Madison Businesses and the Civil War
Many Madisonians and businesses benefited economically from the presence of Wisconsin regiments at Camp Randall during the Civil War.
In April 1861 Governor Alexander Randall ordered Wisconsin troops to be trained at the state fairgrounds just west of town. A number of exhibition buildings, and sheds to shelter cows, pigs and other livestock, had been constructed there just three years earlier. Horace Tenney was awarded numerous contracts to turn the existing buildings of what was soon named Camp Randall into suitable barracks, a hospital, and officers’ quarters. He expanded the existing dining hall so it could accommodate two regiments at once. In September he presented a plan to construct winter quarters at the camp to Adjutant General Tredway. Tenney envisioned erecting four twenty-foot high brick walls around the camp, installing both heating and cooling apparatus, and building warm quarters large enough to house an entire regiment. He expected his plan to cost two or three thousand dollars. Tredway said such an elaborate facility was not needed, since the troops would all be gone from Madison by October 1861. Tenney argued that winter quarters would be needed, and he hoped Tredway remembered he could have built them cheaply when he later needed to expand the camp in a hurry and at great cost. Tenney, of course, was right; what some thought would be a short war lasted four more years.
Throughout the war, saloons on nearby State Street did a booming business serving the thirsty soldiers, as did houses of ill-repute. In September 1861 the Daily Patriot reported that the refreshment stand near Camp Randall was doing a large business. It was not until mid-October of that year that the colonel commanding ordered beer not be sold in Camp Randall itself. Alderman Tenney thought that was a bad idea, saying that whiskey and other liquor would be being smuggled in instead.
Many Madisonians benefited from the war.
Brien’s omnibus ran to Camp Randall from Klauber’s corner from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The fare was ten cents each way.
F. D. Fuller manufactured shoes and sent them daily to Camp Randall.
J. W. Webster starred and lettered the colors of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment on a flag sewn by Mrs. Powers. Mr. DeParq gilded and painted the flag of the 7th, also sewn by Mrs. Powers.
Klauber’s Emporium sold bright blue cloth for military wear, and trimming for infantry, artillery, cavalry, and naval services. Marcus Kohner supplied dress and fatigue officers’ uniforms in his shop on Main Street.
Dr. Favill was engaged to treat soldiers at Camp Randall.
Professor S. W. Martin created rolls with the names of regimental company members. The pen and ink documents featured an eagle surrounded by stars with a scroll in its beak, pillars with scrolls inscribed with patriotic sentences, and the names of soldiers in between. A large print cost $4 and a small one $2.25.
In September 1861 R. K. Findlay, a grocer on King Street, obtained the contract to supply Camp Randall with uncooked rations for just under 18 cents per day per man. On September 30 the soldiers of the 8th Wisconsin charged and destroyed the tables of cold victuals in protest (they’d received hot food prior to this). Governor Randall made arrangements for Commissary General Wadsworth to cook the rations in the future.
For Thanksgiving 1861, McGonegal & Dutcher supplied soldiers at Camp Randall with turkeys. The ladies of Madison were requested to add delicacies.
In January 1863 local booksellers Bliss, Eberhard & Festner were selling Incidents of War, or The Romance and Realities of Soldier Life, a 96-page pamphlet, for 25 cents. Also available for a quarter was The Condensed History of the War and Map of Southern States.
In February 1864 W. H. Russel, the mustering and disbursing officer, issued proposals to provide board and lodging for soldiers in Madison on detached military duty.
Soldiers participated in July 4th festivities around the Capitol Square in 1861. They were drawn up for hours in the hot sun while Madisonians celebrated in the shade of Capitol Park. Enterprising young boys circulated through the ranks, selling pails of water for two to ten cents each to the soldiers.
And, of course, local undertakers did a booming business burying Confederate prisoners of war (more than 140), as well as soldiers who died while in training at Camp Randall.
At least three war claims agencies sprung up in Madison during the war, operated by E. B. Quiner, A. A. Bird, and Richard Randolph. These agents attempted to procure back pay, bounties, and pensions on behalf of soldiers and their families. The fee was $5, but there was no charge for prosecuting a claim if it was turned down by the government.
When the draft started in 1863, E. B. Quiner took his agency a step further. In December he advertised that before anyone volunteered for a Wisconsin regiment they should visit his office and he’d make sure they knew about all possible bounties available to them (not only were there federal bounties, but citizens in many cities and towns had taxed themselves to provide additional bounties to soldiers). In addition, he promised to make sure towns got proper credit for their men who volunteered (important, since the number of volunteers were deducted from each town’s draft quota). On December 30 Quiner reported all men needed to fill Madison’s quota had been delivered to Camp Randall the day before, and he was now working to fill the quotas of other Dane County towns.