Part One: The Remix
In my very first post, I added a postscript about Milwaukee’s involvement in the Civil War. Although Wisconsin was not home to any physical battles, it was indicative of the social and political battles being fought at the time. Milwaukee was not immune to the polarizing and decisive problems that were seen on the national level during the mid-19th century; as such, there were still instances of non-military violence and rioting before, during, and resulting from the war. When thinking about how to make the Civil War relevant for my students, I feel that the best way is to start at home. I have collected a series of locations that my students will be familiar with in Milwaukee, but that were also important locations during the Civil War. I attempted to find sites from all around the city — my students are bused to the high school from all different neighborhoods. Consequently, I found significant Civil War sites from the North Side (Lindsay Heights,) the South Side (Walkers Point/ Menomonee River Valley,) the West Side (Avenues West,) and the East Side (Third Ward/East Town). I want students to understand that, no matter where they live in the city, their area was not untouched by the legacy of the Civil War. I found sites from the underground railroad, training camps, draft riots, and even a lynching. Some of these sites are commemorated with a plaque or monument, others remain unrecognized. Investigating these Civil War sites in Milwaukee caused me to ask these essential questions: How do we remember the Civil War in the North? Why would our city choose to remember some events/people/places in the war, and not others? What is the Civil War’s true “legacy,” both nationally and locally?
My hope would be to have students answer those essential questions by exploring the different sites I found around Milwaukee. I have created a “treasure map” Prezi of significant Civil War sites in Milwaukee, the link to which is here:
For each site on the map, I have included pictures of what the location looks like today (whether it be a coffee shop, a part of Marquette’s campus, a commemorative plaque, etc. ) I have also included an online source for each site, which explains its significance during the Civil War. If I were to teach using this “treasure map,” I would have students pick different sites to investigate. They would be able to do so online, but I would love it if they were to go investigate in person. This aspect of the project is why finding sites in everyone’s neighborhood was so important. If they were to visit the sites in person, I would ask students to journal about these questions:
- How does it feel to stand on your site? What do you see, hear, feel, etc.?
- Do you see any trace of what this site was during the Civil War?
- Is there anything (plaque, memorial, memento, etc.) that remembers the significance of the site on which you stand? If so, describe.
- What does this site tell you about how the Civil War is remembered in Milwaukee? What is the Civil War’s “legacy?”
- If your site was commemorated in some way, why do you think this is? If it wasn’t, why not?
Even if students are not able to physically visit some sites on the map, they can do online research, paired with their imagination, to answer these questions. Students should have a full journal of musings about each site by the time they are finished with the unit. I could then have them turn their journals into some sort of project — this could look like either creating a memorial for a site that has not been commemorated, or they could change/remodel a pre-existing memorial. The project could also look like students finding their own Civil War sites around Milwaukee; mine is not an exhaustive list. Student exploration into the Civil War sites should just be a starting point — there are so many projects that can come out of my “treasure map” of Milwaukee resources.
Part Two: The Sources
Although the sites and sources are evident on the Prezi map I created, I have listed below the Milwaukee locations I chose, along with their significance:
- Shake Shack, Third Ward (Buffalo St.)
The Shake Shack in the Third Ward, a popular hangout spot for teens, is actually the location of the only recorded lynching in Milwaukee — that of George Marshall Clark. Clark was lynched for speaking to two white women, and consequently engaging in a feud with their white male companions. The site is spot of brutal violence and racism to its most vicious degree, and yet there is no plaque or memorial for Clark on location. The restaurant, however, was recently made into a historical landmark because of what happened there. It is said that a memorial to Clark’s life and violent death is in the works. I believe this site is important to teach to students because it displays the violent racism that was evident not just in the South, but here in the North, during the Civil War; it also makes one think about how racism is remembered or dismissed.
Here is the link on the lynching and the site that I included on the Prezi:
Site of the only documented lynching in Milwaukee designated as a County Landmark | The Milwaukee…
The Milwaukee County Historical Society (MCHS) officially added two new Milwaukee County landmarks during its November…
2. “The Victorious Charge” Monument, Wisconsin Ave. in Avenues West
This is a very obvious Civil War memorial located on Milwaukee’s west side towards downtown. It was constructed in the late-nineteenth century to commemorate all of the Wisconsin soldiers/veterans who fought in Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and other important battles. The source I included in my Prezi for this monument is here:
Downtown sculpture is an overlooked masterpiece
Milwaukeeans love to despise the city's public art. From David Middlebrook's deliberately lopsided Tip in Gordon Park…
This monument is important for students to investigate because it emphasizes the idea that society chooses to remember valor, while it tries to forget instances like the Clark lynching. It would be interesting to ask students why they think the monument was placed where it was.
3. Colectivo, Lakefront Cafe (1701 N Lincoln Memorial Dr.)
This Colectivo, a very popular coffee shop for students and working people alike, is very close to an important Civil War site for Milwaukee — the site of the Camp Sigel military camp. Just up the road, there is a plaque commemorating the camp:
Once again, this site emphasizes the fact that anything tied to the Union army is always memorialized — why is this so? Do we remember only what we want to?
Here is a link to information on all of the Civil War camps in Milwaukee:
WISCONSIN CIVIL WAR CAMPSCamp Barstow A temporary civil war encampment
WISCONSIN CIVIL WAR CAMPS Camp Barstow A temporary Civil War encampment, located at or near Janesville in Rock County…
4. Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center
The Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, also known as the Soldiers Home, is a now vacant historical monument on Milwaukee’s south side. The building was built for Civil War veterans after the war. It worked as a sort of communal living environment, much like a retirement community. The building was mainly meant to provide for soldiers who had physical difficulties or challenges with mental illness after the trauma they experienced in war. This site is probably the most famous Civil War location in Milwaukee. A link for more information is located here:
The Soldiers Home | The Alexander Company
Under the proposal, the buildings - including Old Main (Building 2), the most prominent and recognizable building on…
5. Wood National Cemetery
The Wood National Cemetery is the cemetery associated with the Soldiers Home. Families of veterans can still apply to have their loved ones buried here; however, the graves are primarily from the Civil War. The site would present students with a more chilling and somber view of the “valor” of the Civil War. Many may have veterans in the family, and as such this site could resonate with students on a more personal level.
A link describing the history of the cemetery is located here:
Wood National Cemetery - National Cemetery Administration
This page provides information on Wood National Cemetery.
6. The Al McGuire Center, Avenues West (Marquette Campus)
The Al McGuire Center, home to many D1 sports teams at Marquette University, is the little-known location for Camp Scott. Camp Scott was a military training camp for drafted soldiers in Milwaukee. This camp is not commemorated; it would be interesting for students to investigate why Camp Sigel was memorialized with a plaque, while Camp Scott has been primarily forgotten.
This PDF below explains a little bit about what life was like at Camp Scott:
7. 16th and Fon Du Lac, Lindsay Heights Neighborhood
The corner of 16th and Fon Du Lac, on Milwaukee’s north side, commemorates an important location on the underground railroad. This site was actually the location of Deacon Samuel Brown’s farm. Brown was instrumental in aiding runaway slaves in getting up north to Canada. His was one of the last stops before the border. He operated just before the war, and as such this location is very important to the discussion of pre-war tensions. I think it is crucial that my students see that their neighborhoods, like Lindsay Heights, were instrumental to our country’s history and to civil rights. Too often, the northern neighborhoods in Milwaukee and their history are disparaged or undervalued.
Below is an article that gives more information on Deacon Brown and his contributions to the underground railroad and abolition movement:
Key civil rights spots in Milwaukee
Martin Luther King Jr. visited Milwaukee several times to give speeches, and the city was a civil rights flash point…
8. Ozaukee County Courthouse, Port Washington
Although this site is just outside of Milwaukee, it is still crucial to a discussion on the Civil War’s impact in Wisconsin. The courthouse was the site of draft riots in Port Washington. Men from all over the Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties came to protest the draft, and rioting ensued when officials became violent. The original courthouse (featured above,) which was the drafting office during the war, was promptly torn down after the war. In the late-nineteenth century, another courthouse was built in its place. That one is the courthouse that remains today. There is nothing on the building commemorating the riots or those who were killed. This site is crucial because it is demonstrative of the dissension surrounding drafting and the military; this dissension and violence is often ignored or forgotten in lieu of war memorials, like “The Victorious Charge.”
More information on the Draft Riots of 1862 can be found here:
28th Wisconsin Regimental History: Civil War Draft Riots in Port Washington, Wisconsin
In 1862, Ozaukee County, Wis., farmers from the town of Luxemburg, Wis. practically declared a Civil War of their own…
All of these sites present the multiple narratives surrounding the Civil War. They also provide students with the sense that everything occurring at the national level during the Antebellum period had local echoes. If I were to use these locations in my own classroom, I would hope that they inspire thought and reflection in my students. I would also hope that these locations help students think about the larger issues regarding the ways in which the Civil War is remembered and presented today.