When Mississippi went to war in 1861, the state was woefully unprepared to fight a major war. As an agriculturally oriented state, Mississippi had very limited manufacturing capability with which to arm, clothe, and equip the thousands of volunteers that were being organized to fight the Yankees. Over time many factories were built in the state to help meet the needs of the military. Some were built by the Confederate government, others by the state of Mississippi, and still others by enterprising individual citizens. How successful they were in their efforts is illustrated by this article from The Daily Southern Crisis (Jackson, Mississippi), March 21, 1863:
What Mississippi has Done
In the military department commanded by Gen. Pemberton, there are more troops than in any other one department outside of Virginia. When it is remembered that the territory comprising this department has ever been remarkable only for the growth of cotton – that every year large supplies of corn and bacon were imported into it – that manufactories were almost totally ignored – that the agriculturalists devoted their attention mainly to the production of cotton – it will be a subject of surprise that so large an army could be clothed, subsisted and partially equipped in a country the habits of whose people were so illy calculated to supply the wants of an army.
Yet such is the fact. The subsistence, the clothing, and the camp equipage for a tremendous army have been almost exclusively drawn from the State of Mississippi; and this, too, when several of her most populous and productive counties have been under the control of the enemy. Mississippi manufactories have made nearly all the material used for the army in the whole department.
A brief mention of the Mississippi factories, many of which have sprung up almost like
magic, will not be uninteresting to our readers. The Jackson manufactory makes five thousand garments weekly. The material is cut out in the city by experienced and industrious tailors, and distributed over the country in Hinds and adjoining counties to be made up. Soldiers wives and destitute families and always supplied with work first; thus enabling them to support themselves while lending a helping hand to the cause. Similar factories at Bankston, Choctaw county, Columbus, Enterprise, Natchez and Woodville, make up five thousand per week, the sewing of which is distributed in the same way.
The hat factories at Jackson and Columbus, make two hundred hats per day. We also have a manufactory at Jackson which turns out fifty blankets per day. The Pemberton Works at Enterprise and the Dixie Works at Canton, make not less than sixty wagons and ambulances per week. These factories are all new, established within a few months past, and their capacity is being constantly increased.
The Chief Quartermaster has now private contracts with parties in the State which supply eight thousand pairs of shoes per week. Arrangements are now being made to start an extensive Government shoe-shop in Jackson, with a capacity of turning out six thousand pairs of shoes per month. The tanneries in the State are sufficient to tan all the leather that can be procured. The most extensive tannery in the Confederacy is situated at Magnolia and supplies six hundred hides daily.
Tents manufactured from Mississippi cloth are the best in the Confederacy, and enough of them are made at Jackson and Columbus to supply the army. All the horses, mules, wagons and harness, for the transportation of the army stores, etc., have been supplied from Mississippi.
The energy displayed by the officers of the various departments in this command merit the highest commendation. Since the appointment of General Pemberton to this command order has been brought out of chaos, and new life, new energy infused into the army and the people. Whatever may be said of the inexperience of General Pemberton as an officer in the field, he has given ample evidence of rare military administrative tact, and proved himself a superior departmental commander.
Much of the labor of procuring supplies for the army and establishing manufactories has devolved upon the Chief Quartermaster, Major L. Mims – in fact, it may be said that the supervision and direction of the whole was entrusted to him. How signally successful he has been in the discharge of this responsible trust, is evidenced by the enumeration above.
The officers of the Department have performed their duties faithfully. They have often worked day and night; and instead entering complaints for what they have failed to do, let us remember that no small work has been accomplished. But the people are called upon to help. They must cooperate with the authorities or the army supplies will fail in a most critical juncture. Provisions are needed – corn is needed, and those having a surplus must be willing to dispose of it at a fair price. If all do their duty, the army will be well fed and well clothed.
At the time this article was written in March 1863, Mississippi had made great strides in establishing factories throughout the state with which to supply the needs of the military. Unfortunately General Ulysses S. Grant’s second invasion of Mississippi was only a few months in the future, and thousands of Yankee soldiers were soon on the march, leaving burnt-out factories and twisted railroad ties in their wake. In the months to come, Jackson, the state capitol, was particularly hard hit by the Federals. So much so that one Northern reporter wrote of the city in August 1863: “As the seat of government, it had the capitol buildings, penitentiary, governor’s house, the asylums for the deaf and dumb and the insane, and in addition, a fine court house, two excellent hotels, large blocks of stores, a cotton factory, a couple of foundries, grist mills, and a large number of splendid residences. This was Jackson of the past. The Jackson of to-day is quite another place, for the fortunes of war have borne heavily upon her. The penitentiary, one of her fine hotels, her cotton factory, foundries, a whole block of stores, several warehouses, and the railroad bridge and depot buildings were destroyed, while the federal troops occupied the city in May last. The reoccupation and evacuation by the Confederate armies cost her another large block of stores and another hotel. The present occupation of the federal army has well nigh served to blot the place from existence.” – Providence Evening Press, August 15, 1863