Joseph A. Gutierrez, Jr.

Confederate Naval Ordnance, 1861-1865

(Under the direction of Professor William N. Still, Jr.) Department of History, May 1977.

This study examines the development of Confederate naval ordnance during the Civil War. The ordnance developed by the Confederate Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography was extremely important not only to Confederate naval vessels but also to the defense of the Confederacy's rivers and harbors.

This study is arranged topically and deals in turn with the major problems faced by the bureau: the development of manufacturing facilities, the lack of an easily accessible supply of raw materials, the lack of an effective transportation network, the lack of skilled labor, and the bureau's attempt to develop an improved rifled cannon.

The Confederate Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, although it faced great obstacles, was able to develop the manufacturing facilities necessary to provide the Confederate States Navy with the implements of war. At the outbreak of the war the only establishment capable of turning out heavy ordnance was Tredegar Iron Works. In 1863 an ordnance station was opened in Selma which turned out twenty pieces of ordnance a day. In addition to this, ordnance installations were established in Richmond, Charlotte, Atlanta, Columbus, and Columbia. These installations had the potential to produce all of the materials of war needed by the Confederate navy.

The construction of the physical facilities was only one of the problems faced by the Confederate Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography. The plants constructed needed raw materials in order to produce their finished products. The inability of the South to protect its borders and its known supplies of raw materials needed for the production of ordnance and ordnance stores was one of the most serious problems the bureau faced. The problem was compounded further by an inadequate transportation network, and as a result even when raw materials were available the Confederate officials were unable to move them to the manufacturing centers.

Another major problem faced by the bureau was the lack of skilled labor. At the outbreak of the war the South had probably an adequate number of skilled labors to operate the various industrial establishments. However, many of these men were swept into the army, and as the war progressed the need for manpower became so great that the Confederate Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography was unable to find and keep the number of skilled laborers needed to work the factories at full production. This and the problem of raw materials and transportation were the only major problems faced by the bureau that it was unable to solve.

The great success of the bureau was the development of the Brooke gun. This gun developed by John M. Brooke was very similar to the Parrot gun. While the Parrot gun only had one band shrunk over the breech, the Brooke gun had two or even three. The Brooke gun was the result of a process of evolution. Brooke studied the ordnance work of both European and American experts and his weapon was the culmination of his research. The Brooke gun was without a doubt the most powerful rifled gun of the Civil War and the failure of the United States Navy to use this weapon after the war was the result of a stated preference for smoothbores on the part of several high ranking naval officers. It is possible that if research with the Brooke gun had been continued after the war that the evolution of modern ordnance might have occurred in the United States rather than Europe.