Arming the Union through Innovation, Genius, and Agency
Men, Machine, & the Carbine
The federal government was not prepared, whether in its stores or in its structural ability, to obtain domestic supplies at the outbreak of the Civil War.1 The War Department simply could not meet the growing demand that the large influx of troops created during the first two months of the war.2 States were unwilling to wait for the Ordnance Department to issue their troops guns and ammunition if they could obtain the goods faster. In order to supplement the Union's war effort, states, led by their governors, initially took the lead in supplying troops as well as other military needs, such as food, textiles, and arms.3 The states searched to arm their men with the best arms and that attitude helped to drive innovation in arms, even after the federal government took control of mobilization in early 1862.4
The border states (Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia) faced the difficult task of attempting to handle internal divisive conflicts between secessionists and federals as well as battles threatened their stability throughout the war. Union martial law was in place in the border states throughout the Civil War.4 Despite the internal strife, border states operated much like the other Union states in the procurement of arms and war supplies.5
The States Supply Their Troops
PHOTO: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Officer sand women gather outside the North Front Building in the Interior court at the Washington, D.C. Arsenal. c.1861-1865
Every state's mobilization process was a little different; yet, according to historian Paul A. C. Koistinen, there were still some common generalities between each state's process. Partially due to competition in procuring limited arms for their soldiers, most states cooperated little with each other.6 No state was completely ready for war, but they were able to access financial resources for their states more quickly than the federal government. Usually, banks and wealthy people funded the mobilization until the state governments organized a program for wartime commerce.6 Lastly, the states’ leadership in the initial procurement process promoted widespread support for the war effort.4 The mass support came from connections to local wealthy and/or prominent citizens as well as manufacturers. Their initial efforts to supply the troops with workable arms supported carbine manufacturers and other companies when the government had yet to take on that responsibility fully.
1Paul A. C. Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords: The Political Economy of American Warfare, 1606¬1865 (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1996), 102.
2 Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords, 103.
3 Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords, 102, 106.
4 Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords, 104.
5 Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords, 117.
6 Koistinen, Beating Plowshares Into Swords, 10.