The Civil War brought an end to slavery; it also brought an end to an antebellum renaissance in Southern manufacturing. On the eve of the Civil War, the slave states ranked among the industrial nations of the world in miles of railroads, numbers of steamboats, annual production of pig iron and coal, and the extent of telegraph connections. Tanneries, foundries, slaughterhouses, and flour mills added greatly to the material capacity available to the nascent Confederacy. Only England, France, two other European powers, and the North possessed more cotton and woolen spindles than the slave states, which had several hundred cotton and woolen mills. While the Confederacy mobilized these resources, the Union systematically endeavored to destroy them.
A study of manufacturing within the Confederacy offers illumination on a number of important issues, including the extent of the Southern factory system. Some historians, such as Charles Ramsdell, have questioned whether state and Confederate industrial policies contributed to or inhibited the general war effort. Recent writers have asked whether businesspeople were predators or patriots to the new cause. How did economic risks balance with opportunities after secession? Did the Confederacy effectively exploit manufacturing and material resources? Despite the overwhelming testimony to the contrary, were Confederate forces reasonably clothed and shod? Further, and more important, what were the immediate and long-term impacts of the destructiveness of the war? What insights into the origins of the New South can be gained by investigating the war experiences of Southern manufacturers?
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the antebellum South produced a large class of manufacturers who opposed extreme states' rights dogmas and supported the importation and exploitation of technology.1 Alexis de Tocqueville, on his American visit, astutely observed that “as