In the first year of fighting, states bought arms on the open market from private companies both within the United States and internationally. The states’ competitive buying hindered the Ordnance Department’s procurement of weapons. (During the opening months of the war, states competed for the limited supplies available in military goods, including weapons.)1 Therefore, Secretary of War Simon Cameron asked and then, in November 1861, ordered that the states stop buying arms for their troops. Most had complied at the close of 1861.2 The federal government finally started to lead mobilization in 1862, even though some states continued to have large roles in that process.3
Throughout the war, the states transitioned from primary procurers of weapons and supplies to secondary ones, under the federal government. According to Historian Paul Koistinen, “To ensure Union survival, the central government had to tap the spirit and energy of the states while maintaining control over them. That was accomplished. The states retained a strong measure of autonomy in 1865 but lacked the power they had held in 1861. Defeating the Confederacy was a combined federal/state accomplishment, but Washington dominated it.”4 They gave up some of their power to the federal government when they followed Cameron’s demand to go through the federal department for armaments and munitions. The assumption of federal control can be seen throughout the arms industry through the contracting, testing, and inspections of arms as well as Cameron's order and the closing of state armories.
1 Mark Wilson, The Business of Civil War: Military Mobilization and the State, 1861–1865 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 23.
2Paul A. C. Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1606¬1865 (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1996), 161.
3 Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords, 104.
4 Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords, 130.
Federal Government Takes Charge