with the Government; where located, and the quantity of arms which are furnished per month or week; also the number of powder mills engaged, under contract with the Government, in the manufacture of powder, and the quantity which is furnished from such mills per month or week; also the means now employed in furnishing percussion-caps. " In relation to the question "whether the various manufacturing establishments now employed by the Government will be able to furnish an ample supply of arms, powder, and percussion-caps for the use of our Army," I have the honor to report that the establishments for the manufacture of powder and percussion-caps are sufficient for the wants of the Army, but the chief material for the manufacture of powder, to wit, saltpeter, is not sufficiently abundant. The establishments for the manufacture of arms are woefully deficient, and cannot furnish more than one-tenth part of the necessary supply of small-arms. I know of no legislation which could aid the Department in procuring a supply of small-arms. Nearly every mechanic int he Confederacy competent to manufacture small-arms is believed to be engaged in the work. The manufacture of small-arms is a slow and tedious process, and the accumulation of supplies necessary for such an army as we now require is the result of the labor and expenditure of long series of years. When it is considered that the Government of the United States-with all its accumulation of arms for half a century, and all its workshops and arsenals, public and private, and its untrammeled intercourse with foreign nations-has recently been compelled to disband a number of cavalry regiments on account of the difficulty of arming them, and has been driven to the necessity of making purchases of arms in Europe in very large quantities, and of saltpeter by thousands of tons, some faint idea may be formed of the difficulties against which this Department has been and is now struggling in the effort to furnish arms and munitions for our troops.
The difficulty is not in the want of legislation. Laws cannot suddenly convert farmers into gunsmiths. Our people are not artisans, except to a very limited degree. In the very armory here at Richmond the production could be greatly increased if skilled labor could be procured. In the absence of home manufactures no recourse remains but importation, and with our commerce substantially at an end with foreign nations the means of importation are limited. I am unable to perceive in what way we can procure arms by the passage of laws. Saltpeter, however, may, it is believed, be made at home in sufficient quantity for our service, as the process is simple and readily learned, and the deposits in caves abundant enough to last for some years. I submit herewith a bill,* which has been prepared by the Ordnance Bureau, and the adoption of which would probably enable us to augment the supply of saltpeter to an extent which would render any further importation unnecessary.
The reorganization of the Ordnance service in the manner proposed in the annexed bill,+ also prepared by the Chief of Ordnance, would probably add to the efficiency of that branch of the service, and thus at least aid in the preservation of our present supply of arms and in maintaining them always in serviceable condition. The supply of iron, which will soon be far short of our wants both for cannon and for the construction of gun-boats, would probably be increased by some scheme of legislation directed to the encouragement
*Not found as an inclosure.
+See inclosure to Gorgas to Benjamin, March 12, p. 990.