This letter from Colonel James H. Burton, Superintendent of Armories, CSA, to Colonel Josiah Gorgas, Confederate Chief of Ordnance, on October 30, 1863 described Burton's official trip to England in the summer of 1863. The full text follows:
"In submitting this, my final report on the subject of my late mission to England, I have deemed it proper to furnish you with copies of my entire correspondence in relation thereto. I have the honor therefore, to enclose herewith for your information, copies of the correspondence referred to, omitting only a copy of the contract between Fraser, Trenholm & Co., of Liverpool, and Greenwood & Batley of Leeds England; the receipt of which from England, you have acknowledged together with my three official letters reporting progress at various periods during my absence.
My last letter from England, was dated Aug. 7, 1863, at which time satisfactory progress had been made with the machinery contracted for by Greenwood & Batley and the same favorable report of the progress made up to the time of my departure from England (5th Sept.) may be made, and I have no doubt but that the condition of the contract as regards periods of delivery will be strictly complied with. As I could not remain in England to inspect the machinery as required by the conditions of the contract, it became necessary to appoint some competent and reliable person to perform that duty. I accordingly with the consent of Major Caleb Huse, made an arrangement with Mr. James Davidson - mechanical manager of the Royal Laboratory, Woolwich Arsenal, who I have known for a number of years as being a thoroughly competent machinist-by which the machinery will be inspected by him, in lots as manufactured and ready for inspection. The compensation to be allowed him for performing this duty is $250. sterling, for the entire lot of machinery contracted for with Greenwood & Batley.
I brought over with me all the plans and drawings necessary to the putting down of the foundations for engines, geering etc., and for the barrel rolling machinery; all of which can now be proceeded with as fast as local circumstances will permit. Before leaving England, plans, and drawings of most of the special and most important machines had been prepared and were approved by me; and I left with the contractors all necessary instructions to enable them to proceed understandingly with the work, and I know of no reason why the contract should not come to the most satisfactory conclusion.
Some weeks prior to my leaving England, Major Huse, requested me to procure information concerning the construction of machinery required for laboratory purposes and for the manufacture of gun carriages. This request I so far complied with as to obtain lists of the most useful machines and apparatus now in use in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and tenders from the mfgrs for the construction and supply of said machines; but up to the time of my departure from England, Major Huse was unable to provide the funds, and consequently the contracts were not entered into. At the request of Major Huse, I left all the papers and information in relation to this machinery with him, and it was his intention to contract for it as soon as funds were available for this purpose.
I also obtained a list of machines comprising a full sett of the mfgr of powder barrels such as has been for some time in use in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and a tender for the construction and supply of such machines. The cost of the full sett amounts to 1260 pds, sterling only, and I am quite of the opinion that such a set of machines should be associated with the powder mills at Augusta, Ga.
I saw samples of the barrels made by this machinery and they were certainly superior to any handmade barrels I ever saw, besides being made at very much less cost. I therefore respectfully recommend the purchase of the sett of machinery for this purpose. Enclosed herewith I enclose copies of the tenders for the supply of the machinery selected by me for the mfgr of gun carriages, and for laboratory purposes, and also for the plant of machinery for making powder barrels, all of which I trust you will find satisfactory. The prices I regard as very reasonable.
I regret to have to report that I was unable from want of funds to purchase any of the bldg materials required for the purposes of this Armory or for any other Ordnance establishment. Major Huse could not furnish me with even the small sum of 2800 pds with which to purchase the window glass, sheet copper, etc. required for the completion of the new bldgs in process of erection at this Armory. A reference to the letter of Major Huse, dated Aug. 19th, will explain his inability to furnish any funds for this or any other purpose. At his request, I left with him a list of the materials required for this armory, and it was his intention to purchase and forward them as soon as he had the necessary funds. I arranged with Messers Fraser Trenholm & Co., for the shipment to Bermuda of the machinery in lots as delivered, and as opportunities offered of shipment. It was considered politic that no entire cargo should consist of machinery. I informed Major N. S. Walker the agent of the Ordnance Dept. at Bermuda, on the subject of receiving and carefully storing this machinery as it arrives; but it would be well for you to give him written instructions in relation thereto, in order to insure the carefully handling and storing of the machinery, that it may be eventually arrive here in good order. The custom seems to be to handle cases very roughly and in the case of the expected machinery special precaution should be taken to prevent such rough handling, otherwise disaster will be sure to result.
Mr. Charles Lancaster, the inventor of the well known Lancaster Gun, etc., kindly presented me with plans and drawings of a new system of iron plating for ships and shore batteries which he has invented and which is now being applied to some batteries in process of erection. He also gave me a report on experiments made with a 9 pd field gun, rifle on his principal of oval bore, together with a photograph of the gun mounted. All of the above are respectfully submitted herewith, as also several printed reports of late date on the subject of guns and small arms. These last are in the form of Blue Books, printed by order of the House of Commons and they throw much light upon the subjects treated therein, and they will be found very interesting. I also purchased with my private means one copy in 3 vols. of a late edition of the Aide memoire to the Military Sciences, one copy of a recent publication entitled Col. Anderson of the mfgr of Gunpowder and one copy of a pamphlet on The nature of the action of fired Gunpowder, also two micrometers, one large and one small, for measuring objects to the one thousandth part of an inch. Should the Ordnance Dept. desire to purchase all the above, I shall be glad to dispose of them at cost price.
A short time before I left England, I visited the Govt. Powder Mills at Waltham Abbey and thru the kindness of the superintendent, Col. Askwith, R.A., I was permitted to visit all parts of the works; in fact Col. Askwith spent a half day in accompanying me over the establishment and making explanations in relation thereto. He also kindly furnished me with samples of the various woods and charcoal used in the mfgr. specimens of~the Mill Cake and Press Cake, which I respectfully submit herewith. Col. Askwith understanding that a large establishment for the mfgr of gunpowder had been erected by this Govt., expressed a desire to be furnished with a general ground plan of the works showing the arrangement of the various bldgs, and processes of mfgr. In consideration of the courtesy extended to me by Col. Askwith, I respectfully recommend that his desire be complied with, and I shall be pleased to forward to him any drawing or information you may be pleased to furnish me with for that purpose.
I also visited the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfleld, and was kindly shown over the works by the superintendent, Col. W. M. Dixon, who received me most courteously. At these works preparations were being made for the mfgr of 8000 rifles on the Whitworth principal of the hexagonal bore of barrel with a view to giving this principal a thoro test in the field. It is probable that some change will be made before long in the character of the rifled arms required for British service, but up to the present time no decision has been arrived at in this point. A late report (herein submitted) is decidedly in favor of the Lan-casters principal of oval bore for small arms. In consequence of the want of funds I regret that I was unable to purchase specimens of the arms adopted in the various European services, as instrtucted by you to do. The gunmakers of Birmingham at last acknowledge the superiority of the system of mfgr of small arms in quantity by machinery have formed a joint stock with a view to the mfgr of military rifles by that system, and the principal bldgs of the factory are already erected and much of the machinery completed.
At the time of my visit to Birmingham the military gun trade was at a standstill almost from want of orders-the U.S. Govt., was not then being a purchaser.
In concluding this report I have much pleasure in testifying to the kind reception I universally met with in England, and also to the desire manifested by mfgrs & others to serve the C.S. Govt. in their respective specialties.
My mission was to me a pleasant and satisfactory one, and the only regret I have to express is that the necessary funds could not be provided for the purchase of materials required by this, and other mfgring establishments of the Ordnance Dept.
I have the honor to be. Colonel.
Respectfully, your obdt. servt."
from National Archives, Record Group 109, Chapter IV, Volume 31.
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