Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 26.djvu/380
370 Southern Historical Society Papers.
Near the close of the war the supply of mercury became exhausted. Here was a most serious difficulty. We had not, and could not ob- tain, the mercury, an essential material with which to manufacture fulminate of mercury, and without caps the army could not fight, and must be disbanded. This was an extremely serious situation, as no mercury could be obtained in the limits of the Confederacy. We began to experiment on substitutes, and fortunately found in Rich- mond two substitutes chloride of potash and sulphuret of antimony which, when properly combined, answered the purpose satisfact- orily. And the battles around Petersburg during the last few months of the war, were fought with caps filled with this novel substitute. Our lead was obtained chiefly, and in the last years of the war, en- tirely, from the lead-mine near Wytheville, Va.
The mines were worked night and day, and the lead converted into bullets as fast as received.
The old regulation shrapnel shells were filled with leaden balls and sulphur. The Confederacy had neither lead nor sulphur to spare, and used instead small iron balls, and filled with asphalt.
We had no private manufactories established, which could furnish the appliances needed, and frequently everything had to be done from the very beginning by the ordnance department, and the army in the field. For instance, to run the forges to make the irons for the artillery carriages, we needed charcoal. To obtain this, I pur- chased the timber of a number of acres of woodland on the south side of the James river, and secured a detail of men to burn the charcoal for the use of our forge department.
During the winter men from General Lee's army cut the timber and shipped it to Richmond, with which artillery carriages were made on which to mount the guns to fight the battles in the spring. Men appointed for that purpose followed the army and collected the hides of the slaughtered animals that were used to cover the saddle- trees made of timber, cut by temporary details of men from the army in the field.
As the war continued, efforts were made to build permanent and well appointed arsenals, as at Macon and Augusta, Ga.
The large arsenal at Augusta, under the management of Colonel Rains, was especially devoted to the manufacture of powder. To- ward the close of the war it was making an abundant supply of very superior character, equal and in some respects superior to that im- ported from foreign countries.
Under the demands of necessity, in many instances, cotton con-