The Rock Island National Cemetery is one of 130 national cemeteries operated by the Veterans Administration throughout the United States. Established in 1863 as the post cemetery, it is among the 20 oldest national cemeteries. It is also among the 30 largest national cemeteries in terms of number of burials, with almost 30,000 interments.


Rock Island National Cemetery was established in 1863 when an area was set aside to bury Union soldiers who died while serving as guards at the Confederate prisoner of war camp then operated at Rock Island Arsenal.

In 1868, the inspector of national cemeteries reported that the Rock Island cemetery contained 136 remains, including seven unknowns and six women and children. He described it as rectangle of 216 feet by 96 feet, enclosed with a "paling fence."

At the time, the arsenal's commanding officer, Brigadier General Thomas Rodman, indicated that the location of the burial area would ultimately conflict with his plans for extending arsenal buildings. He recommended the remains of individuals currently interred at Rock Island be moved to the upper end of the island; the inspector of national cemeteries further suggested that Civil War casualties interred in Oakdale Cemetery in Davenport, Iowa, be removed to the new site. Subsequent property transfers from the Rock Island Arsenal reservation brought the national cemetery to its present 66.8 acres, 53.3 which are developed.

Today, Rock Island National Cemetery is the final resting place of soldiers who served in the Civil War, as well as the Mexican War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korean War, Operation Desert Storm and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.