War of the Rebellion: Serial 125 Page 0802 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

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obtain them from private armories, with which there are now outstanding contracts for 136,000. As soon as the armory authorized to be built at Rock Island can be put in operation it is contemplated to commence the fabrication of these arms in the Government shops. The use of breech-loading arms in our service has, with few exceptions, been confined to mounted troops. So far as our limited experience goes, it indicates the advisability of extending this armament to our infantry also; and this experience is corroborated by that of several foreign nations into the military service of which the breech-loader has been, or is about to be, introduced as the exclusive fire-arms for both cavalry and infantry. It is, therefore, intended to make this change of manufacture at our national armories so soon as the best model for a breech-loading arm can be established by full and thorough tests and trials, and the requisite modifications of the present machinery for fabricating that model can be made. The alternation of our present model of muzzle-loading arms is also a very desirable measure, both on account of economy and improvement in the character of these arms. It is through that they can be altered at a moderate cost and in a short time to very efficient breech-loading arms. The details for effecting both these measures will receive the early attention of this Bureau.

The danger of keeping large supplies of gunpowder at our arsenals, which are generally in the vicinity of closely- populated districts, makes it a matter of importance, if not of necessity, to provide for an ample depository for this article in some safe place. For this purpose a proper location should be selected by a board of competent officer, and extensive magazines erected thereon capable of storing 100,000 barrels of powder. Such a location should be in a dry climate, sufficiently remote from a city or a dense population to avoid destruction of property or life by accidental explosion, and of easy access, or capable of being made so, for the transportation of powder to and from it. The site being selected and secured, there will be no difficulty in devising suitable plans for the magazines. Legislative action will be necessary, it is thought, to authorize the selection and acquisition of the site, which should be done as soon as possible. Plans and estimates for the constructions of the magazines, and of means of easy access to them, according to the nature of the site, can then be readily prepared and submitted.

In this connection I must notice the fact that the Government has no manufactory of gunpowder, but is entirely dependent on private powder mills for its supplies of this essential article. These mills have been able to keep up generally with the wants of the Government, and the same may be expected from them in future, but it is very important that the Government should have the means of preparing a standard of quality for gunpowder, and of prescribing the exact proportions of the components and the mode of manufacture necessary to secure the production of powder of that standard quality. In order to do this a Government powder mill, under the control of U. S. officers, should be established. It will not be necessary to have a large Government powder manufactory, but only one of sufficient capacity to fabricate standard samples, and powder for experimental purposes. To this may also be added the preparation of gun cotton for the special military purpose wherein its use is preferable to that ofcarefully made at one of our arsenals, with General Lenk's improved gun cotton, show that it can be used to great advantage over gunpowder for filling shells, for mines, for destroying bridges, for removing obstruc-