James H. Burton, in charge Virginia ordnance, to Major J. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance.
CONFEDERATE STATES ARMORY, Richmond, July 20, 1861.
Major J. GORGAS,
Chief of Ordnance:
SIR: With reference to the subject of the propriety or expediency of allowing selections to be made from among the machines for the manufacture of rifle muskets-removed to this armory from Harper's Ferry-with a view to the use of the machines so selected at other places, I beg to submit for your information, and in compliance with your request, the following remarks:
It is, I find, a prevailing impression among the several persons interested in the proposed separation of a portion of this machinery for use elsewhere that the plant of machinery now here is composed for the most part of different classes of machines, of which one machine is a type of many; and from this it is argued that the detachment of one or two machines of each class will only have the effect of reducing the product of the armory to the extent of the productive capacities of the machines so detached. This impression is very erroneous, with but little exception.
The most numerous class of machines now in the armory is that known as "milling machines," and, so far as the machines themselves are concerned, one may be regarded as the type of the whole class. but each machine is fitted with a special apparatus for holding the part to be operated upon in one particular position; and it is also fitted with a set of "cutters" of special shape for milling the part so held. In this way the set of milling machines is made up of a number of machines fitted apparently to the unpracticed observer for doing the same work whilst, in fact, each one is set apart for the performance of some one particular operation, which none of the others can be spared to do without seriously deranging the whole system. In the set of milling machines for milling barrels, for instance, the detachment of any one of the set, of which there is no duplicate employed, would have the effect of rendering it necessary to supply its place with another machine of the same kind, and which could not be spared from any other operation. The result is obvious. And so with reference to the set of machines for milling bayonets or any other important component part of the arm. In some cases there may be duplicate milling machines employed, but it is quite obvious that thone of such duplicate machines, although apparently an insignificant draft upon the entire machinery of the armory, would have the effect of reducing the product of the armory just one-half.
The set of machines for making stocks comprises fifteen distinct machines, each of which differs essentially from the rest. The detachment of any one of them would entirely stop the manufacture of this component by the system now pursued.
The machinery now in this armory comprises a complete set, equal to the production of about 15,000 arms per annum, and there being no surplus or spare machinery, the separation of any one or more of them would so seriously affect the productive capacity of the whole that I am constrained to recommend in the strongest terms the preservation