In early 1862, Confederate Ordnance Bureau Chief Josiah Gorgas realized that the Richmond and Fayetteville armories would be inadequate in serving the War Department's needs for long arms. Recognizing the importance of home manufacture, Gorgas organized efforts to create a war industry within the confederacy. On May 20, 1862, small-arms expert James H. Burton was ordered to Atlanta, Georgia, for the purpose of removing some machinery from the threatened city of Richmond and to establish a permanent national armory. This armory was supposed to eventually manufacture rifles of the Enfield pattern for the Confederate forces, which would obviate the need for private contractors, field capture, or arm importation. The city of Macon, Georgia was eventually accepted as the site for the permanent national armory, because that city donated over forty-two acres of land to the Confederacy to establish an armory. (To read Burton's explanation on the selection of Macon over Atlanta, see the letter of 25 June 1862). James Burton decided to lease the "old Depot of the Macon & Western Rail Road" from the city for $1000 per year. This afforded the ordnance department with three acres of land within the city limits and within a half mile of the tract of land donated for the permanent armory. The smaller site would serve as a temporary armory from which Burton could coordinate his initial efforts to build an armory, fashion gun stocks for the Richmond Armory, and begin making machinery for the new, national armory.
The first cornerstone of the C. S. Armory at Macon was laid on February 18, 1863. The armory contracted for over three quarters of a million board feet of lumber from saw mills around middle Georgia; over three million bricks; 1280 cubic feet of fine, dressed granite from Stone Mountain; a large supply of doors, sashes, and windows; and 40,000 pounds of cast iron columns and ventilators to be incorporated into buildings. In April 1863, Burton presented to Gorgas the plans for the erection of the Confederate States Armory at Macon at an estimated cost of $780,000 without machinery. The plans called for a main building to be two stories high, spanning 625 feet by forty feet wide, including: two flank towers of three stories each, a central bell tower four stories high, and four perpendicular wings two stories high with dimensions of 162 feet by forty feet each. In addition to these structures, a large smith shop and barrel rolling department was to be located in a building to the rear of the main building, which was nearly 700 feet in length. The main chimney was to be ten feet in diameter and tower 150 feet high. Also included was a proof house, two store houses, a coal shed, a basement with a rudimentary plumbing system, and an array of living quarters for various workmen. With more than 177,000 square feet of manufacturing space, the C. S. Armory at Macon would have been an impressive factory by international standards and by far the best in the Confederacy.
Machinery would be needed to push the factory into productivity. Burton proposed that he himself travel to England to arrange the purchase of $278,013 in engines, boilers, and machinery. He was then sent to England in the summer of 1863 to purchase the necessary Enfield rifle machinery. (To read about the operations of the armory in 1863, see Burton's memorandum to Major R. M. Cuyler). The Confederacy's order for machinery was based on a factory production rate of over 75,000 rifles per year and included two 100-horse power engines with six boilers just to drive the machinery in the main building. (To read about the progress of the Macon Armory in late 1864, see Burton's letter of 7 December 1864). However prior to entering productivity, all work ceased at both armory sites on April 20, 1865 when the 17th Indiana Cavalry under Colonel Frank White entered Macon as part of Major General James H. Wilson's U. S. cavalry corps. All of the property, books, plans, and stores were turned over to U. S. Ordnance officers. The materials on hand were impressive, including one of Macon's first fire engines, over eighty tons of iron castings, three steam engines, 100,000 bricks, and 300,000 board feet of lumber. The buildings located on the four acres known as the "temporary works" included three brick buildings and seven frame buildings. The nearly forty-seven acre "permanent works" site contained the large main brick building, ten smaller buildings, four dwelling houses for foremen, and twelve buildings used as slave quarters. In addition, the armory claimed deed to twelve acres of land in the swamp below the city used for brickmaking. (To read about the property of the Macon Armory at the close of the war, see Burton's letter of 5 July 1865). The Confederate government had expended a total of about $2.1 million dollars at the armory in Macon over the course of three years, including $1.2 million on buildings, $530,000 on small-arms machinery, and $314,000 on manufacturing gun stocks and revolvers. The Confederate States Armory at Macon was unlike other Confederate armories because of its permanent character. Conceived to fabricate an Enfield-pattern rifle, the factory would have been one of the largest factories in the world and the most prolific, government-owned factory on the North American continent.
Visit the Macon Armory Bookstore - an Amazon.com associate
Spiller & Burr Homepage A web site detailing the history of the Confederate revolving manufacturer Spiller & Burr with more information on the Macon Armory.
C. S. Armory Page A site dedicated to the history of the Confederate armories.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park More information on the Harpers Ferry Armory and James H. Burton.
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© 1998 Matthew W. Norman. All rights reserved.
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