Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Alton Cemetery

Awhile ago Neil Ashton commented to my old McDonald Field post:

"My GG Grandfather Joseph Ashton was shooting that cannon for Swett’s or Warren’s Light artillery. Joseph was born in Franklin County, Georgia in 1827. Joseph and his family resided numerous years in Ashville, Alabama. Joseph died from wounds received in the battle at Missionary Ridge. He was transported to a CSA Hospital in Marietta, Georgia and is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia. His Brothers Samuel and John were also at Missionary Ridge in the Alabama 58th. John was captured, at Missionary Ridge, and sent to Rock Island, Illinois where he died of typhoid. He is buried there in the Confederate Cemetery at Rock Island. Samuel was captured a year later and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois. Their youngest brother Jeptha would have also been engaged in the battle Missionary Ridge with the Alabama 25th, but he died of measles at Barlow’s mill in Alabama a year earlier."

About a week after that a friend who works in my office building brought in pictures from the site of a different Illinois Confederate prison and cemetery, Alton. Too bad it wasn't either Camp Douglas or Rock Island, then it would tie in better with the earlier comment, but I though these pictures were still interesting and offered a nice tangent from my Chickamauga and Chattanooga posts.

The Alton prison was originally the first Illinois state prison. Conditions were horrible here, bad enough that Dorothea Dix was a constant critic of the place. By 1860 the state prisoners were transferred to a prison in Joliet. When the Union needed a new prison to hold captured Confederates Alton again was pressed into service. During the war 11764 Confederates spent some time here. There is a monument with the names of 1534 men who were known to have died here. Some men are still buried there but others were buried on an island in the Mississippi River that has long since washed away.

Confederate prisoner Samuel Harrison returned in 1935 to take a brick from the wall home to serve as his grave stone.

The remaining walls of the prison.
The monument in the Confederate cemetery with the names of 1534 known dead.
Alton was also the site of a Lincoln-Douglas debate, the seventh and last debate of the 1858 Senate campaign. There is a monument there which apparently is the only one for the debates that shows Douglas as a participant.

All photos courtesy of John Wedding

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