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Pictures of Rock Island U.S. Army Arsenal in Illinois ~ Civil War History + Confederate Cemetery
Rock Island Arsenal
In the year 1990 when visiting my aunt and uncle in Bettendorf, Iowa my mother, niece and I were taken to Rock Island, Illinois for a day of educational sightseeing.
Rock Island and Moline, Illinois join Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa as the group forming the so-called Quad Cities in the midwest portion of our country. Rock Island houses an active U.S. Army Arsenal.
This island sits sandwiched between the mighty Mississippi River and the Rock River.
Rock Island ArsenalClick thumbnail to view full-size
The beautiful white limestone buildings on Rock Island were built in the 1800s for the most part. One building I noticed had the date 1867 inscribed onto the edifice. The stone was acquired from nearby sources.
These limestone buildings are all a part of the U.S. Army Munitions and Chemical Command.
At the time of our visit, we were informed that this was the third largest active arsenal in the United States.
About 6,000 people are employed here manufacturing equipment as well as ordinance for our military forces on this 946 acre island.
If one wants to delve a bit further into the history of this particular site, there is the Rock Island Arsenal Museum which was originated in 1905. Over 1100 weapons are on display. Some of these weapons that can be viewed are domestic as well as foreign.
Rock Island Arsenal (Tells much about the history and present day.)
Besides weaponry, one can learn much about the building of Fort Armstrong which was originally on the island until it was destroyed by fire in 1855.
The Black Hawk War between Indians and the ever enlarging United States (at that period of time) is portrayed in the museum.
More information regarding the Confederate Prison Camp which was located here during the years 1863 to 1865 of the Civil War can be learned.
The people involved and the manufacturing processes from the past are also depicted in the Rock Island Arsenal Museum.
We were walking the grounds while we were viewing the Confederate grave markers, when suddenly the ground started to reverberate and we soon found out the reason. We heard them and felt them under our feet before we actually saw the tanks that started to roll past us on some military exercise. The deep rumbling sound accompanies the earth shaking experience.
This was a new piece of personally acquired knowledge for me! There would be no doubt during any kind of warfare involving the use of tanks that the opposing force would readily know when these noisy and heavy tanks were approaching. In other words there would be no chance of a stealth attack!
The photos below show some of the tanks and other equipment available for up-close viewing. The history of warfare comes alive when seeing these sinister looking appliances adorning the grounds of Rock Island Arsenal.
Fort Armstrong and Black Hawk
Fort Armstrong was one of the original frontier posts that were built after the war of 1812. At times the population of the fort was decimated by diseases like cholera which ran unchecked in those days. A fire finally destroyed the fort in 1855.
A historical plaque has been erected marking the site of Fort Armstrong on Rock Island.
The Black Hawk War ended in 1832 between the Sauk and Fox Indians and the United States government who desired the lands the Indians had occupied.
Black Hawk was a famous Indian War Chief.
The Treaty of Fort Armstrong was agreed to on this site and the Indians gave up land west of the Mississippi River (some 6 million acres!) and ceded it to the United States.
After gaining much notoriety and being taken to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Andrew Jackson of the United States, Black Hawk along with his tribe retired peacefully and lived out the rest of their lives on a reservation in Iowa.
But prior to that he was paraded through much of the northeast as an oddity. Many white people had never previously seen an Indian!
Black Hawk was an interesting person and we have the benefit of many portraits and books written about his life. He is even credited with authoring the very first autobiography by an American Indian.
The famous Indian, Black Hawk, will continue to be known because today many schools and other buildings are named after this most historic of figures in American history.
Cemeteries on Rock Island
During the time of the Civil War, many Confederate prisoners of war were sent to the detention camp on Rock Island where they were held until the end of the war.
Conditions were quite primitive in the beginning as prisoners started arriving before the camp was fully set up and operational. As time progressed more things were put into place for sanitary reasons, housing, etc.
A total of about 12,000 prisoners were detained there and almost 2,000 of them did not survive to leave when the war was ended.
Much of this was due to disease, but part of it was due to deprivation of food as "punishment" for how the Union soldiers were treated in another camp. Inhumane efforts on the part of the Confederates holding Union prisoners of war spilled over to equally bad treatment of their own comrades who were imprisoned once this became known. "Tit for tat" as the old saying goes or from the biblical saying "An eye for an eye."
Because of this there is not only a Veteran's Cemetery on Rock Island for about 18,000 soldiers who served the United States, but there is also a Confederate Cemetery in a separate section of Rock Island that is equally well maintained.
This is were we were walking when the tanks rolled by with their thunderous presence.
One interesting note: When looking at the Confederate grave markers we noticed the points on the tops of the markers. Supposedly that was intentional in order to keep Union soldiers from being able to sit comfortably on top of the gravestones!
Rock Island Golf Course
The military base on Rock Island has a nice looking golf course and what makes this one a bit unusual are the golf tees.
They have red and white golf tees shaped like bullets!
Lock and Dam Visitor Center on Rock Island
Lock and Dam # 15 is fifteenth in a chain of twenty-seven similar locks and dams starting in St. Paul, Minnesota and running down to Granite City, Illinois. About 60,000 people annually visit this site and there is no entrance fee.
There are exhibits regarding the Mississippi River and the United States Army Corps of Engineers' part in the construction and maintenance of these sites.
One can readily view the operation of the locks as ships regularly pass through this part of the mighty Mississippi River. The Iowa and the Illinois sides of the river can easily be viewed from this perspective.
We ended this particular day of sightseeing by going to the Jubilee which is "The Quad Cities' Floating Island of Glass on the Mississippi." Fine dining in a casual atmosphere is what they advertise and my aunt and uncle treated us to a very good meal there.
It was fun watching the paddle boats and other water vessels move up and down the river as we were eating and visiting. After we finished dining, my niece took all of our leftover bread from the table and went outside and had some fun feeding the ducks who quickly gathered by her side.
Hope you enjoyed your visit to this particular area of the country (via this post) and learned a little history. If you liked this, please leave a comment.
Rock Island Arsenal with the huge display of military machines and weaponry along with the beautifully kept cemeteries will reside in my memory along with the interesting history that accompanies that location for some time.
Have you ever visited the Rock Island Arsenal?
© 2009 Peggy Woods