Rock Island Barracks

Rock Island National Cemetery (photo from A Short History of Rock Island Barracks Revised Edition)

Rock Island National Cemetery (photo from A Short History of Rock Island Barracks Revised Edition)

 

My ancestor Allen Durgin Nash was a Confederate soldier captured in Georgia in November 1863 and sent to the Rock Island military prison in December of that same year. He was released ten months later after taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

The book A Short History of the Rock Island Barracks (Revised Edition) by Otis Bryan England states that Rock Island Prison Barracks received the first prisoners before the camp was even completed. By the end of December 1863, there were 5,600 prisoners. The large inflow of prisons into a facility that was ill-prepared to handle such- created problems from the start. That winter was very harsh. Clothing and supplies were quickly exhausted. There was smallpox. There was not enough medicine to treat the afflicted and those about to be. Cleanliness was an issue too. Sounds like it was hell.

Rock Island Prison Barracks operated from November 1863 to August 1865. In all, there were 12,192 prisoners held, 730 transferred, 3,876 exchanged, 1,964 died, 41 escaped, and 5,581 released. My ancestor survived the ordeal but I’m sure he never forgot.

“The Rock Island Barracks is gone today. With Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the prison camps of the North began to empty as prisoners signed the oath of allegiance and were released. The last two prisoners were dismissed from the camp hospital in July 1865, and Colonel Johnson turned over the camp’s buildings to the arsenal, which used them for storage until they were demolished to make way for the arsenal’s expansion. The last building, the central administration building of the post (garrison) hospital, disappeared in 1909…the only permanent reminders of the existence of the Rock Island Barracks are the cemeteries that mark the final resting place of the 1,964 Confederate soldiers and the 125 Union guards that died there. Yet the memory   of the camp lingers on. Each Memorial Day, the Union guards are honored with the other United States veterans that are buried in the Rock Island National Cemetery. But the veterans of the Confederate States of America are honored as well. A Confederate battle flag is placed on each in the Confederate Cemetery, and “Taps” is played once more to honor the dead.”

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