Thanks to Kaelin for alerting me to this interesting article about Confederate industry from Confederate Veteran XXX, no. 1 (1922).
I was teaching my classes the other day about reading material culture as a primary source. For instance: a sun-faded, hand-sewn, jeans Confederate jacket can speak to raw material shortages and the labor of women behind the lines; an Atlanta arsenal cartridge box containing rounds from the Selma arsenal with powder from the Augusta works can tell us why Billy Sherman was so determined to stop the flow of supplies from the Confederate industrial heartland. Interesting, then, that we see in the pages of CV "How the Southern Confederacy developed a great industry in the manufacture of firearms and munitions while handicapped by the demands of active warfare is brought out in this article from the Springfield (Mass.) Republican, published while the World War was raging."
What's fascinating to me is that the CV would even publish such a thing. It smacks of the pride of the New South Men who sought capital and industry to restore the region to prominence while retaining the more conservative social structures of the Old South: racial, gender, and class hierarchy. I've always been of the opinion that if Gaines Foster is correct about the UCV being an town/urban professional phenomenon then we would see a significant amount of overlap in those professing the New South Creed and the shapers of Confederate memory.
" We began in April, 1861," wrote Gen. Josiah Gorgas, chief of ordnance of the Confederate army, in a monograph to President Jefferson Davis, "without arsenal or laboratory, or powder mill of any capacity, and with no foundry or rolling mill except in Richmond; and before the close of 1863, or within a little over two years we supplied them. During the harassments of the war, while holding our own in the field defiantly and successfully against a powerful enemy, crippled by a depreciated currency; throttled by a blockade that deprived us of nearly all the means of getting material or workmen; obliged to send every able-bodied man to the field; unable to use slave labor, with which we were abundantly supplied, except in the most unskilled departments of production; hampered by want of transportation of even the commonest supplies of food; with no stock on hand even of such articles as copper, leather, iron, which we must have to build up our establishments—against all these obstacles, in spite of all these deficiencies, we persevered at home as determinedly as our troops did in the field against a more tangible opposition. ... Steam was put in at the Charleston arsenal. The Mount Vernon institution was moved to Selma, nearer the district where the hardest cast iron in America was being turned into gun bores. Ancient field pieces of 1812 were replaced by new cannon from the Tredegar iron works in Richmond. ... Lead at the rate of nearly 80,000 pounds a month came in from the mines near Wytheville, Va., to be smelted in the new government plant at Petersburg. Battle fields were combed for gunstocks, bores, and bullets, with excellent results.
Notice how Gorgas downplays the potential contribution of slaves, pointing to their presumed inferiority and incapacity for skilled work, and without batting an eye can later point to Tredegar's contributions to the CS war effort while not acknowledging the slave labor that enabled that installation's success. But despite the racial assumptions which are largely inescapable from any source written in the 1920s, this remains a fairly sound introduction to Confederate industry. The conclusion is what I really enjoyed.
The Confederacy fell not so much because it had not been able to make arms, as because all the places where the arms were made fell before the Union armies.
Indeed, Harper's Ferry, Nashville, and eventually Atlanta would all suffer that same fate. But let us also keep in mind William Freehling's contention that the Confederacy had already lost the industrial war when it did not bring the manufacturing and transportation might of Baltimore, Louisville, and St. Louis into its ranks in 1861.