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June, 1861 – A Time of Sorrow, Joy and Good-Bye’s

June of 1861 was certainly a time of mixed emotions in Will County. One June 3, 1861 Stephen Douglas died of typhoid fever at his home in Chicago. Douglas had many fans in Will County. When his nomination as Democratic candidate for President to oppose Lincoln came across the wires many in Will County celebrated. The Joliet Signal wrote, “We must say that we never witnessed so much hearty enthusiasm in our city before on any occasion. It struck terror into the ranks of the already disheartened Black Republicans.”

When news of his death reached Will County, citizens everywhere draped their houses and places of business in mourning. On June 10th a funeral procession was held at the same time the real procession was held in Chicago.

George Woodruff writes in his history of Will County in the Civil War. “All business was suspended and a large and imposing procession, composed of citizens, various civic organizations and the 20th regiment along with an empty funeral car formed at the court house square and proceeded to Camp Godell, where appropriate services were held.”

However, on the very next day a joyous celebration was held at Camp Godell on the occasion of the wedding of Major John W. Goodwin and Miss Jennie Dalton.

Woodruff described the happy event, “No carpeted saloon, however gorgeous in upholstery and brilliant with gaslight, could equal it in beauty. The ceremony took place in front of headquarters. The regiment was first drawn up in line, as on dress parade, and then formed in a hollow square, enclosing the gentlemen and ladies from the city, who had come thither on foot, on horseback, and in carriages, to witness the ceremony. In due time the principals made their entree with Chaplain Button, and supported by Captain DeWolf and Miss Anna Stevens, and Captain Hildebrant and lady, all mounted.

The beautiful bride was tastefully dressed in a riding habit of blue silk, with Zouave cap and feather, while a sash of red, white and blue, passing across her snowy shoulders and lingering for a moment about her slender waist, fell upon her horse’s side. The major was dressed in the full uniform of his rank, and was a fine specimen of manly beauty and of martial ease and grace. As they made their appearance, the square opened to receive them, the men gave the military salute, and then, amid silence unbroken save by the gentle rustle of the leaves in the evening breeze, the few words of the ceremony which linked two lives together were quickly spoken, and the parties pronounced man and wife.

Then the boys broke forth into three rousing cheers that made the welkin ring, and the band broke forth into jubilant music. The parties then rode around the square, and received the hearty congratulations of the crowd, and the hearty good wishes of all, and then took the lead in the march of the gay cavalcade back to the city.”

Time to depart came on June 19th. The men received their pay and boarded the train to Alton. On the march to the depot, they were meet by the Joliet Coronet Band and a huge gathering of friends, family and citizens in general who wanted to give what may be the last good-by to the brave fellows of the 20th.

At every station along the way the men were greeted with good wishes and floral bouquet. At Monticello every student at the female seminary there was at the station to greet the gallant men of the 20th.

They arrived at Alton at noon the next day. The plot of land assigned to them for their camp was less than ideal. It was full of hills and gullies, with stumps everywhere. There was no shade and the water was not fit to have the name. This great contrast with Camp Goddell back in Joliet, where huge oaks shaded them during the day and a spring supplied fresh clean water to all, brought home the fact that they were “in the army now, not behind a plow.” The area became known as Camp Pope and was shared with three other infantry regiments and a troop of cavalry.

It became clear that play time was over when, by accident, a young man of Company D was playing with his rifle and pulled the trigger of what he thought was an unloaded rifle. He shot two people, who survived, but were severely wounded and deformed. Both of them were later sent home. The Chaplain who viewed the event fainted away at the sight of blood, but later was found to be among the bravest of them all.

The food also was not like back home. They were issued wormy hard tack that had been in a warehouse since the Mexican War. It seemed less like food than like a building material. Some of the boys tried to remedy the situation by shooting a group of hogs that they claimed had gotten in their way. The hogs provided a great meal, however the officers took a dim view of it and made sure enough money was taken out of the rash soldier’s pay to compensate the farmer for his loss.