The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

26
The Work of the Ordnance Bureau

J. W. Mallett

President Jefferson Davis bluntly stated the truth when he wrote that "it soon became evident to all that the South had gone to war without counting the cost. Our chief difficulty was the want of arms and munitions of war."

In the interval between the election and the inauguration of President Lincoln, when one Southern State after another was withdrawing from the Union, men's minds were full of rapidly passing political events, and much doubt was felt as to whether there would be a war; certainly but few looked forward to war on so great a scale, or to be waged for so many years as actually took place.

As soon as it became clear to the authorities of the newly established Confederate States' Government that an armed conflict was inevitable, they must have been alarmed at the terrible lack of material preparation for it at the South. In the arsenals of the! United States within Confederate limits there were 120,000 muskets (for the most part altered from flint-lock to percussion), besides some 12,000 or 13,000 rifles, and with some arms belonging to the individual States, it may be set down that about 150,000 serviceable fire-arms for infantry were available.

There were, a considerable number of heavy sea-coast guns at the fortified sea-ports, and others were seized on board men-of-war at Norfolk and among the stores of the Norfolk Navy-yard. But there was no serviceable field artillery except a few old iron guns of 1812 anti a few more modern pieces belonging to the States. There was scarcely any gun-powder save 60,000 pounds, mainly old cannon powder, at Norfolk. And there were practically no arms for cavalry, no fixed ammunition, nor percussion caps, no accoutrements -- cartridge-boxes, knapsacks.haversacks, etc. -- no saddles and bridles, no artillery harness, no adequate stores of shoes, nor of horseshoes, nor provision of the many minor articles of equipment required by an army in the field. Of special machinery for ordnance use there was none

J. W. MALLET, "Work of the Ordnance Bureau," Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 37 ( Richmond, 1909), pp. 1-20.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mallet was superintendent of the Confederate ordnance laboratories.

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