This past weekend was our first Civil War tour. Many people wondered how the heck we’d fill up a tour with Civil War stuff in a city miles from the nearest major battle, but there’s an awful lot of stuff related to the war in Chicago (and, being Weird Chicago, we had plenty of cool stuff to talk about in the space between stops).
I always learn a lot of neat stuff when doing research for new tours, but the biggest shocker this time was that the grave of Stephen Douglas comes complete with brochures:
Douglas was an Illinois senator who introduced the Kansas Nebraska Act, which opened the door for slavery to expand into the North (he was pelted with produce in Chicago for it). In 1858, he debated Abe Lincoln in a series of famous debates on the expansion of slavery as part of their campaign for senate. Davis won, but lost the presidential election to Lincoln two years later.
His memorial is near the lake on 35th street – a massive pillar with a statue of him on top of it. At the bottom of the pillar sits the burial chamber, where one can walk right up to his sarcophagus and grab a brochure. It would be a pretty tacky place to put them, but, well, Douglas was sort of a jerk*, so I guess it’s a wash
* – Douglas’ exact views on race and slavery seem to have varied depending on what was convenient for him at the time. I’m not comfortable judging people from 150 years ago by the standards we have today – even Lincoln’s views on race were rather backwards by today’s standards. But the racial stuff Douglas put forth at the Lincoln Douglas debates was pretty harsh business. At the very least, the man was on the wrong side of history.