This Week in the Civil War - 427
By mid-October 1862 General Josiah Gorgas, the Confederate national government’s chief of ordinance, had armed the South. To do so, Gorgas not only purchased munitions in Europe, but his agents roamed the South, confiscating whiskey stills to provide copper for percussion caps and church bells for the bronze needed for cannon. He encouraged soldiers to scavenge battlefields for weapons; in one year alone 100,000 discarded Union firearms were collected.
Lacking saltpeter to manufacture gunpowder, Gorgas used a composting method which combined uric acid from urine with other organic waste to produce saltpeter. Weapons factories were established throughout the South, and production of mineral and ore deposits such as lead was greatly increased. Through Gorgas’ extraordinary efforts the rural South mobilized for war to an extent that few could have envisioned.