Dedicated in 1912, the Camp Randall Memorial Arch honors 70,000 troops that trained at Camp Randall during the Civil War. Currently part of Camp Randall Memorial Park, this site served as an early state fairground and subsequently as a training ground for nearly all of the state’s Union troops during the Civil War. Camp Randall also housed sick and wounded Confederate prisoners of war, 140 of whom are now buried in nearby Forest Hill Cemetery. After learning of a plan to sell the land for residential development, the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), a Civil War veterans association, petitioned the state legislature to intervene and preserve the memory of Camp Randall. The land instead was purchased by the University of Wisconsin-Madison to be used for agriculture, athletics, and military drill. After another appeal to the legislature by the G.A.R., funds were allocated for a memorial park and monument.
The design of the Camp Randall Arch has traditionally been attributed to Lew F. Porter. While it is correct that Porter was employed by the Memorial Arch Commission to oversee the construction of the arch, there are no known plans that indicate he significantly influenced its design. Instead, it appears that the original design may have been executed by a draftsman from the Woodbury Granite Company of Vermont.
Two statues of soldiers, the ‘Young Boy Sentry’ and the ‘Old Veteran’ flank the main entrance. The top of the arch features Old Abe, the bald eagle mascot that traveled with the 8th Wisconsin regiment in to battle. The statuary was apparently executed in a local stonecutter’s shop. Two plaques on the arch’s interior walls commemorate the Wisconsin regiments that trained at Camp Randall. The north plaque implores visitors to recall the sacrifices of the soldiers, “Lest We Forget.”
Camp Randall Memorial Arch is located along the edge of Camp Randall Memorial Park near the intersection of North Randall Avenue and West Dayton Street.
Video: Daniel Einstein, “The Camp Randall Memorial Arch.”
Hosea W. Rood, “Camp Randall Memorial Arch,” 1912.
UW-Madison News, “Centennial celebration of the Camp Randall Arch is June 30.”