Camp Harlan (1861-1862) - A U.S. Civil War Camp established in 1861 near Mount Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa. Initially named for Iowa Senator James Harlan. Renamed Camp McKean in 1862 probably after Brigadier General Thomas J. McKean, a native of Marion, Iowa. Abandoned in 1862.
Camp Harlan was activated in October 1861 at Mount Pleasant in Henry County, Iowa. The camp was opened as a temporary Civil War rendezvous camp for the 4th Iowa Cavalry. The first two companies of the 4th Iowa Cavalry arrived at Camp Harlan with their barracks both still under construction and the wood for the remaining barracks laying on the ground. The two companies joined in the construction of their barracks.
The barracks were described as 80' by 20' and high enough for three tiers of double bunks. Each barracks had a door at each end, with a single-window in the middle of each side. The floor was constructed of rough boards. The kitchen was located in a small lean-to at the rear end. Twelve barracks were constructed, one for each company. They were spaced side by side about 20' apart, with the middle two barracks smaller to be used by the Regimental Band. Stables were built to the rear of the barracks, designed as long low sheds that were closed on one side. One stable was provided for each of the 12 companies in the regiment, with an additional stable for field and staff personnel. Smaller barracks were built for the field and staff personnel. For the time these were considered comfortable quarters and among the best of the Iowa camps.
In January 1862, a measles epidemic struck Camp Harlan, affecting over 200 of the 1,000 men in camp. The serious cases were moved to the hospital in town, while the mild cases were treated in the barracks. By February, nine men had died of measles or other illnesses while at Camp Harlan and were buried in the local cemetery.
On 22 Feb 1862, the 4th Iowa Cavalry began moving south to St. Louis with twelve companies and 1086 men and officers leaving Camp Harlan almost empty.
In the fall of 1862, the 25th Iowa Volunteer Infantry occupied the camp, which was then named Camp McKean probably Brigadier General Thomas J. McKean. Ten companies were raised and mustered in on 27 Sep 1862 with a strength of 972 men. On 1 Nov 1862, these units began moving south to St. Louis.
As the 25th Iowa Infantry departed Mount Pleasant by train on Saturday 1 Nov 1862, the Camp McKean barracks could be seen in flames as the train passed the camp. By the time citizens arrived to fight the fire, ten of the barracks had been consumed. It was thought that coals left in the stoves by the departing troops had started the fire which rapidly spread. The damage was great enough that the government announced that it would auction off all remaining barrack lumber and other property belonging to the United States left at Camp McKean on 13 Nov 1862.
The site of the camp is now marked by a boulder and bronze tablet and two separate reader-board type markers. The Camp Harlan - Camp McKean Historic District has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes some 68 acres of farmland where the camp was located. This is one of the few U.S. Civil war muster camps where the location is precisely known and has remained relatively undisturbed being used mostly as grazing land.
The adjacent farm within the NHRP contained a natural spring enclosed in a spring house that was existent during the period when the camp was occupied. The spring house was used by the troops as the water supply for the camp and came to have graffiti from that period. Two houses also from that period are also part of the Historic District.
The memorial area is an unmanned but very well-tended site with a U.S. flag flying high and everything in good shape. It is clear that someone takes great pride in keeping it up.
Visited: 8 Aug 2020