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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Photo courtesy: Diane Harris
Clearly visible as a white box to the left of the porch of the home of John JANSEN-2 is the post box used by Union troops during their training at Camp Union/Camp Franklin. Descendants of Jansen reported a slit in the door through which envelopes could be dropped. When the camp was closed, the box was moved to the residence to be used as a small shed. Photo courtesy: Russel Neuwoehner
Dubuque Herald, Aug. 8, 1861. Photo courtesy: Diane Harris

CAMP UNION. In August, 1861 a representative of Governor Kirkland came to Dubuque to make arrangements for the establishment of Camp Union to receive volunteer regiments for service in the CIVIL WAR. (1)

The site selected was at the upper end of the bottom land adjoining LAKE PEOSTA on an elevation of thirty to forty feet. The grounds were perhaps named Camp Union as they were the site used by the UNION GUARDS for drill. In August, 1861 the camp was opened as a recruiting center for the Ninth and 12th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. There were ten barracks, bathing in the river during the summer, and outdoor cooking and eating sites. Within one month of its opening, the camp contained six hundred soldiers. (2)

The buildings constructed were 20 x 60 feet and arranged to accommodate 100 men each. (3) The first troops to enter the camp had previously been quartered in various hotels.

Camp Schedule (4)

5 o'clock, a. m. --Reveille

5 1/2 to 6 1/2 --Schools for Officers of Comp. Drill for Privates

6 1/2 a. m.--Breakfast Call

7 1/2 a.m. Surgeon's Call

8 a.m.--Guard Mounting

8 1/2 to 10 1/2 Schools for Officers and Comp. Drill for Privates

12m.--Dinner Call

2 to 3 p.m.-- Comp. drill

4 to 5 p.m.--Battalion Drill

6 1/2 p.m.--Supper Call

9p.m.--Tattoo (9 1/4--Roll Call)

10 p.m.--Taps

Just two weeks after the camp was opened, the following appeared in the "Dubuque Herald:"

         We are informed that the 
         officers of the camp prefer 
         not to have spiritous (sic) 
         liquors sent to the volunteers. 
         The same value extended in some 
         other way might be quite as 
         gratifying to the donors and as 
         thankfully enjoyed by the 
         recipients. (5)
Dubuque Herald, Aug. 23, 1861. Photo courtesy: Diane Harris
Dubuque Herald, Aug. 29, 1861. Photo courtesy: Diane Harris

The camp was closed in December but reopened in July 1862 as Camp Franklin. Training was given to the 21st, 27th, 32nd and 38th Iowa Volunteer regiments. All 120 men in the 21st were from Dubuque. (6)

The entire camp was closed in January 1863 with the barracks sold at auction in January 1863 for $1,564 and dismantled a month later. (7) The sale was not popular. Officers and friends of the 12th Regiment which recruited here wanted to use the buildings since they were "lined with straw, warm and comfortable." (8) The reason given by the "Dubuque Herald:"

          The governor says that no 
          more troops will be rendezvoused 
          in Dubuque, so notoriously 
          secessional (sic) is the character 
          of its leading citizens. (9)

Years later, the site was known as Rhomberg Park and still later the area along Rhomberg Avenue was occupied by the Eagle Point Apartments still visible in 2015. (10)



1. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Online: http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-30-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

2. Reber, Craig D. "Dubuque Home for Military Training," Telegraph Herald, April 13 2011, p. 6

3. Oldt, Franklin T.

4. Ibid.

5. Reber

6. Oldt

7. Ibid.

8. "Sold." Dubuque Democratic Herald, January 16, 1864, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=A36e8EsbUSoC&dat=18640116&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

9. Oldt.

10. http://www.towncrierdubuque.com/the_town_crier/camp-union