A sketch of the life of General Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance of the Confederate States.Among the distinguished officers of the Confederate Government, the Chief of Ordnance, General Josiah Gorgas, was probably more highly appreciated by those who had personal or official contact with him than any other Chief of Bureau, and at the same time he was less known by the general public. This fact will be recognized by those best acquainted with him, as entirely consonant with his character. His energy, activity, and great ability impressed all persons who were brought into intercourse with him, and they knew and felt his power. With the general public he was shrinking and modest to the last degree, so that his name was not discussed, and his wonderful capacity was not seen nor felt, except in the active discharge of his duties. General Gorgas was born in Dauphin county, Pennsylvania, on the 1st day of July, 1818, and entered the United States Military Academy at West Point on the 1st of July, 1837, and graduated No. 6 in the class of 1841. His rank in his class entitled him to position in the Engineer or Ordnance Departments, and he was immediately placed on duty as an ordnance officer, and served as such until 1845, when leave of absence was granted to him in order that he might go to Europe to pursue his profession there, and examine the arsenals and arms abroad. In 1846 he returned to Watervliet Arsenal as assistant ordnance officer. When the war with Mexico commenced, he went into active service, and on the 3d of March, 1847, he was promoted and made First Lieutenant. He was engaged in the siege of Vera Cruz, and served with distinction. When Vera Cruz was occupied, he was placed in charge of the ordnance depot there. After the close of the war, he returned to Watervliet Arsenal as assistant ordnance officer, and served there and at other arsenals until 1853, when he was placed in command of Mt. Vernon Arsenal in Alabama. His official duties carried him frequently to Mobile, where he was  received and entertained with the generous hospitality which has always distinguished its citizens. He was occasionally the guest of ex-Governor John Gayle, and there made the acquaintance of his daughter, Miss Amelia Gayle, to whom he was married in December, 1853. He was in command of the arsenal at Mt. Vernon until 1856, when he was transferred to the command of Kennebec Arsenal, Maine. Prior to this transfer, he had, in 1855, been promoted and made Captain of Ordnance. In 1858 he was ordered to the command of the arsenal at Charleston, South Carolina, and served there until 1860, when he was transferred to the command of Frankford Arsenal, near Philadelphia. In October, 1860, he was selected as a member of the Ordnance Board, and served as such until the 28th of December, 1860. In April, 1861, he resigned, and his resignation was accepted. This involved the most painful act of his life. He had an ardent attachment to the union of the States. He was devoted to the officers of his corps and of the whole army. Almost his whole life had been spent with them. The sacrifice which he proposed to himself was great, and yet he believed that the South was just in her cause, and he knew that she was weak. After weighing the matter earnestly, he appreciated that, with these feelings, it was his duty to resign his position in the army of the United States. He removed with his wife and children to Alabama, and was invited by President Davis to accept the position of Chief of Ordnance of the Southern Confederacy. He was aware when he assumed the office how utterly devoid the South then was of arms, munitions of war, and of all material necessary for an Ordnance Department. He appreciated that a serious and long war had been entered upon, and immediately began his preparations for this. The views expressed by him as to the necessity of preparation startled many of the legislators in attendance at Montgomery, who contemplated an end of all trouble in ninety days. He sent an efficient officer to Europe to secure arms; he located arsenals, and made immediate preparation for the manufacture of powder, saltpetre, and the development of lead and copper. He did not confine himself to his own department, but at that early date prepared elaborate papers showing the proper lines of defense. In these papers he recommended that it was unnecessary to gather any force or place any heavy armament at Pensacola, but that the soldiers and guns which were there should be placed at Columbus, Kentucky—upon the Mississippi river, and such outer lines in the North and West as were proposed to be held. Subsequent military  operations illustrated the importance of these suggestions; for after holding Pensacola many months with a large force, it was abandoned. and no advance of Federal troops was ever made from that quarter. The early occupation of Columbus, or country adjoining, with a strong force would have saved Forts Donelson and Henry. Such speculations are of no value now, and the subject is only introduced as showing how actively General Gorgas entered into all matters pertaining to the conduct of the war. When the Confederate Government was removed to Richmond, General Gorgas removed to that place, and within twenty-four hours after his arrival, he had located the workshops, armories and buildings which were occupied by his department during the war. He immediately recognized that ‘Cotton was not King,’ in the sense in which this had been urged by those who insisted that the true policy was to destroy cotton and tobacco, and thus destroy the North by financial embarrassment. He insisted upon the right to use these articles to procure the supplies which were essential to maintain his department, and at once arranged for the purchase of the fine blockade steamers R. E. Lee and ‘Cornubia,’ and for the shipment of large quantities of cotton and tobacco on these and other vessels, with the proceeds of which he purchased arms, ammunition, lead and all other similar necessary supplies. He even brought out skilled workmen from England, and as the Confederate currency depreciated, procured necessary supplies of food and clothing for his workmen in order to retain them. General Gorgas, in some notes on the Ordnance Department, published in the Southern Historical papers, vol. XII, page 79, says:
It soon became obvious that in the Ordnance Department we must rely greatly on the introduction of articles of prime necessity through the blockade ports. As before stated, President Davis early saw this, and had an officer detailed to go abroad as the agent of the Department. To systematize the introduction of the purchases, it was soon found advisable to own and run our own steamers. Major Huse made the suggestion also from that side of the water. Accordingly, he purchased and sent in the Robert E. Lee, at a cost of £ 30,000, a vessel capable of stowing six hundred and fifty bales of cotton. This vessel was kept running between Bermuda and Wilmington, and made some fifteen to eighteen successive trips before she was finally captured—the first twelve with the regularity of a packet. She was commanded first by Captain Wilkinson, of the navy. Soon the Cornubia, named the Lady Davis, was added, and ran as successfully as  the R. E. Lee. She had the capacity of four hundred and fifty bales, and was, during the latter part of her career, commanded also by a former navy officer, Captain R. H. Gayle. These vessels were long, low, and rather narrow, built for swiftness, and with their lights out, and with fuel that made little smoke, they contrived to slip in and out of Wilmington at pleasure, in spite of a cordon of Federal cruisers, eager for the spoils of a blockade-runner. Other vessels—the Eugenia, a beautiful ship, the Stag, and several others—were added, all devoted to carrying ordnance supplies, and finally general supplies.The success of the Chief of Ordnance in securing arms, munitions and war material, induced the Secretary of War to enlarge the shipment of cotton, by compelling private vessels to contribute in its carriage, and a separate Bureau was organized, called the Bureau of Foreign Supplies, and Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas L. Bayne was assigned as its Chief. General Gorgas having thus induced the executive officers of the Government to utilize cotton and tobacco in securing necessary supplies and material for the war, then pressed his views further, and urged that such property should not be destroyed by either army, and after conference with the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Treasury, it was suggested that a commission might be sent to headquarters of General Grant or to Washington to provide against the destruction of cotton or tobacco by the belligerent forces. Mr. Trenholm, Secretary of the Treasury, earnestly supported this proposition, and named Hon. W. W. Crump, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury; and Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas L. Bayne, Chief of the Bureau of Foreign Supplies, was indicated by the Secretary of War for this commission. Military movements then in progress caused delay, and finally the matter was dropped, and it is only referred to here as showing the broad and comprehensive views of General Gorgas. In the notes above referred to it is shown that when General Gorgas assumed his place as Chief of Ordnance, he found in all the arsenals within the Confederacy only fifteen thousand rifles and 120,000 inferior muskets, with some old flint muskets at Richmond, and Hall's rifles and carbines at Baton Rouge. There was no powder, except small quantities at Baton Rouge and at Mt. Vernon, relics of the Mexican war. There was very little artillery, and no cavalry arms or equipments. As was said by General Joseph E. Johnston, in speaking of General Gorgas, ‘He created the Ordnance Department out  of nothing,’ or by General Bragg: ‘I have always asserted that you (General Gorgas) organized the only successful Military Bureau during our national existence, and this is the more surprising, as you had less foundation to go on than any other.’ General Grant, in ‘Siege of Vicksburg,’ published in the Century, September, 1885, recognizes the efficiency of General Gorgas as having supplied the Confederate soldiers with small arms which were superior to those used by his army. Page 765 he says: ‘At Vicksburg thirty-one thousand six hundred prisoners were surrendered, together with one hundred and seventy-two cannon, sixty thousand muskets, and a large amount of ammunition. The small arms of the enemy were far superior to the bulk of ours. Up to this time our troops at the West had been limited to the old United States flint-lock, changed into percussion—the Belgian musket imported early in the war—almost as dangerous to the person firing it as to the one aimed at, and a few new and improved arms. These were of many different calibres, causing much trouble in distributing ammunition during an engagement. The enemy had generally new arms, which had run the blockade, and were of uniform calibre. After the surrender, I authorized all Colonels whose regiments were armed with inferior muskets to place them in the stack of captured arms, and to replace them with the latter.’ Professor J. W. Mallet, of the University of Virginia, who, as Lieutenant-Colonel, served with General Gorgas, says:
I believe it may be safely claimed that General Gorgas created and managed the most efficient Bureau of the Confederate War Department; that Bureau which was based upon the most scanty resources at the outset, which was called upon to respond to the most special, the most varied and the most urgent demands, and which was developed to the highest degree of efficiency, in spite of the serious difficulties arising from the ever shifting conditions imposed by the events of the war. At this distance of time it is not but now and then that one can fairly carry himself back, as in a dream, to a practical sense of what that ordnance work was—the uncertain chances of supplies brought in from abroad through the blockade—the eager picking up of odds and ends of material from domestic sources to eke out these supplies; leaden water pipes and window weights to make bullets of, old sugar boiling kettles, torn up and re-rolled into thinner copper for percussion caps, the revamping of worn out tools and machines and alteration of them, to answer purposes for which they were never  intended originally, the training unskilled laborers into skilled workmen, the frequent necessity for giving up such workmen as there were to the crying demand for men in the ranks, the organizing and drilling of battalions for temporary service, from men who had to shoulder the musket one day and go back to the anvil and the file the next, the looking after the wants of those men, and to a considerable extent of their families, for food and clothing, the breaking up, sometimes literally at a day or two's notice, of a whole establishment which it had taken months to create, loading machinery, material and men upon freight trains, to be moved off to a new point where all had to be again set to work with the least possible delay, only to be again dislodged a few weeks later.Of General Gorgas himself, during those troublous times, three impressions specially recur to me: 1st. The quietness of demeanor and absence of impatience, or confusion with which his work was done. 2d. The capability which he possessed of working through subordinates. While clear and decided in his general instructions, he was always ready to give to officers under him the amplest field in which to exercise their own discretion and ingenuity as to details, to show what they could do in the way of overcoming difficulties or accomplishing results; and no one could be more fair, more generous in recognizing whatever individual merit was thus exhibited by his subordinates—no one less anxious to claim such merit or praise for it for himself. 3d. The breadth of view with which he continually strove, not merely to keep up with the overwhelming demands of each day and each month, for war material for immediate use, but to steadily improve the organization of the bureau under his charge, to make it more efficient in personnel and material. As the ‘Bureau of Foreign Supplies’ grew out of his suggestions and practical action, so did the Mining and Nitre Bureau, of which Colonel I. M. St. John was made the chief. Through this officer the whole nitre-bearing area of the country was laid off into districts, and production was in every way stimulated. This is equally true as to lead, iron, copper, chemical supplies and leather. General Gorgas had a quick appreciation of men, and was admirable in the selection of officers to execute his orders. Colonel G. W. Rains was designated to erect and operate the powder works at Augusta, Ga. Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. Mallet (now the distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia), was made  general superintendent of all laboratories, Colonel Burton superintendent of armories, Major Caleb Huse for the purchase abroad of arms and munitions, and of this officer, General Gorgas says: ‘He succeeded with a very little money in buying a good supply and in running the ordnance department into debt for nearly half a million sterling—the very best proof of his fitness for his place and of a financial ability which supplemented the narrowness of Mr. Memminger's purse.’ General Gorgas had an admirable Staff of Officers, among them such men as. Major Smith Stansbury, Colonel G. W. Rains, Colonel LeRoy Broun, Colonel J. W. Mallett, T. A. Rhett, Snowden Andrews, Wright, White, Burton, De Lagnel, General St. John, Colonels Morton and Ellicott, Colonels B. G. Baldwin, William Alan, J. Wilcox Browne, E. B. Smith, Cuyler, Colston and others no less distinguished during the war than they have been in after life. These officers were in constant personal contact with their Chief, and all of them give testimony as to his great ability as an officer—his devotion to duty and his tact and kind consideration for them, and all of his subordinates. It was wonderful to witness the admiration and esteem which the workmen in the shops exhibited for him. Perfectly gentle and quiet in his manners, and without an effort, he exercised the most perfect control of men. In the brief portrayal of the life and character of General Gorgas, here made, we cannot undertake to follow closely his administration during the war. In those years he regularly continued his daily work far into the night. He knew accurately every detail of his own department and kept perfectly informed as to the movements of all of the troops in the field. In nothing was he more wonderful than in what appeared as a gift of prescience, which enabled him to provide for the wants of every battlefield. The movement of arms and munitions in his department was often the very first indication of an approaching battle. He carefully studied the dispositions of opposing commanding officers, and followed the movements of every body of troops in order to meet all sudden exigencies. He was constantly in receipt of letters from officers recognizing that he had anticipated their movements and provided for their wants. Brief reference was made to expressions by Generals Johnston and Bragg as to his administration. General Lee, even in those sad days of April, at Appomattox, was mindful of him and sent a message to him in recognition of his great services to him and to the army.  President Davis in his book says, ‘The Chief of Ordnance was General J. Gorgas, a man remarkable for his scientific attainments, for the highest administrative capacity and moral purity, all crowned by zeal and fidelity to his trusts in which he achieved results greatly disproportioned to the means at his command.’ When the first telegrams were received from General Lee, indicating that he must retire from Richmond, General Gorgas, with that desire which he had always manifested to prevent the useless destruction of property, called upon General Gilmer, the Chief of the Engineer Department, and induced him to join him in recommending the Secretary of War to issue orders to prevent the destruction of tobacco and other property. The recommendation was made and adopted, but by some inadvertence in the transmitting or delivery of these orders some of the tobacco warehouses were burned, and from them the fire spread over the city and subjected it to a fearful conflagration. General Gorgas withdrew from Richmond with other officers and was already at work at Danville to retrieve losses, when news came of General Lee's surrender. He then moved southward, and at Charlotte, North Carolina, joined the President and other officers of the Confederate Government, and there, after General Johnston's surrender, the Confederate Government was practically dissolved. General Breckenridge, the Secretary of War, formally summoned the Chiefs of the several Bureaus of the War Department and announced to them that he did not require them to move with him any further. In a short and touching speech he recommended them to return to their several homes, stating that each individual must be governed by his own views of what was proper under the circumstances. He recounted what had transpired at the interviews between Generals Johnston and Sherman, how he had been informally invited to be present as an officer, rather than as a part of the civil administration of the Confederate Government—that General Sherman desired his presence in order that the whole war should be closed and that although General Johnston had only a certain territorial command, the influence of his surrender might embrace the whole land-how he had conferred with President Davis, who recommended him to attend and assist in the protection of the army and of the citizens, utterly regardless of him—how General Sherman had suggested in his terms of surrender a general amnesty, thus extending and enlarging the terms made by General Grant with General Lee.  It is certain that if the views of General Sherman had then prevailed and been followed by the immediate reconstruction, which Mr. Lincoln had indicated at Richmond, immediately after General Lee's surrender, the South and the whole country would have been relieved from that fearful and barbarous system of reconstruction which followed for years after the war. The several papers published by Hon. John A. Campbell, show that under the plan approved by President Lincoln, the Virginia Legislature was to be reconvened and Virginia was to be immediately restored to the Union, the other States were then speedily to follow, and thus the military governments imposed upon the South would have been avoided and the autonomy of the country would have been complete within a few months after the close of the war. After the practical dissolution of the Confederate Government, as above described, General Gorgas moved on to Alabama which he had adopted as his State when he entered service in the South. He was made Superintendent of the Briarfield Iron Works and reconstructed them, and while at work there was appointed Head Master and afterwards Vice Chancellor of the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. Here he exhibited that great administrative capacity which had characterized his control of the Ordnance Department. He developed the High School to the University, and with the assistance of the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church, established it upon the basis which it has occupied as one of the leading Universities of the South. At Sewanee, his administration embraced all of that imperium in imperio which the State of Tennessee conceded to the University. In 1877 he was elected President of the University of Alabama, and removed to Tuskaloosa. In the brief term of his administration he gave new life and character to the University, inaugurating plans for its improvement, which have been followed since by the distinguished President, B. B. Lewis, who succeeded him, and placed it upon a basis gratifying to the pride of the whole people of the State of Alabama. General Gorgas found that his health was failing, and that he could not satisfactorily discharge the duties of President, and resigned. The trustees of the University requested him to withhold his resignation and accept a leave of absence until he regained his health, but he considered that this was not just to them nor to the officer who might be called to fill his place, and he desired complete rest; he, therefore, insisted upon resigning. The trustees thereupon adopted the following resolutions:  ‘Resolved, That in view of the continued ill health of General J. Gorgas, which compels a severance of his relations with this Board as President of the University, we desire to place on record some expression of our high appreciation of his character and services— of the rare tact and ability which characterized his administration until he was stricken by disease—of the great improvement he effected in the order and discipline of the cadets, and particularly of the admirable system and method which he observed in keeping his books and accounts, and of the clearness and correctness of his business reports to the trustees. He carries with him into retirement our highest esteem and confidence, and our earnest wishes that he may soon be restored to health and that many years of happiness and usefulness may remain to him.’ The trustees, with great delicacy, made him librarian and Mrs. Gorgas matron, and provided a house for them. On the 15th day of May, 1883, at Tuskaloosa, Alabama, General Gorgas died surrounded by his family and his friends. The following minute on his death was adopted by the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama, at the annual meeting held in Tuskaloosa, June 18th, 1883:
In their report to the General Assembly of the State of Alabama, the trustees say:
Since our last report, a former President of the University, a name well known throughout the South, a gentleman, distinguished alike by his virtues and his modesty, a thorough disciplinarian, a ripe scholar, an admirable officer, a conscientious Christian, General Josiah Gorgas, passed from its classic shades to the “house appointed for all living.” Failing health compelled him to resign the position of President some time before, but his connection  with the University continued to the time of his death. Fitting honors were paid to his mortal remains, and the memory of his virtues and worth will long remain a precious heritage to those who were privileged to know him.The Board of Trustees of the University of the South, adopted the following,
Minute in reference to General Josiah Gorgas, late Vice Chancellor: General Gorgas was chosen to be the Head Master of the Academic Department upon its organization in 1868, and remained at its head until the close of the Lent Term, 1877. During all this period his rule was signalized by the most faithful devotion to its interest, the most exact and patient performance of the duties of his position—all with a sweet and gentle courtesy. This Board desires to record its high admiration of his character as a Christian gentleman, faithful to every trust.Many tributes were paid to his memory. Judge John A. Campbell writes:
My acquaintance with General Gorgas, commenced after his marriage with the daughter of my friend, Judge Gayle, of Alabama, in 1853. He had graduated with honor at the Military Academy at West Point. He had served with credit in the Mexican War; and was then connected with the Ordnance Department of the United States. After the formation of the Confederate Government, Captain Gorgas was attached to the Ordnance Department, became its Chief, and finally held the rank of Brigadier-General. When John Brown, in the year——, made his incursion into Virginia, and was captured, there was discovered a correspondence by him with the Chief of Ordnance of the Department at Washington, and that he had obtained circumstantial information of the state and condition of the ordnance stores of the United States; the plans of their deposit and who had possession of them. The inquiry ascertained the fact that the supplies in the slave holding States were comparatively inconsiderable, and in some of those States there was destitution. This condition existed in 1861, when the war among the States commenced. A Chief of the Ordnance Department became an organizer of a branch of industry of supreme importance in the circumstances existing in the South.In his personal life, General Gorgas was careful and regular in the performance of his duties—cultivated—simple in his tastes and modest in his deportment—faithful to his family and friends—upright and honorable in all his dealings.  General Bragg, in writing of General Gorgas in 1868, said:
In our then condition (1861) his was the most important, scientific and administrative position in the Government. We were destitute of arms and munitions, and had not a single manufactory of either within the limits of our country. It is sufficient to say that his patient industry, high scientific attainments and great administrative capacity soon placed us above want. General Gorgas remained to the end of the war at the head of his Department, and grew in favor as time and means enabled him to develop the dormant resources of the country. He is a man of fine scientific and good general attainments, of close application, great system and method, and high administrative ability. His manners and address are most pleasing, being mild, polished and conciliating. His moral character is above reproach. Both he and his wife are communicants of the church.General Lee had written in the same strain, at the same time and occasion. The services and achievements of General Gorgas did not attract such attention as if he had been in the field, but no man acted a more important part, or contributed more to success. Mr. Davis, in a letter to him, says, there is ‘much to learn of the struggles which were made to maintain our cause by those who gathered no laurels in the field, and without whose labors there would have been no laurels to gather.’ General Gorgas was as much distinguished as a teacher as he had been as an officer. As Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South, he established that Institution on a firm basis, and as President of the University of Alabama he won that commendation which is exhibited in the action of the trustees, and the tributes paid to him as a soldier and civilian by the whole South. We have not undertaken to portray the life of General Gorgas as he was seen and known by his intimate friends and by his family. He was ever gentle in his manners, and in his speech affectionate with his family and his friends. He faithfully discharged his whole duty in every relation in life—as a soldier, a scholar, wise administrator, kind ruler, affectionate husband, devoted father, and faithful Christian. General Gorgas left his wife, who is matron and librarian of the University of Alabama, one son, Dr. W. C. Gorgas, an assistant surgeon in the army, another who has recently graduated at the University of Alabama, and four daughters.