RIA On the Island
The Rock Island Arsenal comprises 946 acres (383 ha), located on Arsenal Island, originally known as Rock Island, on the Mississippi River. 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. It has manufactured military equipment and ordnance since the 1880s. In 1919–20 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. 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.
Units / Tenants
Army Counterintelligence: 902D MIG
Army Sustainment Command
Corps of Engineers Rock Island
Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC)
Joint Munitions Command (JMC)
Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center (JMTC)
Network Enterprise Center (Intranet Portal)
Iowa Illinois Taylor Insulation
Day & Zimmermann
Flint Cliff Manufacturing
Vista Defense Technologies
Ryan & Associates
RMA Armaments, Inc.
John Kraft Building Specialties
The Rock Island Arsenal is an active US Army facility located on a 946-acre island on the Mississippi River between the Quad Cities of Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island and Moline, Illinois. In 1969, the arsenal was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1989, the original arsenal buildings were designated a National Historic Landmark.
The United States acquired title to the island in 1804 through a treaty with the Sauk and Mesquakie Tribes. The importance of the island was identified as early as 1809 when it was set aside as a federal military reservation by an act of Congress. Another act of Congress established the Rock Island Arsenal in 1862.
The island features many historical attractions and a museum. In 1816, Fort Armstrong was built as part of a system of forts in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. The fort's most important role in keeping the peace was when it served as military headquarters during the Black Hawk War of 1832. A replica of one of the blockhouses is still present on the Island.
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. A total of 41 Confederate prisoners successfully escaped during the prison’s operation, and many more would try but fail.
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 raged 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.
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 ordinance manufacturing center, which led to its being renamed.
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.
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