Military Wiki
Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island Arsenal,
Rock Island Township / Moline Township,
Rock Island County, Illinois
Type Army post
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1862
In use 1862–present
Controlled by U.S. Army
Garrison Joint Munitions Command
Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District
U.S. Army Sustainment Command
First United States Army

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. 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.[1] It has been an active manufacturer of military equipment and ordnance since the 1880s. In 1919-20 100 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.[2] 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.

During the Civil War, Arsenal Island was home to a large Union army prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers (the Rock Island Prison Barracks). The island facilities were converted and built in 1863 and was not yet completed in December of that year when the first Confederate prisoners were incarcerated. The construction was makeshift and was built with little notice of prisoners arriving. The first to arrive were 468 Confederate prisoners captured in battles at Chattanooga, Tennessee, although, over 5,000 total would swell the population of Rock Island Prison in that month alone. A total of 41 Confederate prisoners successfully escaped during the prison's existence while many more would try but fail.[3][4]

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, most of which died from disease or exposure. The prison camp was operational 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 over 12,400 Confederates. Following the war, the government retained ownership of Arsenal Island and used it for various functions.[3][4] See also: Prisoner camps of the Civil War

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.

Rock Island Arsenal Museum

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 focus on the history of Rock Island Arsenal and Arsenal Island's use as a Union prison camp during the American Civil War and its role as a military industrial facility. The museum also 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
M-14 conversion display to M-14 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)  People's Republic of 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  Nazi 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 155mm 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
BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle  Soviet Union 1966–present

Literary References

  • In the 1936 Margaret Mitchell novel Gone with the Wind, Ashley Wilkes was imprisoned on Arsenal Island during the Civil War.
  • In the zombie novel World War Z by Max Brooks, all of the continental United States east of the Rocky Mountains is overrun by hordes of zombies. However, Rock Island is mentioned as one of the isolated zones east of the Rocky Line that was still manned and defended, as one of the vital munitions manufacturing centers which were so essential to the war effort that they could not be abandoned. The US Marines at Rock Island managed to successfully defend the position for over seven years, until relieved by Army Group North as it drove east across the Great Plains. They were said to have faced some of the toughest fighting in the entire war.

See also


  1. "Rock Island Arsenal". Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  2. "Joint Manufacturing & Technology Center - Rock Island Arsenal". U.S. Army. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Chestnut, Mary (1982). A Diary from Dixie. Gramercy Books, New York. ISBN 0-517-18266-1. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 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

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).