Madison County Historical Society Returns Civil War Materials to State Archives

The Madison County Historical Society has donated to the Illinois State Archives original Civil War muster rolls, enlistment papers and miscellaneous documents related to the 144th Infantry Regiment, a state militia unit based out of Madison County.

Before World War I, America fought wars using federalized state military units, meaning the records of those units belonged to the states. After the war, the records for the units were to be returned to the state. Often times, however, officers of the units would keep certain records themselves.

“The Madison County Historical Society has been in possession of these records for many years and maintained them in excellent condition,” said Secretary of State and State Archivist Jesse White. “We appreciate that the society realized these records should be in Springfield, where we keep the official records for the 144th.

The records in question consisted of three hand-written muster rolls, the enlistment papers of several Madison county soldiers, plus equipment inventories and quartermaster reports. The records will be stored in the climate-controlled Margaret Cross Norton Archives Building in Springfield.

Upon receiving the materials last December, the State Archives performed minor cleaning and repair of the documents. It also made both paper and digital copies of the records for use by the Madison County Historical Society. The Archives returned extra copies of materials and documents not related to the unit to the Madison County Historical Society.

When contacted today, former Archival Library Research Manager, Mary Westerhold, was pleased to hear that the transfer had been completed.

Westerhold said, “When I first realized that these were original Civil War documents that belong to the State, I started the process of returning them. It’s great that they are finally where they belong,”

The 144th Infantry Regiment served as prison guards at the Alton Prison, one of four prisoner of war camps for confederate soldiers in Illinois.