Civil War Industry and Manufacturing
In the generation preceding the war, enterprising Georgians experimented with a variety of industries in an effort to lessen the state's dependence on cotton cultivation. Cotton farming dominated Georgia's antebellum economy, but by the mid-1830s declining prices fueled by overproduction led some to seek alternatives to agriculture's boom-and-bust cycles. Industrial development offered one such alternative, and a flurry of investment enabled a number of nascent industries to appear throughout the state. Primarily located in fall-line cities like Augusta, Columbus, and Macon, these early manufactories provided the foundation for later efforts to supply Confederate armies.
Railroad fever also swept Georgia in the 1830s, and though track mileage was slow to develop, by 1860 the state controlled 1,420 of the South's 9,182 miles of track, second only to Virginia. Railroads spurred a host of associated industries, including iron foundries, rolling mills, and machine shops, all of which shaped and prepared iron, steel, and other metals for the many demands of the railroad business. These manufactories also branched out to produce other metal goods; Macon's Findlay Iron Works, for example, built stationary steam engines for powering mills, cotton gins, and printing presses in the antebellum period. Railroads also effectively connected Georgia to the other states of the Confederacy, and by the beginning of the war, Georgia, and especially Atlanta, was the crucial nexus of Southern transportation and a heartland of Southern industry.
Powder and Munitions
Leading this effort was Colonel George W. Rains, who at the behest of the Confederate Ordnance
Powder, though, does not constitute an effective weapon until it, along with a projectile, can be formed into a cartridge, loaded into a firearm, and detonated with a percussion cap, or otherwise ingeniously exploded. Arms and armament production, therefore, were also necessary for the Confederate war effort, and in Georgia these tasks were undertaken by a mix of public and private industry spread among the state's larger urban centers. In Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah the Confederate Ordnance Bureau maintained arsenals that manufactured such munitions as bullets, caps, cartridges, and friction primers, along with other military supplies like knapsacks and saddles. Many of these arsenals would occupy the iron foundries, rolling mills, and machine shops of the antebellum years, while many private firms also converted to wartime arms production.
Given its railroad ties throughout the Southern states, Atlanta was home to the largest of Georgia's
Quartermasters and Profiteers
Armaments were essential to waging effective war, but the Confederacy's soldiers also needed to be clothed and shod. Georgia's textile mills took up the task of producing cloth for uniforms, blankets, tents, and other uses, while the state's 125 boot and shoe manufacturers turned out their wares as quickly as possible to keep the Confederate armies marching. Furthermore, in 1861 the Quartermaster Department constructed depots in both Atlanta and Columbus, representing the Confederacy's second- and third-largest depots (after the one in Richmond, Virginia). These facilities assembled jackets, shirts, shoes, and trousers on a massive scale. For instance, in 1863 the Atlanta depot contracted to produce 175,000 shirts, 130,000 jackets, and 130,000 pairs of shoes for the Confederate forces. However, production never quite kept up with the army's insatiable demand.
Industry was also hampered by a lack of consistent labor; the manpower requirements of the perpetually outnumbered Confederate armies worked against wartime manufacturers by drawing skilled labor to the front. In the place of these white male workers, both white women and slaves filled in to keep Georgia industry productive. At the start of the war, women in the textile industry were already doing a larger share of the unskilled, low-wage work than their male counterparts, with 1,682 women to only 1,131 men working in textile production in 1860. As the conflict progressed, more than 4,500 seamstresses would work in government depots in Augusta and Atlanta, while women were also instrumental in assembling small-arms munitions for the Augusta Armory. Slaves, too, were used extensively in Georgia manufacturing, working in heavy industry primarily as common laborers. By 1863 around half the workforce at both the Macon Armory and the Augusta Powder Works were African American, and blacks also built and maintained the state's rail network by constructing bridges, grading, and laying new track. The state was so desperate for labor that, late in the war, convicts in the Milledgeville penitentiary were employed making shoes.
An End and a Beginning
The collapse of the Confederacy, though, did not presage the decline of Georgia's industry; in fact, the roots of Georgia's New South efforts can be distinctly traced to the state's manufacturing experiences during the Civil War. The stimulus of war expanded industry across the state, such that between 1860 and 1870 the number of establishments increased from 1,890 to 3,836, and the value of yearly product nearly doubled, from $16.9 million to $31.1 million. Atlanta, once rebuilt, surged into the postbellum period intent on forging a new identity, one less reliant on Northern manufactures and more capable of producing needed goods at home. Industry continued to blossom across the state, and though cotton production still dominated, a more balanced economy emerged in the wake of Southern defeat. Yet, while the war lasted, Georgia remained a critical supplier of materiel and men, iron and blood, to the cause of Southern independence.
C. L. Bragg et al., Never for Want of Powder: The Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2007).
Barry L. Brown and Gordon R. Elwell, Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010).
T. Conn Bryan, Confederate Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1953).
Robert S. Davis Jr., Cotton, Fire, and Dreams: The Robert Findlay Iron Works and Heavy Industry in Macon, Georgia, 1839-1912 (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1998).
John R. deTreville, "The Little New South: Origins of Industry in Georgia's Fall-Line Cities, 1840-1865" (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, 1985).
Clarence L. Mohr, On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986).
Chad Morgan, Planters' Progress: Modernizing Confederate Georgia (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005).
Harold S. Wilson, Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2002).
Sean H. Vanatta, University of Georgia
Dan Du, University of Georgia
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