Monday, April 11, 2011

The Coming of the Civil War on Chicago's North Shore

From the April 3rd Wilmette (Il) Life edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.

On April 13, 1861, men from the North Shore (north of Chicago along Lake Michigan) boarded Chicago & Milwaukee trains and headed to Chicago for the latest war news and Union rallies. A group of patriotic students from Northwestern missed the train and walked the twelve miles to it.

There was no town of Wilmette in 1861, but New Trier Township did exist. Out of a total population of 700, 40 went to war during its duration.

One of these was farmer John Fieger who joined the 22nd Illinois on March 2, 1862 along with neighbor Mathias Setzer. Fieger was 44 at the time, a bit old. He was captured at the Second Battle of Kernstown July 24, 1864, and sent to Andersonville where he died August 20, 1864.

Company F of the 8th Illinois Cavalry was made up almost entirely of North Shore men. One was Charles Westerfield, whose parents owned a large farm along present-day Michigan Avenue in Wilmette. Private Westerfield joined shortly after his 18th birthday and fought in the east with the Army of the Potomac.

In April 1865, he was involved in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth. He survived the war, returned home, worked as a surveyor and helped lay out the streets of Wilmette.

His father, John, became Wilmette's first village president in 1872 and later Charles served as village clerk.

Just a Little History. --Old B-Runner

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