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1864 Charleston Riot, Chicago's Guardian Angel Mission, I & M Canal passenger travel challenges are all part of Illinois history     Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 14, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- A riot between Civil War soldiers on leave and antiwar Democrats in Charleston, the Guardian Angel Mission built in Chicago to assist Italian immigrants, and the challenges facing passenger travelers on the Illinois and Michigan Canal are featured in the latest issue of the Journal of Illinois History, a scholarly publication about the state's history.

On March 28, 1864, Union soldiers home on leave clashed with antiwar Democrats on the Coles County courthouse square in Charleston. When the violent confrontation ended, six soldiers and three civilians were dead and 12 others wounded in what was one of the deadliest Civil War riots in the North. The Charleston Riot exemplified the clash of cultural differences in the North. Civil versus military control and personal relationships from Illinois led to President Abraham Lincoln's involvement in the case.

The aftermath centered on the plight of 15 federal prisoners detained after the riot who became pawns in the struggle between the military's quest to try them as an example to deter future insurrection and the efforts of the prisoners, their families and local supporters, who ultimately appealed to the president for resolution through civil proceedings.

The article was written by Peter J. Barry, professor of agricultural finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a descendant of participants in the Charleston Riot.

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Agnes Amberg, a well-to-do Chicago Catholic, was instrumental in the creation of Guardian Angel Mission on the city's west side in 1898 to cater to the Italian immigrants who had supplanted the Irish and German immigrants in Holy Family Parish. A year later, the 500-seat Church of the Holy Guardian was built to accommodate the growing congregation.

Services expanded in the next five years to include a night school for adults and a summer school for neighborhood children. By 1912 the mission had become a settlement house, much like its neighbor, Hull House. In 1914 Mary Amberg, Agnes' daughter, moved to the settlement and took over the role of resident director.

The article was written by Deborah Ann Skok, assistant professor of 20th-century U.S. history at Hendrix College outside of Little Rock, Ark. She is currently working on a book on Catholic settlement houses and day care in Chicago from 1892 to 1930.

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Nearly 12 years of construction culminated on April 10, 1848, when the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened for business. Passenger service on the canal began later that month. In an article written by I & M Canal Corridor Association historian Ronald S. Vasile, the often-overlooked passenger travel business on this important waterway is examined.

Travelers on the canal had to endure cholera outbreaks, counterfeiters and the occasional rescue of a boat-pulling mule team that went into the canal. In spite of the unique problems associated with canal travel, such as passengers having to duck when passing beneath bridges, canal boats could provide an enjoyable and relaxing travel experience. Unfortunately, the expansion of railroads soon made passenger travel on the I & M Canal obsolete.

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The Journal of Illinois History is the foremost publication for readers who value documented research on the state's history. The journal features articles, book reviews, essays and bibliographies that have been reviewed by some of the country's leading historians.

Subscriptions to the journal, published by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, are $18 per year for four issues. To obtain a sample copy, contact Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Publications Section, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701; or call (217) 524-6045.

[Illinois Historic Preservation Agency news release]


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