The US Government location at Arsenal Island is a major Quad Cities employer. The 946 acre island, geographically located in Illinois, lies between Rock Island, IL and Davenport, IA. In 1816, the government built Fort Armstrong on the island which served as a source of defense for the growing population of settlers and a trading post.
From December 1863 to July 1865, the island was the location of a Union prisoner of war camp for captured Confederate soldiers. During that time over 12,500 prisoners were held on the island. The Confederate Cemetery is all that remains of the Rock Island Prison Barracks and is the burial site of 1,964 Confederate prisoners identified by name, company and unit. One hundred twenty-five Union guards of the prisoner of war camp are buried in the Rock Island National Cemetery, also on the island. This cemetery covers over 70 acres and has over 29,000 burials.
Following the Civil War, the island developed into the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States. The island currently has over 6,000 civilians and additional military personnel employed with the Rock Island Arsenal; Armament, Munitions and Chemical Command; Army Management Training College; and the Rock Island District Corps of Engineers.
The island has been an important part of our country’s development, including being mentioned in Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind, and will continue to evolve as needed by the government. A more detailed history can be found by exploring the Rock Island Arsenal Museum which is also located on the island.