"A Veritable... Arsenal" of Manufacturing: Government Management of Weapons Production in the American Revolution

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The American colonies that rebelled against Great Britain in 1775 did so without the weapons manufacturing infrastructure necessary to support such an action. There were few Americans skilled in the production of weapons, and the colonies' craft-based production operations were not organized for large-scale output. Worse yet for the rebels, the war disrupted the operations of the few craftsmen available to support the war effort. Money became scarce; resources, expensive; and transportation, unreliable. Consequently, the Continental Army took the field with insufficient amounts of muskets, accoutrements, ammunition, and artillery. In the wake of independence, the Continental Congress dealt with the situation by creating the Department of the Commissary General of Military Stores. Departmental bureaucrats developed a system that mobilized and managed domestic weapons production, overcoming the limitations of the nation's wartime, craft-based economy. The system was comprised of three elements. First, there were several national arsenals where private craftsmen and hired workers were gathered under the coordination of government managers. Second, government inspectors were appointed to direct private weapons manufacturers through instruction and oversight. Finally, the government provided private manufacturers with the cash, raw materials, and transportation resources they lacked as a result of the war. This military stores system provided a steady supply of weapons and accoutrements to the army for the remainder of the war and throughout the Confederation Period until the Federal government reorganized it in 1794.In mid- 1784 William Whiting, the owner of Salisbury Furnace wrote Hodgdon of the fact that there was a great deal of shot and shell at ... 113 Receipt September 29, 1784, ibid.; John Bryant Return to Samuel Hodgdon, February 1, 1785, ibid.

Title:"A Veritable... Arsenal" of Manufacturing: Government Management of Weapons Production in the American Revolution
Author:Robert F. Smith
Publisher:ProQuest - 2008


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