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Fort Armstrong a Frontier Fort at Rock Island Arsenal,Chief Black Hawk

Updated on November 23, 2015

Ft Armstrong


The island was originally known as “big Island,’ then as Rock Island, and finally now it is know as Arsenal Island

Chief Black Hawk

Cheif Blackhawk illustration in old book
Cheif Blackhawk illustration in old book | Source

Fort Armstrong

If you visit the Rock Island Arsenal or pass it going by way of the government bridge you will pass the replica of the Fort Armstrong blockhouse that represents what preceded the arsenal.

It is built near the tip of Arsenal Island overlooking the Mississippi River. It is a smallish wood blockhouse-part of a fort is a familiar landmark to people passing between Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois. However very few, including myself when I worked there, know how the building got there or why.

In 1816 a chain of frontier defenses were built after the War of 1812. Fort Armstrong was built five miles from the principal Sac and Fox village, which was on the Rock River in Illinois. The Fort was on at the foot of Rock Island, Illinois in the Mississippi River.

The fort was 300 feet square and completed in 1817. It was the military headquarters in the Black Hawk War. It usually had about two companies of United States regulars.

Ft Armstrong

Fort Armstrong Blockhouse replica
Fort Armstrong Blockhouse replica | Source

Early History

In 1805 President Jackson sent an expedition to determine strategic sites for forts. One of these they called “big island” and was reserved by Congress for military use and called Rock Island. The Sauk Indians considered it to be a sacred Island.

“ When we arrived we found that that the troops had come to build a fort on Rock Island. This, in our opinion, was a contradiction to what we ha done---‘to prepare for war in time of peace.’ “ Chief Black Hawk

After Black Hawk

Black Hawk Treaty

September 21, 1832 the Black Hawk War officially came to an end and a treaty was approved at Fort Armstrong.

Civil War

During the Civil War a Prison Camp was maintained on the Island.

In 1850 the first bridge, known now as the government bridge was built. It is unique because it has a swing to let river traffic through. Jefferson Davis, who later became the president of the Confederate states, was secretary of State under President Franklin Pierce initially approved the bridge. Later he opposed it.


The Island is currently the home of Rock Island Arsenal and is host to several other government and some non-government tenants. Most prominent of these is the Tank and Automotive Command (TACOM) whose main headquarters is in Warren, Michigan.

Fort Armstrong Location

Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, IL:
Rock Island, IL, USA

get directions

© 2010 Don A. Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      The Rock Island Arsenal is definitely a place of historical and educational interest.Thanks for commenting.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      The Rock Island Arsenal is definitely a place of historical and educational interest.Thanks for commenting.

    • Barbara_tenBroek profile image


      10 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

      Very interesting hub, a place I might recommend my children visit.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Peggy W

      I'm glad you found it interesting. truthfully I passed by the blockhouse for years and didn't really know it's significance. Ray Bradbury claimed that the more one writes the more they remember. He may be righ.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      10 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Very interesting reading about more of the background of Fort Armstrong on Rock Island. Will link this to my hub about the Rock Island U.S. Army Arsenal in Illinois returning the favor. Should help both of us combining the information from each hub. Thanks!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting.This was my workplace for many years so I guess it was inevitable to write about it.

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 

      10 years ago from Moundsville, WV


      Thank you for an informative hub. I find it very interesting!!!


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