the last regiment left in November, Camp Fuller was torn down and its lumber auctioned.  Nothing from the camp was left by January 30th, 1863.  Today, there is a stone and plaque at the corner of Harlem Boulevard and Guard Street memorializing the camp.

The uniform below was worn by Henry Freeman.  Born in 1842 in New Jersey, his family moved to Carroll, IL.  He enlisted at Camp Fuller on September 4, 1862.  He was a 19 year old student who’s rank was sergeant at time of enlistment.  His regiment, 74th Illinois Infantry Company K, was the first regiment to leave Camp Fuller on September 28, 1862.  On August 23, 1863, Henry was promoted to captain, and became an officer of the U.S. Colored Troops 12th Regiment.  A survivor of the war, he was mustered out on June 15, 1865.

Civil War Union Coat

Civil War Union Vest

Civil War Union Trousers

After the war, Henry attended Yale University and law school.  He became Chief Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court around the turn of the century.  Henry passed away on September 5, 1916.  Two of Henry’s saber’s used in the Civil War are pictured below.

Henry Freeman's Saber, dated 1862

Henry Freeman’s Saber, dated 1862

US Civil War Saber

Civil War Union Saber with tassel

Saber with tassel eagle close up

Want to learn more about the Civil War?  Attend our 11th Annual Civil War Symposium!!!

Saturday, January 26th

10 am – 2 pm

Admission: $28 per person, $18 for members. Admission includes lunch.

The 2013 featured speaker will be renowned Lincoln scholar, Dr. Douglas Wilson, the co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College. He has twice been awarded the Lincoln Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of American history. Dr. Wilson is appearing through a partnership with Rockford College.  To learn more about Dr. Douglas Wilson

Two other local Civil War history presentations will also be part of the program and are:

Sons of Thunder: The History of Battery H, 1st Illinois Light Artillery
In February 1862, twelve Rockford men, mostly Swedish immigrants, made history when they joined Battery H of the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. This battery fought at the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, the Atlanta Campaign, and participated in Sherman’s march to the sea. Presented by David Oberg, Executive Director of the Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum.

The History of the Illinois Monument at Andersonville Prison
Learn the behind the scenes story of the design, construction and December 20, 1912 dedication of the Illinois Monument at Andersonville Prison. Midway Village Museum volunteers Noah and Michele Neiber sorted and catalogued a local collection of over 600 letters and documents that tell the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the five Illinois Andersonville prisoner of war veterans who made up the Illinois Andersonville Commission.

For more details and to register, click here:


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