Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War

By Harold S. Wilson | Go to book overview

4
Factories under Siege

Confederate military authorities were more successful in controlling factories than in succoring them. The Confederate system of controls through impressment, details, profit limitations, supply of raw materials, and management of railroads and blockade-running created challenging operating conditions for manufacturers. Bereft of parts and machinery and threatened by marauding armies, manufacturers were often imperiled by a hostile local press that offered considerable sympathy for economic independence but decried rising prices as pure extortion.

The problems of factory operation were numerous, and one of them was Confederate policy. In an early address to the Manufacturing Association of the Confederate States, William Gregg explained that "if the war continues, it will be absolutely essential that machinery, and tools to make it, shall in large quantities be imported." He invited an assembly at Augusta to bring "an influence to bear on our Government that would be irresistible in obtaining permission to take out cotton and bring in supplies—and if necessary, steamships might be purchased for the purpose."1 An essay in the Charleston Mercury on June 5, 1863, inspired if not written by Gregg, challenged that "if this war is to continue, then we will need new factories." The writer charged that Confederate government policies hindered the drive for economic independence, for "to import machinery now costs from twelve to fifteen prices, and we feel quite well assured that no large establishment in our country has earned money enough in two years past to pay for the importation of machinery that would add twenty percent to their production, and they will remain as they are, to the great detriment of the country" (Charleston Mercury, June 5, 1863). In North Carolina, Francis Fries mused that "this country will

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