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Alton in Madison County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

North Alton Confederate Cemetery

 
 
North Alton Confederate Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, August 2, 2020
1. North Alton Confederate Cemetery Marker
Inscription.  
Alton Military Prison

In late 1861, Union Gen. Henry Halleck received permission to use the former Illinois State Penitentiary in Alton, Illinois, as a military prison. The old prison had 256 cells, a hospital, a warden's house, and long-standing problems with drainage and sanitation.

A U.S. Army inspector reported that the prison could house up to 1,750 prisoners. The first 1,640 prisoners arrived in early March 1862. Most had been captured at Fort Donelson, a Confederate stronghold on the Cumberland River west of Clarksville, Tennessee, that surrendered on February 16, 1862.

Within months smallpox broke out and the disease was a constant plague at the prison. The army built hospitals on islands in the Mississippi River in an effort to treat victims and contain the disease. Prisoners and Union soldiers who died on the islands were buried there; the remains were never moved to the mainland.

Between February 1862 and the end of the war, 11,760 Confederate prisoners entered the prison at Alton. Nearly 1,300 died there and were buried on the grounds.

The Confederate Cemetery

Lt.
North Alton Confederate Cemetery Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, August 2, 2020
2. North Alton Confederate Cemetery Marker
at the entrance of the Confederate Cemetery
Col. Sidney Burbank received specific instructions to guide burial of prisoners: "Those who may die will be decently interred and a proper mark affixed to their place of burial, which will be within the usual grounds set apart for that purpose in the city of Alton." Prisoners were placed in individual coffins in trenches. Each grave was marked with a numbered stake. Mr. W.H. Hart buried most of these dead and kept a record book of the interments.

The federal government assumed ownership of the cemetery in 1867. Henry Nichols, a U.S. Army quartermaster clerk, inspected the site in 1899. After speaking with Hart, he decided that even using the record book, it was "utterly impossible to identify the graves of those buried there."

The Commission for Marking Graves of Confederate Dead tried without success to document these burials in 1907. Finally, the Commission hired Van Amringe Granite Company to erect the existing 57-foot-tall obelisk, which was completed in December 1909. Bronze plaques on the base contain the names of 1,354 soldiers buried here and those buried in the smallpox hospital cemetery. Names of civilians who died at the prison were omitted from the plaques.

Toward Reconciliation

On May 30, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic decorated Union and Confederate graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Thirty years later
Confederate Cemetery Monument image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, August 2, 2020
3. Confederate Cemetery Monument
at the top of the hill (from the entrance and marker)
President William McKinley proclaimed:

The Union is once more the common altar of our love and loyalty, our devotion and sacrifice…Every soldier's grave made during our unfortunate Civil War is a tribute to American valor…in the spirit of fraternity we should share with you in the care of the graves of the Confederate soldiers.

The War Department created the Confederate section at Arlington in 1901, and marked the graves with distinctive pointed-top marble headstones. Five years later, Congress created the Commission for Marking Graves of Confederate Dead to identify and mark the graves of Confederates who died in Northern prisons. Its mission was later expanded to encompass all national cemeteries that contained Confederate burials.

Four former Confederate officers headed the Commission over its lifetime. By 1916, it had marked in excess of 25,500 graves and erected monuments in locations where individual graves could not be identified.

In 1930, the War Department authorized the addition of the Southern Cross of Honor to the Confederate headstone.
 
Erected by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial Sites
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War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #25 William McKinley, and the National Cemeteries series lists.
 
Location. 38° 55.105′ N, 90° 11.7′ W. Marker is in Alton, Illinois, in Madison County. Marker is on Rozier Street west of State Street, on the left when traveling south. Marker is located at the entrance to the cemetery. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 620 Rozier St, Alton IL 62002, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Confederate Cemetery Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); Plank Road (approx. ¼ mile away); Veterans Memorial (approx. 1.1 miles away); The Legend of the Piasa (approx. 1.4 miles away); First Soybeans Planted in Illinois, 1851 (approx. 1.6 miles away); Haskell Playhouse (approx. 1.7 miles away); Lyman Trumbull House (approx. 1.7 miles away); Alton & Sangamon Railroad (approx. 1.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Alton.
 
Also see . . .
1. North Alton Confederate Cemetery. From the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' website, this is the main page for the cemetery. (Submitted on August 3, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.)
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2. North Alton Confederate Cemetery. From the National Park Services website, this contains some history about the Union prison in Alton as well as the Confederate Cemetery. (Submitted on August 3, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.) 

3. Confederate Cemetery. The cemetery's page on Findagrave.com. Lists the names of all of those that were in-scripted on the Confederate Monument. (Submitted on August 3, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 3, 2020. It was originally submitted on August 3, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 52 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 3, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.
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Sep. 25, 2020