Friday, June 10, 2011

Civil War under my nose: Springfield Armory

An "Organ of Muskets" at the Springfield (Mass.) Armory holds 645 1861 Springfield muskets.

Arms manufacturers in the Connecticut River Valley produced a vast quantity of weapons for the Union army during the Civil War. Rifles, muskets, pistols and other arms were manufactured in Connecticut by Colt in Hartford, Whitney U.S. Navy Rifle in New Haven, Welch and Brown in Norfolk and by James D. Mowry and Norwich Arms Co. in Norwich. More than 200,000 bayonets were supplied to the army by the Collins Co. in Collinsville, about six miles from my house.
This Gatling gun -- an early machine gun -- was first used
during the Civil War.  It's on display at
 the Springfield Armory musuem.

In Massachusetts,  the Federal armory overlooking the Connecticut River in Springfield, about a 35-minute drive from Hartford, competed with other manufacturers in the valley to supply small arms to the Union. The destruction of the armory in Harpers Ferry, Va., (now West Virginia) during the Civil War left the Springfield Armory as the only federal manufacturing point for arms until the 1900s. The Springfield Armory manufactured, repaired, tested and designed weapons from 1777, when President Washington authorized its creation, until it closed in 1968.

My first impression of the Springfield armory grounds: Hey, this place is huge. Surrounded by more than a mile of wrought-iron fence, many of the armory buildings are now occupied by Springfield Technical Community College. The most fascinating display in the museum is the two-story tower of 645 Springfield muskets, stacked Jenga-like. It's called an "Organ of Muskets," and it was made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's anti-war poem in 1843. I was tempted to ask the National Park Service employees behind the main desk at the Armory museum today if they cared to part with just one -- a pristeen 1861 Springfield musket like the ones displayed can easily go for $3,000 or more -- but figured that would not go over well. :)

This was just a drive-by visit today, but it's definitely worth another trip and a couple hours of my time.

The Main Arsenal building at the Springfield (Mass.) Armory.

Carbines manufactured during the Civil War.


  1. Great statistics and neat pics! I'm interested in all things Civil War, and this post was def intriguing and unique:)

  2. Thnks. For sharing this informative post. I think this famous civil war replicas was used extensively throughout the War Between the States by both Union and Confederate troops.