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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.

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Mallet (6)
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