Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War

By Dew, Charles B. | The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War


Dew, Charles B., The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography


Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War. By HAROLD S. WILSON. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2002. xxii, 412 pp. $45.00.

Confederate Industry is an exhaustive study of a complex topic: the leadership of the Confederate Quartermaster Department, the evolution of government control over textile production, and how the intersection of these two factors influenced the equipping of the South's military forces. Harold S. Wilson has mined the manuscript sources on this subject more fully than any other scholar, and the result is a highly detailed state-by-state, sometimes mill-by-mill, account of the tangled web of public and private personalities and interests that determined the course of Confederate supply.

Abraham C. Myers, the Confederacy's first quartermaster general, dominates the opening chapters of Wilson's book. Myers was the chief "architect of early Confederate industrial policy" (p. 4), the author notes, and as such must bear heavy responsibility for the shortages that hampered southern military effectiveness during the first two years of the war. Relying heavily on the prospect of securing ample supplies from abroad, Myers failed to plan for general mobilization, came up with no regularized scheme for procuring much-needed items at home, and did not even bother to take a census of the South's surprisingly extensive manufacturing resources. When the federal blockade made foreign supply difficult, Confederate troops paid the price. "Clothing issues to the army throughout the winter of 1861-62 were late and barely adequate" (p. 27), Wilson observes, and southern governors frequently did more to support their soldiers than Myers's bureau. A "wool famine" (p. 29) during these same months left available factories idle for want of this vital raw material, which led in turn to critical shortages of blankets and military overcoats. …

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