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Camp Logan National Guard Rifle Range Historic District

At Illinois Beach State Park, Lake County, Illinois

Camp Logan was an Illinois National Guard Training Facility that operated between 1892 and the early 1970s. The National Guard, in its present state, is a voluntary military organization dedicated to providing protection to civilians during an emergency within the state and augmenting the US Army during crises of greater magnitude. The training provided at Camp Logan covered handling of small weapons, tactical maneuvers, and other military tasks, but it especially excelled at promoting rifle marksmanship.

Historically, the Illinois National Guard grew out of the Illinois Territorial Militia, which provided the manpower against the British and their Indian allies during the War of 1812. After Illinois gained statehood in 1818, the Illinois Militia was formed by state law. Under this act all free white men between ages 18 and 45 were required to join the militia and provide the basic materials for defending the state. This militia was reserved for emergencies and seldom trained.

However, during the Black Hawk War of 1832, 1500 militiamen joined with the Regular Army to combat the Sauk and Fox. Similarly, Illinois contributed militia units for the 1846-1848 Mexican War and later, during the Civil War, the militia ranks swelled with volunteers to fight for the Union.

With no external threats after the Civil War, interest in maintaining a militia dwindled, and in light of increasing unrest in the industrial labor force, the focus shifted to enforcing civil order. The Militia Law of 1877 organized the previously independent militia units into the Illinois National Guard, the voluntary units we know today.

The Illinois National Guard units trained at their hometown armories throughout most of the year, then attended a yearly encampment with other units. Prior to 1886, these yearly encampments occurred at rented sites, with temporary structures or just tents. In 1866, Camp Lincoln, in Springfield, was purchased and set up as a permanent facility for large group training. Around this time, however, one third of the state’s militia was stationed around Chicago, where the need for quick deployment was deemed to be greatest. To facilitate training for the region, in 1892 the state legislature purchased a 220-acre tract in a desolate area well north of Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan for construction of a new rifle range and training area. This facility was named Camp Logan after General John Alexander Logan, a Civil War-era politician who raised a southern Illinois volunteer regiment in 1861. An additional 40 acres was purchased in 1899.

Construction of buildings at the base began in 1893. By 1900, there were four regimental barracks, a range office, headquarters office, mess hall, kitchen, tool house, barn, and eight butthouses (the equipment-storage shed incorporated into the earthen/concrete berm or “butt” behind the targets at each distance range).

Two key innovations, the echelon target system and Aiken targets, were incorporated into the Camp Logan range around the turn of the 19th - 20th century. These modifications made Camp Logan an outstanding facility. While most US Army and National Guard ranges had successive firing lines located directly behind one another (as did the early range at Camp Logan), this limited training to one squad at a time. The French echelon system installed ca. 1900 at Camp Logan may be the first US adaptation of this system, which places rows of targets at various ranges from a long firing line, allowing many more men to train at the same time from different distances. The Aiken target, developed in the late 1890s by guardsman Col. Robert Aiken at Camp Logan, was a precise action, mechanical moving target that could be raised and lowered much like a double-hung window. It also allowed target operators to mark individual bullet hits rapidly, so that feedback to the shooter and the instructor was almost immediate.

At Camp Logan, targets were erected on ranges of 200, 300, 500, 600, and 1000 yards, oriented toward Lake Michigan. A marksman needed to qualify at each range by achieving a minimum of 40 percent of the possible hit points for that target. After a soldier qualified at the 200 yard range, he would advance to 300, then 500, and on up. After a soldier finished the course at the minimum standard, he would start over and attempt the next higher standard. The highest achievement was “Distinguished Sharpshooter.” In addition to the standard bullseye targets, Camp Logan also had a skirmish range with silhouettes of standing, kneeling, or prone figures that tested a more realistic combination of firing and maneuvering.

The effectiveness of the retooling of the range and quality of instruction are reflected in the high rifle scores received by the Chicago units, which generally outscored downstate units by at least 50 percent.