This infamous penitentiary, known for maltreatment, disease and death, was opened to Confederate loyalist in 1862. The 256 cells held up to 1500 soldiers (some reports claim 1900 soldiers by the end of the war) approximately 1300 Union guards (Alton Telegraph, Nov. 1862). Prisoners were commonly stacked 3 to a bed.
Records were poorly kept and prisoners were clever in their escapes. Thirty five prisoners escaped through a tunnel August 1862; in 1863 some escaped using a ladder; and a less than successful attempt of overtaking guards in 1864 resulted in 2 escapees. Of the 80 plus prisoners who escaped, few were recaptured. Approximately 2000 Confederate detainees escaped the Alton facility by death from dysentery, malaria, pneumonia and smallpox. The exact number is unknown, and burial plots were not identified. The smallpox epidemic killed many of the prisoners (6-10 per day) in 1863. The actual number of prisoners who succumbed to the epidemic is unknown; at best guess 1300-1400.
- NARA Military Service in the US Volunteer Infantry, "GalvanizedYankees," 1864-1866
- The Madison County ILGenWeb - Correspondence Regarding the Alton Penitentiary/Civil War Prison
- For Prison Records visit Alton in the Civil War
- For a transcription of the Confederate Soldier's Names visit USGenWeb Archives