Reports of the

C.S. Armory at Macon

The reports of the Macon Armory were composed by the Superintendant of Armories James H. Burton. These reports were almost always written to Confederate Chief of Ordnance Josiah Gorgas. Some of these reports contain enough interesting detail on a number of Confederate manufacturing plants (both public and private) that a few of them will be presented here in their entirety.


Report of Col. Burton to Colonel Gorgas on the C.S. Armory, Columbia, S.C., April 8th, 1864 - from the Compiled Service Record of James H. Burton, National Archives

"I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt on the 23d March ulto of your letter of instructions as follows, viz: 'Advice is asked for by Captain [Clement C.] McPhail in reference to the Armory placed under his charge at Columbia, S.C. You will please proceed there to inspect and report upon the arrangement of the machinery and buildings. You will also give such directions to Capt. McP. as you deem judicious repeating the same with your inspection report.' In compliance with these intructions I have the honor to submit the following Report.

"In consequence of the delay incident to the inspection of the Armory of the 'Red Mountain Coal & Iron Co.' at Montgomery, Ala. I was unable to leave for Columbia until the 3d. inst. arriving on the 4th inst. and on the 5th inst. I devoted the whole day to the inspection of the Armory under Capt. McPhail, asssisted by that officer.

"The premises appropriated to the purposes of the Armory are located near the bank of the Congaree river, and within the corporate limits of the City of Columbia. The location is not a favorable one for the reason that a portion of the ground and basements of the buildings are liable to inundation by the river during freshets. The ground is also too uneven and limited in extent for Armory purposes, except on a very small scale. The buildings originally erected on the ground consist of a brick building (formerly used as a store house) 130 x 28 feet with a wing 50 x 28 feet each embracing a basement 8-1/2 feet high in the clear and but poorly lighted for workshop purposes, and an upper story about 12 feet high in the clear. Those upper rooms are better lighted than the basements, but the windows are not sufficiently numerous for filing purposes.

"Capt. McPhail informed me that when he took charge of the premises this building was in a very dilapidated condition, but he has since re-erected one of the walls, made good the stone walls of the basement, and put in new window frames, sash, &c. The whole being now in good order, and well whitewashed inside. In addition to this building there is an old frame building about 35 x 20 feet, which is of no use for Armory purposes, and which it were better to take away. Since Capt. McPhail took charge, he has caused the following frmae buildings to be erected, all of temporary character, viz: 1st One building about 50 x 40 feet, one story high, to be used as a forging shop, and in which to erect the necessary hammers for forging gun barrels &c. &c. This building includeds twelve chimneys of brick erected on the inside of the building and against the sides and intended to carry off the smoke from the cast iron forges. The position of these chimneys inside contract the space necessary for other legitimate and necessary purposes in connection with forging operations, and their erection as explained, was a mistake, for which Capt. McPhail informed me, the then Master Armorer was responsible. A mistake was also committed in locating these chimneys much too close together, being but about seven feet apart instead of at least twelve feet. The forges cannot be worked at if placed so close together. 2d One building, (open on one side), about 40 x 25 feet to be used as a charcoal shed, completed and whitewashed. 3d One building about 30 x 16 feet, one story high, to be used as an office for the Comdg. Officer. This building is not yet completed. The frame, chimney, and brick piers only being erected. In addition to the above described new buildings, Capt. McPhail has made preparations for the erection of a small building to be used as a proof house, and another to be used as a stable. These last buildings are not yet framed, but the ground is being levelled and prepared for them. The old and the new buildinsg erected and to be erected, as herein described, will not be sufficient for the intended purposes, even on the small scale of manufacture to which the machinery &c. is adapted; stated by Capt. McPhail to be about 200 Rifles per month. Additonal room will be required for a store room, an inspecting room, an arm assembling room, and a filing room.

"The machinery is generally of a serviceable character, although not of the most approved construction and finish. Several of the Stock making machines have wooden frames, but nevertheless, are said to work very well. The location and arrangement of the machines, as approved by Capt McPhail, generally met my approval. The gun machinery is not yet finally in place, but is being arranged as rapidly as possible. I could only therefore judge of its effiency by an inspection of it when not at work. All of the machine shop tools, such as lathes, planes, drills, &c have been erected and are actively employed in repairs to the machines, most of which require repairs, and which Capt McPhail has very properly directed to be made before operations are recommended. A line of shafting has been erected in the upper room of the main building, which shafting is driven by a 20 H.P. portable engine & boiler temporarily erected outside and near one end of the building. Several machines are in process of construction, which, when completed, will materially facilitate and cheapen the manufacture of stocks, and other component parts of the Rifle. I suggested to Capt. McPhail some slight alterations in the construction of the machine for bedding Lock in Stock, and a re-arrangement of the system for driving the two lines of shafting in the main building, providing for the application of the driving power first to the line in the basement, and through that line to the line above by means of an intermediate short counter shaft. The line of shafting for driving the trip hammers in the forging shop is not yet erected nor is there yet any provision of motive power for this purpose.

"The inventory of machinery includes one portable 20 H.P. Engine & boiler, now erected temporarily and at work, and one 28 H.P. horizontal engine and boiler for same; the latter is still at Asheville, N.C. but Capt McPhail informed me that he had made arrangements for its remaoval to Columbia in a short time. It would be well to transfer from the Macon Armory to Columbia Armory such complete and incomplete machines as are not now in use, or likely to be required hereafter, because of their inferior design and construction. There are several such machines now at the Macon Armory which might be so transferred.

"I have stated that the location of Columbia Armory is not favorable, and in addition to this objection there exists other difficulties in the shape of very limited accomodation for workmen, and the high cost of living at that point, nor am I prepared to recommend the policy of maintaining separate establishments on so small a scale as this: but in the event of the continuance of it, I suggested to Capt. McPhail the following additions and improvements, viz: 1st The extension of the forging shop 35 feet in length, and the taking down and re-erection of the brick chimneys outside the building; the chimneys to be not less than tweleve feet apart from center to center. 2d The removal of the 20 H.P. portable engine from its present location and purpose, to one end of the forging shop, to furnish the power requisite for driving the trip hammers. 3d The erection of the 28 H.P. engine & boiler at the end of the machine shop to furnish power for driving all the other machinery. 4th The construction of two additional trip-hammers for forging cones & screws, and for welding the conseats on barrels. 5th The erection of a temporary wooden building about 100 x 35 feet, two stories high, along the front of the premises, on ground now vacant and suitable for the purpose, each story to be 12 feet high in the clear; windows to be 8 feet apart between centers. The first floor to be divided into an inspection room 30 x 30 feet, an arms assembling room 30 x 30 feet, and a general store room 40 x 30 feet. The upper floor to be used as a filing room: stairs inside to communicate between the two floors. 6th The transfer from the Macon Armory to Columbia Armory of any complete or incomplete machines applicable to manufacture of arms and not required at the former establishment.

"Lumber will be required in the erection of the above buildings, and the transfer of any unappropriated lumber in charge of Col. Trezevant, Comdg Columbia Arsenal to Capt McPhail would greatly facilitate the completion of the buildings. I suggest this as it does not appear the Arsenal has commenced active operations. The appropriation of a number of small buildings erected on the Arsenal grounds and not in use at present to the use of the Armorers as dwellings would also go a long way towards meeting a pressing difficulty, if there is no objection to so appropriating them.

"Capt. McPhail informed me that he assumed control of the Armory on or about the 25th Feb. last, since which time all the repairs and improvements to the premises above described have been made under his direction, and for the most part, without adequate assistance from the Master Armorer. At the present time there is no Master Armorer attached to the Armory.

"I consider that Capt. McPhail has done much towards refitting the premises for his purposes in the short time that has intervened and this in the face of difficulties consequent upon the inefficient services of the Master Armoprer, who should be competent to properly direct the improvements required. The appointment at an early day of some competent and reliable person to that office would greatly facilitate the work in hand. Accompanying this report is an inventory of the machines complete, and in progress of construction at Columbia Armory at the present time.

List of Machines & Machinery at the C.S. Armory, Columbia, S.C., 5th April 1864

Complete machines

Machines in course of construction


1998 Matthew W. Norman. All rights reserved.


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