Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War

By Harold S. Wilson | Go to book overview
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3
Confederate Mobilization

In late August 1863, following the battle of Gettysburg, a correspondent of the Augusta Constitutionalist surveyed the condition of the Army of Northern Virginia at Culpepper and lamented the “sad waste and destruction.” General Dick Ewell's Second Corps lost most of its baggage train in the retreat to Falling Waters, and his troops were deficient in “clothing and shoes.” One colonel forwarded a requisition to Georgia quartermaster general Ira Foster “in which he reported his command as destitute of everything” (Charleston Mercury, August 26, 1863). Some men had worn out two pairs of shoes on the Northern march, and all faced the prospect of frostbite, pleurisy, or pneumonia in the coming winter.

Refitting these men was the immediate challenge that faced General Alexander Lawton upon becoming quartermaster general of the Confederacy. Lawton inherited a bureau still steeped in the bureaucratic style of the old army. Within the War Department, Lawton found little cooperation. Josiah Gorgas and Lucius Northrop ran independent agencies. The Navy Department freely ignored army regulations. Within the armies, either in northern Virginia or Tennessee, there was little sympathy over his plight and little understanding of the reasons for the lack of supplies. Both armies frequently resorted to self-help. Outside of Richmond, state authorities carved out large fields of activity for themselves, laying special claim on the limited manufacturing capacity of the South. Everywhere manufacturers stoutly resisted regulation and cagily played departments and governments against each other. In the Confederate Congress and the press, Lawton found his most bitter and persistent critics, who often fabricated facts from rumors.

Moreover, the continued deterioration of Confederate finance under

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