Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Okay, so its not a Civil War post but I still wanted to share. A few weeks ago I was in Chicago for a family reunion (my wife's side) and I had the good fortune to get to the First Division Museum in Cantigny Park. There is a Civil War connection though. Cantigny Park was once owned by Joseph Medill as Red Oaks Farm. Medill was the founder of the Chicago Tribune and was its publisher during the Civil War. His grandson was Robert McCormick, who also became editor of the Chicago Tribune, and renamed the estate Cantigny for a World War 1 battle his unit (1st Battery, 5th Field Artillery Regiment) was in. This battery was part of the First Division, the Big Red One. His estate is now a park that includes this museum as well as his house and gardens. Next time there I would love to have more time to tour the house and the gardens as well but this time we only had about an hour available so we did the First Division Museum and the accompanying tank park.

The museum is small but well done. Extremely well done. Every exhibit is life size. You start off in a World War 1 trench and it is full scale. The soldiers seen advancing towards your position are as big as you are. It was pretty dark in there and while I had been given permission to use my camera I did not want to use my flash. The few pictures that turned out are still pretty dark and little fuzzy.

Here is a World War 2 soldier climbing down into a Higgins Boat which is the auditorium for the D-Day film. When the film ends the screen rises and you walk out of the boat onto Omaha Beach.
There are shells, mines, mud, etc in the beach. Its a little rocky to walk on but really adds to the experience.

In front of the museum is a tank park with about 15 tanks. You are encouraged to climb on them and the kids do. My niece took to that part immediately but my son was a bit scared of the tanks at first. After a bit though he really took to it and had a great time.

My buddy Ian had suggested seeing this museum and his advice was perfect. The museum is west of Chicago in Wheaton, Illinois. Go to to learn more about the museum's exhibits and hours. On a Saturday admittance to the park was $8 a car (we had four in the car so $2 a person was a great deal), but once in the park the museum, the house and gardens are free. My only complaint is that there was not a gift shop, I would have bought a First Division pin and probably some sort of army realted toy for my son.

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