This holiday weekend commemorates those soldiers who lost their lives while fighting in our country’s armed forces. Memorial Day was established shortly after the Civil War.[1] That war was certainly a dark period in our nation’s history as the nation found itself divided. Camp Douglas, at one point the largest Civil War military camp, was located in Chicago. This camp represented one of the darkest areas of an already dark period. Over 26,000 men had been imprisoned there during the war and over 4,000 of those men died.[2] The conditions there were deplorable. Those “Eighty Acres of Hell” are today’s Bronzeville neighborhood.[3]

I always like to find the bright side of things if one may be found. For a genealogist researching a man who was imprisoned at Camp Douglas, a little-known source exists. Between November 1864 and April 1865, Father Murphy from St. James Catholic Parish baptized about two hundred fifty prisoners of war at that camp. He lost many of the names, but a list of one hundred twenty-seven names does survive. The best part: they are freely available online at FamilySearch. For each soldier, this list includes his name,  age, and unit. I agree, there are few people covered in this resource, but I must bring it to light because it could easily be overlooked. It is innocently tucked away among the  baptisms of Chicagoans at St. James.

ConfederateSample of baptismal register from St. James.[4]

Two versions of this list are available. One is the original baptismal register and the other is a typed extract created by Judy Dever and Charles Levy. I always seek out the original records whenever possible. As careful as people might be, errors can occur. Also, additional information might be in the original that did not make it into the derivative.

To access these records, go to FamilySearch and follow these steps:

  • Click “Search” > “Records”
  • Click on the United States portion of the map on the right.
  • Select “Illinois.”
  • Under the search fields, you will see five databases for Illinois and then a link “Show all 80 Collections.” Click on that link.
  • Scroll through the resulting list until you find, “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833–1925.” Click.
  • Under the search fields you will see a link, “Browse through 295,723 images.” Click.
  • The resulting list shows all Chicago parishes, in alphabetical order. Find “St. James Parish (Chicago: Wabash Ave).” Click on that. Be careful because there are six parishes named St. James.
  • You will see all records for that parish, by sacrament and years.
  • Click “Baptisms 1855–1876,” to view the original register containing the baptisms of the Confederate soldiers. Their records begin at image twenty-seven.
  • Click “Baptisms 1864-1865,” to view the typed extract.

I hope this helps someone find something good about their Confederate soldier. Happy hunting!!

[1] “Memorial_Day”; entry, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day : accessed May 2017).

[2] Theodore J. Kamanski, “Camp Douglas,” Encyclopedia of Chicago; article, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/207.html : accessed May 2017.

[3] Meribah Knight, “Chicago’s Forgotten Civil War Prison Camp,” episode of Curious City, WBEZ91.5Chicago (http://www.wbez.org : accessed May 2017).

[4] St. James Catholic Church (Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois), “Baptisms, 1855–1867,” p. 25; digital image, “Illinois, Chicago, Catholic Church Records, 1833–1925,” FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed May 2017) > St. James Parish (Chicago: Wabash Ave) > Baptisms 1855–1867 > image 27.

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