Rock Island Arsenal

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Rock Island Arsenal (1862-Present) - A U.S. Army arsenal established in 1862 during the U.S. Civil War on Rock Island in Rock Island County, Illinois. Part of Rock Island Military Reservation. Active military installation. See also Fort Armstrong (3) and Rock Island Barracks.

Rock Island Arsenal Quarters 1
Rock Island Arsenal Field Piece Manufacture 1904
Rock Island Arsenal Plan

Rock Island Arsenal History

In 1862, during the U.S. Civil War, the reservation was designated Rock Island Arsenal by act of Congress. The first commander, Major Charles P. Kingsbury, designed and built the Clock Tower Building which remains today as the headquarters of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District.

After the U.S. Civil War, the Arsenal was used to refurbish Civil War-era infantry, cavalry, and artillery equipment. The refurbished Civil War equipment was used on the western frontier for many years during the Indian wars.

The post war building program at the Arsenal began under the supervision of Brevet Brigadier General Thomas J. Rodman (Commandant 1865-1871), inventor of the Rodman Gun and known as the Father of Rock Island Arsenal.

General Rodman designed the ten stone shops at the center of the island. The five buildings in the south row were designated "arsenal row," and were designed for the manufacture and overhaul of general ordnance material. The five buildings in the north row were designated "armory row," and were designed for the manufacture and overhaul of small arms.

Rodman designed quarters for himself and his military assistants. Quarters 1, designed for the Arsenal commander, was completed in 1871. It has 20,000 square feet of floor space divided into more than 50 rooms. It is considered the second largest single-family government residence next to the White House. General Rodman died before it was completed. Quarters 1 is now the headquarters

General Rodman died 7 Jun 1871 at Rock Island and is buried in the Rock Island National Cemetery.

Lt. Colonel Daniel W. Flagler (Commandant 1871-1886) continued the construction program at the arsenal after Rodman's death.

The Arsenal is also the site of one of the oldest buildings in Illinois, Col. George Davenport's house, built in 1833.

Spanish American War

During the Spanish-American War the Arsenal built carriages for 3-inch and 3.2-inch breechloading rifles and manufactured 7-inch siege howitzers. The Arsenal manufactured large quantities of equipment, including 259,505 canteens, 143,932 haversacks, 260,248 tin cups, 20,973 watering bridles, 13,801 saddles, and 17,031 nose bags.

About 234,000 M1903 rifles were manufactured at Rock Island Arsenal from 1904 to 1913.

World War I

About 114,000 M1903 rifles and a wide variety of personal equipment were manufactured during World War I. Ammunition produced at the Arsenal included 167,195 155mm howitzer shells.

After the war, Rock Island Arsenal concentrated on tank and artillery development.

World War II

During World War II, production of artillery carriages reached 600 per month and some 85,000 M1917A1, M1919A4, and M1919A5 .30 caliber machine guns were produced.

Korean War

The Arsenal developed the 3.5-inch rocket launcher or "superbazooka" during the Korean War and delivered the first units 13 days after U.S. troops were ordered into battle.

Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, the M102 105mm lightweight howitzer was developed and produced at Rock Island Arsenal. Made primarily from aluminum, they were transportable by helicopter.

Cold War

During the 1980s, all steps in manufacturing, using state-of-the-art numerically controlled machines, came under one roof. This complex houses the Department of Defense's only complete, in-house forge, foundry, and plating shop.


Rock Island Arsenal Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1865-08-04 1871-06-07 ”Maj. Rodman, Thomas J. 1065 Died while commanding the post, and is buried in the post cemetery.
1886-06-02 1888-12-01 –Col. Baylor, Thomas G. 1766
1891-01-14 –Col. Whittemore, James M. 1854
1892-01-21 1897-03-22 –Col. Buffington, Adelbert R. 1894
1897-03 1907-08 “Capt. Blunt, Stanhope E. 2413
1907-08 1911-02-26 •Lt. Col. Hobbs, Frank E. 2719
1932-02-28 1934-05-25 –Col. Schull, Herman W. 3886
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Active military installation, Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois


USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry:

  • Name: Rock Island Arsenal Type: Historical Class: Military ID: 2512441
  • Location: Rock Island County, Illinois, US, FIPS Code: 17161
  • Latitude: 41.5187907, Longitude: -90.5416115, Elevation: 587 Map: Davenport East
  • As Of: 17 Nov 2008
Source: U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Location: Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois.

Maps & Images

Lat: 41.516944 Long: -90.541944

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