Work of the Ordnance Bureau of the war Department of the Confederate States, 1861-5.
By J. W. Mallet, ex-Lieut. Col. of Artillery and Superintendent of Confederate States Ordnance Laboratories.
President Jefferson Davis
bluntly stated the truth when he wrote that ‘it soon became evident to all that the South
had gone to war without counting the cost.
Our chief difficulty was the want of arms and munitions of war.’
In the interval between the election and the inauguration of President Lincoln
, when one Southern State after another was withdrawing from the Union
, men's minds were full of rapidly passing political events, and much doubt was felt as to whether there would be a war; certainly but few looked forward to war on so great a scale, or to be waged for so many years, as actually took place.
As soon as it became clear to the authorities of the newly established Confederate States
' government that an armed conflict was inevitable, they must have been alarmed at the terrible lack of material preparation for it at the South
In the arsenals of the United States
within Confederate limits there were 120,000 muskets (for the most part altered from flint-lock to percussion), besides some 12,000 or 15,000 rifles, and with some arms belonging to the individual States, it may be set down that about 150,000 serviceable fire-arms for infantry were available.
There were a considerable number of heavy sea-coast guns at the fortified sea ports, and others were seized on board men-of-war at Norfolk
and among the stores of the Norfolk
But there was no serviceable field artillery except a few old iron guns of 1812 and a few more modern pieces belonging
to the States.
There was scarcely any gun powder save 60,000 pounds, mainly old cannon powder, at Norfolk
And there were practically no arms for cavalry, no fixed ammunition nor percussion caps
, no accoutrements—cartridge boxes, knapsacks, haversacks, etc.—no saddles and bridles, no artillery harness, no adequate stores of shoes, nor of horse-shoes
, nor provision of the many minor articles of equipment required by an army in the field.
Of special machinery for ordinance use there was none save that for the manufacture of small arms at Harper's Ferry
This was saved, though somewhat damaged by fire, when the armory was abandoned by the U. S. officers in charge; this machinery was removed to Richmond, Va.
, and Fayetteville, N. C.
, where it was set up and operated.
At first, all arms and ordinance supplies of the United States
were claimed by the several seceding States, in which they were found, and no little delay was caused by the necessity for negotiating their transfer to the custody of the Confederacy
The first steps towards provision for ordnance needs were taken by the Confederate government while it was still at Montgomery
, Ala. Col.
) Josiah Gorgas
, who had been an ordnance officer in the U. S. army, was commissioned as Chief
of the Ordnance Bureau, and near the end of February, 1861, Capt.
) Raphael Semmes
was sent to New York and Maj. (afterwards Lieut.-Col.
) Caleb Huse
with instructions to buy arms, gun powder and munitions.
For a few weeks the supplies bought by Capt. Semmes
came South through the as yet unbroken channels of commerce, but naturally this very soon ceased, before any important results had been attained.
found no very large supplies upon the European
market, and for the most part, had to make contract for future delivery; but by December, 1861, he had sent over many thousand stand of modern rifled muskets, which, with other supplies, were got safely through the Federal
blockade, and thereafter he remained at his post up to the close of the war, his shipments being of incalculable value all through 1862, ‘63 and ‘64.
Originally furnished with a credit of £ 10,000 only, he very soon made contracts to the extent of nearly fifty times that sum.
The seat of the Confederate government having been moved to Richmond
, Col. Gorgas
was, in the spring of 1861, busily engaged in organizing his work and arranging for the ordnance demands of the large forces which were being rapidly mustered into service.
He had to look to three sources of supply: arms, etc., already on hand, importation from abroad and manufacture within the bounds of the Confederacy
The arms already on hand came forward chiefly in the hands of the men who first volunteered and were equipped as far as possible by the States from which the regiment came.
In response to a call for private arms, a good many thousand shot guns and old sporting rifles were turned in, and served to some extent to satisfy the impatience of men eager to take the field until better provision could be made for them, or they provided for themselves on some of the battle fields of the early part of the war.
The importation of arms and ordnance supplies of all kinds from Europe
through the blockade soon assumed great importance.
Maj. T. L. Bayne
was put in special charge at Richmond
of this branch of the service, agencies were established at Bermuda
to manage it, and gradually the purchase was made of a number of steamers specially suited to blockade running, the R. E. Lee
, Lady Davis
, Eugenia, Stag, etc., which brought, chiefly to Wilmington
, stores for which there was the most urgent need, and took out cargoes of cotton in payment, which were almost as eagerly desired in Europe
Most of the mercury used in the early part of the war for making the fulminating mercury of percussion caps
was obtained from Mexico
, and after the ‘Trans-Mississippi
’ region had become isolated from the rest of the Confederacy
and had in the main to look out for its own supplies, much material of various kinds was obtained from Mexican
sources across the Rio Grande
, though the long distances to be covered without railroads seriously limited this traffic.
Until a short time before the fall of Fort Fisher
, (in January, 1865) which, under the gallant Col. Wm. Lamb
, defended Wilmington
, blockade running continued to be of untold importance.
In arranging for the manufacture of arms and munitions at home, there were set on foot establishments of two different
kinds—those which are intended to be permanent, built and equipped for their special purpose and intended to concentrate work on a large scale—and those of a more temporary character, capable of yielding results in the shortest time, and intended to meet the immediate demands of the war with such resources as the country then afforded.
The first of the permanent works undertaken was a first class powder mill, the erection and equipment of which were placed in charge of Col. G. W. Rains
, of North Carolina
, who had been an officer of the U. S. regular army, and was a most accomplished and energetic man. The site selected was a large piece of land on the line of the canal at Augusta, Ga.
, where work was begun in September, 1861.
All of the massive machinery was constructed in the Confederate States
, the largest parts, the heavy incorporating rollers and pans, being made at the Tredegar Works at Richmond
Powder began to be produced in April, 1862, and the works continued in successful operation up to the end of the war, furnishing all the gunpowder needed, and of the very best quality.
The statement may seem startling in view of the difficulties under which this establishment was built up, but it is no exageration to say that it was amongst the finest and most efficient powder mills in the world at the time, if not the very best in existence.
The erection of a central ordnance laboratory for the production of artillery and small arms ammunition and the innumerable minor articles of ordnance equipment was decided upon in September, 1862, and placed in my charge, and work was begun a few weeks later.
A tract of about 145 acres was purchased near Macon, Ga.
, and enclosed, a branch track was run out from the Macon and Western R. R., and the erection bf buildings begun.
The line of the three main buildings, connected with each other, had a frontage of about 1200 feet, the middle building being about 600 feet long.
The design which I prepared for the establishment, and which was approved by Col. Gorgas
, included about 40 other detached buildings.
The main buildings were practically complete at the close of the war, and some of the smaller ones has been begun.
All of the brick was made at a yard which I opened at another point near Macon
Orders were sent to England
for a large and various assortment
of special machinery for making percussion caps
, friction primers, pressed bullets, etc., etc., and for several large steam engines
to furnish motive power.
A large instalment of this machinery, including the largest pair of engines, had reached Bermuda
when blockade running practically came to an end, near the close of the war. The third permanent establishment projected was a large central armory, which was to be equipped with a thoroughly modern plant of machinery for making small arms, and to which would have been removed the machinery temporarily in operation at Richmond
This was put in charge of Lieut.-Col. J. H. Burton
, who had had experience at the government factory at Enfield, in England
It was determined to place this armory also at Macon Ga.
, where one of the temporary arsenals had already been established.
The buildings were begun in 1863, and they were pushed forward, but they were not nearly as far advanced as those of the laboratory when arrested by the end of the war. Col. Burton
went abroad to contract for the necessary machinery, chiefly with the firm of Greenwood
& Batley, at Leeds, England
, and a good deal of work had been done towards filling the large contracts.
The work of preparing ordnance supplies for the immediate demands of the armies in the field had to be scattered at a number of different places throughout the South
The railroads were not very amply equipped at the outbreak of the war, and were grievously over-burdened in operation, so that it would have been impossible to transport material to any single point from great distances or to secure like transportation over long lines for finished products.
It was, moreover, uncertain how far any particular place could be counted upon as secure from molestation by the enemy.
And there was not time for the removal of machinery and appliances from the places at which they were to be found.
Hence the various temporary ordnance works grew up about existing foundries, machine shops, railroad repair shops, etc., and at the few small U. S. arsenals and ordnance depots.
The chief of these in the early part of the war were at Richmond, Va.
, Fayetteville, N. C.
, Charleston, S. C.
and Macon, Ga.
, Mount Vernon
and Montgomery, Ala.
, New Orleans
and Baton Rouge, La.
, Little Rock, Ark.
, and San Antonio, Tex.
The events of the war before long compelled the abandonment of some of these, New Orleans and Nashville
being the most important, and from time to time others were added to the list, as, for instance, Columbia, S. C.
and Columbus, Ga.
, Selma, Ala.
, and Jackson
Of these latter places Atlanta and Selma became most important.
At these various places different lines of work were specially pushed as local facilities made feasible.
Heavy artillery was at first turned out only at Richmond
, though later it was produced handsomely at Selma
, first in conjunction with the navy ordnance officers and afterwards by them alone.
Field artillery was made and repaired chiefly at Richmond
, small arms at Richmond
, and caps and friction primers at Richmond
, accoutrements quite largely at Macon
, while bullets (cast) and small arms cartridges were prepared almost everywhere.
In like manner the products of the different arsenals and work shops naturally went in large measure to supply such armies and forts as were nearest, though demand from a distance often had to be met. Thus the Army of Northern Virginia was mainly supplied from Richmond
, as was also Wilmington
; the army of Tennessee drew chiefly upon Atlanta
, on which places also Charleston
, to a large extent, counted; while all the armies and fortified sea ports looked to Augusta
It should be added that large supplies of such articles as saddlery, harness, accoutrements, etc., were obtained by contract with private persons widely scattered over the country.
The Tredegar Works at Richmond
, under the able management of Gen. Jos. R. Anderson
, were of overshadowing importance.
In 1861, the Southern States
were almost wholly occupied with agricultural pursuits, and their resources immediately available in the way of manufacturing establishments were poor indeed.
There were two small private powder mills in Tennessee
, two in South Carolina
, one in North Carolina
, and a little stamping mill in New Orleans.
There were but two first class foundries and machine shops—the Tredegar Works at Richmond
and the Leeds Foundry
at New Orleans; the loss of the latter was one of the sorest consequences of the fall of that city.
There were several fairly respectable machine shops of the second class.
There were woolen mills in Virginia
, notably the Crenshaw Mills
, and several cotton mills, turning out coarse cloth, which, however, proved of enormous value, two of the largest being at Augusta
There were twenty paper mills, for the most part small, of which eight were in North Carolina
and five in South Carolina
There were small iron furnaces and forges in Virginia
, North Carolina
But the production of iron by these were very meagre.
There had been recently established at Ducktown, Tenn.
, the smelting and rolling of copper, though upon no great scale, and some lead was being produced from the ore of Wytheville, Va.
There were, of course, numerous carpenters' and blacksmiths' shops, and there were a very moderate number of tanneries.
Coal was mined chiefly in Virginia
, the Cumberland
field of Tennessee
, and in Alabama
, and as yet upon no great scale.
Skilled mechanics were scarce, and of those in the country a good many had come from Northern States and returned thither when actual hostilities began.
As the war went on the newly organized arsenals and ordnance shops, in addition to their task of producing new munitions of war, had to do an immense amount of work in repairing arms sent in from the field and utilizing material captured or gleaned from the battle fields.
Arangements were made with the field ordnance officers for the collection of such material, and very large lots of lead, shot and shell, infantry and artillery ammunition, etc., were thus secured.
The small arms from the fields of the Seven Days battles below Richmond
and the second battle of Manassas
, and from the capture of Harper's Ferry
by Genl. Jackson
, were, in 1862, of immense value.
In the scramble of the early part of the war to obtain at once arms of some
kind, both at home and abroad, a most heterogeneous collection was gathered.
There were in the hands of the troops Springfield
and Maynard rifles, Hall
's and Sharp
's carbines, and arms of English, German, Austrian
and Belgian manufacture, of many different
I had at one time samples of more than twenty patterns of infantry weapons alone.
Much the same state of things existed as to artillery, both seacoast and field guns.
As an illustration I may mention that when I joined Genl. R. E. Rodes
' brigade for field service, the battery of Capt.
) Thos. H. Carter
, which was attached to the brigade, had a scratch lot of guns consisting of two smooth-bore six-pounders, one twelve-pounder howitzer, these all of bronze, and one three-inch iron rifle.
As a natural consequence there was serious trouble at the arsenals and in the field, from confusion in regard to ammunition—trouble which was made worse by the gauges in use in the ordnance shops, which were not very accurate and often did not agree among themselves.
This fact primarily led to my becoming connected with the ordnance corps.
I was in the summer of 1862 serving most pleasantly as aide-de-camp on the staff of General Rodes
, whom I had known well before the war. Another friend of his was Colonel Briscoe Baldwin
, chief ordnance officer on the staff of General Lee
, and who had been for a while in charge of Richmond
visited our camp below Richmond
at the time of the battle of Seven Pines
, talked with me about the state of the ordnance service, and asked me to go with him to the office in Richmond
of Colonel Gorgas
, who had expressed a wish to see me. The result of several interviews with him was that I was, though with a good deal of reluctance, transferred to the ordnance corps with a commission as Captain
of Artillery, and ordered to at once endeavor to bring order out of the confusion that had been referred to. In August and September, I made a visit to all the principal ordnance establishments, conferred with the chief field ordnance officers, and drew up a report, with recommendations for rules to be observed, which was submitted to Col. Gorgas
, approved by him, and ordered to be printed and distributed.
Orders were sent to Europe
for a number of accurately tested steel guages.
Under orders from Col. Gorgas
I prepared the plans and preliminary drawings for the Central Ordnance Laboratory
which has been already mentioned.
My instructions were then to make my headquarters at Macon
, reporting directly to the Chief
Ordnance at Richmond
, to set about the construction of the central laboratory, and with an assistant officer and a military store-keeper to supervise the erection of the buildings and prepare the specifications for the machinery, but also to personally visit at frequent intervals all the important arsenals, the headquarters of the principal armies in the field and the chief fortified seaports, in order to harmonize and improve the work being done, and by reports to the Chief of Ordnance
to keep him informed of the relations of the different parts of the work.
My original orders required that these visits should be made once a month to each point, but it was quite impossible to literally accomplish this, and I was often directed specifically to go to this or that point where some particular trouble had arisen.
Thus I was several times ordered to go to Charleston
during the height of the siege in 1863 to look into complaints as to the burning of time fuses and injury from dampness to ammunition in the bomb-proof magazines of Fort Sumter
and on Morris
and Sullivan's Islands
Some of the most striking pictures of the war which my memory preserves are of scenes beheld during these visits, as for instance the suffocating interior of the sand-bag bomb-proofs of Battery Wagner on Morris Island
and the assault of this work on the 18th of July, 1863; the skirmishing in front of Rocky Face Ridge
of Genl. Johnston
's army in May, 1864, at the opening of the campaign from Dalton
; and the Army of Northern Virginia just after it had taken position in front of Petersburg
in July, 1864, after the memorable campaign of the wilderness, when I saw for the last time my well and affectionately remembered chief, General Rodes
, killed in the following September at Winchester
During the Civil War
of 1861, the armament and warlike munitions of the world were very different from and much simpler than those of the present day. Armour-clad vessels and torpedoes had been experimented with, gun-cotton and nitroglycerine were known, but not in practical use, rifled cannon were being rapidly improved and brought into service, but there were no ‘machine guns,’ and there was as yet very little use made of waterproof metallic cartridge cases for small-arms; the main reliance was on gun powder as the only explosive,
muzzle-loading artillery and hand rifles, paper cartridges and separate percussion caps
To produce on a large scale even such equipment as this involved in the Southern States
, shut out from free commerce with the rest of the world, most formidable difficulties arising from dearth of materials, machinery and skilled labor.
As regards the materials for making gun powder, search was made for nitre earth, and considerable quantities were obtained from caves in Tennessee
and North Alabama
, as also from old buildings, cellars, plantation quarters and tobacco barns.
Col. I. M. St. John
was, in 1862, given separate charge of this work, and developed it systematically on a large scale.
He also established artificial ‘nitre beds’ at Columbia
and Charleston, S. C.
and Savannah, Ga.
and Mobile, Ala.
, and elsewhere.
The end of the war had come before these beds had become ‘ripe’ enough to be leached, but it was estimated that by that time they already contained some three or four million pounds of salt-petre.
In fact, much the larger part of the nitre used at the Augusta
powder mill came in through the blockade.
Sulphur was early secured, as there were found at New Orleans several hundred tons intended for use in sugar making.
For the third ingredient of powder, namely charcoal, recourse was had chiefly to cottonwood (mainly populus heterophylla
) from the banks of the Savannah river
It was abundant, and gave an excellent product.
Lead was obtained from the ore of Wythe county, Va.
, from the gleanings of the battle fields, and quite largely from the collection throughout the country of window weights, lead pipe, cistern linings, etc. Small lead smelting works were set up at Petersburg, Va.
, and under the direction of Dr. Piggott
, formerly of Baltimore
, not only was the ore from Wythe county
and a few other points reduced, but even some progress was made in desilverization by the Pattinson process, several tons of enriched lead being set aside, which, however, before cupellation, had to be sent as bullets to the field under one of the sudden urgent demands for ammunition.
Much lead was also brought from abroad through the blockade.
A moderate amount of sheet copper was found at Cleveland, Tenn.
, produced from the Ducktown ore,
but later recourse was had for making percussion caps
and friction primers to the turpentine stills scattered through the pine forests of North
and South Carolina
Really important results were produced in 1862 and ‘63 in the development of the iron ores of the country, particularly in Alabama
, unconsciously laying the foundation for this great industry as it now exists.
The Nitre and Mining Bureau
under Col. St. John
, partly by its own officers and partly through contractors, opened mines, erected furnaces and rolling mills, and turned out large quantities of iron of superior quality.
But before this work had got well underway much care was taken in the collection of shot and shell, and of scrap iron
of all kinds.
During the bombardment of Charleston
, as a heavy Parrott
shell came down, the little street urchins were to be seen ready for a rush to claim it, or its fragments if it burst, in order to claim payment for the iron at the arsenal.
Much ingenuity was shown by a few skilled mechanics in constructing with but poor appliances special machinery for ordnance purposes, such as the rolling, punching and forming of percussion caps
, the drawing the tubes for friction primers, the ‘squirting’ of lead rods, and making pressed bullets, etc. Much labor was spent, but success never achieved, in drawing the copper cylinders for small-arms, cartridges.
Careful search for trained mechanics was made throughout the country and among the army in the field, and details for ordnance service were made on proper evidence of the value of such service, great pains being often necessary to prevent any mere evasion of military duty.
Some attempts were made to import mechanics from Europe
, but with practically no success.
Every effort was made to convert unskilled into skilled labor by the teaching of the few who were already themselves trained.
From time to time, under stress of necessity, some poor makeshift materials had to be substituted for better ones.
At one time, for instance, the supply of nitric acid for making fulminate for caps had been exhausted, and two or three million caps had to be issued which were charged with a mixture of potassium chlorate and sulphur.
These did fairly well if kept dry, but soon became untrustworthy in damp air, so that an
extra number was issued with each packet of cartridges until the use of fulminate could be resumed.
In view of the scarcity of leather, and almost absolute lack of india-rubber, extensive use was made of heavy cotton cloth, for some purposes in double or quadruple thicknesses heavily stitched together, treated with one or more coats of drying oil. Sheets of such cloth were issued to the men in the field for sleeping on damp ground, and belts, bridle reins and cartridge-boxes were made in whole or in part of the same material.
answered best for making this cloth, and much was imported through the blockade, but it was eked out to some extent by fish oil
, a fishery being established on the Cape Fear river
to procure it, while the fish were in part utilized for the food of operatives.
In spite of the difficulties to be overcome and the constantly urgent pressure for immediate production of results, the work of the Confederate
Ordnance Department was able to boast of some useful new experiments and some improvements.
One of the most notable of these was the method of steaming the mixed materials for gunpowder just before incorporation in the cylinder mills, which was invented and brought into use by Col. Rains
, and which very greatly increased the capacity of the mills for work, besides improving the quality of the powder.
As other examples may be mentioned the casting of shells with polygonal cavities, securing the bursting into a determinate number of pieces, ingenious devices for the ignition of time fuses for the shells of rifled guns, etc. As giving some idea of the scale on which the current work of the arsenal was done, the following statement may be quoted from a paper written by Genl. Gorgas
after the war. The principal issues from the Richmond
arsenal from July 1st, 1861 to January 1st, 1865, including work done by the Tredegar Company
and by outside contractors, were:
|341||Columbiads and siege guns.|
|1,306||Field pieces (including captured guns repaired).|
|6,852||Sets of artillery harness.|
|921,441||Rounds of field, siege and sea-coast ammunition.|
|323,231||Infantry arms (chiefly arms from battle fields repaired).|
|34,067 Cavalry arms (chiefly arms from battle fields repaired).|
|44,877 Swords and sabres (chiefly arms from battle fields repaired).|
|375,510 Sets of infantry and cavalry accoutrements.|
|328,977||Canteens and straps.|
|,115,087||Gun and carbine slings.|
Beside the immediate work of the Ordnance Bureau, it had to undertake a great number of most onerous outside tasks rendered necessary by the disorganized condition of society.
While indispensable help was obtained from the railroads, they had in turn to be helped, and largely, in making repairs to their rolling stock and tracks.
In fact, a silent partnership grew up, and materials and labor had to be used almost in common for a common end. It is easy to see how vitally necessary it was that the railroads should be kept going; but few people now seem to be aware how nearly exhausted at the close of the war the railroad system of the South
Almost every yard of siding that could be spared had been taken up to patch the main lines, less important roads had been despoiled to help out the greater ones, fractional parts of wrecked locomotives
had been built up into new ones of more or less feeble constitution, cars had been mended until they would hardly hold together, and it may not unreasonably be doubted whether, aside from sources of weakness, this alone might not in a few months more at furthest have put an end to the maintenance of Confederate armies in the field.
To keep up the all-important importations through the blockake, the Ordnance Department purchased, as has been stated, its own blockade running steamers, beside contracting largely with private adventurers.
It also erected at Wilmington
a steam compress for preparing cotton bales for shipment, and it arranged through its agents for the purchase of cotton in the interior, and for its transport by railroad to the ports whence it was to go abroad.
And, not only had ordnance officers everywhere great difficulty in securing and keeping their workmen, but they had largely to concern themselves with feeding, clothing and housing them, both the men themselves and not infrequently their wives and children, who were in many cases refugees from parts of the country in possession of the enemy.
As an example, several mechanics trained in working the percussion cap machines of the Atlanta
arsenal had been brought from Nashville
—some of them with their families.
was closely assailed by Genl. Sherman, Col. Wright
, commanding the arsenal, sent his cap factory and the workmen down to me at Macon
, where I had it set up and put to work again as soon as possible.
It had been turning out caps for but a short time when a telegram warned me of impending danger to Macon
, and as this was the only cap making machinery nearer than Richmond
, I was ordered to save it, if possible, and to use my judgment as to whether it should be sent for further use. I decided upon Selma
, and had within a few hours to arrange for taking down the machinery, including a 30 H. P. engine, loading it, with the chemical stores, upon railroad cars, and sending all off, with about twenty-five people, including several women and children, with some food to carry them through the very uncertain time of their transit to Selma
On the whole it is perhaps remarkable that there were so few serious accidents and disasters in dealing with dangerous
explosive agents, but there were some such with sad consequences.
Quite early in the war there was a destructive explosion in a building at Jackson, Miss.
, in which small-arms' cartridges were being made, and some fifteen or twenty poor girls were killed, portions of their bodies and clothing being thrown up among the branches of trees standing near.
Later a similar accident at Richmond
, in one of the shops on an island in James river
, due, it was believed, to careless handling of a tray of friction primers, caused the death of a number of women and girls and grievous burning of others.
It made a deep impression on the people of the city at the time.
There were at least two explosions of fulminating mercury; one at Richmond
and one at Augusta
; in each of these but a single man, I believe, was injured.
The incorporating house of a small private powder mill near Raleigh, N. C.
, blew up in 1862, with the loss of three or four lives.
At the time of the abandonment of Atlanta
in 1864, a number of railroad cars containing a large part of the reserve ammunition of Genl. Hood
's army, by some mistake were left on tracks of which connection with the main line had been broken, and these valuable ordnance supplies were, under orders, destroyed by explosion; their replacement as speedily as possible threw a great strain upon the arsenals.
In the early days of April, 1865, a railroad train conveying ammunition on the road from Columbus
to Macon, Ga.
, was blown up, with small loss of life, but with serious loss of stores and the production of a craterlike depression in the ground where there had been a low embankment.
The march of great events caused this to be scarcely noticed.
Among the trials and tribulations of ordnance officers some little account was to be taken of occasional desertion of workmen, and occasional reminders of the need for guarding against treachery.
There was not much trouble of this sort, but it was now and then spoken of, and at one time, I remember, there was no small uneasiness felt as to the fidelity of a rather important mechanic at the Richmond
In view of the general lack of previous experience in ordnance matters, the personnel of the corps, both at arsenals and in the field, honestly deserved praise for intelligence, zeal
As a rule, the officers not only did their individual work well, but showed the most cordial readiness to confer with and to help each other.
Many names deserve to be remembered.
Among the most prominent, and among those of whom I saw most and most corresponded with, were Lieut. Cols. J. H. Burton
of Armories; T. L. Bayne
, in charge of the Bureau of Foreign Supplies
, and I. M. St. John
at the head of the Nitre and Mining Bureau
; Lieut. Col. G. W. Rains
, of the Augusta Powder Mills
and Arsenal, Lieut. Col. Leroy Broun
, commanding Richmond Arsenal, Maj. M. H. Wright
, of the Atlanta Arsenal
, Lieut. Col. R. M. Cuyler
, of Macon Arsenal, Maj. J. A. De Lagnel
, of Fayetteville
, Maj. J. T. Trezevant
, of Charleston Arsenal, and Lieut. Col. J. L. White
, of Selma Arsenal; of the field ordnance officers, Lieut.
Co. B. G. Baldwin
, Chief of Ordnance
, Army of Northern Virginia; Lieut. Col. H. Oladowswi
, Chief of Ordinance
, and Maj. W. Allen
, Chief Ordnance Officer
of 2d corps, Army of Northern Virginia.
Some of these officers held other ranks at different periods of the war, and some of the arsenals referred to were commanded by others at different times.
All of the men I have named are, I believe, now dead.
Most of them passed away many years ago. This is also true of our commanding officer, Colonel
, in the latter part of the war, Brigadier General J. Gorgas
, the Chief of Ordnance
of the Confederate States
, who well deserved to be held in honored and grateful rememberance by all who served under him. His difficult task was performed with great ability.
Obstacles that could be overcome were resolutely faced with intelligent energy, and insuperable difficulties and hindrances were borne with uncomplaining patience.
Out of confusion his organizing skill brought such order as was possible.
He was firm and at the same time most kindly and encouraging in his relations with all his subordinate officers.
Never bouyant, he never gave way to depression.
By his personal example and by the tone of his orders and correspondence,
he spread about him the spirit of hearty performance of present duty, regardless of self, but in ever present mindfulness that it was
It is pleasant to know that now, after nearly half a century since Gen. Gorgas
' service to the Confederate Government ended, his son, Col. W. C. Gorgas
, of the Medical Department of the United States Army, is conspicuously reproducing his father's organizing power as the Chief Sanitary Officer
of the Panama Canal
There remains to mention but one other phase of the work of ordnance officers in the troublous times of 1861-65—namely, the organizing and drilling of forces for local defense against the enemy, made up of the white workmen and other employees at several of the arsenals.
There was quite a respectable force of this kind at Richmond
had a good strong battalion of infantry and a battery of field guns, and at Macon
the arsenal, laboratory and armory together furnished a small battalion of two companies, of which I held command, and a section of artillery commanded by Maj. Talliaferro
As these forces included a considerable number of detailed soldiers who had seen service in the field, the moderate amount of drill which could be given them gave a more efficient product than could otherwise have been hoped for. To speak only of what fell under my own observation, the Macon
battalion was called out for service on three occasions.
First at the end of July, 1864, when Gen. Stoneman
's cavalry appeared at Macon
, having been detached from Sherman
's army in front of Atlanta
with a view to destroying the Macon
works and releasing the Federal
prisoners at Andersonville
We were out for a couple of days and nights and intermittantly under fire for several hours, with a few casualties, when the enemy was driven off by the small Confederate force, consisting of a fragment of a Tennessee battalion, some Georgia
troops and the ordnance command, and a day or two later, Stoneman
with about 700 mounted men surrendered to Gen. Iverson
who had been sent after him. When brought into Macon
as prisoners of war, Gen. Stoneman
and his staff officers, who were jaded by hard riding and lack of sleep on their raid, seemed much mortified on learning by what sort of force they had been repelled.
Again, in the latter
part of November of the same year, Gen. Sherman
, having begun his march to the sea, the fifteenth corps of his army, with Kilpatrick
's cavalry forming the extreme right of the army, made a feint upon Macon
, and there was a skirmish with the small Confederate force that could be sent out from Macon
The ordnance battalion was called out, but did not see the enemy.
Finally, at the very end of the war a serious move upon Macon
was made by the heavy column of cavalry commanded by Gen. Jas. Wilson
This force came down from north Alabama
, had a heavy fight with Forrest
, and then swept eastward through Montgomery
, destroying much property on the way. Large ordnance stores were sent out of his way, to Macon
, but could not be got any further on account of the previous wrecking of the railroads by Sherman
Gen. Howell Cobb
, who was in command at Macon
, determined to defend the place with its valuable ordnance works and accumulation of stores, though the prospect of success was not brilliant, there being but a few hundred men available with which to face a splendid body of five or six thousand cavalry.
The ordnance battalion was again called out as a part of the defending force.
As there was a practically unlimited supply of ammunition on hand, all of which would, of course, be lost if the place were captured, it was ordered that as brave a show as possible should be made by keeping up heavy fire all along the line as soon as the enemy should appear.
We were on the afternoon of the 20th of April—eleven days after the surrender of Gen. Lee
's army and six days after President Lincoln
had been assassinated—drawn up on the line of earth work which had been prepared several months before, and were hourly expecting the arrival of Wilson
's force, known to be near at hand, when a joint telegram was received from Generals Johnston
in North Carolina
, announcing negotiations for the close of hostilities, and ordering an immediate armistice between Wilson
's command and the Confederate forces opposed to him. Our men were kept in position but ordered not to fire, and a flag of truce with the telegram was sent out to meet the head of the enemy's column.
The officer commanding the leading regiment refused to halt,
but sent on the flag to Gen. Wilson
, who was at some distance in the rear.
As soon as he received it he rode forward and halted his forces, but claimed that the place had been captured, as his leading troopers had penetrated our lines by literally a few yards when they were brought to a halt.
resisted this claim, saying that the armistice should have been enforced as soon as the flag of truce had reached the advance, and that even when it was put in force resistance was still possible.
The Confederate troops were withdrawn from the earth works, a single Federal regiment only, the 17th Indiana cavalry, was allowed to come into the city, and a long discussion of the question of the capture of the city took place, lasting up to a very late hour of the night, and finally it was agreed that the question should be left open for settlement by the higher military authorities, so that a few days later the paroles of all Confederate soldiers in Macon
were made out in conditional form, it being stipulated that if the capture of the city should be declared by competent military authority to be valid, rendering the garrison prisoners of war, the parole should be binding, otherwise of no effect.
So far as I know, that question has not to this day been settled!
For myself, individually, the temporary recognition of a state of truce or armistice had the odd result that in the small hours of the night of the arrival of the enemy I found myself in command of a squad of cavalry of the Indiana
regiment riding round to post these men as sentries at the various ordnance works and warehouses of ordnance stores, by agreement with Maj. McBirney
, Chief Ordnance Officer on Gen. Wilson
's staff, he and I acting under orders from Generals Wilson
, with a view to safe-guarding the city from possible disaster by fire or explosion.
What are one's feelings now in recalling these long by-gone days of the Civil War
?—days of such activity and physical and mental strain, of poor and insufficient food, discomfort, fatigue, turmoil and danger, but of youth and hope, and the infectious ardor of spirit caught from a whole people united as brothers in a common cause.
As one's mood changes from day to day, that far distant past, with its great events and one's own little
insignificant part, seems sometimes a mere unsubstantial dream of that which never could have had real existence, and sometimes the most real, almost the only
real part of one's life, the part most thoroughly worth living, and in comparison with which all that went before and all that has come since appears but petty and of small account.