The Bureau of Foreign Supplies and
the Crenshaw Line
Until the end of the war, most garments and goods provided to the Confederate army came from domestic resources through Alexander Lawton's mobilization of manufacturing. However, to supplement these goods, the Confederate War Department turned increasingly to imports; in this endeavor, James B. Ferguson Jr., a former dry goods import merchant, and William G. Crenshaw, a Richmond woolen manufacturer, played important roles.1 In doing so, Ferguson and Crenshaw rendered Upper South mills modest but vital support by procuring essential items from abroad. Otherwise, the War Department displayed little concern about the needs of private manufacturers and mostly devoted official energies to building large-scale military industries such as the Augusta Powder Works and the Macon Arsenal. Yet quantities of machinery, oils, and chemical dyes did enter the Confederacy on government account.
This official neglect was lamented by Henry Merrell, an Arkansas manufacturer, who believed the Confederacy needlessly “undertook to clothe the Army, leaving the poor people to clothe themselves” (Merrell 306). As he saw the situation, a generous importation of machinery and cards would have made the cotton-rich South industrially independent; however, another policy prevailed. General Alexander Lawton's bureau “undertook to take the place of merchants, & import goods from beyond the Mississippi River [in the East] by running the blockade for the benefit of the people, exchanging the same for their labor, & for the little surplus of provisions that some had concealed, & would not bring forth from their hiding places except to exchange for clothing” (306). In fact, most