Langum Park, South 7th Avenue (View on map)
The current location of Langum Park once served as a training ground for soldiers of the 8th and 17th Illinois Cavalry regiments during the Civil War. John Franklin Farnsworth established Camp Kane in 1861 on property he owned that extended from the Fox River to 7th Avenue.
Born in Canada, Farnsworth was a surveyor and studied law in Michigan before moving to St. Charles to establish a law office in the 1840s. He served in the United States Congress from 1857-1860, and from1863-1872. Farnsworth was an abolitionist and a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, and nominated Lincoln for the office of U.S. President at the Republican Party Convention in 1860.
John Farnsworth played a particularly significant role in the establishment and training of both the 8th and the 17th Illinois Cavalry regiments during the Civil War. He gained authorization from President Lincoln to form a volunteer cavalry regiment soon after the Civil War began in 1861, and successfully fulfilled the 1,200 man quota. Approximately one in six men from St. Charles served in the regiments. Recruits also came from as far as Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan.
The 8th Illinois Cavalry was mustered into service on September 18, 1861, with Col. Farnsworth in command. The 8th Illinois Cavalry trained at Camp Kane until October 14, 1861, when the regiment marched from Camp Kane to Geneva and boarded a train to Washington D.C. to join forces with the Army of the Potomac. President Lincoln called the 8th Illinois Cavalry “Farnsworth’s Big Abolition Regiment.”
Image Credit: St. Charles Heritage Center
The 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment saw action in many Civil War battles, most notably the Battles of Manassas, Williamsburg, Mechanicsville, Alexandria, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Lieutenant Marcellus Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry is credited with firing the first shot in the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. John Farnsworth’s nephew, Elon Farnsworth, was killed in action in Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 while in command of Company L, 1st Vermont Battalion during a battle at Big Round Top.In April 1865, the 8th Illinois Cavalry took part in the search for Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. The regiment also guarded the President’s body as it lay in state in Springfield, Illinois.
While the 8th Illinois Cavalry was serving its second year in the Union Army, John Farnsworth organized the new 17th Illinois Cavalry Regiment on September 11, 1863. Farnsworth was promoted to Brigadier General on December 5, 1862, but he resigned his commission in early 1863 to take his seat in the U.S. Congress representing the 2nd Illinois District. The 17th Illinois Cavalry trained at Camp Kane under the command of Col. John Beveridge from November 1863 until May of 1864 when they were ordered to move the regiment to Missouri. Major John Lourie Beveridge, a native of Evanston who later became a Governor of Illinois, was a member of the 8th Illinois Cavalry from 1861-1863. He was named Colonel of the 17th Illinois Cavalry on January 28, 1864. The 17th Illinois Cavalry fought many skirmishes in Missouri and helped defend Jefferson City from attack by Major General Sterling Price’s Confederate forces in October of 1864. The 17th Illinois Cavalry was mustered out of service in November and December of 1865 in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Nearly five hundred St. Charles men joined various military regiments during the Civil War. The 127th Illinois Infantry Company E was recruited in St. Charles, but did not train at Camp Kane. Frederick Dyer reported in his book, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion (Part 3, pp. 1026-7) that the Illinois 8th Cavalry lost a total of 250 men during the Civil War; 7 officers and 68 enlisted men in battle, one officer and 174 enlisted men to disease.
Today, a plaque, erected in Langum Park on June 13, 1982, commemorates the significance of Camp Kane in both local and national history.
For additional photographs see:
St. Charles Heritage Center - Camp Kane and the Civil War
Illinois Digital Archives - Civil War Documents