My Georgia History

Confederate Gun Powder Works

For over 140 years it has stood there, the towering brick obelisk, called the “Confederate Powder Works” chimney.  It’s located on Goodrich Street, right in front of the Sibley Mill.  How did it get there and what does it represent in the history of Augusta, Georgia?

It all started back on July 10, 1861. Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, selected Colonel George Washington Raines, to select the site and build a Gunpowder Mill.  At that time, Jefferson Davis knew we were going to war with the North.  The South had no factories making gunpowder, except a small stamping mill in the interior of Tennessee.  A rapid tour of the south was taken to find a suitable site.  In his own words, Colonel Raines said Augusta was chosen,  “…for several reasons, for its central position, for its canal transportation and water power, its railroad facilities, and especially for the security from attack.”  The work was started.  He sent men to see how gunpowder was made and then had them come back to Augusta.  He ordered saltpeter and other ingredients that were necessary to make gunpowder.  He then started building.  You couldn’t have just one building, that would be too dangerous.  Colonel Raines hired William Pendleton, formally of the large Tredegar Iron Works, inRichmond, Miller Grant a civil engineer from Savannah, and C. Shaler Smith, an Augusta architect.  In all, 26 buildings were built, using 5 million bricks.  The Powder Mill was on a track of 140 acres that extended nearly two miles along the banks of the canal.

On July 10, 1861, Confederate President Jefferson Davis instructed Colonel George Washington Raines to build a gunpowder factory. He was given cart-blanc to money, just do it, ASAP. The work began, 26 buildings were built, supplies were shipped in and gunpowder was made. The first gunpowder was made on April 13, 1862; just nine months after Colonel Raines received the orders. The gunpowder made was good.  Even the North said so after capturing some and using it against the South. The Power Works Mill produced some 3,000,000 lbs during the Civil War.  There has always been a question as to why Sherman didn’t come to Augusta on his march to the sea in 1864.   He marched to Atlanta and fought the battle of Atlanta.  That was the battle General William H. T. Walker, an Augustan, lost his life.  Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground.  The people in Augusta knew he was coming here next. The city of Augusta talked about burning their cotton. Fictitious telegrams were sent, advising general so and so, to come to Augusta and be with general so and so.  None of these messages were true.  But Sherman didn’t come; he marched to Savannah burning everything in his way. Sherman didn’t burn Savannah, but then marched north to Columbia, and burned about a third of that city.  Dr. Edward Cashin wrote a book giving the reason Sherman didn’t come to Augusta.  It was because he had a girl friend here.  Whatever the reason he didn’t come and he didn’t destroy the Gunpowder Mill.

After the war, on October 31, 1872, the city of Augusta bought the powder mill buildings for $32,000.00. The buildings were demolished, all but the stately obelisk, that is.  The chimney stands 176ft. tall, and it’s a memorial to the men who died during the Civil War.

Written by Mark Woodard

Research sources:

  • The Story of Augusta. Cashin, Edward J. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Company Publishing. (1996)
  • Augusta, A Pictorial History. Callahan, Helen. Richmond County Historical Society Publishor. (1980)
  • Confederte City, Augusta Georgia 1860-1865. Corley, Florence Fleming. (1995)
  • Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia. Jones, Charles C. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Publishers. (1890)
  • From City to Countryside. Published with the cooperation of Historic Augusta, Inc. Haltermann, Bryan M. (1997)
  • The Brightest Arm of the Savannah, The Augusta Canal 1845-2000. Cashin, Edward J. (2002)

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