Alton Museum of History and Art, Alton, Illinois

Alton in the Civil War

Civil War

     It has been said  that, "...the first armed skirmish of the Civil War.." occurred in Alton,  Illinois.

     This event, in November, 1837,  was the murder of the outspoken newspaper publisher and abolitionist Elijah  Parish Lovejoy by a pro-slavery mob. The murder inflamed northern passions  and so polarized northern opinion that future compromise on the issue  of slavery became impossible. Nearly thirty years later the words of the  thirteenth amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery were  penned by a resident of Alton. A scant few years after emancipation that  the first Memorial Day celebration in the United States was held in Alton;  the current celebration, beginning in 1868, is the oldest consecutive  Memorial Day Parade in the United States.

     Alton's heritage is so deep that had the City been south of the Mason-Dixon line it might well be  venerated much as communities in the south are to this day. Situated as  it is in west-central Illinois, this heritage has become a quiet part  of the fabric of a bustling Mississippi River community. From the remains  of a prison that housed Confederate soldiers and sympathizers, to buildings  housing stops on the underground railroad, Alton has a Civil War heritage  that is unmatched by any community north of the Mason-Dixon line.

     This page of the Altonweb  is the basis for a continuing exploration of a period of nearly thirty  five years extending from the Lovejoy murder to the first Memorial Day  celebration in the United States. The time line presented sketches in  broad strokes that period of time and forms a frame, which in time, will  be clothed in the richness of our unique heritage.

Time Line

1837 - The first prison in Illinois

1837 - Elijah P. Lovejoy

1830's to 1860 - The Underground Railroad

1840's to 1860's - Encampment at Rock Springs - "Pie Town"

1851 - Drill, Fellowship & War - The Alton Jaeger Company

1858 - The Last Lincoln/Douglas Debate

1861 - First Call of the President

1861 - Emptying the St. Louis Arsenal

1861 - The prison Re-opens

1830's to 1870's - Historic Civil War Buildings - Alton in the War Years

1863 - Plague

1865 - Emancipation

1865 to 1870 - Peace and Remembrance

[Exhibits] [Robert Wadlow] [Piasa Bird] [Lincoln Douglas Debates] [Civil War]

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Alton Museum of History and Art
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2809 College Avenue
Alton, IL 62002


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