Joliet museum marks Will County’s Civil War involvement
BY DENISE BARAN-UNLAND Correspondent July 3, 2013 11:10AM
Bob Kuzma of Joliet is raising money to restore the flag once belonging to 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Most of the men in that regiment hailed from Will County. | Supplied photo
If you go
What: Civil War Sesquicentennial at the Museum
When: July 6 and 7
Etc: July 6 events: noon to 4 p.m., display of Civil War artifacts; 1 p.m., “High Tide in July: The Momentous Campaigns of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, 1863.” July 7 events: noon to 7 p.m., “Display of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment Flag;” 5 to 7 p.m., Joliet American Legion Band performance.
Where: Joliet Area Historical Museum, 204 N. Ottawa St., Joliet
Cost: Free with admission. $6 adults, $5 seniors (60-plus), $4 full-time students with valid school ID, $3 Youth (ages 4-17). Free to museum members and children under 3. Legion Band Concert, $8 museum members, $10 nonmembers
Information: visit www.jolietmuseum.org or call 815-723-5201
Updated: August 5, 2013 5:14PM
Bob Kuzma of Joliet marked his childhood with trips downtown to the Joliet Public Library for books about the Civil War.
This led to a thirst for knowledge regarding Will County’s involvement and a passion for George Woodruff’s book, “The Patriotism of Will County,” written 15 years after the war ended.
Kuzma now is on a one-man mission to bring back to Joliet the flag once belonging to the 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. To help raise the $40,000 required for its restoration, the Joliet Area Historical Museum is hosting a two-day event, “Civil War Sesquicentennial at the Museum,” on July 6 and 7.
“I know there are many good causes out there and some of them may seem much more immediate and important than preserving a flag,” said Kuzma, vice president of the museum’s board of directors. ”I feel very strongly about bringing a piece of history that was important 50 years ago back to our community. We have a lot of history here people need to appreciate and remember.”
Visitors to the museum on Saturday can peruse a display of Civil War artifacts from Vicksburg and Gettysburg. In addition, Kuzma and Dr. Theodore Karamanski, of Loyola University in Chicago, will present “High Tide in July: The Momentous Campaigns of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, 1863.”
On Sunday, the museum will display the 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment flag. The director of the Illinois Military State Museum, retired Brig. Gen. Stewart Reeve, and the museum’s assistant registrar, Alex Dixon, will accompany the flag.
Later that day, the Joliet American Legion Band will perform Civil War-era songs on the museum rooftop. All these Civil War programs are free with a paid admission to the museum, Kuzma said.
Most of the members of the 100th Infantry originated from Will County, Kuzma said. The local government helped raise the regiment by providing a small bounty to encourage enlistment and a stipend for the men’s families.
The community gave 800 soldiers a huge send-off when they left by train on Sept. 2, 1862. The men’s letters to their loved ones often were printed in the newspaper of the time, Kuzma said. All except 200 of these soldiers died in action or from disease or were wounded and sent home.
“Maybe the signature events didn’t happen here, but Will County was as much of the Civil War as anyone else in the country,” Kuzma said.
All of the regiment’s battles are marked on the flag, from the first engagement to the Battle of Nashville in 1864. At the war’s conclusion, all volunteer units turned in their national and regimental “colors” or flags to the state of Illinois, Kuzma said.
Many of these former flags now hang in the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield. Some are archived in large drawers, which are not accessible to the public, Kuzma said.
Restoration to Civil War flags is necessary, Kuzma said, because of its materials: weighted silk and oil-based paint. Silk, as it ages, becomes brittle and may eventually disintegrate into dust.
If returned, the 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment flag will be preserved and displayed in a glass case at the Joliet Area Historical Museum, Kuzma said. He hopes that happens by June 2015, the 150th anniversary of the soldiers’ return to Joliet, when their term of service ended.
“This is a one-time opportunity to preserve a piece of history that was very important to a group of people who were at a monumental crossroads in American history,” Kuzma said.
Donation checks can be made payable to the Joliet Area Historical Museum, c/o 100th Illinois, 204 Ottawa Street, Joliet, IL 60432.