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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/398

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386
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the enemy, and more than once military movements were hampered owing to the scarcity of ammunition. We have it upon the authority of Colonel Rains that "but one man—Wright—could be found in the Southern States who had seen gunpowder made by the incorporating mill, the only kind that can make it of the first quality; he had been a workman at the Waltham Abbey Government Gunpowder Works in England." During the period that the Augusta mills were in process of construction a small powder factory was run at Manchester, Tenn. The output of this was very limited, and it was conducted mostly as a school of instruction, and as soon as the Augusta works were completed the operatives and machinery were transferred there. At the same time, at a refinery in Nashville, workmen were being taught to refine saltpeter and distill charcoal. Notwithstanding these methods of obtaining competent labor, it was with the greatest difficulty that a sufficient supply could be procured, and as a consequence every sort of labor-saving device possible was adopted. Among the improvements introduced by Colonel Rains in this way was a crystallizing machine of his own invention for refining saltpeter, the main constituent of gunpowder, and which has to be brought to a high state of chemical purity. By means of this machine eight or ten thousand pounds of saltpeter, used by the works daily, which had to pass through many stages and undergo much manipulation, which at first required a large force by manual labor, was prepared by two or three workmen. Other improved methods of powder-making were brought into use for the first time, and the Confederate powder works were pronounced among the finest in the world, and the London Times and other foreign papers gave lengthy and commendatory descriptions of them.

The Confederacy was furnished with one thousand three hundred and seventy-five tons of gunpowder from these works. Colonel Rains is authority for the statement that "notwithstanding the admirable serving of the heavy artillery at Fort Sumter during that engagement, it would have fallen and Charleston been captured had any but the strongest gunpowder been used. The armor of the ironclads, though constructed expressly to withstand the heaviest charges and projectiles, gave way before its propelling force." General G. J. Rains, a brother of Colonel Rains of the powder works, was the inventor of the sub-terra shells, that were first used after the battle of Williamsburg, and which proved effectual in retarding the advance of the Federal forces. At the time that McClellan was in command below Richmond, in 1862, and his vessels in James River, General Rains was placed in command of the submarine defenses by the Confederate Government. Here, opposite Drury's Bluff, the first submarine torpedo used in the war was made. This mode of defense had been previously