North Alton Confederate Cemetery

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1867 [unknown]
Location: Rozier Street, Alton, Illinois, Madison, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: us_civil_war illinois_cemeteries confederate_cemeteries
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This page is part of the Illinois Cemeteries Team

See Confederate Cemetery North Alton Category Page for a list of profiles of men buried in this cemetery

In March 1862, a prison in Alton Illinois that had been closed a few years prior was reopened to hold captured Confederate troops, civilian spies, and Union Troops who had deserted or committed crimes. About 11,000 prisoners of war were there over three years. 1500 died, mostly of contagious diseases. They were at first buried in the prison graveyard, and when that became full, a local business was hired to bury them in a new graveyard. That business cut corners, and some were buried in a graveyard but some were buried along the north end of town at various places. The original cemetery itself, a two-acre field, was dug up, and the remains moved to the current location in 1867. Wooden markers were put down. But they wore away, and locals used them for kindling in the winter. By 1890, cows grazed on the grass of the cemetery.

Once an attempt to identify individual remains failed in 1900, the current monument was erected. On it are listed 1354 names, taken from the War Department files (United States Register of Confederates and Civilians Who Died in the North,1861-1865). Currently, it is maintained by the VA and is under 24 hour guard.

A monument was erected with a granite obelisk and a base that contains plaques engraved with those names

Location: 38°55'04.9"N 90°11'41.9"W

North Alton Confederate Cemetery[1]
North Alton Confederate Cemetery[1]

North Alton Confederate Cemetery[1]
North Alton Confederate Cemetery[1]

North Alton Confederate Cemetery[1]
North Alton Confederate Cemetery[1]

North Alton Confederate Cemetery[1]
North Alton Confederate Cemetery[1]

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 246 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....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....Prisoners were placed in individual coffins in trenches. Each grave was marked with a numbered stake....The federal government assumed ownership of the cemetery in 1899...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.[2]

A section of wall of the old state penitentiary that held Confederate prisoners remains as a ruin in downtown Alton, Illinois:

Ruin of Alton Prison[3]
Ruin of Alton Prison[3]

Ruin of Alton Prison[3]
Ruin of Alton Prison[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 North Alton Confederate Cemetery, 635 Rozier St., in Alton, IL, photographed by SD on 30 Dec 2020. Copyright SD.
  2. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration, interpretive signage at the North Alton Confederate Cemetery, 635 Rozier St., in Alton, IL
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Ruin of Alton Military Prison in downtown Alton, IL, photographed by SD on 30 Dec 2020. Copyright SD.
  • Cox, Jann. Alton Military Penitentiary In The Civil War: Smallpox & Burial On The Alton Harbor Islands 1988. 1988 by US Army Corps of Enginers
  • Vertical file. Alton Historical and Genealogical Library, Alton, Illinois, United States
  • Selected records of the War Department relating to Confederate prisoners of war, 1861-1865 [microform]. U.S. War Department. Published 1965. NARA publication M598 Rolls 13-20.
  • Totten, Carla. Alton Military Prison 1983. at Alton Historical and Genealogical Library
  • Kaiman, Tom. The Alton Military Prison : a collection of articles & stories about living conditions, prison life, women prisoners, guards, escapes, and matters concerning the "Smallpox Island" 2013
  • NorthAltonConfederateCemetery.pdf. Dowloaded from, 10 Jun 2019


Confederate troops in Selected records who are missing from but should be on this monument: Bowman-9578

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Comments: 2

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I see you already have a photo of the obelisk. I do not have a photo of the blue interpretive sign that I can find. I am not sure it was even there when I was but then again I could have missed it or just not have the photo in the folder with my others. If I do run across it I will post it. My gggrandfather is John D. Henderson and his brother is Jesse B. Henderson. They are on the second placque you posted, first column.
I have photos of this obelisk if you would like for me to post it on here.

My great grandfather and his brother both died in this prison and their names are on the placques.