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North Carolina troops. [Raleigh correspondence Charlotte observer, Oct., 1901.]

How they were armed during the War between the States.

In a previous article, the extracts from Governor Ellis's letter books were given. Governor Ellis kept an ‘ordnance book,’ in which his correspondence, directions, etc., in regard to arms and munitions of war are to be found. Many persons have asked how [145] this State armed its troops in 1861. It has been shown that 30,000 rifles and three full batteries of cannon, besides thirty other cannon, were seized at the Fayetteville arsenal, and that 11,000 of the rifles were given to the State of Virginia, the others being used by the North Carolina troops. The ordnance book shows how the other supplies with which to start the war, the powder, the bullets, etc., were obtained.

The first entry in the ordnance book is the list of stores, amounting to $242,000, recommended by C. C. Tew and D. H. Hill to be purchased, the recommendation being dated January 12, 1861. This has already been published, as also the order dated January 19th to Lieutenant C. C. Lee to go North and look after the purchase of ordnance stores. Lieutenant Lee left that day. He went first to Richmond, where J. R. Anderson, of the Tredegar Iron Works, offered to furnish the State with any cannon it needed, iron or brass, at United States Government prices; including 8 and 10-inch Columbiads (cannon of large bore) and field pieces. Crenshaw & Co., of Richmond, offered to furnish 70,000 pounds of pig lead, to be delivered at Norfolk. (It will be recalled that Governor Ellis directed that all proposals be sent to him, and that deliveries must be at Norfolk or Wilmington. He took this precaution to avoid the risk of seizure.) Mitchell & Tyler, of Richmond, offered to furnish percussion caps, also imported cavalry sabres and webbing for belts. S. S. Cottrell & Co., of Richmond, proposed to furnish cartridge-boxes and bayonet-scabbards, belt-plates and belts, etc. Anderson & Co. submitted another proposal to furnish 300,000 pounds of lead.

Lieutenant Lee went to Baltimore, where Merrill, Thomas & Co. submitted proposals to furnish Merrill's breech-loading carbines at $25 each, Merrill's rifles at $30, and cartridges for the same at $16 per 1,000, also cartridge-boxes, waist-belts, scabbards, etc.; and offered to alter flint and steel muskets, making them percussian $3 each, and ‘side-percussioning’ $3.50 each.

At Wilmington, Del., E. I. Dupont, De Nemours & Co. offered to furnish any quantity of cannon and musket powder, and deliver it at Norfolk.

At Philadelphia, Horstman, Brothers & Co. offered to furnish cavalry sabres at $5, cartridge-boxes, bayonet-scabbards, etc. Megargee Brothers agreed to furnish cannon and musket cartridge paper. The Goodyear Rubber Company offered to furnish ‘knapsack tent,’ 44 inches high, 84x88 inches, at $20, which Lee said [146] was not the kind intended by the military board. Edgar K. Tryon & Co. offered to alter to percussion the whole quantity of rifles and muskets which the State had, at $2 each, this including cleaning and resighting.

Governor Ellis, under date of January 29th, wrote to Tryon & Co.: ‘Do you propose to do the work of altering in North Carolina? I am not willing to send our guns out of the State at the present juncture.’ In reply, Tryon & Co. said they could only do the work to advantage in Philadelphia, but that the Governor need send only 2,000, 3,000, or 5,000 guns at a time, and when these were finished and forwarded more could be sent to Philadelphia.

George W. Grice, of Portsmouth, Va., offered to alter the flint-and-steel muskets to percussion for $1.45.

The Merchants' Shot-Tower Company, of Baltimore, offered to furnish soft pig lead at $5.75 per 100 pounds.

A. Hitchcock, ‘late master armorer at the United States arsenal at Watervleit, N. Y.,’ made an estimate for gun-carriages and equipments for batteries, also infantry equipments, pistols, lead, caps, camp-kettles, 500,000 minie balls, 6,000 altered muskets, etc., the whole amounting to $125,000. Hitchcock also made proposals for doing the work of altering the State's muskets at Newbern and to make bullets and cartridges near there; shipments of articles above referred to be made from New York to Norfolk, Newbern or Wilmington. Lieutenant Lee made an adverse endorsement on Hitchcock's proposal, saying the latter had not signed it, was a drinking man, and his bids were generally too high.

Thomas McKnight, of New York, under date of February 1st, offered to furnish the State with arms, saying he and his associates had furnished them to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. He offered Colt's revolvers at from $18 to $25; minie muskets, to use either cap or Maynard primer, for $13; United States rifles, with sword bayonets, $21; Sharp's breech-loading rifles, $40, and carbines, $30.

February 2d, Governor Ellis ordered 50,000 pounds of lead from McKnight, of New York, at 5 1/2, to be delivered at Wilmington, N. C. He said: ‘I wish to avoid the risk of seizure and therefore make the delivery at Wilmington one of the conditions of the contract. Direct to Brown, DeRosset & Co., Wilmington.’

Dancy, Hyman & Co., of New York, wrote the Governor that they would buy lead and powder, rifles, tents, knapsacks, etc.; that they were filling an order for Rocky Mount for thirty Mississippi [147] rifles, at $19 each, and could get a few more. They said:

There will be no trouble about getting the articles shipped from here so long as matters stand as they are. We will attend to and take the responsibility. Some of the Black Republican papers admit the illegality of the seizure of arms by Superintendent of Police Kennedy on board the southern steamers and call on the Legislature to legalize it for his protection.

W. B. Hartley, of New York, offered to furnish 600 calibre 44 carbines, 5-shot, 18-inch barrel, at $32.50, 600 navy pistols at $18, 250 army repeating rifles, 31-inch barrel, 5-shot, at $46, also cartridges, sabres, belts, etc.

Eli Whitney, of the Whitneyville Armory, near New Haven, Conneticut, offered to furnish revolvers, and sent the Governor a sample rifled musket, saying he had sold 200 to Virginia the previous week. He said: ‘I can furnish arms up to the time the State secedes. After that I could not send arms with safety to such State. I can furnish 500 Mississippi rifles, model 1824, now; I can furnish you 400 browned muskets.’ Lee endorsed: ‘Mr. Whitney is perfectly reliable, but you see he can do nothing after the State secedes.’

Emerson Saylord, of Chicopee, Mass., offered to furnish cartridge-boxes, etc. Lee endorsed: ‘He is not willing to deliver at Norfolk, and is rather dubious in making any contract at all in the face of the decision of the district judge of New York, and the refusal of the Republican members of Congress to accede to the Crittenden compromise. In Troy, N. Y., and vicinity, I find the same difficulty, and am of the opinion that our contracts, or most of them, will have to be filled South.’ The Ames Manufacturing Company, of Chicopee, declined to make any contract, but gave list of prices. Lee said: ‘Mr. Ames says he does not desire to be understood as not wishing to do your work, but that he feels that it would be next to impossible to get them away from here, and under the present state of affairs, he would not like to be thought to be seeking such a contract, still, should circumstances change, he would like to do the work.’

J. R. Anderson, of Richmond, came to Raleigh to see the Governor, and February 2d signed a contract to deliver at United States Government prices four 6-pounder brass guns, four 12-pounder, and four 24-pounder iron howitzers, with carriages and—; also, two 10-inch and two 8-inch Columbiads, with carriages; also, to furnish harness and shot and shell, including 4,000 12-pounder shells.

Lieutenant Lee sent to the Governor plans for two powder magazines, [148] to be built at once, these to be of brick 36x12x7 feet, and to cost $1,254.

The Governor wrote to Merrill, Thomas & Co., of Baltimore, asking if they would take North Carolina bonds in payment for arms; that he had been so informed, and if true he would send them an order at once.

The Governor made requisition on the United States War Department, January 26th, for 334 long-range rifles with sword bayonets. Under date of February 4th, he was advised by Colonel H. K. Craig, of the ordnance office at Washington that these had been ordered shipped. This drew out to the last cent the State's quota of arms allowed by the United States.

February 6th, the Governor ordered 200 barrels of cannon powder at 18 cents per pound, and 50 kegs musket powder at the same, to be shipped to him, care McPheeters & Ghiselin, Norfolk. He wrote July 7th, to Merrill, Thomas & Co., Baltimore, to ship him 500 Merrill rifles, 100,000 percussion caps and 100,000 rifle, 500 each cartridge boxes, belts, etc., cartridges directed to Raleigh, via Norfolk. On the same day he wrote W. B. Hitrtley, secretary of the Colt Arms Company, New York, to send him 500 Colt's navy pistols at $18, to be shipped to Brown, DeRosset & Co., Wilmington, or McPheeters & Ghiselin, Norfolk; the order to be filled before March 1st. Hartlet wrote July 11th, that the pistols would be shipped on the 14th. The Governor wrote him: In order to prevent seizure it would be wise to pack in casks and not put any name upon them. Advise the house to which you ship. In case of seizure, advise me at once, as I am resolved to retaliate.

February 11th, Merrill, Thomas & Co., wrote that they could not ship the 500 rifles in time, owing to large previous orders from Virginia, to be paid for in cash. The firm did not care to take North Carolina bonds. The Governor in reply suspended the order ‘for the present.’ He wrote to Watson & Meares, New York: ‘I would be glad to have your aid in the purchase of arms in and near New York; 500 long range rifles made by Eli Whitney, near New Haven; also 300 cavalry sabres. If Colonel Meares has time, I would be glad if he would give his personal attention to the matter, as he has acquaintance with such things.’

J. E. Thomas, keeper of the ‘public arms’ at New Berne, made an inventory July 5th, aided by Colonel John D. Whitford, and found 1,648 muskets in order, 42 of which had never been packed; also 157 horse pistols and 120 sabres; also large quantities [149] of infantry and cavalry equipments, also, a cannon. He said that under the Governor's directions he had placed the arms under the protection of the New Berne Light Infantry.

February 14th, the Governor wrote Lieutenant Lee that he did not like to make a contract with Smith & Hitchcock for the reasons named in Lee's endorsement on their proposals. He asked Lee to make out an order for fuses and friction primers for cannon, and said if he could not do better, he would order from Hitchcock.

The next day the Governor wrote Dr. E. C. Evans, at New York: ‘The military commission has not yet been called together, and I have not yet fixed a day for their meeting. Our railroad shops, being scarce of work, the superintendents have proposed to alter our muskets cheaper than it can be done elsewhere. As this is more convenient, I have concluded to give them a trial, and if they do not give satisfaction, I will have the work done elsewhere. From the specimens I have seen, however, I have no doubt they can do the work well. I do not wish to contract for any more gun carriages at present.’

The Governor, on the 15th of July, ordered Anderson & Co., of Richmond, to make the caissons for two batteries. He inquired: ‘When can you have the Columbiads ready? I wish to get them as soon as possible. Can you get me fuses for the shells?’

In a letter of the 16th, to Watson & Meares, New York, the Governor said: ‘One of the firm of Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, New York, called on me to-day and proposed to furnish long-range muskets, sabres, etc. You may purchase from them 500 or 600 long-range muskets, calibre 58, at $14 each, if you think them equal to Whitney's. The muskets are to be rifled and sighted for 1,000 yards. You can also purchase frown this firm or others 300 sabres for cavalry on best terms. They agree to take the risk of their delivery at Wilmington or Norfolk. They are to be paid for on delivery at one of those points. McKnight agreed to send me 150,000 pounds of lead, and now writes me he has bought it, but that the inspector will not ship until paid for. I will not take it on those terms. I do not know the importer in the transaction. If he does not intend to ship, buy 150,000 pounds of lead and ship to Wilmington. Sabres and guns I need as soon as they can be had. See David Smith about percussion caps ordered from him.’

The Governor on the same day wrote David Smith to send the cartridges as soon as he could—100,000 buck and ball, such as are [150] used by the United States; also, 500,000 percussion caps, price and quality subject to Colonel Meare's approval.

July 23, the Governor wrote Watson & Meares: ‘Your favor of the 20th received, advising me of the purchase of 280 muskets from Schuyler, Hartley & Graham. I wish you to buy from them 360 long Enfield rifles, with sabre bayonets, at $21. They can furnish 200 more Enfields in thirty days. You can contract for these.’ On the 25th, Watson & Meares were sent a check for $9,093 to pay for 150,243 pounds of soft English lead, and the Governor said: ‘Use your best discretion as to guns. Don't give more than forty days for procuring them. The amount I wish to purchase is not arge.’

An order—March 13th—to DeRossett, Brown & Co., Wilmington, directed them to deliver to Captain DeRossett, of the Wilmington Light Infantry, forty short Enfields.

March 14th, a check for $4,035 was sent Dupont & Co. for 200 barrels cannon powder and fifty kegs musket powder; also, a check for $2,239 to David Smith, of New York, for 100,000 buck and ball cartridges and 5,000,000 percussion caps; also, check for $4,770 to Schuyler, Hartley & Graham for 300 sabres and ninety-seven short Enfield rifles; also, check for $8,545 to the Colt Arms Company, New York, for 500 navy revolvers, 7 1/2-inch barrel, which were shipped on the steamer North Carolina.

A letter from Watson & Meares, March 18th, said they could get 600 more rifles from Schuyler, Hartley & Graham; that the Governor had ordered 200 more from that firm, and that the 800 would arm a regiment; that they could buy 320 Mississippi rifles.

DeRossett, Brown & Co., were directed April 4th to deliver to Captain Robert H. Cowan, Wilmington Horse Artillery, two revolvers and thirty-two sabres, and to M. M. Hawkins, Captain Cape Fear Riflemen, fifty-seven rifles; to C. J. Iredell twelve sabres and seventy-five revolvers.

Under date of April 23d, Anderson & Co., of Richmond, acknowledged receipt of $6,295 for 6-pounder gun carriages, four Columbiads, etc.

The next letter is dated May 6th, and is from the Governor to Brigadier-General T. H. Holmes, Fort Caswell: ‘My confidential aide, Mr. Winslow, will hand you this letter. He will report to me [151] any suggestions you have to make regarding the public defence. I recommend him to the attention of yourself and the commandant of Fort Macon.’

The same day a letter was written Marshall Parks at Norfolk, saying Winslow would call on him and give a verbal reply to a letter which Parks had written the Governor. The last entry in this interesting book is to Governor Letcher, of Virginia, and says: ‘This will be handed you by my confidential aide, Hon. W. Winslow, who will have communication with you upon public matters of interest to our respective governments. He is charged, also, with a request to you to supply us with such cannon as you may have to spare and may be desirable to us.’

note.—It will be seen that the State had up to April 23d 30,000 rifles (Springfields, calibre 58, mainly), seized in the Fayetteville arsenal; there were 2,000 in the hands of the militia, 1,648 in the depository at New Berne; 360 were drawn from the United States; three light batteries taken with the Fayetteville arsenal; 280 rifles, 500 revolvers, 150,000 pounds of lead, 300 sabres, 100,000 rifle cartridges, and 5,000,000 percussion caps, all bought in New York; 4 Columbiads from Richmond, and 20,000 pounds cannon powder and 2,500 pounds musket powder, brought from Dupont & Co., Wilmington, Del. The governor also secured a lot of cannon seized at the Norfolk navy-yard.

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