Friday, January 4, 2019

Camp Randall Stadium - A Storied History on the University of Wisconsin Campus

Camp Randall today - Courtesy of Wikimedia
Years ago, when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin I attended a lot of University of Wisconsin football games at Camp Randall Stadium. In my very early twenties, I had no clue why the stadium was called Camp Randall and didn’t even think to ask about it. I now know that Camp Randall was named for Wisconsin Governor Alexander Randall who served from 1858 to 1861.

Recently, I stumbled across an article about Camp Randall and was quite surprised at its history. Before the land became home to a Big Ten football stadium, it was used first by the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society and community and state events were held there. When the Civil War began the land was donated to the state as a training facility for 70,000 Yankee recruits about to head off to fight in the Civil War. Along with being a major training facility, an army hospital and prisoner of war camp was also located on the grounds.
Sketch of the Civil War Training Camp
Courtesy of Wikipedia

A 1936 article about Camp Randall in the Wisconsin State Journal described what one would have seen when they entered the military camp:  “rows and rows of white-washed barracks, the notorious bullpen, officers’ quarters, hospital buildings, dining halls, and kitchens,” Note that the bullpen was where “fence jumpers” who tried to go AWOL were sent.

After the Civil War ended, nothing was done about the land until the state decided to sell it. War vets objected, and in 1893,  the state legislature purchased the property and immediately turned it over to the University of Wisconsin, The site was immediately put to use for athletic events, and in 1910, a temporary stadium was built. In 1915 a permanent football stadium was constructed and is still in use today after several additions and tweaks.

The Civil War wasn’t the only time the property was connected with a war effort.
Courtesy of Wikipedia
During the 1940s dorms for students and military personnel were built adjacent to the stadium that housed 150 men. During WWII they were occupied by naval trainees, then following the war, students used the rooms.

But the land’s previous history was not forgotten as a portion of the land was designated as a park to memorialize the Civil War camp. In 1913 a memorial arch was constructed and cannons were mounted at the same time.
Memorial Plaque
Courtesy of Wikimedia

POW Stockade
Courtesy of Wikipedia
Memorial Canon
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Today Camp Randall is still home to the Wisconsin Badgers football team and is also used for other athletic events and concerts. You can read more about the stadium and its history at where some of my information was gleaned.

Have you ever been to Camp Randall or toured a similar property?


Article from Wisconsin State Journal; Wisconsin Historial Society;

Pamela has written most of her life, beginning with her first diary at age eight. Her novels include Thyme For Love, Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and Second Chance Love. Future novels include Shelter Bay, Book 2 in her Newport of the West series set in her hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. She lives in northeastern Illinois with her two rescue cats.



  1. Isn't it funny how we never think to ask about the history of some of the places we frequent? Who would have thought your sports field would have a military history! Thanks for posting.

  2. Thank you for this post! I am a proud Badger and attended many events at Camp Randall but had forgotten its history.