The Confederate Cemetery covers a rectangular, three-acre parcel of land, bound by Rodman Avenue and a post-and-chain fence to the north, Confederate Avenue to the south, and heavy tree cover to the east and west. A paved walkway extends from Rodman Avenue to the edge of the burials, passing a six-foot tall obelisk the Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated in 2003 to the Confederate veterans who died at Rock Island. At the south end of the grounds, opposite the monument, is the cemetery’s flagpole. Four Confederate cannons sit near the entrance, two each on either side of the monument.
The burial plot is roughly square and consists of 20 rows of graves running north-south. Although the spacing of each row is identical, the beginning and end of the rows are irregular. In 1908, the Commission for Marking the Graves of Confederate Dead began a program to place distinctive pointed-top marble headstones, inscribed with the name and regimental affiliation of each soldier, on the graves. The graves were previously marked with wooden markers and a few private headstones.
During the summer of 1863, prison camps in the North were overflowing with Confederate soldiers captured in battle. As a result, Union troops began construction of a new prison camp on an island in the Mississippi River then known as Rock Island, now called Arsenal Island. The camp opened in December 1863 with the arrival of the first prisoners captured at the Battle of Lookout Mountain. The Rock Island Prison Camp was designed to hold more than 10,000 inmates at any one time, and over the final 18 months of the war, more than 12,000 Confederate prisoners passed through its gates.
During the twenty months, the active period of the prison, 12,409 prisoners had been confined. Of these, 730 were transferred to other stations; 3,876 were exchanged; 1,960 died while confined. 41 made their escape good; 5,581 were released after taking the amnesty oath; and approximately four thousand enlisted in the Union forces. There were 213 civilian or citizen prisoners in prison at Rock Island Barracks, according to available records, who were discharged in the last few months before the prison closed.
Two months after Lee's surrender to Grant, Rock Island Barracks still had 1,112 prisoners in confinement. During this month 1,090 were released, 8 escaped and 12 died. Two were sick in the hospital but by the 11th of July they had been discharged leaving the prison free of prisoners. At this date all that remained in the prison command was one company of 40 men and Colonel Johnson who remained to close out his records.
This summer, the Rock Island Arsenal plans to put in place new security measures that will require visitors to submit to background checks. The new system will be put in place in mid-July, but there will be a transition period that likely will last until early next year. Currently, people visiting the installation typically show a driver's license to a guard and are allowed admittance. The new system will require visitors to stop at a control center at the Moline Gate, where they will be asked for a driver's license or other approved identification and a check with the National Crime Information Center will be done.
GPS Coordinates: 41.5175, -90.5339
- Added: 26 Jan 2004
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #1977216
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