Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance

Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance

Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance

Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance

Excerpt

The decision, made in 1942, to work on a biography of General Josiah Gorgas seemed natural to me. His name had appeared again and again in the course of research on the history of the Confederate Commissary Department, and the contrast between his quiet efficiency and the querulous rantings of the Commissary General made Gorgas seem unique. The project, work upon which began in Washington, D.C., started in the most naïve manner, I suppose, for I looked in the Washington telephone directory for the name "Gorgas." The closest thing to it was the Gorgas Memorial Foundation, which, it developed, had no specific information on Josiah, but would be happy to help with data on his son, Dr. William C. Gorgas. Officials of the Foundation were able to give me the name of General Gorgas' granddaughter, Mrs. William D. Wrightson, who lives just outside Washington in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Mrs. Wrightson was more than helpful; she placed me deeply in her debt by making instantly available what manuscripts were in her possession, including part of a typescript copy of General Gorgas' journal, kept from 1857 to 1877, and by her constant interest in the work. She told me that much more material would be found in the possession of her aunts, living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In the course of time, I went to Alabama and spoke to General Gorgas' three surviving daughters-- Miss Mary Gayle Gorgas, Miss Maria Bayne Gorgas, and Mrs. Christine Gorgas Palfrey--about my desire to do a biography of their father. These three ladies were most kind and encouraging and promised to see what papers they could find, pending another visit by me.

A year elapsed before I could return to Tuscaloosa, and in that time Miss Mary Gayle Gorgas died. Her two sisters, sharing her interest in the project, permitted me to go through a large trunk, full of General Gorgas' official and private letters. These manuscripts proved invaluable in constructing the story of the Confederate Ordnance Bureau. In . . .

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