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"Confederate weapons sources?" Topic

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American Civil War

902 hits since 28 Feb 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

gamer1 Inactive Member28 Feb 2018 12:04 p.m. PST

Howdy all. I don't know if anyone has run across any reliable numbers but thought I would ask.
Not talking about "naval/fort guns" my understanding is all they had was what they "bowered" from the Union before the real shooting started and a lot of it came from Norfolk.
As far as field guns I have heard that during the coarse of the war the south got from 30-50% of their guns by various means of capturing them from the union. I know they produced a small amount of questionable quality but don't know if any came in on ships from Europe or not.
I also haven't seen any numbers but got the impression that a notable amount of muskets, ammo, shoes, etc they captured from the union or came from Europe, once again with a limited amount produced "at home".
So, anyone happen to have read anything that had some numbers/percentages. I know that it is impossible to know for sure but figured at least some historian has done some studies on it. So, thanks in advance.
BTW, just out of trivial curiosity does anyone know of any particular battle or campaign that stands out to them as one in which the south captured the most or a lot of union supplies? Again talking about after the war got "hot" not including what they captured before hand like Norfolk?

Blutarski28 Feb 2018 12:26 p.m. PST

Jackson's capture of the US arsenal at Harper's Ferry in 1862 – The machinery and stores captured there made possible the establishment of two Confederate arms manufacturing arsenals (Richmond VA and Fayetteville NC).


Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2018 2:16 p.m. PST

But the Harper's ferry Equipment was out date.

A Major source of Arms for the South was large weapons transfers done before the war to Southern Arsenals. This was done by Southern Employees of the War Department of President Buchanan.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2018 2:36 p.m. PST

Check out Ploughshares into Swords. It's the life of the CSA head of ordnance. I would not call Confederate production "a small amount of questionable quality" though there were persistent problems with fuses. As an example, the Army of Tennessee almost completely replaced its artillery between the 1863 and 1864 campaigns with CSA-made Napoleons. And the quantities coming from Britain were immense--in particular small arms, percussion caps and uniforms, but also artillery.

However the percentages are going to vary so much one year to the next and one army to another, that at the national level it's a historian's and not a wargamer's problem.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2018 2:56 p.m. PST

Ah. And I forgot "battles and campaigns." One problem--from the Confederate point of view--is that they never captured a Union force above division size. (Miligan in the Valley in 1863, I think.) When Vicksburg fell, whole Union regiments could exchange inferior weapons for better captured CSA arms, but Confederate captures tend to be more piecemeal and informal. And a lot of them were consumables--shoes from prisoners and corpses, rations and ammunition which went no further than the units which captured them.

If you're looking for hard numbers on what percentage of Confederate infantry were marching in Union shoes or drinking from Union canteens on any given day, you'll have a long wait. If you're looking for a Confederate General to tell his superiors just how many rations and how much ammunition he captured, you'll have a longer one.

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2018 3:04 p.m. PST

If you are looking for a campaign that yielded the most booty, perhaps Jackson's Valley campaign would do the trick. Union general Banks lost so much stuff he was nicknamed by the Confederates "Commissary Banks."

The Confederacy did import large numbers of weapons. About 400,000 Enfields and over 300,000 Lorenz' for example.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2018 4:12 p.m. PST

As noted the Confederates put a lot of effort into establishing a domestic armaments industry and they were pretty successful at it – plus as noted they imported a ton of infantry weapons from the Brits

Bill N28 Feb 2018 4:45 p.m. PST

The Harpers Ferry Arsenal was captured in 1861, and as I recall was captured before Jackson took command of the post. At that point both sides were scrambling to get whatever weapons they could to arm the troops. Out of date weapons were better than none. I have not seen an inventory of the machinery that Jackson sent south, but I suspect some of it could be adapted to produce more modern weapons.

RudyNelson28 Feb 2018 5:47 p.m. PST

The were a number of iron works in Alabama and western Georgia. Both iron plates for iron clads and cannon were made here. Several locations around modern Birmingham were in production then plus Selma and Tuscaloosa.
Columbus Georgia was well known for iron production and today is the home of a Confederate Naval Museum.
A number of Union raiding parties hitting various sites.
In our small town gunpowder was produced in DeSoto Caverns.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2018 7:58 p.m. PST

Stuart also captured a fair amount of arms early in the war.

Significant amounts of ammunition and clothing was produced by the south.

Untold thousands of flints were converted to percussion by southern gunsmiths, and tens of thousands of long arms were produced by southern arsenals. If you want to know exactly how many cartridges of what type and caliber were produced by a specific arsenal at a specific time of the war, you need these:

TMP link

Grelber28 Feb 2018 9:22 p.m. PST

I just finished reading "A World On Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War," by Amanda Foreman. She says 60% of the Confederacy's rifles came through the blockade, as well as 75% of their saltpeter and 30% of their lead.


Trajanus28 Feb 2018 10:48 p.m. PST

Great book! Shows just how the Confederate agents kept up a continual struggle to buy anything anyone was willing to sell and that they could sneak on a ship!

It's also excellent in showing the actual position on how close (or not) Britain came to getting involved in a shooting war. Bit of a damper on those "What if" scenarios as I recall.

gamer1 Inactive Member01 Mar 2018 5:22 a.m. PST

Thanks for the input, very interesting. I knew the south managed to create a domestic "war industrial base" in a short amount of time and basically starting from nothing, indeed an impressive feat.
Despite this I assume it is still safe to say that Confederate armies still suffered from an almost constant shortage of ammunition, supplies, etc that not only affected the average soldier but also limited the size and number of offensive operations the south could undertake.
From what I have heard and read I have always assumed that the biggest factors in the South's defeat was not enough war industry and not enough manpower to replace losses like the north. Would this still be fair to say or do some of you think that the lack of manpower was a bigger factor than the lack of having enough war production, from the various places it came from????
And a little off topic but on the long talked about "what if" of Europe, IMHO, from what I have read and understanding the situation of the powers involved at the time I don't' think either nation ever seriously considered declaring war on the US, and probably not even being willing to recognize the Confederacy. While certainly there were those in the governments sympathetic to the south, knowing human nature I think the real reason for the aid was the oldest reason for most things in the history of man, greed, money, power. Britain was making money trading with both and I think was more than happy to sit back and continue to do so. I wouldn't be surprised if Britain would have been happy to see the war last ten years so they could continue to make money from both parties, IMHO:)
Thanks again for the cool info, very interesting as always!

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2018 6:30 a.m. PST

Gamer1, don't overlook a couple of other factors.

Transportation of war materials and foodstuffs in the
South was not that easy, especially across state lines
if the railroads had been developed internally to a
given state. There were cases in which trains of goods
had to be unloaded and then re-loaded due to differences
in equipment, primarily the gauge of the tracks.

Then there was the 'it's mine' factor. Some CSA
states kept munitions and troops 'at home' for defence.
Georgia's Governor Brown was notorious for not
providing support to the Confederacy, claiming he needed
everything close to hand for defending his own citizens.
The fact that Georgia was a primary source for some
munitions and weapons, as well as food, well you see
a problem, eh ?

The North had some transport issues as well, but these
were reduced in effect as the war went on and the
US military railroads beginning in Spring, 1863, made
a significant contribution to the North's war effort,
in moving munitions, weapons and supplies and, after
Gettysburg, being used to transport thousands of wounded
from that and Grant's campaign in Virginia.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2018 8:18 a.m. PST

As above, my impression is that transportation was a bigger issue than production.

GuyG1301 Mar 2018 12:03 p.m. PST

The CS never had an ammunition shortage problem. The arsenals produced more than sufficient quantities. They did have big problems with fuses for the artillery ammunition. As Lee retreated from Richmond, the army was met by supply trains in Amelia Courthouse. They were supposed to be food, but turned out to be Artillery pieces and ammunition. It all had to be blown up because the army didn't need it.

The CS had a well developed depot system that supplied uniforms, equipment and weapons. There were huge overseas purchases, but the domestic production was considerable. The CS' biggest logistics issue was transportation and distribution.

There were short periods of time when supplies ran short (The 1862 Maryland campaign being the most extreme example), but for most of the war (Food being the real exception) the CS armies were well equipped. The ragged Reb is a persistent myth.

Blutarski01 Mar 2018 1:58 p.m. PST

One of the most impressive feats of industry was the creation and development of a gunpowder manufacturing industry from absolutely nothing to a huge output during the course of the war.



Blutarski01 Mar 2018 2:04 p.m. PST

Bill N wrote – "The Harpers Ferry Arsenal was captured in 1861,"

Thanks for that correction, Bill. Bad on me.

OTOH, it appears that the surrender of the Union force at Harper's Ferry (12,000 men) represented the largest mass surrender by United States force until WW2. Jackson captured 13,000 small arms there.


rmaker01 Mar 2018 5:45 p.m. PST

The problem with the Harper's Ferry arsenal equipment was that it was parceled out to the states – and nobody got a full set. Then none of the states would give up what they had (the "It's MINE!" problem mentioned above).

gamer1 Inactive Member02 Mar 2018 1:55 p.m. PST

Thanks guys, very interesting points and some info I didn't know. So………would you guys say on the Grand Scale playing a game the biggest challenges the Southern player would/should have would be logistics' and trying to compete, late war especially, with the manpower advantage of the Union and NOT a lack of available supplies????

Trajanus02 Mar 2018 4:36 p.m. PST

The manpower advantage should never be underestimated. The percentage loss the Confederacy took at almost every battle, win, loose or draw, was completely unsustainable from 1862 onwards.

Short of a near total collapse of Union moral or mass refusal to continue the struggle on the home front it was always going to prove decisive in the long run.

donlowry03 Mar 2018 9:00 a.m. PST

Yes, I would say that logistics was a major problem for the Confederacy -- coupled with an incompetent commissary general and a president who tried to defend everything equally.

The predominantly agricultural Confederacy, even after it shifted much of its production from cotton to food, still had to import food through the blockade! The problem was how to get the food from where it was grown to where it was needed.

EJNashIII12 Mar 2018 7:46 p.m. PST

"Short of a near total collapse of Union moral or mass refusal to continue the struggle on the home front it was always going to prove decisive in the long run" And that didn't happen simply because the war had almost no negative effect on the northern economy. While the south literally wilted away, the northerner's westward expansion continued unabated. The only hiccup being the draft riot in New York that was quickly put down.

donlowry13 Mar 2018 8:19 a.m. PST

Well, the price of gold (inverse of the value of the dollar) got out of hand a time or two, causing some inflation, so to that extent it effected the economy.

As for the westward expansion, it was slowed, certainly, by the withdrawal of much of the regular army from the frontier, and the fact that a great many adventurous young men were in the army and thus not available to move west until after the war (if they survived).

But a gold rush in Colorado (in addition to the ongoing one in California) helped both westward expansion and the economy.

Politically, the North was far from unanimous in support of the war, especially as it wore on and the casualty lists grew, and especially once the draft (conscription) was resorted to.

Personal logo capncarp Supporting Member of TMP04 Apr 2018 5:54 p.m. PST

One of the things the South was not lacking, except in very localized situations (siege, etc.) was a supply of anesthetics. Ether and chloroform, produced in quantity at the South's factories, with the blockade-run and bootlegged supplies, were generally sufficient, again, barring distribution issues.

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