The Men

Josiah Gorgas (1818-1883)

The Confederacy utilized Josiah Gorgas as its chief ordnance officer throughout the war. A graduate of West Point, Class of 1841, Gorgas resigned from the U.S. Army on April 3, 1861. He was initially commissioned major and chief of Ordnance on April 8, 1861. He made lieutenant colonel on March 16, 1861; colonel in 1863; and brigadier general on November 10, 1864. After the war, he was engaged in an iron works business in Alabama and still later in education.

Suggested reading: Frank E. Vandiver, Ploughshares Into Swords (College Station: Texas A & M University, 1994).

James Henry Burton (1823-1894)

James H. Burton was born in Shannondale Springs, Jefferson County, Virginia in 1823. He was educated at Westchester Academy, Pennsylvania and entered a Baltimore machine shop at sixteen to learn the trade of practical machinist. In 1844, he was recruited to the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry. He quickly ascended to the position of acting master armorer by 1849. While acting master armorer, Burton's mechanical and inventive talents flourished. Neglected due to political partisanship, Burton left Harpers Ferry in 1854 to work in the private sector for Ames Manufacturing Company in Chicopee, Mass. While at Ames, Burton was involved in manufacturing a large lot of machinery for the British government. He subsequently traveled with the machinery to Enfield, England and became the chief engineer of the Royal Small Arms Factory. There he helped establish the Enfield factory as a model for mass production of small arms with 1,200 employees fabricating 75,000 rifles per year to a tolerance of three-thousandths of an inch. Shortly before the Civil War, he returned to Virgninia and was hired as a consulant by Tredegar Iron Works to aid the state in resurrecting the Virginia State Armory as a small arms factory. In the summer of 1861, he took a commission in the Confederate Ordnance Bureau and took charge of the Richmond Armory. He was later charged with establishing a permanent national armory in Georgia and eventually became the superintendent of all Confederate armories. After the war, he briefly pursued his passion in small-arms manufacturing. For most of the remainder of his life, he engaged in farming and raising his family in northern Virginia.

Edward N. Spiller (1825-1871)

Edward Spiller was born outside of the town of Washington, Rappahannock County, Virginia. He was the son of slaveholders, Henry and Anne Strother Calvert Spiller, of Rappahannock County. Through his mother's lineage, Spiller was a seventh great-grandson of George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore and governor of Maryland. His uncle, John Strother Calvert, had been a member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 1850 and was the treasurer of the state of Virginia from 1857 to 1868. By 1850, Spiller had married a young lady from Harrisonburg, Virginia, and they started a family in southern Page County. He was teaching and living in Virginia iron country near Catherine Furnance, on the eastern ridge of Massanutten Mountain. Sometime between 1850 and 1856, Spiller showed interest in the business of wholesale dry goods, moved to Baltimore, and became involved in the concern of Meredith, Spencer & Co. At the outbreak of the war, Spiller moved his dry goods business to Richmond and later became a principal in the firm of Spiller & Burr. After selling the pistol factory to the C.S. government, Spiller invested his profits in the Endor Ironworks, Chatham County, North Carolina. After the war, Spiller lived briefly in Atlanta and invested in the Atlanta Machine Works with former Spiller & Burr employee, Reese H. Butler (see below). Still later, he moved back to Baltimore and entered into the dry goods business once again. He remained close friends with James Burton up to the time of his death.

David Judson Burr (1821-1876)

David J. Burr was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. He attended law school at Yale University and later practiced law under Peachy R. Gratton and with A. Judson Crane. Eventually, Burr abandoned the legal profession and began investing his money and interest in businesses, including David J. Burr & Co., commission merchants; Burr, Pae & Sampson's Foundry, foundry and machine shops; [Joseph] Patterson & Burr, tobacco manufacturers; and the Virginia Steamship and Packet Company, of which Burr was president. Burr was also a politician. At the age of twenty-six, he was elected a city alderman and served one term. In 1859, he was elected to the Richond City Council and served through 1866. During the war, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. After the war, he invested in the Insurance Savings Company of Virginia. He was also founder and first president of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce in 1867, and was the first vice-president of the Richmond Board of Trade.

Reese Helm Butler (1833-1886)

Reese Butler was born in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He was the son of an armorer and eventually became a Brooklyn-trained, practical machinist in the early 1850s. After completing his apprenticeship, the young Butler worked at the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry. He rose to the position of foreman of the Machine Shop at the Musket Factory at Harpers Ferry. After Virginia seceeded, he engaged in the position of foreman of the Machine Shop of the C.S. Armory at Richmond and assisted in moving the Rifle Factory machinery from Harpers Ferry to Fayetteville, North Carolina. Burton recruited Butler to become the superintendent of the Spiller & Burr Pistol Factory in early 1862. After the factory moved to Macon, Butler moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. There he was superintendent of the Raleigh Bayonet Factory, also known as Heck, Brodie & Co. This enterprise later moved along the Deep River of North Carolina in Chatham County. At war's end, Butler was setting up extensive manufacturing operations outside of Lockville, North Carolina. After the war, he was superintendent and partner in the Atlanta Machine Works and later started the Gainesville (Ga.) Iron Works.

Moses Hannibal Wright (1836-1886)

Moses H. Wright was born in Tennessee and attended West Point from 1854 to 1859. He graduated seventh in his class and served in the U.S. Ordnance Bureau at New York and St. Louis. At the outbreak of the war, Wright joined the Confederate Ordnance Bureau and moved to Nashville. Wright stayed in Nashville through the fire at the Nashville Arsenal on 23 December 1861 until February 1862 when he moved the entire arsenal to Atlanta. Wright, at the age of twenty-six, had worked the Atlanta Arsenal into a massive organization producing almost every size of ammunition and type of accoutrement, including more than 4 million rounds of ammunition and nearly 25 million percussion caps per year. The arsenal employed more than 450 people a month with operating expenditures averaging $1.5 million per year. Wright oversaw private contractors for arms in Atlanta, like Spiller & Burr. After the war, he engaged in the cotton business in Cincinnati, Ohio; New York City; and Louisville, Kentucky.

Hiram Herbert Herrington (1818-1887)

H.H. Herrington was born in New England. His family moved to Harpers Ferry probably in the 1820s since his father was a forger for John Hall's Rifle Works during that time. The young Herrington became a second-generation employee at the U.S. Armory and rose to the position of foreman of machinists in 1854 after the position was vacated by none other than James H. Burton. In April 1861, he assisted in packing and shipping all of the musket machinery to Richmond from Harpers Ferry. He also helped in packing, shipping, and re-erecting all of the rifle machinery from Harpers Ferry to Fayetteville, North Carolina. He held the position of master machinist at the Fayetteville Armory. Burton recruited him further south to Macon and made Herrington master machinist at the C.S. Armory at Macon, Georgia. After the war, Herrington remained in Macon, Georgia and worked as a machinist for the remainder of his life.

Jeremiah Allen Fuss, Sr. (1814 - 1902)

Born in Pennsylvania, Jeremiah Fuss spent some time in Harpers Ferry as master builder at the U.S. Armory there from 1841 to 1860. He was also noted to be Harpers Ferry's mayor at some point during that time. Eventually, he was a superintending architect for the U.S. Ordnance Bureau. He oversaw construction of the U.S. Arsenal at Benicia, California. At the outbreak of the war, he entered into service as a master builder for the C.S. Ordnance Bureau in Richmond. James Burton induced him to Macon in 1862 to superintend the construction of the C.S. Armory at Macon. He was also appointed acting master armorer and commissioned a major in the army. After the war, he remained in Macon and superintended the construction of the Bibb Co. (GA) courthouse, Mercer University, and the local Masonic Temple.

Harpers Ferry influence

The influence of the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry on the C.S. Ordnance Bureau cannot be underestimated. Not only was the machinery from Harpers Ferry the backbone of the bureau, but also the men form the armory were vital to the bureau's limited success. Men like James H. Burton, Superintendent of C.S. Armories; William S. Downer, Superintendent of the Richmond Armory; Hiram H. Herrington, Master Machinist of the Macon Armory; Jeremiah Fuss, Master Builder of the Macon Armory; Phillip Burkhart, Master Armorer of the Richmond Armory; Reese H. Butler, Superintendent of Spiller & Burr; Isaac B. Myers, Chief Inspector at Spiller & Burr; James H. Claspy, machinist at Spiller & Burr; William D. Copeland, Foreman of Machine Shop of the Macon Armory; Franklin P. Mauzy, Inspector of Carbines at the Richmond Armory; Joseph A. Brua, Foreman of the Lock Department of the Richmond Armory and, later, Master Armorer at Columbia (SC) Armory; John W. Krepps, Foreman of the Stocking Department of the Richmond Armory; Henry W. Clowe, Foreman of the Smith's Shop at the Richmond Armory; an additonal thirty employees at the Richmond Armory; an additional twenty at the Fayetteville Armory; an additonal dozen at the Macon Armory; a few at the Asheville (N.C.) Armory; and a few more at the Columbia (S.C.) Armory. Many of these men had witnessed John Brown's raid, which may have influenced their decision to move south. Others saw an opportunity to advance up the ranks of an expanding ordnance department. Still others may have simply wanted to remain employed with the machinery and tools they knew so well. For whatever reason, these men greatly influenced the Confederate States Ordnance Bureau and its productivity.

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