Smallpox Island

Smallpox Island (HM2GEI)

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N 38° 53.195', W 90° 10.959'

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The Deadly Epidemic

A now-submerged island directly across from you is a mass gravesite for hundreds of Confederate solders.

"In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all and to the young it comes with bittersweet agony, because it takes them unawares."
—Abraham Lincoln

During the Civil War, a great deal of suffering and death occurred on an island in the Mississippi. About 266 prisoners who died of smallpox during an epidemic at the Federal Military Prison in Alton are buried on the island, now under water.

Disease was the chief killer during the Civil War, taking two men for every one who died of battle wounds. A smallpox epidemic raged through the Alton prison in 1862-63.

Farm boys crowded with other men for the first time in their lives were especially susceptible to disease. Due to community fears, a quarantine hospital was set up on an island across from the prison.

The Smallpox Island Monument is located in the Lincoln-Shields Recreation Area on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River.

Confederate soldier William Hill was wounded and captured by Federal troops in November 1864. Sent to Alton prison, he died January 30, 1865, of erysipelas, an inflammatory infection of the skin and mucous membranes.


locks and dams were placed on the Mississippi, there once stood an island directly across from you.

Although no worse than most during the Civil War, Alton's prison was often overcrowded and unsanitary. The prison closed in 1865, and the buildings were eventually torn down.

Learn about more Confederate prisoners held at the Alton state prison at the exhibit near the remains of the prison wall on William Street.
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, May 2nd, 2019 at 5:01pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15S E 744369 N 4307964
Decimal Degrees38.88658333, -90.18265000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 53.195', W 90° 10.959'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 53' 11.7" N, 90° 10' 57.54" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near , ,
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