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Civilain worker in a cotton factory in Augusta, GA during the Civil War.

As it was, the South was far behind the North in this area. The South was basically agricultural while the North was industrial. One southern city that was far in advance of the majority of other cities in the Confederacy in the industrialization department was Augusta, Georgia. Here the civilians were the real war heroes.

Confederate Powderworks monument in Augusta, GA Confederate Powderworks exhibit at Sugusta Interpretive Center  in Augusta, GA
The Confederate Obelisk seen from Augusta Canal   Power Works Exhibit at  Augusta Canal Interpretive Center

In July 1861. Colonel George W. Rains, directed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, selected Augusta as the site of a massive powder works factory.  The Augusta Powder Works, a two-mile-long compound of Gothic revival buildings bordering the Augusta Canal, was constructed in just eight months. It was the only permanent facility ever constructed by the Confederate government. 

The Augusta Powder Factory was the second largest in the world in its time. It was capable of producing as much as 7,000 pounds of gunpowder per day, and by the end of the war, more than 3 million pounds had been produced. The human element that went into this massive effort was mainly women, children and African American slaves. In fact African Americans provided about half of the workforce of the factory. Without these civilians, the war engine would have been stopped before it got started.

All that remains of the Powder Factory is  the smokestack, a 168 foot tall obelisk,  which was left standing as a memorial to citizens the Confederate dead. Today the best way to understand that part of Augusta's history is by taking a Petersburg Boat tour. They are currently offering a Civil War Sesquicentennial tour "Food, Fabric and Firepower." The tour has a knowledgeable captain and a tour guide that explains what you see along the canal's banks and what was once there. It's a pleasant ride and you are sure to spot some wildlife along the way. 

Petersburg Boat on Augusta Canal  in Augusta, GA
One of the Petersburg Boats
Powder without guns and ammunition is useless. The foundry in Augusta was originally a U.S. Arsenal. The building of the arsenal began in 1816 on the advice of George Washington. It was originally on the banks of the Savanna River but due to the low lying swampy  land, the site proved unhealthy. In 1826 and 1827, it was moved by wagon and reassembled exactly in its original layout farther uphill on the site of present day Augusta State University recently renamed Georgia Regents University, The present quadrangle buildings were part of the original arsenal. Rains Hall, home of the second in command, Benet House, the original commanders home, Payne Hall, the original headquarters building and Fanning Hall, once the barracks for enlisted men and bachelor officers. Later in the war, Fanning Hall  was used as a hospital.  One of the more famous inhabitants who would have stayed at Fanning Hall was a young  lieutenant, William T. Sherman, who was stationed at the arsenal for about six months in 1844. The brick wall around the quadrangle still has firing holes from its  arsenal incarnation.  When Georgia Succeeded, it took over the arsenal. Although manned and managed  by military personnel, the arsenal employed civilians.  Women workers at the arsenal made cartridges for a dollar a day.

Arsenal Guardhouse  in Augusta, GA
Arsenal Guardhouse
Aside from the quadrangle there is another interesting building from that period along the Campus History Walk. On the corner of Walton Way and Katherine Street you can visit  a restored 1866 Arsenal Guardhouse. It now serves as a History Museum housing artifacts, photographs, and other memorabilia of the period. Many of the artifacts were excavated in archaeological digs on campus. What was once a cell is now refinished with figures in period costume, portraying life in the guardhouse in the late 1800s.

In front of the museum is a cannon. It was one of Semmes Artillery pieces not manufactured at the foundry but surrendered there at the end of the war.

Just a little farther down the Walton Way and Arsenal Street History Walk you will find a military cemetery that holds the remains of U. S. and Confederate soldiers and their dependents.

Clothing manufacture and the production of cloth were another necessity for the military that was staffed by civilians, mainly women. A Confederate Naval Supply shop made shoes and uniforms for navy personnel. Confederate Quartermaster's Office, Confederate Clothing Bureau, Georgia Clothing Bureau and Augusta Factory, which made clothe for the army, all hired huge amounts of civilian labor again mostly women.

Civilian Worker Exhibit at Augusta Canal Interpretive Center
Civilian Worker Exhibit at Augusta Canal Interpretive Center
Augusta ladies began forming groups to help the war effort. The Ladies Volunteer Association of Richmond County and the Ladies Volunteer Sewing Society made uniforms. Ladies Lunch Association fed the troops at the depots as they passed through Augusta on the trains. The Ladies Hospital Relief and Hospital Association started a Wayside Home for wounded soldiers. There was even a Ladies Gunboat Association to build a gun boat to protect them form attack by way of the river. for the first time, women in the south took on rolls previously designated "masculine."

The Augusta Canal Interpretive Center, also the place to board the Petersburg Boat tours, offers a wonderful view of the history not only of the Augusta Canal but of the mills and factories. There is a section showing the  "Wartime Industry-serving the  Confederacy" in the "Mill and Boom Times Exhibit." It is one museum you want to be sure to visit.

Augusta Museum of History's Augusta 1864 Exhibit
Augusta Museum of History's Augusta 1864 Exhibit
Another museum which will expand your knowledge as well as entertain you is the Augusta Museum of History. Currently there is a temporary exhibit dealing with Augusta during Sherman's March to the Sea called "Augusta, 1864."  Today, we know Sherman bypassed Augusta but the people living thorough that terrible war had no way of knowing how history would play out. It was commonly believed that Sherman would swing over to Augusta after Savanna. This exhibit provides an intimate look at the citizens of Augusta during that critical year. There are voice casts where you press a button and hear the thoughts of citizens of Augusts, the highborn, lowborn, free and slave.  A sample store, items from everyday life, spectacles, shoes, clothing make this exhibit a trip back in time.

The other exhibits in the museum are well worth seeing as well so allow yourself a few hours to visit it.

Wodrow Wilson home in Augusta, GA
Woodrow Wilson's Home
There were other Augusta civilians who were touched  by the war. One place where the war intersected with a young boy who would later find his place in history and have to deal with another devastating war., was the First Presbyterian Church of Augusta at 642 Telfair Street. The church is worth a visit for its beauty as well as its history. The single spired Romanesque church was completed in 1804 and designed by architect Robert Mills, the architect who designed the Washington Monument. It is on the National Historic Register.

The pastor of the church during the time of the War Between the States was Joseph R. Wilson. He was a firm secessionist. He and his family lived in the Manse just across the street. His youngest child  was a boy called Tommy. Tommy was about three or four when his first memory of the war occurred. He was playing near his front gate when he heard two men passing by discussing the election of Abraham Lincoln. "This means war!" one man declared.

During the war the church was used as a hospital for soldiers wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga. After the war's end he saw captured Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, brought through the streets of Augusta under guard on his way to prison at Fort Monroe.  Imagine how this influenced the life of future 28th president, Thomas Woodrow Wilson. His Boyhood Home is open for tours.

Magnolia Cemetary in Augusta, GA
Entrance to Magnolia Cemetery
The soldiers who dies at the First Presbyterian Church were buried at nearby Magnolia Cemetery as are seven Confederate generals; Brig. Gen. Edward Porter Alexander, Brig. Gen. Goode Bryan, Brig. Gen. Victory Jean Baptiste Girardy, Brig. Gen. John King Jackson, Brig. Gen. William Duncan Smith, Brig. Gen. Marcellas A. Stovall and Maj. Gen. Ambrose Ranson Wright.  When you visit, you will note the cemetery's east facing brick wall has loopholes knocked out of them. This was done so they could be used to fire rifles through as part of the fortification when it was believed Sherman was headed for Augusta. The cemetery's earliest burial was in August 1818.

Some of the Antebellum residents of August who were drastically effected by the Civil War was  its African American population. The one place where they would have been able to meet and perhaps voice their thought  most truthfully was Springfield Baptist Church. The church was originally built by Methodists. When they moved  the Springfield Congregation bought the building.  The congregation has roots dating back to 1787 and during the war years had a congregation of over 1,000 members.  The old wooden church which is still used for meetings and special events is the oldest independent black church on its original site in the U.S. It was founded for free blacks, by blacks. In 1866, the Georgia Equal Rights Association began at this church as did Morehouse College in 1867.

Augusta's Confederate Monument is one of oldest and, at 76 feet, the tallest in the state. It is made of Italian Carrara Marble atop a stepped 22-feet square base of Georgia granite.  Augusta native Private Berry Benson stand atop the monument. Benson was an Augusta native Confederate scout who was repeatedly captured and each time escaped. Around the base you find the  life-size statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, T.R.R. Cobb and W.H.T. Walker.

Yes, the monument honors the military faction but remember for every slain Confederate soldier, there were civilian relatives and friends affected by his death. The inscription, later used on other Confederate monuments around the South, recognized the sacrifice of the entire Confederate nation, both soldier and civilian when it states, "No Nation Rose so White and Fair: None Fell So Pure of Crime."

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