Alton historian Don Huber will present a program on the history of the Alton Civil War Prison on Sunday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Madison County Archival Library at 801 N. Main St. in Edwardsville. Hosted by the Madison County Historical Society, the event is free and open to the public.
Constructed in 1833 as Illinois’s first state prison, the prison at Alton closed in 1860 when a new prison was built in Joliet. Less than two years later, with military prisons in St. Louis overflowing with captured Confederate soldiers, the old prison was “improved” and re-opened to accommodate up to 1,750 inmates. During the course of the war, more than 11,764 men and women would be imprisoned at Alton.
The overcrowded conditions made the spread of disease nearly impossible to control, so a quarantine hospital on “small pox island” was built. Many never returned.
Huber has been collecting documentation and photographs about the prison for many years. His program will provide an overall history of the prison, as well as the military cemeteries located in Alton as a result of the prison’s location there. He will show photographs of the prison and tell individual stories of men imprisoned there followed by an invitation to the audience to ask questions. His knowledge of escape plans and prison conditions make a fascinating presentation of a little known piece of Madison County history.
For additional information, call (618) 656-7569.