Columbus Arsenal

The city of Columbus Georgia was a very important contributor to the Confederate war effort.  Located on the Chattahoochee River in southwest Georgia it was also a major railroad and shipping center and therefore critical for Southern manufacture.  A spur of the Montgomery and West Point Railroad crossed the river from the west while the Muscogee Railroad extended east into central Georgia. At the height of the war no less than five steamers transported goods up and down the Chattahoochee River.  More important to the war effort was the city’s considerable manufacturing capabilities.

Columbus had become a major center of industry by the 1850’s.  It contained a large foundry and prospering paper mill, its grist and flour mills were the hub for local agriculture but most prominent were the huge cotton and woolen textile mills producing massive amounts of raw and finished textile goods.  Five mills containing literally thousands of spindles and looms produced sheeting, clothing, yarn and wool which firmly established Columbus as the deep South’s center for this industry by 1860. These industries, its railroad and shipping made Columbus a natural center for production in the Confederate war effort and a logical location for establishment of important government facilities which would eventually include an armory, arsenal, Quartermaster Depot and Naval Works.

In May of 1862, Captain F.C. Humphrey of the Ordnance Department arrived in Columbus from Baton Rouge to organize and command the Columbus Arsenal and Armory.  Up to that time the military production of swords, pistols, and rifles in the city had been done by a host of small, loosely associated private manufacturers. By end of the summer however, the Ordnance Department had begun its first large scale manufacturing. This was principally harness and ordnance and infantry accoutrements on machinery largely from the Baton Rouge Arsenal which had been evacuated with Major Humphrey when Federal forces threatened that city. In short order, the Columbus Arsenal became the center of a large, sprawling group of private and government shops for the production of ammunition and the manufacture and repair of cannon, swords, pistols, rifles and a host of other assorted equipment. It manufacturing grew in size and importance and by 1865,  its rate of production was among the better half of all Confederate Ordnance establishments.

The city of Columbus fell violently to Federal Cavalry under Gen. James Wilson on April 16th 1865, in one of the last land battles east of the Mississippi River. In the aftermath, the arsenal, armory, Naval Works, Quartermaster Depot, iron works, large textile mills and much of Columbus’ private industry and property that had aided the Confederate war effort were completely destroyed.

Significant amounts of cavalry, infantry and artillery equipment as made at the Columbus Arsenal. Unfortunately, very little is known about production as most all of its records were destroyed in Wilson’s raid. As for saddlery, it is known that as of September 1863, the Columbus Arsenal was issuing sets of saddle equipment with a halter-bridle (though some with a halter and bridle “separate”), breast strap, crupper and Spanish Moss Blankets. Cloth cavalry saddles and possibly other horse equipment were also made in Columbus as were significant numbers of  Spanish-moss-made saddle blankets.

It is known at least three contractors from the Columbus area (Crown & Co., Folsom & Cody and Sherman Co.) made saddles or horse equipment. Both Folsom & Cody and Sherman, also had contracts for saddlery with the Macon Arsenal. Crown & Co. is believed to have made various pieces of equipment, largely of cloth. From December of 1863 thru February 1864, Crown supplied some 959 cloth cavalry saddles and infantry accoutrements to the Columbus Arsenal. In addition, the renown local sword-makers, L. Haiman & Bros. may have also manufactured some saddlery by contract to Columbus.

Interestingly, the Columbus Arsenal appears to have been a prolific provider of Spanish Moss-made saddle blankets. A ready source of Spanish Moss growing along the banks of the deep South Chattahootchie River provided an independent supply. Records show tens of thousands of moss blankets were requisitioned from Columbus to all of the other western arsenals and even Richmond during the war. Nonetheless, scant records or references to horse equipment manufacturing for this arsenal leave little in which to draw further conclusions.

Columbus Georgia Arsenal Saddles & Horse Equipments: To obtain more detailed information about Columbus Arsenal horse equipment production and issuances including Ordnance Manual specifications for leather and hardware send $10 to Ken R. Knopp, Confederate Horse Equipment, P.O. Box 1322, Hattiesburg, Miss. 39403. *****Be sure to request Columbus Saddle Production specs