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Contributions to the history of the Confederate Ordnance Department.

[We have long desired to secure a series of papers on Confederate Ordnance—the great obstacles with which our Government had to contend, the able and efficient means employed to overcome these obstacles, and the splendid results achieved in the face of difficulties which would have appalled men of less nerve and defeated officers of less skill.

Our gallant and accomplished friend, General I. M. St. John, who was so long the chief of the Nitre and Mining Bureau, had promised to secure us such a series of papers from those who were in position to know the facts, and was at work on it with his accustomed energy when death deprived us of his invaluable services.

General Gorgas, the able chief of the Department, had promised to make his contribution, when his lamented death ended a long and useful career.

We count ourselves, therefore, especially fortunate that the following paper from General Gorgas has been preserved—that other interesting and valuable papers have been promised—and that Colonel William Allan, the accomplished Chief of Ordnance of the old Second Corps Army of Northern Virginia, has kindly consented to edit them for us.] [67]

Introductory note by Colonel William Allan.

McDonough, Md., January, 1884.
Probably no better illustration of the difficulties which lay in the way of organizing and supplying the large armies kept in the field by the Confederate Government, and of the skill and energy by which these difficulties were surmounted, is to be found than in the history of the Confederate Ordnance Department. A full account of its operations would constitute one of the most creditable and interesting chapters in the history of the Confederacy. Much of the data for such a narrative has perished, and what remains is widely scattered. It has been proposed to save what is left by means of a series of ‘Contributions to the History of the Confederate States Ordnance Department,’ to consist of such facts as surviving officers of that Department may be able to furnish.

It is greatly to be regretted that General Gorgas, to whose energy, zeal, and executive ability, more than to any other one cause, the remarkable efficiency of the Ordnance Department was due, did not prepare a full narrative of its operations. His lamented death prevented this, and deprives us of the further service he might thus have added to a most honorable and useful career. Among his papers were found, however, the following most valuable historical memoranda. Mrs. Gorgas has kindly consented to the publication of this paper, with the statement that these notes were informal, and not intended by General Gorgas for publication in their present unfinished shape.

We believe that even in its present shape this paper contains the best and most reliable sketch of the work of the Confederate Ordnance Department that is now attainable. It is offered as the first of the ‘Contributions,’ with the hope and expectation that subsequent papers may supplement and fill out subjects too briefly touched upon by General Gorgas.

Paper I.

[Found among the papers of the late General Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance of the Confederate States.]

Notes on the Ordnance Department of the Confederate Government.

Small arms.

At the formation of the government, or at the beginning of the war, the arms at command were distributed as follows, as nearly as I can recollect: [68]

At Richmond, Va. (about)4,000
Fayetteville Arsenal, North Carolina (about)2,00025,000
Charleston Arsenal, South Carolina (about)2,000 20,000
Augusta Arsenal, Georgia (about)3,00028,000
Mount Vernon Arsenal, Alabama2,000 20,000
Baton Rouge Arsenal, Louisiana2,00027,000

There were at Richmond about 60, 000 old, worthless flint muskets, and at Baton Rouge about 10,000 old Hall's rifles and carbines.

Besides the foregoing, there were at Little Rock, Ark., a few thousand stands, and some few at the Texas arsenals, increasing the aggregate of serviceable arms to, say, 143,000. To these must be added the arms owned by the several States and by military organizations throughout the country, giving, say, 150,000 in all for the use of the armies of the Confederacy. The rifles were of the calibre 54, known as Mississippi rifles, except those at Richmond, taken from Harper's Ferry, which were calibre 58; the muskets were the old flint-lock, calibre 69, altered to percussion. Of sabres there were a few boxes at each arsenal, and some short artillery swords. A few hundred holster pistols were scattered here and there. There were no revolvers.

Ammunition, powder and lead.

There was little ammunition of any kind, or powder, at the arsenals in the South, and that little relics of the Mexican war, stored principally at Baton Rouge and Mount Vernon arsenals. I doubt whether there were a million rounds of small-arm cartridges in the Confederacy. Lead there was none in store. Of powder the chief supply was that captured at Norfolk, though there was a small quantity at each of the Southern arsenals, say 60,000 pounds in all, chiefly old cannon powder. The stock of percussion caps could not have exceeded one-quarter of a million.


There were no batteries of serviceable field artillery at any of the Southern arsenals. A few old iron guns, mounted on Gribeaural carriages, fabricated about the time of the war of 1812, composed nearly the entire park which the Confederate States fell heir to. There were [69] some serviceable batteries belonging to the States, and some which belonged to volunteer companies. There were neither harness, saddles, bridles, blankets, nor other artillery or cavalry equipments.

Thus to furnish 150,000 men on both sides of the Mississippi, on say the 1st of May, 1861, there were on hand no infantry accoutrements, no cavalry arms or equipments—no artillery and, above all, no ammunition; nothing save small arms, and these almost wholly smooth-bore, altered from flint to percussion. Let us see what means we had for producing these supplies.

Arsenals, workshops, foundries, etc.

Within the limits of the Confederate States, there were no arsenals at which any of the material of war was constructed. No arsenal, except that at Fayetteville, N. C., had a single machine above a footlathe. Such arsenals as there were, had been used only as depots. All the work of preparation of material had been carried on at the North; not an arm,1 not a gun, not a gun carriage, and except during the Mexican war—scarcely a round of ammunition had, for fifty years, been prepared in the Confederate States. There were consequently no workmen, or very few of them, skilled in these arts. No powder, save perhaps for blasting, had been made at the South; and there was no saltpetre in store at any point; it was stored wholly at the North. There was no lead nor any mines of it, except on the Northern limit of the Confederacy, in Virginia, and the situation of that made its product precarious. Only one cannon foundry existed: at Richmond. Copper, so necessary for field artillery and for percussion caps, was just being produced in East Tennessee. There was no rolling mill for bar iron south Of Richmond; and but few blast furnaces, and these small, and with trifling exceptions in the border States of Virginia and Tennessee.

Such were the supplies and such the situation when I took charge of the Ordnance Department on the 8th of April, 1861.

The first thing to be attended to was the supply of powder. Large orders had been sent to the North, both by the Confederate Government and some of the States, and these were being rapidly filled at the date of the attack on Fort Sumter. The entire product of one large Northern mill was being received at a Southern port. Of course all the ports were soon sealed to such importations from the North. Attention was at once turned to the production of nitre in North [70] Alabama and in Tennessee—in the latter State under the energetic supervision of its Ordnance Department. An adequate supply of sulphur was found in New Orleans, where large quantities were in store to be used in sugar-refining. The entire stock was secured, amounting to some four or five hundred tons.

The erection of a large powder-mill was early pressed by President Davis, and about the middle of June, 1861, he directed me to detail an officer to select a site and begin the work. The day after this order was given Colonel G W. Rains, a graduate of West Point, in every way qualified for this service, arrived in Richmond, through the blockade, and at once set out under written instructions from me to carry out the President's wishes. He, however, went first to East Tennessee to supervise and systematize the operations of two small private mills, which were then at work for the State of Tennessee.

Thus, in respect to powder and our means of making it, we had, perhaps, at this time (June 1st, 1861,) 250,000 pounds, chiefly cannon, at Norfolk and in Georgia, and as much more nitre (mainly imported by the State of Georgia). We had no powder-mills, except the two rude ones just referred to, and no experience in making powder or in getting nitre. All had to be learned.

As to a further supply of arms, steps had been taken by the President to import these and other ordnance stores from Europe; and Major Caleb Huse, a graduate of West Point, and at that moment professor in the University of Alabama, was selected to go abroad and secure them. He left Montgomery under instructions early in April, with a credit of 10,000 (!) from Mr. Memminger. The appointment proved a happy one; for 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.

Before this, and immediately upon the formation of the Confederate Government, Admiral Semmes had been sent to the North by President Davis as purchasing agent of arms and other ordnance stores, and succeeded in making contracts for, and purchases of, powder, percussion caps, cap machinery (never delivered), revolvers, &c. He also procured drawings for a bullet-pressing machine, and other valuable information.

The sets of machinery for making the rifle with sword bayonet, and the rifle-musket model of 1855, had been seized at Harper's Ferry by the State of Virginia. That for the rifle-musket was being [71] transferred by the State to her ancient armory at Richmond, under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Burton, an officer in the service of Virginia, whose experience in the armories of the United States and in the erection of the works at Enfield, near London, qualified him above all for the work. The other set of machines was sent to Fayetteville, N. C., by consent of the State of Virginia, to be there re-erected, as there was at that point an arsenal with steam power, and some good buildings, which had heretofore never been put to any use. These two setts of machinery—capable, if worked with but one set of hands to each, of producing 2,000 to 2,500 stands per month in all—were the only prospective resources at home. With additional workmen, and some extension of the machinery, much larger results could be obtained. But the workmen were not to be had. As it was, it would take many months to put it in working order. Parts were missing, and some injury done in the hasty transfer (partly under fire2) from Harper's Ferry. There were no private armories at the South; nor was there any inducement, prior to the war, to turn capital in that direction. Thus, the class of skilled operatives needed were unknown to this region. In New Orleans the Brothers Cook were embarking in the business of making small arms, assisted by the purses and encouraged by the sympathy of patriotic citizens.

Infield artillery the production was confined almost entirely to the Tredegar Works, in Richmond. Some castings were made in New Orleans, and foundries were rapidly acquiring the necessary experience to produce good bronze castings. The Ordnance Department of Tennessee was also turning its attention to the manufacture of field and seige artillery at Nashville. At Rome, Ga., a foundry—Noble & Son — was induced to undertake the casting of three-inch rifles, after drawings furnished at Montgomery; but the progress made was necessarily slow. The State of Virginia possessed a number of old four-pounder iron guns, which were reamed out to get a good bore, [72] and were rifled with three grooves, after the manner of Parrott. The army in observation at Harper's Ferry, and that at Manassas, were supplied with old batteries of six-pounder guns and twelve-pounder Howitzers. A few Parrott guns purchased by the State of Virginia were with Magruder at Big Bethel.

For the ammunition and equipments required for the infantry and artillery a good laboratory and shops had been established at Richmond by the State, but none of the Southern arsenals were yet in a condition to do much work. The arsenal at Augusta, Ga., was directed to organize for the preparation of ammunition and the making of knapsacks, of which there were none wherewith to equip the troops now daily taking the field. The arsenal at Charleston and the depot at Savannah were occupied chiefly with local work. The arsenal at Baton Rouge was rapidly getting under way; and that at Mt. Vernon, Ala., was also being prepared for work. None of them had had facilities for the work usually done at an arsenal. Fayetteville, N. C. was in the hands of that State, and was occupied chiefly in repairing some arms, and in making up a small amount of small arm ammunition. Little artillery ammunition was being made up, except for local purposes, save at Richmond.

Such was the general condition of supplies when the Government, quitting Montgomery, established itself at Richmond.

Progress of manufacture.

Colonel Rains, in the course of the Summer of 1861, established a refinery of saltpetre at or near Nashville, and to this point chiefly were sent the nitre, obtained from the State of Georgia, and that derived from caves in East and Middle Tennessee. He supplied the two powder mills in that State with nitre, properly refined, and good powder was thus produced. A small portion of the Georgia nitre was sent to two small mills in South Carolina,—at Pendleton and Walhalla—and a powder produced, inferior at first, but afterwards improved. The State of North Carolina established a mill near Raleigh, under contract with certain parties to whom the State was to furnish the nitre, of which a great part was derived from caves in Georgia. A stamping mill was also put up near New Orleans, and powder produced before the fall of the city. Small quantities of powder were also received through the blockade from Wilmington to Galveston, some of it of very inferior quality. The great quantity of artillery placed in position from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, required [73] a vast supply of powder (there was no immediate want of projectiles) to furnish even the scant allowance of fifty rounds to each gun. I think we may safely estimate that on the 1st of January, 1862, there were 1,500 sea coast guns of various calibres in position, from Evansport on the Potomac to Fort Brown on the Rio Grande. If we average their calibre at thirty-two pounders, and the charge at five pounds, it will at forty rounds per gun, give us 600,000 pounds of powder for these. The field-artillery—say 300 guns—with 200 rounds to the piece, would require, say 125,000 pounds, and the small arm cartridges, 10,000,000, would consume 125,000 pounds more—making in all 850,000 pounds. If we deduct 250,000 pounds, supposed to be on hand, in various shapes, at the beginning of the war, we have an increment of 600,000 pounds. Of this, perhaps 200,000 pounds had been made at the Tennessee and other mills, leaving 400,000 to have been supplied through the blockade, and before the commencement of actual hostilities.

The site of the Government Powder-Mills was fixed at Augusta, Georgia, on the report of Colonel Rains, and progress was made on the work in this year. There were two large buildings, in the Norman (castellated) style of architecture; one contained the refinery and store-rooms—the other being the mills, twelve in number. They were arranged in the best way on the canal which supplied waterpower to Augusta. This canal served as the means of transport for the material from point to point of its manufacture, though the mills were driven by steam. All the machinery, including the very heavy rollers, was made in the Confederate States. The various qualities of powder purchased, captured and produced were sources of irregularity in the ranges of our artillery and small arms—unavoidably so of course. We were only too glad to take any sort of powder; and we bought some brought into Florida the best range of which scarcely exceeded one hundred and sixty yards with the eprouvette.

Contracts were made abroad for the delivery of nitre through the blockade, and for producing it at home from caves. The amount of the latter delivered by contracts was considerable—chiefly in Tennessee.

The consumption of lead was in part met by the Virginia lead mines (Wytheville), the yield from which was from 100,000 to 150,--000 pounds per month. A laboratory for the smelting of other ores, from the Silver Hill mines, North Carolina, and Jonesboro, East Tennessee, was put up at Petersburg, under the direction of Dr. Piggott, of Baltimore. It was very well constructed; was capable of smelting a good many thousand pounds per day, and was in operation before [74] midsummer of 1862. Mines were opened on account of Government in East Tennessee, near the State line of Virginia. They were never valuable, and were soon abandoned. Lead was collected in considerable quantities throughout the country by the laborious exertions of agents employed for this purpose. The battle-field of Bull Run was fully gleaned, and much lead collected.

By the close of 1861 the following arsenals and depots were at work, having been supplied with some machinery and facilities, and were producing the various munitions and equipments required: Augusta, Ga.; Charleston, S. C.; Fayetteville, N. C.; Richmond, Va.; Savannah, Ga.; Nashville, Tenn.; Memphis, Tenn.; Mount Vernon, Ala.; Baton Rouge, La.; Montgomery, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; and San Antonio, Texas—altogether eight arsenals and four depots. It would, of course, have been better, had it been practicable, to have condensed our work and to have had fewer places of manufacture; but the country was deficient in the transportation which would have been required to place the raw material at a few arsenals. In this way only could we avail ourselves of local resources, both of labor and material. Thus by the close of 1861 a good deal had been done in the way of organization to produce the material of war needed by an army, as far as our means permitted. But our troops were still very poorly armed and equipped. The old smooth-bore musket was still the principal weapon of the infantry; the artillery had the six-pounder gun and twelve-pounder howitzer chiefly; and the cavalry were armed with anything they could get—sabres, horse-pistols, revolvers, Sharp's carbines, musketoons, short Enfield rifles, Hale's carbines (a wretched apology), muskets cut off, etc., etc. Equipments were in many cases made of stout domestic, stitched in triple folds and covered with paint or rubber, varnished.

But poor as were our arms, we had not enough of these to equip the troops which were pressing to the front in July and August, 1861. In the winter of 1861-1861, while McClellan was preparing his great army near Alexandria, we resorted to the making of pikes for the infantry and lances for the cavalry; many thousands of the former were made at the various arsenals, but were little used. No access of enthusiasm could induce our people to rush to the field armed with pikes. I remember a formidable weapon, which was invented at this time, in the shape of a stout wooden sheath containing a two-edged straight sword some two feet long. The sheath or truncheon could be levelled, and the sword, liberated from the compression of a strong spring by touching a trigger, leaped out with sufficient force to transfix an opponent. [75]

About December, 1861, arms began to come in through the purchases of Major Huse, and we had a good many Enfield rifles in the hands of our troops at Shiloh, which were received in time for use there through the blockade. Major Huse had found the market pretty well cleaned of arms by the late war in Europe, but he had succeeded in making contracts with private manufacturers, of which these arms were the result.

I will not attempt to trace the development of our work in its order, as I at first intended, but will note simply what I can recollect, paying some attention to the succession of events.

The winter of 1861-1861 was the darkest period of my department. Powder was called for on every hand—Bragg, at Pensacola, for his big ten-inch Columbiads: Lovell, at New Orleans, for his extended defences, and especially for his inadequate artillery at Forts Jackson and St. Phillips; Polk, at Columbus, Kentucky; Johnston, for his numerous batteries on the Potomac; Magruder, at Yorktown. All these were deemed most important points. Then came Wilmington, Georgetown, Port Royal, and Fernandina. Not a few of these places sent representatives to press their claims—Mr. Yulee from Fernandina, and Colonel Gonzales from Charleston. Heavy guns, too, were called for in all directions—the largest guns for the smallest places.

The abandonment of the line of the Potomac, and of the upper Mississippi from Columbus to Memphis; the evacuation of the works below Pensacola, and of Yorktown, somewhat relieved us from the pressure for heavy artillery; and after the powder-mills at Augusta went into operation in the fall of 1862, we had little trouble in supplying ammunition.

To obtain the iron needed for cannon and projectiles, it became necessary to stimulate its production in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. To this end, contracts were made with iron-masters in these States on liberal terms, and advances of money made to them, to be refunded in products. These contracts were difficult to arrange, as so much had to be done for the contractor. He must have details from the army and the privilege of transport of provisions and other supplies over the railroads. And then the question of the currency was a continually recurring problem. Mr. Benjamin, who succeeded Mr. Walker in the War Department, gave me great assistance in the matter of making contracts, and seemed quite at home in arranging these details. His power of work was amazing to me; and he appeared as fresh at 12 o'clock at night, after a hard day's work, as he had been at 9 o'clock in the morning. [76]

About May, 1862, finding that the production of nitre and of iron must be systematically pursued, and to this end thoroughly organized, I sought for the right person to place in charge of this vital duty. My choice fell on Colonel I. M. St. John (afterwards Commissary-General of Subsistence), and was eminently fortunate. He had the gift of organization, and I placed him in charge of the whole subject of producing nitre from caves and from other sources, and of the formation of nitre beds, which had already been begun in Richmond. Unde'r his supervision beds were instituted at Columbia S. C., Charleston, Savannah, Augusta, Mobile, Selma, and various other points. We never extracted nitre from these beds, except for trial; but they were carefully attended to, enriched and extended, and were becoming quite valuable. At the close of 1864 we had, according to General St. John, 2,800,000 cubic feet of earth collected and in various stages of nitrification, of which a large proportion was prepared to yield one and a half pounds of nitre per foot of earth, including all the nitre-beds from Richmond to Florida.

Through Colonel St. John, the whole nitre-bearing area of country was laid off into districts; each district in charge of an officer, who made his monthly reports to the office at Richmond. These officers procured details of workmen, generally from those subject to military duty in the mountain regions where disaffection existed, and carried on extended works in their several districts. In this way we brought up the nitre production, in the course of a year, to something like half our total consumption of nitre. It was a rude, wild sort of service; and the officers in charge of these districts, especially in East Tennessee, North Carolina, and North Alabama, had to show much firmness in their dealings with the turbulent people among whom, and by whose aid, they worked. It is a curious fact that the district on which we could rely for the most constant yield of nitre, having its headquarters at Greensboroa, N. C., had no nitre-caves in it. The nitre was produced by the lixiviation of nitrous earth dug from under old houses, barns, &c.

The nitre production thus organized, there was added to the Nitre Bureau the duty of supervising the production of iron, lead, copper, and, in fine, all the minerals which needed development, including the making of sulphuric and nitric acids; which latter we had to manufacture to insure a supply of fulmirate of mercury for our percussion caps. To give an idea of the extent of the duty thus performed: Colonel Morton, Chief of the Nitre and Mining Bureau, after the transfer of General St. John, writes: ‘We were aiding and managing some twenty to thirty furnaces, with an annual yield of 50,000 tons [77] or more of pig metal. We had erected lead and copper smelting furnaces [at Petersburg, before referred to] with a capacity sufficient for all our wants, and had succeeded in smelting zinc of good quality at the same place.’ The Chemical Works were placed at Charlotte, N. C., where a pretty large leaden chamber for sulphuric acid was put up. Our chief supply of chemicals continued to come, however, from abroad, through the blockade, and these works, as well as our nitraries, were as much preparation against the day when the blockade might seal all foreign supply, as for present use. These constituted our reserves, for final conflict.

We had not omitted to have a pretty thorough, though general exploration of the mountain regions from Virginia to Alabama, with the hope of finding new deposits of lead. One of the earliest of these searches was made by Dr. Maupin, of the University of Virginia. No favorable results came from it. I remember an anecdote he told touching one of his researches. An old settler showed the Doctor a small lump of lead which he had extracted from ore like some he had in his possession. There was the lead and here was the ore, but it was not an ore of lead. The Doctor cross-examined: ‘Did he smelt it himself!’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What in?’ ‘An iron ladle,’ such as is used for running lead balls. ‘Was there nothing in the ladle but this sort of ore?’ ‘No, nothing.’ ‘Nothing at all? No addition—no flux?’ ‘No, nothing but a little handful of common shot, thrown in to make it melt more easy!’

Much of the nitre region was close to the lines of the enemy, and here and there along its great extent became debatable ground. Not seldom the whole working force had to be suddenly withdrawn on the approach of the enemy, the ‘plant’ hurried off, to be again returned and work resumed when the enemy had retired. Much of the work, too, lay in ‘Union’ districts, where our cause was unpopular and where obstacles of all kinds had to be encountered and overcome. It was no holiday duty, this nitre digging, although the service was a good deal decried by such as knew nothing of its nature.

Manufacture of infantry, Artillery and cavalry equipments.

In equipping the armies first sent into the field the supply of these accessories was amazingly scant; and these deficiencies were felt more keenly, perhaps than the more important want of arms. We had arms, such as they were, for over 1000,00 men; but we had no accoutrements nor equipments; and these had to be extemporized [78] in a great measure. In time, knapsacks were little thought of by the troops and we at last contented ourselves with supplying haversacks, which the women (Heaven reward their labors) could make, and for which we could get cotton cloth. But cartridge boxes we must have: and as leather was also needed for artillery harness and for cavalry saddles, we had to divide the stock of leather the country could produce, among these much needed articles. But soldier's shoes were even more needed than some of these; so that as all could not be fully provided, a scale of preference was established. Shoes and cartridge boxes were most needed, and then saddles and bridles. The President, whose practical sagacity was rarely at fault, early reduced these interests to logical sequence. He said, ‘For the infantry, men must first be fed, next armed, and even clothing must follow these; for if they are fed and have arms and ammunition they can fight.’ Thus the Subsistence Department had in a general way, a preference for its requisitions on the Treasury; my department came next, and the Quarter-master's followed. Of course the Medical Department had in some things the lead of all, for its duties referred to the men themselves, and it was necessary first of all to keep the hospitals empty and the ranks full.

To economize leather, the cartridge boxes and waist-belts were made of prepared cotton cloth, stitched in three or four thicknesses. Bridle-reins were also so made, and even cartridge-boxes covered with it, except the flap. Saddle-skirts, too, were sometimes made in this way, heavily stitched. An ardent admirer of the South came over from Washington to offer his patent for making soldiers' shoes with no leather except the soles. The shoes were approved by all except those who wore them. The soldiers exchanged them with the first prostrate enemy who no longer needed his leathern articles. To get leather, each Department bargained for its own hides—made contracts with the tanner—procured hands for him by exemption from the army—got transportation over the railroads for the hides and for supplies—and finally, assisted the tanner to procure food for his hands, and other supplies for his tannery. One can readily see from this instance how the labors of the heads of the departments became extended. Nothing but thorough organization could accomplish these multiplied and varied duties. We even established a fishery on the Cape Fear river to get oil for mechanical purposes, getting from the sturgeon beef at the same time for our workmen.

In cavalry equipments, the main thing was to get a good saddle— one that did not ruin the back of the horse; for that, and not the rider's seat is the point to be achieved. The rider soon accommodates [79] himself to the seat provided for him. Not so the animal's back, which suffers from a bad saddle. We adopted Jenifer's tree, which did very well while the horses were in good condition, and was praised by that prince of cavalrymen, General J. E. B. Stuart; but it came down on the horses backbone and withers as soon as the cushion of fat and muscle dwindled. The McClellan tree did better on the whole, and we finally succeeded in making a pretty good saddle of that kind—comfortable enough, but not as durable as the Federal article. In this branch of the service, one of the most difficult wants to supply was the horseshoe for cavalry and artillery. The want of iron and labor both were felt. Of course such a thing as a horseshoe machine, to turn out thousands an hour, was not to be dreamed of; besides, we would have had little store of iron wherewith to feed it. Nor could we set up such machinery without much prevision; for to concentrate all work on one machine required the transportation of the iron to one point, and the distribution of the shoes from it to all the armies. But the railroads were greatly over-tasked, and we were compelled to consider this point. Thus we were led to employ every wayside blacksmith shop accessible, especially those in and near the theatre of operations. These, again, had to be looked after, supplied with material, and exempted from service.

Bureau of foreign supplies.

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 300, 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 about 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 [80] 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 suplies. To supervise shipments at Bermuda, to which point they were brought by neutrals, either by steam or sail, Major Norman Walker was sent there by Mr. Secretary Randolph about midsummer, 1862. Later, an army officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Smith Stansbury, was detached to take charge of the stores accumulated there. Depots were likewise made at Nassau and Havana. Thus much of the foreign organization.

But the organization of the business outside of our own soil was much the simplest part of the service. The home administration involved a variety of work so foreign to my other duties that I soon looked about for the proper person to discharge them in the most effective manner by exclusive devotion to them; and I had Lieutenant-Colonel Bayne detailed to my office for this duty. He had been wounded at Shiloh, and on his recovery joined me about September, 1862.

It was soon found necessary, in order that the vessels coming in through the blockade might have their lading promptly on their arrival, that the Bureau should undertake the procuring and shipment of cotton to Wilmington, Charleston, and other points, for we had vessels arriving at half-a-dozen ports, from Wilmington to Galveston. This necessitated the establishment of a steam compress at Wilmington, and, affiliated with it, agents to procure the cotton in the interior and see it to its destination; for the railroads were now so overtasked that it was only by placing positive orders from the Secretary of War in the hands of a selected agent that the cotton could be certainly forwarded over the various roads. The steam press was kept fully at work, in charge of Captain James M. Seixas (Washington artillery). The necessity for transportation over the railroads brought us in contact with them, and gave them claim on us for assistance in the matter of supplies, such as steel, iron, copper, &c., and especially for work at the various foundries and machine-shops, in which precedence was of course claimed for army work, and which were therefore in great part controlled by the Ordnance Department. The foreign supplies were not all conveyed through steamers. Contracts were out for supplies through Texas from Mexico.

Finding that the other departments of the Government would naturally claim a share in this avenue for supplies, which had been opened [81] chiefly through my Bureau, it was detached at my own instance, but remained in charge of Colonel Bayne, with a good staff of officers and agents as a separate Bureau.

Thus the Ordnance Department consisted of a Bureau proper of Ordnance having its officers in the field and at the arsenals and depots; of the Nitre and Mining Bureau, and of the Bureau of Foreign Supplies.

Development of the arsenals, armories and other places of manufacture of Ordnance stores.

The arsenal at Richmond soon grew into very large dimensions, and produced all the ordnance stores that an army may require, except cannon and small arms in quantities sufficient to supply the forces in that part of the field. I have by accident preserved a copy of the last number of the Richmond Enquirer, published under Confederate rule. It is dated April 1st, 1865, and contains the following ‘Statement of the principal issues from the Richmond arsenal, from July 1st, 1861, to January 1st, 1865:’

341 Columbiads and seige guns (these were made at the Tredegar works, but issued from the arsenal); 1,306 field-pieces, made chiefly at Tredegar works or captured; 1,375 gun carriages; 875 caissons; 152 forges; 6,852 setts of artillery-harness; 921,441 rounds field, seige, and sea-coast ammunition; 1,456,190 friction primer; 1,11 0966 fuzes; 17,423 port-fires; 3,985 rockets; 323,231 infantry arms (most of these were turned in from the army, from battle-fields and from the Richmond armory); 34,067 cavalry arms (same remark); 44,877 swords and sabres (from army, battle-field and contractors); 375,510 setts of infantry and cavalry accoutrements; 180,181 knapsacks; 328,977 canteens and straps; 72,413,854 small arm cartridges; 115,087 gun and carbine slings; 146,901,250 percussion caps; 69,418 cavalrysad-dles; 85,139 cavalry-bridles; 75,611 cavalry halters; 35,464 saddleblankets; 59,624 pairs spurs; 42,285 horse-brushes; 56,903 currycombs.

This ‘statement’ appears as an editorial, but the items were furnished from the office of the arsenal, and may be relied on. Its Commandant at this time was Lieutenant-Colonel LeRoy Broun, of Virginia. In the items of cavalry-saddles, bridles, harness, infantry accoutrements, canteens and other articles of this character much assistance was received from contractors. A small part of the percussion caps also came from other arsenals. When we reflect that the arsenal grew to these great dimensions in a little over two years, it must be [82] confessed that good use was made of the time. The laboratory attached to the arsenal was well conducted and did much work. It covered the island known as Green Island, which was connected with the shore by a bridge, built by the Engineer Department, especially for the service of this laboratory.

Besides the cap machinery, which was a very large and improved plant, machinery for pressing balls, for driving time fuzes, for drawing friction primers and metallic cartridges, and other labor saving machines were invented, made and used with effect. In all respects the establishment, though extemporized, and lodged in a cluster of tobacco warehouses, was equal to the first-class arsenals of the United States in extent and facilities.

The arsenal of Augusta, Ga., was in great part organized in the city, where suitable buildings were obtained, and did much the same class of work done at Richmond, though on a smaller scale. It was very serviceable to the armies serving in the South and West, and turned out a good deal of field artillery complete, the castings being excellent. Colonel George W. Rains, in charge of arsenal and powder works, found that the fusion of a small per cent. of iron with the copper and tin improved the strength of the bronze castings very much.

The powder mills at Augusta, Ga., which I have already mentioned as the direct result of the order of President Davis, were wonderfully successful and never met with serious accident—a safe indication of the goodness of its arrangements. It showed, too, that under able direction the resources of Southern workshops and the skill of its artisans had already become equal to the execution of great enterprises involving high mechanical skill.

The arsenal and workshops at Charleston were also enlarged, steam introduced, and good work done in various departments.

The arsenal at Mount Vernon, now furnished with steam power and having a good deal of machinery, was considered out of position after the fall of New Orleans, and was moved to Selma, Ala., where it grew into a large, well-ordered arsenal of the best class, under the charge of Lieutenant-Colonel White. It was relied on to a great extent for the equipment of the troops and fortifications in the southern part of the Confederacy.

Attracted by the deposits of fine ore immediately north of Selma, made accessible by the Selma, Rome and Dalton Railroad, the War Department accepted the proposition of Mr. Colin McRae to undertake the erection at Selma of a large foundry for the casting of cannon of the heaviest calibre. A large contract was made with him and [83] advances of money made from time to time as the work progressed. After a time Mr. McRae was called on by President Davis to go abroad in connection with Confederate finances. He made it a condition that he should be relieved of his works and contract at Selma without pecuniary loss to himself. The works were thereupon assumed by the War and Navy Departments jointly, and placed at first under the charge of Colonel Rains as general superintendent, while an officer of less rank took immediate charge. Subsequently it was agreed by the War Department that the Navy should take sole charge and use the works for its own purposes. It was here that Commander Brooke made many of his formidable banded and rifled guns.

The foundry and rolling-mills then grew into large proportions, supplied by the iron and coal of that region. Had the Confederacy survived, Selma bid fair to become the Pittsburgh of the South. The iron obtained from the brown haematite at the furnaces in Bibb county (Brierfield), and from the Shelby Works, was admirable, the former being of unusual strength.

Mount Vernon Arsenal was still continued, after being in a great measure dismantled, and was utilized to get lumber and timber for use elsewhere, and to gather and prepare moss for making saddle-blankets.

At Montgomery shops were kept up for the repair of small arms, and for the manufacture of articles of leather, of which some supplies were obtained in that region.

There were many other small establishments and depots, some of them connected immediately with the army, as at Dublin, Southwest Va.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Jackson, Miss. Some shops at Lynchburg, Va., were moved to Danville, near the south line of Virginia, and it grew into a place of some value for repairs, &c.

The Ordnance shops at Nashville had been hurriedly transferred to Atlanta, Ga., on the fall of Fort Donelson; and when Atlanta was seriously threatened by the operations of Sherman the Arsenal there, which had become very important, was moved to Columbus, Ga., where there was the nucleus of an Ordnance establishment. Colonel M. H. Wright soon made this nearly as valuable as his arsenal at Atlanta had been.

Armories and small arms.

Besides the Arsenals, a brief account of which has just been given, we had the armories at Richmond and Fayetteville, N. C.; and arms were also made at other points. [84]

The State of Virginia claimed all the machinery captured at Harper's Ferry, and was bringing it all to Richmond. It was agreed, however, with the State of North Carolina, that that part of the machinery which was specially adapted to make the Mississippi rifle (calibre 54) should go to Fayetteville, where there was an arsenal with good steam-power, the machinery to be returned at the close of the war to the State of Virginia. Colonel Burton, an admirably educated machinist, superintended the re-erection of the works at Richmond. He was subsequently made Superintendent of Armories, and given full charge of the entire subject of manufacture of arms in the Confederacy. The machinery of the rifle-musket (calibre 58), retained at Richmond, got to work as early as September, 1861. If we had possessed the necessary number of workmen this ‘plant’ could have been so filled in as to have easily produced 5000 stands per month, working night and day. As it was, I don't think it ever turned out more than 1,500 in any one month. Fayetteville did not get to work until the spring of 1862, and did not average 400 per month, for want of hands.

To supplement this scarcity of operatives, Colonel Huse was authorized to engage for us a number of skilled workmen, used to work on small arms, and to pay their passage over. They came in through the blockade at Wilmington without difficulty, but we could do nothing with them. They had been engaged to be paid in gold, which meantime had risen to such a price as to make their pay enormous, and would have produced utter disintegration among our own operatives. I offered to pay one-half of the wages promised them in gold, to their families in England, if they would take the remainder in Confederate money, which would support them here. I brought the British Consul to confer with them. But they stood upon their bond; and, foreseeing that their presence would do more harm than good, I simply, with their consent, reshipped them by the next steamer, and paid their passage back. The experiment cost us something like £ 2,000 in gold, and made us shy of foreign workmen, especially English. I think the Treasury Department did succeed in getting engravers and printers for their purposes at Columbia, S. C., to some extent, by importation; but my impression is they were not English. Of all obstinate animals I have ever come in contact with, these English workmen were the most unreasonable.

The Cook Brothers had, as heretofore stated, undertaken the making of rifle-muskets in New Orleans at the very commencement of the war. On the fall of New Orleans their machinery was hurriedly taken off by boats up the Mississippi. They finally selected Athens, [85] Georgia, as their point of manufacture, and under a contract with me, and assisted with funds under that contract, proceeded to reorganize and extend their ‘plant.’ They were reasonably successful.

The want of cavalry arms caused me to make a contract with parties in Richmond to make the Sharp's carbine—at that time the best cavalry arm we had. A set of machinery capable of turning out one hundred arms a day was driven to completion in less than a year, nearly all the machinery being built up ‘from the stumps.’ The arms were never perfect, chiefly for want of nice workmanship about the ‘cut-off’ It was not gas-tight. We soon bought out the establishment, and converted it into a manufactory of rifle-carbines, calibre 58, as the best arm our skill would enable us to supply to the cavalry.

Recognizing the necessity of some great central establishment for the production of small arms, plans of buildings and estimates of machinery were made for such an one, to be built at Macon, Georgia—a point of easy access and near to a fertile corn region, out of the way of the enemy. Colonel Burton went to England and easily negotiated for the machinery, which was to have been of sufficient capacity to turn out about 10,000 arms per month. Buildings were immediately obtained for some machinery for pistols, which was transferred there; and Colonel Burton had made good progress in erecting ample buildings for the new machinery, part of which had arrived at Bermuda and Nassau when the Confederacy fell. But about six months before the close of the war, finding that the blockade had become so stringent that the introduction of machinery would be very difficult, and reflecting, too, that as long as the war continued this extended machinery would be of but little use to us for want of work men, I got the authority of the Secretary of War to set it up at some point abroad and bring in the arms, which would be less difficult than to bring in the machinery and train the workmen. Colonel Burton was abroad on this duty when the war closed. Had the war been prolonged, we should in twelve months have been making our own arms in a foreign land, under the sanction of a private name. After the war it was proposed to transfer the entire ‘plant’ to the buildings which were in course of construction for it at Macon. Peace would have then found us in possession of a great armory, which I much desired.

One of the earliest difficulties forced upon us in the manufacture of arms was to find an iron fit for the barrels. The ‘skelps’ found at Harper's Ferry served for awhile, and when these were exhausted Colonel Burton selected an iron produced at a forge in Patrick [86] county, Va., and by placing a skilled workman over the rolling process at the Tredegar Works he soon produced ‘skelps’ with which he was satisfied. We found that almost any of the good brown haematite ores produced an iron of ample strength for the purpose, and the even grain and toughness could be attained by careful rerolling.

Besides the larger armories at Richmond and Fayetteville, smaller establishments grew up at Asheville, N. C., and at Tallassee, Ala. The former was the development of a private enterprise undertaken to repair and fit up old arms, by a citizen (Mr. Pullem) resident there, and afterwards as a matter of necessity assumed by the Confederate Government. Most of the machinery was moved before the close of the war to Columbia, S. C., whither, as a place of safety, other arms manufacturing machinery was moved from other points. Tallassee was selected as a good manufacturing point, a large building having been offered to us by the proprietors of the cotton mills there, and some machinery for making pistols moved thither from Columbus, Georgia.

A great part of the work of our armories consisted in repairing arms brought in from the battle-field or sent in from the armies in too damaged a condition to be effectually repaired at the arsenals In this way only could we utilize all the gleanings of the battle-fields. My recollection is that we saved nearly ten thousand stands of arms from the field of Bull Run, and that the battle-fields about Richmond in 1862 gave us about twenty-five thousand excellent arms through the labors of the armory at Richmond.

The original stock of arms it will be remembered, consisted almost wholly of smooth-bore muskets, altered from flint to percussion, using ounce-balls (cal. 69). There were some 15, 000 to 20,000 Mississippi rifles; and then some irregular arms, like Hall's rifles and carbines—some short carbines smooth-bore; and there were even some of the old flint lock muskets. All this original stock disappeared almost wholly from our armies in the first two years of the war, and were replaced by a better class of arms, rifled and percussioned. It is pretty safe to assume that we had altogether, east and west of the Mississippi, 300,000 infantry, pretty well-armed, by the middle of 1863. We must therefore have procured at least that number for our troops. But we must also have supplied the inevitable waste of two years of active warfare. Placing the good arms thus lost at the moderate estimate of 100,000, we must have received from various sources 400,000 stands of infantry arms in the two years of fighting, ending July 1st, 1863. I can only estimate from memory the several sources from which this supply was derived, as follows: [87]

Good rifled arms on hand at the beginning of the war (this includes the arms in the hands of volunteer companies),25,000
New arms manufactured in the Confederacy and in private Establishments40,000
Arms received from the battle-fields and put in good order (this includes the great number of arms picked up by the soldiers)150,000
Imported from January 1st, 1862, to July 1st, 1863185,000

This estimate does not include pistols and sabres, of which a small supply was imported.

To account for the very large number obtained from the enemy (rather an under than an over estimate), it must be remembered that in some fights, where our troops were not finally successful, they were so at first; and swept over the camps and positions of the enemy. Whenever a Confederate soldier saw a weapon better than his own, he took it and left his inferior arm; and although he may have been finally driven back, he kept his improved musket. So, too, on every field there were partial successes which in the early part of the war resulted in improved weapons; and although on another part of the field there may have been a reverse; the enemy had not the same advantage; the Confederate arms being generally inferior to those of their adversaries. The difference of arms was not so marked at a later day except in cavalry arms, in which we were always at a disadvantage, the celebrated Spencer carbine being generally in the hands of the enemy's cavalry during the last two years of the war.

A Central laboratory.

The unavoidable variation in the ammunition made at the different arsenals pointed out, early in the war, that there should be a general superintendent of all the laboratories, invested with authority to inspect and supervise their manipulations and materials. To this end Lieutenant-Colonel Mallet, a chemist and scientist of distinction, who had for some years been professor in the University of Alabama, was selected and placed in charge of this delicate and important duty. I attribute much of the improvement in our ammunition to this happy selection. A more earnest and capable officer I cannot imagine. What a set of men we would have had after the war out of which to form an Ordnance Department, had we been successful! Rains, St. John, Mallet, Burton, Wright, White, Baldwin, Rhett, Ellicott, Andrews, [88] Childs, DeLagnel, Hutter, and others, who would have remained in the service. Then there were some no less admirable, like LeRoy Broun, Allan, Wiley Browne, Morton, Colston, Bayne, Cuyler, E. B. Smith, &c., who would doubtless have returned to their civil avocations.

Among the obvious necessities of a well-regulated service, was one large, central laboratory, where all ammunition should be made—thus securing absolute uniformity where uniformity was vital. The policy of dissemination so necessary to husband our transportation, and to utilize the labor of non-combatants, must here yield to the greater necessity of obtaining our ammunition uniform in quality and in dimensions. Authority was, therefore, obtained from the War Department to concentrate this species of work at some central laboratory. Macon, Ga., was selected, and Colonel Mallet placed in charge of the Central Laboratory, as Burton was later placed in charge of a National Armory. Plans of the buildings and of the machinery required were submitted to the Secretary of War, approved, and the work begun with energy. This pile of buildings had a facade of 600 feet, was designed with taste, and comprehended every possible appliance for good and well-organized work. The buildings were nearly ready for occupation at the close of the war, and some of the machinery had arrived at Bermuda. In point of time, this project preceded that of the National Armory, and was much nearer completion. These, with our admirable powder-mills at Augusta, would have completed a set of works for the Ordnance Department; and in them we would have been in condition to supply arms and munitions to 300,000 men. To these would have been added a foundry for heavy guns at Selma or Brierfield, Ala.; at which latter place the strongest cast-iron in the country was produced, and where we had already purchased and were carrying on a furnace for the production of cold blast charcoal pig for this special purpose. All these establishments were in the heart of the country, not readily reached by the enemy; and were, in fact, never reached by them until just at the close of the war. Being in or near an excellent agricultural region, they would have had the advantage of cheap living for operatives; and they had all sufficient facilities for transportation, being situated on main lines of railroad.


I have thus, from memory, faintly traced the development of the means and resources by which our large armies were supplied with arms and ammunition. This involved manufacturing, mining and [89] importation. The last two were confided in time to sub-bureaus created ex-necessitate, which were subsequently detached. The first was carried on by the armories, arsenals, laboratories and depots above mentioned. We began in April, 1861, without an arsenal, laboratory or powder mill of any capacity, and with no foundry or rolling mill, except at Richmond, and before the close of 1863, in little over two years, we had built up, during all the harrassments of war, holding our own in the field defiantly and successfully against a powerful and determined enemy. Crippled as we were by a depreciated currency; throttled with a blockade that deprived us of nearly all means of getting material or workmen; obliged to send almost every able-bodied man to the field; unable to use the slave labor with which we were abundantly supplied, except in the most unskilled departments of production; hampered by want of transportation even of the commonest supplies of food; with no stock on hand even of the articles, such as steel, copper, lead, iron, leather, which we must have to build up our establishments; and in spite of these deficiencies we persevered at home as determinedly as did our troops in the field against a more tangible opposition, and in a little over two years created, almost literally out of the ground, foundries and rolling mills (at Selma, Richmond, Atlanta, and Macon), smelting works (at Petersburg), chemical works (at Charlotte, N. C.), a powder mill far superior to any in the United States and unsurpassed by any across the ocean, and a chain of arsenals, armories and laboratories equal in their capacity and their improved appointments to the best of those in the United States, stretching link by link from Virginia to Alabama. Our people are justly proud of the valor and constancy of the troops which bore their banners bravely in the front of the enemy; but they will also reflect that these creations of skill and labor were the monuments which represented the patience, industry and perseverance of the devoted and patriotic citizens; for of the success which attended the operations of any department of the Confederate Government the larger moiety was due to the co-operation of the body of the people—a co-operation founded in their hearty sympathy with and their entire faith in the cause which that government represented.


The Ordnance Bureau, as finally organized, consisted of one Brigadier-General, one Colonel, and of such additional number of fieldofficers, Captains, and First Lieutenants as the service required.

They were artillery officers on ordnance duty. [90]

Appointments to these positions were at first made by selection, on nomination by the Ordnance Bureau; but about October, 1862, Congress created fifty officers of artillery especially for ordnance duty, to which two hundred more were subsequently added. As selection for these offices involved much political contrivance, I obtained the order of the Secretary of War to hold examinations for appointment to the grade of Captain and First Lieutenant. This plan succeeded entirely, and relieved us from a thousand personal solicitations. The first examination was held at Richmond. Of some five hundred applications found on file for ordnance officers, less than one hundred came to the examination, and of these only some forty or fifty passed. The examination for Captain involved a fair knowledge of a college course of mathamatics, and none, I believe, passed this except the M. A.'s of the University of Virginia. That for First Lieutenant embraced only an ordinary English education, with a full examination on the Ordnance Manual. This gave us an excellent set of officers—educated men; and although a few of them were, as was said, ‘Virginia school-masters,’ and cannot be said to have distinguished themselves professionally, yet they were all respectable on account of their education; and I am sure there never were in any army a better class of such officers.

These examinations were extended, and were held at the headquarters of each army in the field by a commission, of which Lieutenant-Colonel Le Roy Broun and Lieutenant-Colonel S. Stansbury, Colonel T. A. Rhett and Major J. Wilcox Browne were the chief members. These, or one of them, went to an army and associated with themselves one or more officers detailed by the General at headquarters. In order to provide for that class of valuable officers distinguished for excellent qualities developed by service on the field, but not prepared for a somewhat technical examination, each General of an army designated one or two of this class, who were appointed on his recommendation alone.

Officers in the field were distributed as follows: To each army a ‘chief ordnance officer,’ with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel; to each army corps, an ordnance officer with the rank of Major; to each division a Captain, and to each brigade a First Lieutenant: all these attached to the staff of their respective Generals, but reporting also, directly if necessary, to the ordnance officer, through his superior, in the field, and receiving instructions as to special duties through the same channel. Every regiment had an ordnance Sergeant, charged with the care of the ordnance wagon, which contained the spare arms and the ammunition of each regiment. [91]

The officers in command of the greater ordnance establishments— such as Richmond and Augusta, &c.—had the grade of Lieutenant-Colonel, like the ‘chief ordnance officers’ of armies in the field, while at the lesser establishments the officers had rank according to the gravity of the duties devolving on them.

The Superintendent of Armories, Lieutenant-Colonel Burton, and the Superintendent of Laboratories, Lieutenant Colonel Mallet, had also the grade of the higher officers on duty in the field.

The labors and responsibilities of my department closed practically at Charlotte, North Carolina, on the 26th of April, when the President left that place with an escort for the trans-Mississippi. My last stated official duty, that I can recall, was to examine a cadet in the Confederate service for promotion to commissioned officer. On the afternoon of the 25th of April I received due formal notice from the Adjutant-General's office that General Lawton, Quarter master General, General Gilmer, Chief Engineer, and I were constituted a Board of Examiners on Cadet——. We met a little before sundown, in the ample upper story of a warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, and by the waning light of the last day of the Confederate Government, we went through all the stages of an examination of an expectant Lieutenant of the Confederate armies. Lawton, I think, took him on geography and history, Gilmer on the mathematics, while I probably tested his English grammar. He passed the ordeal in triumph and got his commission, which I dare say he prizes very highly, as he ought to do, considering the august body that signed the certificate which pronounced him qualified for it. Altogether there is no little incident in my Confederate career that I have mused over oftener than that twilight examination of the last Confederate cadet.

Detached observations.

Consumption of small-arm cartridges.

It appears that the Richmond laboratory made 72,000,000 cartridges in three and a-half years, say one thousand working days. As this laboratory made nearly as much as all the others combined, we may safely place the entire production at 150,000,000, or 150,000 per day. As our reserves remained nearly the same, being but slightly increased toward the latter part of the war, there must have been only a little less than this consumption in the field, say half a cartridge per man per day for the average force of 300,000 men, to cover all the accidents and expenditures of service in the field. An average, then, [92] of half a cartridge per day per man would be a safe assumption for protracted warfare.

In examining the returns of ordnance officers after heavy actions, I found that the reduction of ammunition amounted to from about nineteen to twenty-six rounds per man. At Gettysburg the reports of a few days before the battle and a short time after showed a difference of twenty-five or twenty-six rounds on the average. This was the heaviest consumption to which my attention was called. When our troops first took the field commanders were very nervous because they had only fifty to seventy rounds per man instead of the two hundred rounds prescribed by the ordnance manual. Later we raised it to about eighty or ninety rounds. The results of battles show that with proper dispositions for transfer from one corps to another there need be no scarcity with sixty rounds on hand, or even fifty.

Our soldiers were, however, in the habit of supplying themselves with ammunition by throwing away their empty cartridge-boxes and taking any well-supplied one that they might espy with the proper cartridges. What splendid fellows they were, taking even better care of their powder and lead than of themselves or of their rations. They were in downright earnest.

Consumption and supply of lead.

Allowing for waste, 1500,000,000 of cartridges would require 10,000,000 pounds of lead for these alone, to say nothing of other needs. Where did all this lead come from? I make the following rough calculation:

From trans-Mississippi mines (early in the war)400,000
From the mines in Virginia (60,000 lbs. per month)2,160,000
On hand at arsenals, &c.140,000
Imported (not over)2,000,000
Picked up through the country and on battle-fields5,300,000

This leads to the surprising conclusion that we must have picked up throughout the country over 5,300,000 pounds of lead during the four years of the war. I remember that the window-weights and loose lead about houses yielded 200,000 pounds in Charleston alone; while the disused lead water-pipes in Mobile supplied, if I am not mistaken, as much more. So that these two items alone supplied one-thirteenth of this vast gleaning of the country.


Transfer of arms to the South.

It was a charge often repeated against Governor Floyd that, as Secretary of War, he had with traitorous intent abused his office by sending arms to the South just before the secession of the States. The transactions which gave rise to this accusation were in the ordinary course of an economical administration of the War Department. After it had been determined to change the old flint-lock musket, which the United States possessed, to percussion, it was deemed cheaper to bring all the flint-lock arms in store at Southern arsenals to the Northern arsenals and armories for alteration, rather than to send the necessary machinery and workmen to the South. Consequently the Southern arsenals were stripped of their deposits, which were sent to Springfield, Watervelet, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Frankfort, Pa., and other points. After the conversion had been completed the denuded Southern arsenals were again supplied with about the same numbers, perhaps slightly augmented, that had formerly been stored there. The quota deposited at the Charleston arsenal, where I was stationed in 1860, arrived there full a year before the opening of the war.

The Napoleon field-gun.

I think I will be sustained by the artillery in saying that on the whole, this gun became the favorite for field service: perhaps because our rifle-shells with percussion fuzes, were, as stated by General Alexander less successful than those of the enemy. When copper became scarce, we fabricated an iron Napoleon with a wrought iron jacket, weighing in all 1,250 pounds, which was entirely satisfactory; and was cheerfully accorded by the artillery companionship with their bronze favorites. The simplicity and certainty of the ammunition of this smooth-bore, its capacity for grape and canister, its good range, and its moderate draught, as it was not too heavy for four horses, were certainly strong reasons in its favor. At the distance at which the serious work of the artillery was done, it was an over-match for rifled artillery.

Heavy guns.

It was of course a matter of keen regret to me that we could not rapidly produce guns of heavy calibre for points, the defence of which against men of-war, was of vital importance. But the ten-inch Col umbiad could only be cast at the Tredegar Works, and although this establishment was in able hands and responded nobly to the calls made [94] upon it, yet tasked as it was to produce artillery of all calibres; especially field-artillery, we could but slowly answer the appeals made with equal vehemence from Pensacola, Yorktown, Charleston and New Orleans.

About the close of 1863, Major Huse sent in two Blakely rifles of about thirteen-inch calibre, splendid looking, superbly mounted, and of fearful cost! 10,000 for the two in England, with fifty rounds each. Charleston claimed them on their arrival at Wilmington, and I was glad to strengthen General Beauregard's hands. Unfortunately one of them cracked in some trial firing, with comparatively weak charges. The full charge which was never reached, was fifty pounds of powder, and a solid rifle-shell, of say 450 pounds. These guns were built up of a wrought iron cylinder, closed at the breach with a brass-screw plug, some thirty-inch long and chambered to seven inches. This cylinder had three successive jackets, each shorter than its predecessor, so that from muzzle to breech the thickness of the gun increased by steps of about three and a-half inches. The object of the seven-inch chamber in the brass plug was to afford an air or gas space which would diminish the strain on the gun. Such was the theory. General Ripley, however, cut down the big cartridge bags of ten or eleven inch in diameter, so as to introduce the charge into the brass chamber. This not being over three inches thick, cracked, and the crack, I believe, extended into the cylinder. On a report of the facts direct from Charleston to Captain Blakeley, he attributed the bursting to the high elevation given, though the highest, I think had been only about 150; an impotent conclusion for a scientific artillerist to reach. The fact of the introduction of the charge into the air space may have been omitted in the narrative to him, and thus he may have been drawn into this helpless conclusion. I never saw the drawings of the gun until after the report of the accident. Captain Brooke, Chief of Ordnance of the Navy, with me then looked over the drawings and evolved the design of the air-chamber. After this the gun was fired, and with moderate elevations attained fair, but not remarkable ranges, as I was advised. The cracked gun was skillfully repaired at Charleston, and restored to a reliable condition.

Just before the war closed the Tredegar Works had cast its first twelve-inch gun, after the method of Rodman—cast on a hollow core with water kept flowing in and out of it to cool the castings from the inside. This method of cooling has been found to give a marked increase of strength, and greater hardness and consequent smoothness to the finished bore.

1 See note on transfer of arms to the South.

2 The saving of this machinery from the flames, was due to the heroic conduct of the operatives themselves, headed by Mr. Ball, the master armorer, who clung to his machinery, and by the greatest efforts, continued often under fire, saved almost the entire ‘plant.’ The names of Mr. Copeland and Major W. S. Downer are also mentioned in this connection. The older brother, Frederick, was a most competent mechanic, and a man of decided administrative ability. He was almost the only one who succeeded in producing a good service arm. He was finally killed in the trenches at Savannah, fighting with a command composed of his own operatives.

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