From the Richmond Enquirer, 9/28/1861
The Mechanical and Industrial Resources of Richmond.
Under this caption, we design giving such occasional statistical information respecting the extent, resources and progress of the industrial interests of our city, as shall demonstrate at a glance the rapidly increasing importance of Richmond as a manufacturing place, and the entire ability of our mechanics, and business men generally, to assert with ease and profit their entire independence of Yankee capital, and of Yankee enterprise. As a matter of justice to long-established success, we devote this initial sketch to the Richmond "Tredegar Iron Works" of Messrs. Joseph R. Anderson & Co., situated at the James River terminus of ____ street. For a very interesting visit to these extensive works, on Wednesday, and a detailed explanation of its operations, we rest under obligations to the courtesy of Mr. Edward R. Archer, its Assistant Superintendent.
THE TREDEGAR IRON WORKS.
This vast and magnificent establishment, the resources and the important services of which must constitute a prominent chapter in the future history of Southern independence, has long enjoyed a very wide spread and honorable celebrity, not only as the most extensive of its character in America, but on the score also of the superior and admirable quality of the work which has issued from it. Established many years ago, and at a period when the mechanical and industrial inferiority of the business men of the South to those of the North, seems to have been generally conceded even by Southern writers, the Tredegar works, under the well directed skill and quiet enterprise of its proprietors, gradually extended its operations, and developed its resources to a degree which brought it into direct competition with the best establishments of a similar class in the North, when its superior excellence in many, if not all the branches of iron manufacture, extorted an unequivocal recognition from the Government of the United States, which awarded to Messrs. Anderson & Co. the construction of the engines of the first class steam frigates "Roanoke" and "Colorado," and the manufacture of a very considerable quantity of cannon and ordnance, and projectiles of all kinds.
It was in this latter departments – the fabrication of cannon – that the "Tredegar Works," achieved its first popular distinction. So decidedly superior were the ordnance here manufactured found to be, that the fame of the foundry in which they were cast soon became firmly established, and the U. S. government thenceforward, and up to within a short time of the election of Lincoln, entrusted to Messrs. Anderson & Co. the manufacture of the chief portion of the best ordnance required by the war department. An officer of distinction in the old Federal navy, and, who had been long engaged in superintending the manufacture and proof of ordnance made for his government, writes of the Tredegar Foundry, that of some 1,200 guns made there, every one of the number successfully withstood the tests to which they were subjected, and, adds the safe assertion that "they are fully equal to any made in this country or in Europe." In proof of this opinion, the fact may be mentioned here that several of the Tredegar guns have endured, without injury, upwards of 1,000 rounds, and in one memorable instance at least, the piece safely withstood the excessive test of 1,800 consecutive firings to which it was subjected, for the purpose of ascertaining its actual power of endurance. A chief cause of this remarkable excellence of the ordnance made here, is said to exist in the admitted fact that the iron used in their manufacture, and which is principally obtained from the "Cloverdale Mine" in Botetourt county, Virginia, is the best in the world for that purpose. It is certain, however, that the laudable professional pride and mechanical skill of Messrs. Anderson & Co., have contributed no little to their fame in this respect.
The experience and he facilities which the "Tredegar Works" have thus been enabled to acquire, would seem to have been the result of a special direction, which the enthusiastic patriot may well be excused for regarding as providential. Without the establishment of Messrs. Anderson & Co., and the opportune possession of the Gosport Navy Yard, it is difficult to conceive how the South, relying solely upon human agencies, could have successfully resisted the assaults of a neighboring, powerful, and well-appointed enemy. The importance of these works to the South does not appear to have been underrated by our enemies, since, avowedly, the chief object of the "On to Richmond" march, was their destruction and consequent crippling of Southern resources of war.
The number of ordnance, of all calibres, furnished to the South by the Tredegar Works, we have it not in our power to state; but, taking certain facts within our possession as the data of the estimate, it must reach to hundreds. At present the utmost activity is being displayed in this department, and from six to eight small, and about six large guns, are turned out weekly. The floors of the machine shop are crowded with projectiles of sizes and shapes, varying in weight from the one hundred pound percussion shell of the rifled Columbiads, to the six pound shells of the jaunty and symetrical, but destructive, little rifled "Tredegar gun," as it is termed.
The percussion shells, of which a large number are now being used, are provided with Borman's celebrated graduated fuse, with a safety attachment – the invention of Dr. Rob't S. Archer, a member of the firm – to prevent premature explosions by the careless dropping of the shell. Quite a number of these terrible projectiles are ready packed for transhipment to Charleston, are [and] about 200 shells are each day sent to the laboratory to be filled. The machinery for boring and rifling cannon are of the most improved and powerful description, and are kept constantly employed. During our visit on Wednesday, a monster 10 inch Columbiad weighing about 17,000 pounds and having a range of four miles, was being rifled – a process which would occupy about two days. Three of these enormous cannon are cast each week (in the average), and six of them were, during our visit, undergoing the process of boring, preparatory to being rifled. The operation of boring is by far the most tedious of all connected with the manufacture of a gun, occupying from five days to two weeks, according to the quality of the iron or the excellence of the tools used. There are six boring beds, or mills, and a proportionate number of planers, or lathes, for smoothing and finishing the piece after it has been bored. The light "Tredegar Gun," and rifled field pieces of ordinary calibre are turned off with great rapidity, and removed to suitable fields of action as soon as finished. Among the guns now being rifled for field service, are some fifty bronze and iron guns of a small caliber, belonging to the State of Virginia. These had heretofore been regarded as wholly useless, but will, in their altered forms, become exceedingly effective. The latter pieces will be confided, it is supposed, to the care of the Home Guards throughout the State. A number of formidable looking eight-inch siege howitzers have also been completed, and are now ready for shipment to different points of action. The process of fabricating the terrible instruments of death, is full of interest to the uninitiated. The guns are cast solidly, and after being reduced of their surplus length, are placed upon the boring beds, and from thence transferred, to the turning lathes, where the pieces are then cut down to their proper shape and dimensions, and smoothed or polished.
The establishment is also largely engaged in the manufacture of gun carriages, for field batteries and for heavy ordnance. Quite a large number of these, made in the best and most substantial manner, have already been sent away, and others are being almost daily conveyed to the different fields of action. It was in this department that the most difficulty was anticipated in meeting the requirements of our armies; yet here, also, the energy of Messrs. Anderson & Co. has demonstrated the entirely self-sustaining powers and resources of the South, by turning out from their establishment carriages and all the appurtenances of field batteries, which challenge the closest critical comparison with the best work of Northern manufactories. A traveling forge to accompany the batteries into the field – and numbers are being here made after an original design – struck us as being one of the most complete, and practically available in all of its arrangements we have yet seen.
Another decided improvement in the mechanism of artillery, which this firm has originated are wrought iron carriages for barbette guns, which have been found to far surpass the cumbrous oaken ones now generally used, both in strength and in the ease with which the heaviest ordnance may be worked upon them, while they fall as far below the latter in weight and in expense of construction. The plan of these carriages was highly approved by the old government, who were about to order them for the more important fortifications along the coast, when Lincoln went in, and the Union became thenceforward as "the baseless fabric of a vision." Several of the improved wrought iron carriages are now under construction and one of them has been already completed – for certain Southern forts.
Many of the improvements which have been originated in the manufacture of cannon, projectiles, &c., may be traced to the practiced skill and the experience of Dr. Robt. S. Archer, one of the firm, who was formerly in the United States Navy for many years, as surgeon, and who has devoted a considerable portion of his life to experimenting in fire arms, projectiles, &c.
The "Tredegar Gun," to which reference has before been made, is of an original design, and upon an entirely new principle. It is a six-pounder iron rifled field piece, furnished with a patent friction primer instead of a percussion hammer, and having a graduated sight, by means of which the gun may be fired with the accuracy of a rifle. It is quite likely the Yankees will soon hear of this busy little artillery hornet in the vicinity of Washington. Extensive additions will shortly be made to the works now in operation, and which will much facilitate the speedier manufacture of guns of the heaviest calibre.
We have been thus full in our sketch of the military operations of the Tredegar Works, because they exhibit at once their unlimited capacity and the indomitable energy of its proprietors, and because that the entire vast establishment is now wholly devoted to the pressing requirements of the military service of the Confederacy. But while the manufacture of ordnance, &c., exhibit the capacity of the establishment, they by no means afford a just idea of its resources or the variety of its manufactures.
Very few intelligent Southern readers need be reminded, we imagine, that in the manufacture of locomotives, the Tredegar Works stand second to none on this continent. The fact is amply demonstrated by the popularity of the admirable engines of the Tredegar stamp, upon the Southern roads, and even upon those of Cuba, which are exclusively furnished with them we believe. But even the most intelligent of Southern readers may well be surprised at the variety of delicate and complicated machinery and steel ware, manufactured by Messrs. Anderson & Co.; and only by a walk through their establishment – the work of hours by the way – can a just idea of its actual operations be obtained. The list of manufactures which the Works are capable under ordinary circumstances of turning out, includes, in addition to locomotives and every description of iron work connected with the construction of railroads, sugar and saw mills &c., planning machines, ship spikes, chains, iron and brass castings, portable and stationary steam engines, machinery for plantation purposes, circular saw plates, carriage axles, and tool and machinery steel of every shape and size. To the manufacture of cast-steel especial attention has been given; sine steel furnaces with proper machinery, are employed in this department, and the work turned out is confidently claimed to be fully equal to the best English brands for tenacity, soundness and uniformity of temper.
The amount of machinery, forges, mills, &c., required in the various departments of the Tredegar Works are of course enormous, and would require, in their hurried description even, more technical knowledge than we could summon up, and far more space than the demands of the public will enable us to give. – There are in all about fifteen shops, each one of which is employed in a distinct branch of the general manufacturing business of the firm. These comprise: The Rolling Mill, with furnaces for melting and puddling iron, and pondrous machinery for rolling it into the several requisite forms of merchantable iron; Spike Factory, for the manufacture of ship and rail road spikes, about thirty tons of which can be made in the course of one day; Cooper Shop; the Foundry, where all the castings are made: this department is in three divisions, the first of which is devoted to heavy castings, inclusive of guns, &c., the second to rail road, engine, and other castings generally; and the third to rail road work exclusively. – In the first named division there is now being arranged for casting a peculiar mould, the name and object of which it would not be judicious to disclose, being for Government purposes, which will require about three weeks for its entire casting, and will, when completed, weigh upwards of 17,000 pounds; Car Wheels; Brass Foundery, where the brass castings of locomotives, &c., are made. The First Machine Shop, where car wheels and cannon are bored, turned and rifled; In this shop is an immense Hydralic Press for forcing the car wheels on the axle, and which possesses a power of compression equal to two hundred tons; locomotive shop in which locomotives, mills, engines, and the more delicate machinery generally are all made. The armory, designed for the manufacture of rifled muskets, but not in operation; Carpenter shop; Boiler shop; Pattern shop; Cast steel foundry; wheel and Mill wright shop; and Blacksmith shop. In the latter building, which is 180 feet long, and well supplied with trip hammers for light work, and every requisite appliance, forty forges are kept constantly employed. The Laboratory, where shells and grape shot are filled, and other projectiles prepared, is a separate department called into existence by the exigencies of the times.
There are at present employed in the works about 1,000 men, who, were they called into service would make a formidable regiment of strong armed defenders; and for such a service they are fully prepared, for, influenced by the warlike tendencies of the times, the men, some time ago, organized from among themselves a full battalion, and elected as their commander, Major Joseph R. Anderson, one of the proprietors. Procuring arms, they, after some weeks passed in industrious drilling, tendered their services to the Government through their commander. The President very judiciously declined the tender, upon the ground that the Tredegar Volunteers could be of infinitely more service to the cause they desired to serve, in the work shops than in the field. Recently Major Anderson has been called to a brigadier generalship in the provisional army of the Confederacy, and the battalion are temporarily without a commander. They preserve, however, their regular organization, and drill with assiduous care once a week. From their ranks a guard is nightly detailed, and the establishment placed under strict military surveillance. The latter precaution has been rendered necessary by the attempt to destroy these all important works, which have twice been made by Yankee emissaries in our midst, and, which attempts were, fortunately for our cause, twice frustrated by the vigilance of some of our employees in the works.
The supply of anthracite coal having been cut off by the blockade, Messrs. Anderson & Co. are about to resort to the use of coke, which material is wholly used in England for manufacturing purposes. A large furnace for the purpose of converting bituminous coal into coke has been erected, and is now ready for active operations. The coke, when made, will be mixed with anthracite coal, a quantity of which the firm have managed to retain. – The supply of earth for moulding purposes has also been cut off, but the demand is fully met by an abundance of the requisite article procured in the immediate vicinity of his city. It was formerly obtained from Troy, New York. The dealings of Messrs. Anderson & Co. with the North, before the interruption of commercial intercourse between the two sections, amounted annually to about $400,000 – nearly half a million of dollars – all of which enormous revenue has, we trust, been now lost to Yankeedom forever. Among the articles for which we relied wholly upon the North was boiler or plate iron, and already its manufacture, in ample quantities, has been achieved by Messrs. Anderson & Co. The firm are now supplying the Government with large quantities of excellent plate iron. The purpose to which it is applied will be ascertained through Yankee sources sooner or later.
The Tredegar Iron Works, it remains only to say, are operated wholly by water power, from the inexhaustable and unrivalled sources of the noble James river.
The following gentlemen comprise the firm of Anderson & Co.: Joseph R. Anderson, Robert Archer, John F. Tanner, Robert S. Archer. The officers of the Works are as follows: Alexander Delaney, Superintendent; Edward R. Archer, Assistant Superintendent; P. S. Derbyshire, Foreman of the Foundry; John Morfitt, of Machine Shop; J. W. Hercus, of Setting-up Shop; J. W. Curtis, of Finishing Shop; William H. Leach, of Blacksmith Shop; John Reid, of Pattern Shop; Thomas Hays, of Boiler Shop; and Guido Weis, of Carpenter Shop.