RICHMOND, VA., February 28, 1861.
Hon. L. P. WALKER,
Secretary of War:
SIR: I have the honor to report that I arrived in Washington, D. C., on the evening of Sunday last, in execution of the orders confided to me by His Excellency the President of the Confederate States. On the next day I sought the artificer, Wright, at the U. S. Arsenal in that city, and had a conference with him on the subject of his percussion-cap machine. This machine, which is patented, and which up to the present time has been in the exclusive use of the United States, cannot be purchased ready made. Wright seemed to be quite willing, however, in my first interview with him, to contract with me for the making of one (the work to be executed in a private shop in Philadelphia, where several have been made for export to Europe), but was, I thought, unreasonable in his demands of compensation. The machine may be made, with all its appurtenances complete, for the sum of $1,450, but he demanded an additional sum of $3,000 for the use of his patent and for his personal superintendence of the manufacture of the machine. On the evening of the same day on which I held this conversation with him at the arsenal he called to see me by appointment, and after some little preliminary conversation said that he would prefer, before entering into any contract with me, to obtain the consent of his commanding officer at the arsenal, as otherwise he might loss his place, which was valuable to him. I had no objection to make to this, of course, as I claimed the right not only to contract with any artisan in the employment of the Government of the United States on any subject of private concern, as was this matter of the patent of a machine, but to induce him by an offer of higher pay to leave his employment and accept service under our Government. He promised to call on me the next day and give me his final answer.
In the mean time, hearing that Major Barbour, superintendent of the Harper's Ferry Armory, with whom I was directed to confer with regard to the purchase of the machinery for making rifles, was in Richmond, in attendance on the State convention, I returned to this place yesterday to meet him, leaving the matter of the contract with Wright in the hands of a friend, whom I directed to offer Wright the sum of $3,000 for one of his machines delivered in Savannah, and further to agree with him that if he would accompany it himself and superintend iuch other duties of an arsenal as might be assigned to him, we would give him a salary of $1,500 per annum. His present pay is $1,250. On the whole I think it doubtful whether we shall get either the machine or the man. If we do not, I think I shall have no difficulty in purchasing or in having made at short notice a machine such as is in common use, and which will be very nearly as good as Wright's, in New York, or in Springfield, Mass., at both of which places cap making is conducted on a large scale.
Returning to Major Barbour, this gentleman conferred with me with great freedom and frankness, and expressed a desire to do anything in his power to oblige us. He gave me all the information I desired about the machinery I was in pursuit of. It is still unsold, and may no doubt be purchased. It belongs to Ames, the manufacturer of arms at Springfield, Mass. I will proceed to Springfield and see if I can contract for it.
I have had a conference at this place with Captain Dimmock, the superintendent of the State arsenal, who promises to aid me in any