History of Langum Park, St. Charles
by Kimberly T. Rizzi
(The "caches" referred to are used in "geocaching")
This is a really small park with a big history. It's so cool to know that while placing these caches we walked in the footsteps of these brave men and the history of our country. We've known about the history of Langum Park, from here down 7th Ave., for quite some time and we happily made our way here today to place these caches. The park is small but its significance and place in American history is big.
Langum Park was the site of Camp Kane from 1861 to 1865. It was the training ground for the 8th and 17th Illinois Cavalries. Both were organized by Col. John Farnsworth when he obtained authorization from President Abraham Lincoln to form a volunteer Cavalry Regiment.
The 8th, formed in 1861, fought with the Army of Potomac in such battles as Manasses, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. They fought in 50 other battles and skirmishes.
The 8th Illinois Cavalry had a regimental strength of 1,200 men and a roster of 2,412 during the war: 194 were killed or died of disease, 185 were wounded and 11 died in Confederate prisons. Marcellus Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry is reputed by some historians to have fired the first shot at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The 17th, recruited in 1863, commanded by Col. John C. Beveridge, distinguished itself when it captured 1,000 Confederate troops at Mine Creek, Kansas.
Though this area now plays host to athletes and picnickers, it once served as a training ground for soldiers during the Civil War.
The camp, which extended from the Fox River to 7th Avenue, was where soldiers from both regiments trained.
John Farnsworth was a resident of St. Charles. He was an attorney, founder of the Republican Party, congressman, as well as a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. In 1858, he advised Lincoln during the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates and in 1860 nominated Lincoln for president during the Republican Party Convention. Farnsworth was also called to the bedside of the dying President after Lincoln was shot at Fordís Theatre in 1865. Without Farnsworth's influence, Camp Kane would not have been so successful.
Farnsworth had no problems in fulfilling 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.
During the period that the new recruits trained, they captured the attention of many local residents. Children and adults alike came to the camp and watched the men training and drilling. On October 14, 1861, the regiments marched to Geneva. There they took a train to Washington, D.C., where they received their horses and joined the Army of the Potomac. President Abraham Lincoln dubbed the 8th Cavalry "Farnsworth's Big Abolition Regiment."
In February, 1864, extensive barracks were built on the Lovell property, in the north part of the city, which received the designation of Camp Kane, and in February, 1864, these were temporarily occupied by the Fifty- second Regiment, then at home for a short time. The regiment received large accessions from the place on its redeparture for the front in March of the same year, and in the June following the One Hundred and Fortieth Illinois Volunteers, marched from Camp Kane. Elgin contributing two companies to the regiment. Besides these mentioned, Elgin contributed many soldiers to other organizations, and from the day, in the early spring of 1861, that the first company left it, until the happy midsummer, four years after, that the war's last veteran marched proudly home, Elgin was never derelict to the calls of the struggling, but at last victorious republic. (Source: "History of Kane County", 1908)
Illinois was a hotbed of anti-slave ideals and St. Charles was no exception. General Farnsworth created the training camp for troops and cavalry (horse) units on property which he owned along the east bank of the Fox River. Camp Kane (now Langum Park) trained over 1000 men.
Following the war, men of the 8th Cavalry continued to serve their country. In April 1865, they took part in the search for Abraham Lincoln's assasin, John Wilkes Booth, and also guarded the President's body.
Despite its size, St. Charles gave one of the largest quotas of troops in all of Kane County. St. Charles residents such as General Farnsworth, Captain Elliott, Major Van Patten, Major John Waite, Captain Beach, Captain McGuire, Colonel Gillett, Major (Judge) Barry, Lieutenant Durant, and Dr. Crawford all aided in the war effort. These names are among the most important in the history of our town.
Today, a plaque that was erected in Langum Park in 1982, commemorates the significance of Camp Kane in both local and national history. Please stop and take a moment to look at the monument and reflect on the history.
©K. Torp and Genealogy Trails