On a cold fall night at Rock Island Arsenal a Soldier named Sergeant Christiansen, who was described as “a giant” of a man with shoulders as broad as an elephant, found himself huddled near a fire while on guard duty at the Rock Island gate and wagon bridge. Meanwhile, his subordinate, Private Tumbleweed, who was described as a troubled young man found himself at “Sadie’s Bar” in Rock Island on liberty leave. PVT Tumbleweed had recently arrived from a previous duty station deep in the western desert. He had survived a near death experience almost succumbing to dehydration having been separated from his cavalry Troop in a barren desert. Near death, Tumbleweed swore off alcohol for life in return for a drink of water then quickly passed out. He soon awoke in a puddle of water and heard “so be it” as he was spared from death with a promise. Having relapsed and broken his promise by consuming a few spirits this evening, he finds himself meeting the gaze of a stranger at the other end of the tavern. He becomes unsettled after the stranger recites the terms of “the deal” that he made with the Devil in a desert far west of Rock Island.

The story goes that Tumbleweed let out a frightened yelp, then burst his way out of the tavern, running all the way back to the Arsenal. Convinced (and correctly so) that he was being pursued by the stranger, he is described as leaping into the arms of SGT Christiansen after crossing the wagon bridge.

Eventually, the stranger catches up with Tumbleweed who is now being guarded by Christiansen. The stranger never fully introduces themselves; however, he alludes that he goes by “many names.” Christiansen refers to him as “Mr. Stranger.” After some exchange of words between the two, the Stranger informs Christiansen of the deal that Tumbleweed had made.  Christiansen quickly retorts that he would not allow anyone to harm Tumbleweed. The stranger eventually changes his request to seek pieces of the uniform from Tumbleweed. This drives Christiansen into a tirade as the request is for perhaps more than Tumbleweed’s poor soul, it is a violation of what the uniform represents. Finally, the Stranger says that he'd settle for the flag flying over the Arsenal. This request sends Christiansen into a rage. He cites that the flag is more than just cloth as it represents “the most noble of dreams for which a generation has spired.” The reader is led to believe that Christiansen is a prophet for the U.S. and RIA. Finally coming to an end of his lecture, and seeing that Christiansen will not be persuaded, the stranger attempts to flee, but makes one last dash for Tumbleweed. It’s during this attempt that Christiansen hoists a nearby large cannon over his head and brings it down on the heels of the Stranger who yelps and retreats in agony.

Many years have passed since the incident occurred between SGT Christiansen and “The Stranger” and as happens over time, the Soldier who defended the Arsenal from the Devil faded away to time. It was said, by the old timers to the Arsenal, that at his funeral it took two dozen men to carry him to his final resting spot due to his immense stature. He ensured that we would rest soundly as he left a cannon near the site of the entrance to the Arsenal loaded with a red, white and blue cannonball so it could be fired into Hell itself to destroy it. So, if you ever find yourself walking the Arsenal on a cold fall night and you are challenged “Halt! Who goes there? How fares the Arsenal?” just know that you safe from the greatest evil because SGT Christensen is still standing guard on the Arsenal. To this day SGT Christiansen’s cannon remains wedged in the ground at the intersection of Rodman and Rock Island Avenue.

That’s quite a Halloween story! Albeit cheesy. The written account is roughly based during the Civil War and was most likely written during the World War One period due to several patriotic “visions” by SGT Christiansen of future glory of the United States. Every once and a while your very own ASC historians will pull a gem like this account out of the archive and believe it's too “good” not to share on the right occasion.

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