Mattoon's Union Agricultural Fairgrounds and Civil War Camp Grant
Image Courtesy of Karen Kruse
The marker is located along Shelby Avenue near the North First Division Street intersection, just north of the Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail Recreation Path.
The Citizens of Coles County and The Illinois State Historical Society
In 1859, the Mattoon Union Agricultural Fairgrounds, encompassing a 90-acre rectangle north and west of this location, was established by the Union Agricultural Fair Association, an organization of Mattoon men. The Union Fairgrounds consisted of livestock barns ringing the perimeter of the site and a one mile, figure-8, horse race track. After establishment, periodic races were held and small agricultural displays were presented in 1859, 1860 and 1862. The Fair Association disbanded in 1862 as many influential Fair Association members departed Mattoon to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. In the 20th century, the fairgrounds area was annexed by the City of Mattoon as the Grant Park Addition.
During the four years of the Civil War, the fairgrounds became a Union Army muster camp where Illinois infantry regiments were formed and sworn into service. Known by several names throughout its existence, Camp Grant is the most prominent, in honor of State of Illinois recruitment and training officer Captain U. S. Grant who swore the 21st Illinois Infantry into service at the camp in May of 1861. Other units formed at the camp during the war included the 79th, 123rd, 135th and 144rd Illinois Infantry Regiments. The 123rd Illinois Infantry, under the command of Mattoon’s Colonel James Monroe and later part of Wilder’s Mounted Brigade, was deployed by rail from Camp Grant to Louisville, Kentucky immediately prior to its participation in the Battle of Perryville in October of 1862.
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