USF Explores Will County’s Civil War History

March 19, 2018 | Joliet, Ill.

When most people think about the American Civil War, they usually imagine far off battlefields in Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. You might be surprised to learn that Will County had its very own regiment; the 100th Illinois, that was assembled in Joliet and participated in as many as eight battles between 1862 and 1865. University of St. Francis (USF) students Frank Kalisik ’17 and Alex Campos ’17, with the help of their history professor and faculty advisor, Dr. Cathy Schultz, brought the story of the 100th Illinois Regiment to life with their 25-minute film “Following the 100th Illinois: A documentary on Will County in the Civil War.”

Kalisik and Campos both had a personal interest in the American Civil War and came across the 100th Illinois during their casual research. When the pair realized this regiment’s story was largely unknown—especially in the local community—they decided to bring their story to life. When they received a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience grant, their project truly began to come together.

With Schultz’s guidance, the pair began to formalize their research, conduct interviews and traveled to the various battle sites the 100th Illinois participated in.

“Travelling to the places that these men travelled to, fought at, and died was an overwhelming experience,” recalls Kalisik. “It was like walking on hallowed ground, and experiencing the Civil War through their eyes, seeing the sites they witnessed and the battlefields they experienced.”

The journey to collect footage and interviews was not without its 21st century setbacks. During their trip through the battle site, Kalisik and Campos had a computer crash that cost them half of their research and a good portion of their collected footage.

“We were experimenting with the video editing software and that was daunting enough,” says Campos. “Thankfully Dr. Schultz was very familiar with it and helped us complete the project.”

Because the team completed some early research at the Joliet Area Historical Museum, they returned when the film was complete and asked if the museum had any interest in screening it. They were in luck—the museum was planning an event called “Dinner at the Lincoln White House,” that would provide the perfect stage for a premier.

“The Joliet Area Historical Museum recently developed their own permanent exhibit on the 100th Illinois. Heather Bigeck was incredibly helpful and enthusiastic about our project,” commented Kalisik. “Screening the documentary at the museum was always our goal.”

The trio also plans to the show the film at the University of St. Francis on Tuesday, April 17 in Tower Hall, N307 at 7 p.m. Students and the community are welcome to attend the showing for no charge.

Now that the project is complete and a local premier has been scheduled, the team still plans to share the final film with the historical societies and locations that helped them reach their goal. These locations include the National Parks of Stone’s River, Tenn., Kennesaw Mountain in Cobb County, Ga., and Andersonville, Ga.

Kalisik, Campos and Schultz all agree that the most significant aspect of this film is that it brings to light the intense locality of the Civil War.

“The American Civil War was the last major American war in which entire towns and counties enlisted and served together. Family members, friends, and neighbors fought and died alongside one another,” says Schultz. “The film really brings that fact home to the audience.”

Please visit the Joliet Area Historical Museum for more information about the premier and the “Dinner at the Lincoln White House” event.

Founded in 1920, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., is a Catholic, Franciscan university that serves 4,100 students nationwide; offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are more than 48,000 USF alumni across the globe.