Rock Island Arsenal

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Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island Arsenal,
Rock Island Township / Moline Township,
Rock Island County, Illinois
TypeArmy post
Site information
Controlled byU.S. Army
WebsiteOfficial Website
Site history
In use1862–present
Garrison information
GarrisonJoint Munitions Command
Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District
United States Army Sustainment Command
First United States Army
Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island Arsenal, Building No. 1, Gillespie Avenue between Terrace Drive & Hedge Lane, Rock Island,( Rock Island County, Illinois).jpg
Rock Island Arsenal, Quarters 1 (Building 301)
Rock Island Arsenal is located in Illinois
Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island Arsenal is located in the United States
Rock Island Arsenal
LocationRock Island, Illinois
Coordinates41°31′1″N 90°32′31″W / 41.51694°N 90.54194°W / 41.51694; -90.54194Coordinates: 41°31′1″N 90°32′31″W / 41.51694°N 90.54194°W / 41.51694; -90.54194
ArchitectGeneral Thomas J. Rodman et al.
Architectural styleGreek Revival, Italianate
NRHP reference No.69000057
Significant dates
Added to NRHPSeptember 30, 1969[1]
Designated NHLDJune 7, 1988[2]
Rock Island Military Prison
Part of American Civil War prison camps
The Federal prison at Rock Island, Illinois, c1863-1865.jpg
Union prison at Rock Island, during the American Civil War, circa 1863–1865
TypeUnion Prison Camp
Site information
OwnerU.S. Government
Controlled byUnion Army
Open to
the public
Site history
In useDecember 1863-July 1865
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
Garrison information
OccupantsUnion soldiers, Confederate prisoners of war
Rock Island in the pre-arsenal years, following the Black Hawk War of 1832 with a view of the U.S. Army post Fort Armstrong, circa 1839
Perspective drawing of the prison for Confederate soldiers at Rock Island, 1864

The Rock Island Arsenal comprises 946 acres (383 ha), located on Arsenal Island, originally known as Rock Island, on the Mississippi River between the cities of Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois. It lies within the state of Illinois. Rock Island was previously used as the summer camp site for Sauk Native Americans, and the dispute over tribal ownership led to the Black Hawk War of 1832, after the primary leader of the Sauk, Black Hawk. It is now home of First Army headquarters, and the US Army's Center of Excellence for Additive Manufacturing.[3]

The island was originally established as a government site in 1816, with the building of Fort Armstrong. It is now the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States.[4] It has manufactured military equipment and ordnance since the 1880s. In 1919–1920 one hundred of the Anglo-American or Liberty Mark VIII tanks were manufactured, although too late for World War I. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Established as both an arsenal and a center for the manufacture of leather accoutrements and field gear, today it provides manufacturing, logistics, and base support services for the Armed Forces. The Arsenal is the only active U.S. Army foundry, and manufactures ordnance and equipment, including artillery, gun mounts, recoil mechanisms, small arms, aircraft weapons sub-systems, grenade launchers, weapons simulators, and a host of associated components.[5] Some of the Arsenal's most successful products include the M198 and M119 towed howitzers, and the M1A1 gun mount. About 250 military personnel and 6,000 civilians work there. The 2000 census population was 145.


From the autobiography of Sauk Native American Black Hawk: "When we arrived we found that the troops had come to build a fort on Rock Island...We did not object, however, to their building their fort on the island, but were very sorry, as this was the best one on the Mississippi, and had long been the resort of our young people during the summer. It was our garden, like the white people have near their big villages, which supplied us with strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, plums, apples and nuts of different kinds."

The island facilities were converted and built in 1863; they were not yet completed in December of that year, when the first Confederate prisoners were incarcerated. The construction was makeshift. The first prisoners were 468 Confederates captured in battles at Chattanooga, Tennessee. That month more than 5,000 Confederates would swell the population of Rock Island military prison. They were kept in 84 barracks, each holding around 100 prisoners.[6] A total of 41 Confederate prisoners successfully escaped during the prison's operation, and many more would try but fail.[7][8]

A total of 1,964 Confederate prisoners and 125 Union guards are buried in the adjacent military cemetery, including 49 members of the 108th Regiment of United States Colored Troops, who served as guards. Most died from disease, since sanitation was primitive as in all army encampments, and exposure to heat and humidity during the summers and freezing temperatures during winters. In 1864, deadly smallpox epidemics rapidly spread through the prison.

The prison camp operated from December 1863 until July 1865, when the last prisoners were freed. After the war, the prison facility was completely destroyed. During its two years in operation, the prison camp housed a total of more than 12,400 Confederates.[7][8]

Other historical sites in the area include the Confederate Cemetery, the Rock Island National Cemetery, 19th-century stone workshops, officers' quarters along the river, Col. Davenport's House, and the site of the first bridge built across the Mississippi. Following the war, the federal government retained ownership of Arsenal Island and developed it for use as an arsenal and ordnance manufacturing center, which led to its being renamed.

Rock Island Arsenal Museum[edit]

The Rock Island Arsenal Museum was established on July 4, 1905. It is the second-oldest US Army Museum in the US after the West Point Museum. The museum has been closed twice, during World War I and World War II, to provide more space for manufacturing facilities.

Exhibits interpret the history of Rock Island Arsenal and the Union prison camp during the American Civil War, and the site's role as a military industrial facility. The museum contains the second-largest collection of small arms weapons in the U.S. Army, and an outdoor vehicle display.

Indoor exhibits include (as of June 2012):

Weapon name Country of origin Period
M1 75mm Pack Howitzer on M8E1 Mount  United States 1927–present
M40A1 106mm Recoilless Rifle with 50 caliber spotting rifle  United States 1950s–present
M45 Quadmount "Quad 50" 50 caliber machine gun turret  United States World War II – 1980s
M14 conversion display to M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle (RI)  United States 1959–present

Outdoor exhibits include (as of June 2012):

Weapon name Country of origin Period
M65 Atomic Cannon  United States 1953–1963
M198 155mm towed howitzer  United States 1979–present
M119 105mm towed howitzer  United Kingdom
 United States
M115 8 inch towed howitzer  United States 1931–1950s
Type 59-1 130mm Field Gun (Chinese version of Russian M46)  China 1954–present
M22 or T9E1 Locust Light Tank  United States World War II
M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank with battle damage from the Battle of the Bulge in World War II with the 4th Armored Division  United States World War II
M50 Ontos Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun  United States 1956–1969
M51 Skysweeper Towed Anti-aircraft gun  United States 1953–1975
M1 Bofors 40mm Anti-aircraft Gun  Sweden World War II
D-44 85mm Field Gun  Soviet Union 1945–1953
M2A1 105mm Howitzer  United States 1941–present
XM123A1 Medium Auxiliary Propelled 155mm Howitzer (experimental model of M114 howitzer)  United States 1961
XM124E2 Light Auxiliary Propelled 105mm Howitzer (experimental model of M2 or M101 howitzer)  United States 1962–1965
M114 155mm Howitzer  United States 1942–present
M2A2 Terra Star Auxiliary Propelled Howitzer with tri-star wheels  United States 1969–1977
Nebelwerfer 41 Multiple Rocket Launcher  Germany World War II
XM70E2 Rocket Launcher  United States 1959–1963
M5 3 inch Anti-Tank Gun  United States 1943–present
M102 Lightweight 105mm Howitzer (Airmobile)  United States 1964–present
T66 or M16 4.5 inch Multiple Rocket Launcher  United States 1945–1954
M3A1 37mm Anti-tank Gun  United States World War II
M1 57mm Anti-tank Gun  United Kingdom World War II
M3 105mm Light Howitzer (Airborne)  United States 1943–present
M55 Self-propelled Howitzer  United States 1970s
MGR-1 Honest John Surface-to-surface Missile  United States 1954–1973
MGR-3 Little John Surface-to-surface Missile with XM80 launcher  United States 1961–1969
ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" Self-Propelled Anti-aircraft gun  Soviet Union 1962–present

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ "Rock Island Arsenal". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2006-02-13. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  3. ^ ASA(ALT) Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) (Friday, October 4, 2019) Army Advanced Manufacturing Initiative
  4. ^ "Rock Island Arsenal". Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  5. ^ "Joint Manufacturing & Technology Center - Rock Island Arsenal". U.S. Army. Archived from the original on 2009-04-10. Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  6. ^ The Civil War in America, The Library of Congress
  7. ^ a b Chestnut, Mary (1982). A Diary from Dixie. Gramercy Books, New York. ISBN 0-517-18266-1.
  8. ^ a b Speer, Lonnie R. (1997). Portals to Hell: Military Prisons of the Civil War. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, c1997. ISBN 0-8032-9342-9.

External links[edit]